Nathaniel Manheru THE OTHER SIDE—
AM I wrong? I have always thought the goal of opposition is to govern? And I haven’t said the goal is to lead. To govern.You can lead anything, at any level, including leading a village co-operative. Or Zinatha. But the goal of being in opposition is, or should be, to govern. To govern a country, a people. It’s a high-order goal. Which is why I cannot understand the much touted fight between Joice Mujuru and Morgan Tsvangirai.
Can someone tell, what is it about? Two non-governors fighting for what? Leadership? Is that their aspiration? To lead opposition? Two aspiring governors leaving the real governor getting on with governing, governing completely unchallenged while they tussle to lead in opposing?
Could this hint at what it means to be a “shero”? To be some grand coalition? Frankly the whole premises of opposition politics in our country just seems funny to me, and seems to be getting funnier every day towards the election period. Which is why my contention is that 2018 will wind up being one huge uncontested national by-election.
You can choose to be in denial; hazvirambidzwe. But simply this strange fact and out-turn will bear down on national political reality, whether or not you acknowledge or accept it. Those in denial of an inexorable reality are fated to painfully live it.
Nearly became, becoming
Unless you are in denial, unless you choose to munch a bolus of lotus, or seek to feed fat on the Conradian “saving lie”, the argument being made here should be easy to access. Does it really make sense for Joice Mujuru, Morgan Tsvangirai, Tendai Biti or any such persons in opposition to be vying merely to lead, and not to govern?
Or, as does Joice, for them to pontificate about who or what they were in GNU, or nearly became in Zanu-PF — itself the continuing governing Party and therefore the real, continuing contestant in the national power play? Continue hankering after what you were or nearly became hoping that makes you look sexy enough for leadership?
All of them in opposition. They spend time telling the world how good and competent they were under GNU or under Zanu-PF when the reality today is that goodness not only expired, but gave them nothing, but nostalgia in present politics.
Biti will lose no opportunity to opinionatedly remind us how wonderful a finance minister he was under GNU. Really? Joice will wax lyrical on how close to presidency she thinks she became, much as we know better. How she “nearly” became! Nearly” becoming? What is that politically? What does it amount to politically? Nearly “became” in Zanu-PF whose machinery you no longer summon or control?
A machinery now ranged against you? In fact a machinery you now have to confront and challenge? A machinery that defeated your ambitions to “become”, setting a defeat precedent? You “nearly became”? And? Only could “nearly become” when you had a formidable tradition behind you, a formidable political and governing infrastructure at your beck and call, a formidable leader behind you?
All these behind you! Yet still all you did, or managed to be, was to “nearly become”? Give me a more dumb argument politically.
Sheroes and male chauvinists
Then you proceed to itemise reasons for your “nearly becoming”, foremost male chauvinism! So is this baneful chauvinism gone? Or have you found an antidote against it? And you are fighting Tsvangirai — a man; fighting Biti — another man!
Or is it being suggested male chauvinism — whatever that means against her initial rise in Zanu-PF itself — is only in Zanu-PF? That elsewhere it vanishes by merely being decried, spoken against at “Sheroes” summits? Or is this political blackmail: that you should qualify to lead merely because the Almighty gave you certain physical or biological endowments?
Or that some imperfect man in Zanu-PF denied you that in your past? That some vicariously guilty oppositional men will, on behalf of their gender kind in Zanu-PF, now concede that leadership to you?
Which is a backhanded admission that you lack merit — inherent merit — that enables you to confidently claim governing mandate and leadership? To be plain, politically “nearly becoming” makes you nothing more than a “nearly figure” unworthy of leadership, let alone a governing opportunity. And simply, the matter ends there.
All this apart, surely this is an unhelpful recall politically? Apart from a loud inability to morph beyond and ahead of your Zanu-PF days, itself an indication of lingering psychological dependence on President Mugabe, the Zanu-PF party and its legacy, all this mournful recall not only alienates her opposition colleagues and support base, but can easily provoke a stunning hit-back blow from Zanu-PF which has a full inventory of her foibles during her lacklustre days in Zanu-PF.
Which knows why she had to be blocked from ascending any higher than she did. Or does not this “nearly” leader have within her ranks good political advisors? One wonders.
Setting self-damning shibboleth
Then comes the whole debate around the so-called grand coalition. The notion of “grand coalition” was invented and coined by the opposition itself, unprompted by anyone outside of their structures and membership. And by so doing, they gave the world a shibboleth and yardstick by which to test and measure them respectively.
