Nick Mangwana View From the Diaspora
Political parties are constructed in order to conquer and exercise political power. The political party does the conquering but the Government does the exercising of the power. Therefore, the question of supremacy is answered by establishing which party conquered the political power.
Today Parliament will sit and the Speaker will be elected. The new Speaker will come from the Zanu- PF. In fact, the executive of Zanu-PF’s Central Committee called the Politburo met yesterday and deliberated on this. A decision was made on whom the Zanu-PF parliamentary party should back for this very important position and that of President of the Senate. Some members may have their opinions but the party whips will ensure that the party caucus will fall in line and back the party decision because the party is supreme.
A few people feel that this concept is at variance with the principles of democracy, but it is not. Whilst the Constitution reigns supreme over any entity living or nominal within the land, in our polity the supremacy of the party is uncontested. It is on this same concept that this columnist argues that those senior party leaders deployed from the Government to the party should take heart they are in leadership in a superior august body. At the same time those ministers that came from outside the party should keep an eye on what Zanu- PF is trying to achieve and its objectives so they cannot be any dysfunctionality.
Any position in politics is as good as the official who sits in it. So a deployment to the party is as powerful as the effectiveness of the official who holds it. The supremacy of the party comes from its winning of the people’s mandate.
When an election is proclaimed, there is a serious campaign season that ensues. The desired outcome is that the party that wins would form the next Government and that Government would produce desired socio-economic outcomes that would enhance its electability. If one is selected to be part of those seconded to Government to help produce those results, that’s well and good.
If one is chosen to be part of those that are to remain at the party headquarters building the party and monitoring the work of those deployed to Government, generating the link with the electorate and monitoring the delivery of the functions, that’s well and good too. They are both serving the party and the people. This is by no means a conflation of party and State.
Those who serve in the party are the bosses of those who serve in Government. The only caveat to it is as mundane as the perks and the perceived status that come with it. If the perks that come with being deployed at party HQ portray the seniority on social status then that line of debate is closed and moves on to issues of influence.
Who has better influence on decisions, well those with the party being with the mother should have better influence and therefore this should affirm their political seniority to the Government ministers. Political parties are known as the “engines of political life”. So they cannot be separated from the functions of a government they breathe life into.
There was once an aspiring bureaucrat who was known to say: “I hate Zanu-PF with passion but I love ED and would like to work for his Government and contribute to my country.” This aspirant wanted to work for the Government of Zimbabwe led by President Mnangagwa whose incumbency had come through his leadership of Zanu-PF but professed serious distaste for the party. This to many people sounded like a serious contradiction. This is because Zanu-PF has always said that the party is supreme.
Even when it comes to Harvest House the same situation obtained when it came to the urban councils they presided over. Whilst being a civil servant comes with non-partisanship, one has to understand that the policies the civil servants drive originate from the ideological underpinnings and the body polity of the ruling party. This is the reason why many senior civil servants attend the ruling party’s conferences and congresses to glean policy directions.
Zanu-PF captured the people’s aspirations and articulated those in its manifesto. It therefore went to the people and sold clearly defined programmes and goals. For example, it defined shelter as a key deliverable and pronounced that housing would be a priority of the next Government. Any minister serving under a Zanu-PF President cannot just wake up and say housing is no longer a priority according to whatever theory. His ideological positioning would be contradicting the party position. From the party perspective this incumbency’s role will be to increase and expand the party’s support base and everyone should be in sync.
Political parties are constructed in order to conquer and exercise political power. The political party does the conquering but the Government does the exercising of the power. Therefore, the question of supremacy is answered by establishing which party conquered the political power. The hunter owns the carcass. The essence of Zanu-PF as a political party is to give effect to the ideas and interests of its members, which by virtue of winning the popular vote coincides with that of the majority.
It therefore stands to reason that all ministers who have been appointed to serve in President Mnangagwa’s Government have to understand and appreciate what Zanu-PF is trying to achieve. The reason why Zanu-PF is called the ruling party is because it acts as an intermediary between the State, its institutions and the electorate.
The work of the Government should express the will of the people, which they voted for, by voting Zanu-PF into power. Ministers coming from outside the party should also be aware that their decisions will need to be anchored in the objective of Zanu-PF retaining power in 2023 because they have delivered and that Zimbabwe needs to be a middle- income country by 2030.
Zanu-PF in its manifesto framed the central architecture of the Government of Zimbabwe policies. It then published such that the manifesto became a lot of pomp and fanfare. It feted it so much and extracts from it were splashed all over social media and beyond in order to popularise it. It became the core election message, which thankfully won the election. After winning the election there is no intention to abandon that which the people bought into. That would be considered a betrayal of the will of the people.
This is what poses the next issue for the ministers coming from outside Zanu-PF. President Mnangagwa is their principal and they hold his brief. On top of everything else they have to understand what Zanu-PF is trying to achieve and work towards the attainment of those objectives and the realisation of its ideals. This is not to say that they have to join the party. That is their political choice.
What they have little choice in is to respect the party and its membership which won the people’s mandate and which result gave them a job and an opportunity to serve. They cannot ignore what comes from Zanu-PF caucuses as something of little relevance to them or the Government they are serving. They have to understand the doctrine of the supremacy of the party.
In giving this advice there is no suggestion that the party would be inhibiting their work. On the contrary, everyone will work to vindicate the President’s wisdom in making the ministerial choices he made because the buck always stops with our leader. Therefore, his success is Zanu-PF’s success and the good results will perpetuate Zanu-PF’s power retention agenda in 2023 and beyond.
For the party’s supremacy to be facilitative to the new Government, the former should change a lot in its culture. The deployment of senior members who are also senior in age does not mean that sluggishness should now move from Government to the party, making it unwieldy and clumsy. If that happens the party would struggle to assert its supremacy. Rather the party should be quick-thinking, dextrous and responsive. If that does not happen that would frustrate those in Government and kill Vision 2030.
Those working for party and those working for Government cannot be inculcated with different mindsets and work ethic. That again will create a drag between the two bureaucracies. This means that reform in the civil service culture should be matched by reform in the party civil service culture. The same nimbleness and vigour that is coming to the Government should also be the norm in the party.
It means the senior leadership now deployed full-time to the party would continue to be the custodians of Zanu-PF traditions and culture as well as repositories of its ideals and people orientation value system but should not be an impediment to change. It’s known that a lot of people struggle to embrace change because it takes them out of their comfort zones where they do certain things out of automation and muscle memory than conscious effort and exertion. But embracing this change is not optional. It’s a necessity.
President Mnangagwa has already shown an audacious leadership, which has inspired both friend and foe. He needs support from both his party and the Government he leads. But if his party Zanu-PF as the foundation of the Government is to maintain its rightful place then it also needs to modernise even faster than the Government itself otherwise it becomes a barrier to change and an enemy of progress.