At a very obvious and superficial level, the same opposition seems failing — spectacularly failing — to deliver on a goal and standard they themselves voluntarily set for themselves. What judgment do they expect from the same world that listened keenly as they set their own goals?
Did they learn anything from the Zapu-ZANU unity talks? And when you fail on voluntary goals, how are you likely to fare on involuntary, larger-than-parties goals of nation-building, goals whose realisation entail a complex interplay of factors, a good many of them globally macro-environmental?
You can’t deliver on a self-fashioned “grand coalition”; you want to be trusted to deliver on, say, land recovery and indigenisation? Policies that abrasively relate to powerful players with entrenched interests in our political economy, historically entrenched? You cannot marshal little unity of opposition smithereens; you want to be trusted to marshal transcendental national unity towards nation-building?
You cannot evolve a thinking powerful enough to galvanise and unite remnant opposition; you want to be trusted to evolve an ideology powerful enough to coincide with, and animate, national sentiment?
Back-handed tribute to Zanu-PF
I said at a superficial level, implying there is a deeper, conceptual level. That there is definitely. Conceptually, how do you make a proposition for a grand coalition without backhandedly implying the formidableness of Zanu-PF? Why dispirit your supporters?
Dispirit them even further by setting a goal — and for electoral purposes — a pre-condition or sine qua non, for your imagined triumph in the forthcoming election, a precondition which seems to elude you from birth? Does this not amount to equipping your dispirited supporters with an argument with which to rationalise defeat you already court and imply as inevitable?
The unwritten logic behind the grand coalition proposition is simply that Zanu-PF’s countervailing proposition does not exist in any one individual party, but can only super-structurally be caked in all opposition parties put together, using a mould still to be invented.
As a voter, I get a clear message: that there is no single opposition ready to win, let alone to govern; that in the event of absence of “a grand coalition”, there is no likelihood of wrestling governing power from Zanu-PF. And that the grand coalition is not there makes 2018 foregone conclusion by their logic! And hence the grand, uncontested national by-election in 2018.
Propaganda with a quiet tongue
An uncontested national by-election made all the more real by how Zanu-PF has gone about building towards its eventual campaign. I found it interesting that just about a fortnight ago, what was short for President Mugabe was time. Time to launch highly photogenic and telegenic projects strategically commissioned or completed ahead of 2018.
Dualisation of the arterial Beitbridge-Chirundu Highway. Commissioning of the Tokwe-Mukosi Dam. Launch of stout national “stomach” by way of Command Agriculture which the First Lady invented and which Vice President Mnangagwa implemented. Urban residential housing and land servicing; STEM, Rural Electrification, SI64-stimulated re-industrialisation.
Monster earth-devouring equipment from Belarus set to revolutionise mining. Recovery of NRZ, Air Zimbabwe and related infrastructural projects. Forthcoming projects galore, not least Kariba South Power Project which is 85 percent complete.
In short, Zim-Asset in concrete, diverse action. All these launched with devastatingly mute mock-modesty, but each vociferously making a political statement. And all combining into a political cacophony sure to drown and crowd out the plaintive opposition whimper.
And for the avoidance of doubt as to the political value of all this, the Presidential Youth Interface Rallies are brought in to appropriately interlard with the project launches! Far from being run-of-the-mill, we-liberated-you narrative, the inaugural Marondera Interface showcased a Robert Mugabe who not only commands the numbers, but is mentally alert and sprite enough to evaluate ongoing policies with a view to fine-tuning them for prosperity and posterity.
And as the opposition will soon find out, the voter will be galvanised not by debate around realisation of the two million jobs promised, but by palpable prospects of those jobs in the next five years. Taking all of the above projects, and much more, Zanu-PF has good enough chance to credibly ask for another tenure without being bogged down by debate on its 2013 promises. You would be an opposition fool not to see that.
The South Africa/ Zimbabwe paradox
South Africa is Zimbabwe’s near-abroad. This may sound paradoxical, even insulting to our southern neighbour. Infinitely bigger by landmass, by size of economy and by age of the political governing party (ANC was founded in 1912!), by population, etc, etc, it certainly sounds overweeningly impudent for anyone to regard South Africa as small Zimbabwe’s near-abroad.
The term is politically fraught, clearly suggesting a hierarchical relationship. Yet the phrase is well and appropriately deployed. And deserved. This is how. The ANC may be the oldest party on the continent, but it is the youngest ruling party on the continent, right? Anyone with a modicum of political knowledge will tell you there is a huge chasm between being a mere party and transforming yourself into a governing party that competently governs.
And we know it from history that there is a chasm between a political party and a liberation movement, let alone one armed with a tradition of militant/military resistance. Much more, we know that taking over government is not quite the same as controlling instruments of power. Yes, we know that being independent is not the same as being sovereign, as being in charge. I am sure our comrades in the ANC now know all this. Or should know this by now.
Beyond the flag
There is yet another level at which this whole matter must be appreciated. The goal of political struggle does not end with political independence. Or with accessing instruments of governing a country. That is not the decisive goal, important though that might be.
The decisive goal is how to instrumentalise that political freedom and independence — harness all the power and tools which come with that — for purposes of wrestling the control of national wealth and assets to improve livelihoods of a freed people.
And to create more wealth for the same people. Power to redistribute; power to generate; power to apportion equitably. Power to empower a people thereby making them truly sovereign. That, gentle reader, distinguishes titular, flag or neo-colonial independence from genuine or substantive independence.
Seen that way, the limitations of the freedom project on the continent in general and in South Africa in particular, becomes quite apparent. More important, seen that way the rating of liberation movements and/or political parties become profound, yet straightforward.
Profound because a lot more is involved. Straightforward because the endgame is clear, even though the strategy may be fraught, very fraught.
ANC the toddler
And in terms of our subject matter, the ANC, itself the oldest party on the continent, inevitably becomes the youngest, in fact a mere toddler. And it is not the ANC alone. A good many liberation movements and political parties that are older than Zanu-PF, that have been around longer than Zanu-PF, wind up being younger, smaller, relatively woefully inexperienced.
What makes Zanu-PF arguably rank among the oldest parties and movements on the continent is in how it boldly transformed the political question into a social question like had not been done anywhere else on the continent, and within a time span of three decades from formal Independence.
Apart from social gains that were achieved from 1980, the high point of that transformation was the dislodging of a white settler landed gentry through a radical Land Reform Programme, and the resultant empowerment of millions of blacks, both directly and indirectly.
Continent-wide, there is no precedent to this, and may never be judging by the temperament of the current crop of leaders and alignment of forces on the continent. Unless you understand and appreciate that white settler power was based on land expropriation and occupation, which is why it was “settler” power, you may never appreciate the full significance of this historic move by Zanu-PF, or how it is set to bear down heavily on national politics.
Or understand why Land is the Economy and the Economy Land! Or — when it comes to power contestation in Zimbabwe — why Land defines and circumscribes our politics for the foreseeable future.
A Communist without grasp
If you do not know that, worry not for you are not alone. Or even in opposition necessarily. I mean if a whole leader of the South African Communist Party which is part of the ANC Alliance — in fact the Alliance’s supposed ideologue — if a figure who is also a whole Minister of Education, cannot understand that it’s not pejorative or shrinkage to call Zanu-PF “a rural party”, why should we be hard on you who might not even be a political office holder? Surely politically Zimbabwe remains a country, as opposed to the city?
On we can mollify you by the obverse: that Julius Malema who is in opposition to the ANC — itself a fellow liberation movement — sees and knows that land is a central social question even in a highly urbanised post-apartheid South Africa, then who are we to suggest those in opposition to liberation movements may not necessarily exhibit flashes of better political consciousness, albeit chequered by mistaken larger ideologies and associations?
The least we can do is to celebrate those momentary flashes, hoping they congeal into a trend, a progressive outlook. And both examples begin to validate my claim of South Africa as Zimbabwe’s near-abroad politically and in terms of the ultimate goals of the African liberation project.
Back to 1969 bloc strategy
Except the above postulate is not founded on a contrastive comparison of Zanu-PF and the ANC, or of Zimbabwe and South Africa. Rather, it is founded on how both liberation movements/parties and African countries are viewed by opponents of the African liberation project, whether these opponents are based at home or abroad, whether in Southern Africa or beyond.
From the perspective of imperialism, Southern Africa has never been individuated into different, separate countries. It has always been treated as a bloc — an exploitative bloc. Indeed it has always been seen as a bloc from the perspective of being a liberation antithesis to the thesis of the colonial and post-colonial status quo of global imperialism. It is for this reason that the American government, through its 1969 National Security Strategy paper whose human face was Henry Kissinger, evolved a comprehensive policy document whose goal was both to combat and contain national liberation movements in Southern Africa, Zapu, ZANU, Frelimo, Swapo, MPLA, ANC and PAC included. To de-radicalise them and wean them from the communist camp.
When Vorster held the Centre
And in terms of operationalisation, that policy mobilised and pooled all Western countries to the extent that they all had similar imperial interests in the region. And in terms of containment strategy, the targets went beyond figures leading liberation movements themselves. Sitting heads of States and Governments were included, not least leaders of the Frontline States, or FLS as they were known, who provided ideological and physical rear-bases to those liberation movements.
Even more significantly, the whole containment strategy’s “beachhead” was Vorster’s apartheid South Africa, and you can readily read a transcript of Kissinger/Vorster meeting on the matter dated 1975 /6 when the strategy visibly panned out. The trouble is that we do not read from our past, from our immediate past history at that. Above all, the trouble is that once we ascend to power, liberation-time solidarity makes way to petty rivalries and illusions that set us apart, that weaken our solidarity.
Made worse by imperialism’s stroke-and-divide strategy: stroke the ego of Mandela to make him feel better than Mugabe, so as to pre-empt a common South African-Zimbabwe front against imperialism. Or invent xenophobia as a black-on-black, African-on-African conflict, in order to weaken the African solidarity front against imperialism.
A forbidding lesson for SA
I said South Africa is Zimbabwe’s near-abroad. Our land reform Programme was resisted so spiritedly by the West not so much because of the few whites who occupied our land here. These did not matter that much to global imperialism, to which they had been “de-linked” anyway, thanks to recalcitrant UDI. The spirited opposition stemmed from fears of a bad example for both South Africa and Namibia, two countries where western interests had entrenched.
We had to be taught a lesson forbiddingly painful for post-apartheid South Africa and its black leadership. Which is why our countervailing strategy — and it had its painful moments — was predicated on minimising an outright fallout with the ANC which would have given imperialism pseudo-morality and political high ground. From 1994, the ANC took long to grasp that. And although Mbeki only grasped this after his tenure, it is still doubtful if the ANC as a party has fully grasped this matter.
Which is why you get sporadic pretensions to superiority on the part of some of its high-ranking officials, all of it suffered mutely on this side of the Limpopo. Actually on this matter, SWAPO has a better understanding and grasp of issues than the ANC.
After the break-up of white settler power here post-2000, the whole tussle assumed a legalistic tone, much of it playing out in Windhoek, Namibia. Again while the fight was with Zimbabwe, the target was South Africa which had to be hamstrung by a supra-national legal ethos — Sadc in this case — in preparation and as a safeguard against any redistribution Programme anticipated in future. Zimbabwe set about to smash that supra-national legal ethos by way of the Sadc Tribunal, ironically with amazing support from Khama, surprisingly with difficulties from South Africa and a few governments of the erstwhile FLS. And when the Tribunal had been smashed, the litigation ruse was quickly removed, with direct court-based contestation taking place inside South Africa itself, albeit with Zimbabwe still in the dock. Still South Africa tergiversated, much as we kept reminding them the core issue was white propertied interests only then using Zimbabwe as a unique decoy to what in reality was a sub-regional struggle.
Synonyms of State Capture
And when Sadc Tribunal could not carry the burden of defending imperial interests, the legal arguments moved to ICC, with South Africa being taken head-on over the Al Bashir issue. More was to follow, culminating in the current debate related to the so-called State capture debate. Is it not ironical that an interest group which captured what would have been an African state since 1652 is the one chafing about a handful of latter-day Indians who do not control even a dime-worth of wealth in South Africa?
Ironic that unless a finance minister who meets with their approval is installed, then both the Rand and Rating falls as a consequence? Who then wields the State in those circumstances? And does it matter that here in Zimbabwe the phrase used was not “State capture”, but “Zanu-PF patronage”? Isn’t the argument the same? And to prove it, is the lingo of “State Capture” not slowly creeping into our own political vocabulary here, ably deployed by black minds behind which lurks white interests, white arguments? Phrases often mindlessly used. I mean how does Zanu-PF capture a State it created and owns? Of course to duck this invidiousness, factional politics come into play, lest the argument exposes their proponents.
Where it’s all headed for
Wait, watch and see. Very soon calls for an elective Congress akin to that being agitated for in South Africa will grow more and more strident. Wait, watch and see, unless the ANC closes ranks and pulls up its socks, a Zimbabwe-like GNU may well be in the offing. Wait, watch and see, the future will see more and more of Maimanes and Malemas playing sub-region all politics in harmony with imperialism’s sub regional bloc approach. Zambia was a dry-run, fortunately one repulsed.
We are Siamese, which is why Zanu-PF must move in to help the ANC, all to help itself. The key goal is to install a captured black leadership in South Africa for the minding of imperial interests.
Or better still, to reverse history by restoring white power in South Africa as a prelude to a sub regional project. Maimane is not the issue. Only a face. Democratic Alliance is the real vector. A Party to watch.