ZANU-PF: The trilemma that awaits in Masvingo
zanu-pf First Secretary President Mugabe addresses members of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association in Harare in April this year. Sabre-rattling by the ZNLWVA leadership has, however,  fed into factional politics which the  revolutionary party must deal with decisively in Masvingo next week

zanu-pf First Secretary President Mugabe addresses members of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association in Harare in April this year. Sabre-rattling by the ZNLWVA leadership has, however, fed into factional politics which the revolutionary party must deal with decisively in Masvingo next week

The other side with Nathaniel Manheru—
The other week I had attempted a very angry piece on the state of thought in our beloved Zimbabwe. I shouted; I railed. After a while I reflected, and then recalled a proverb used by Amilcar Cabral in his 1966 Tricontinental Address in Havana, Cuba: when your house is burning, it’s no use beating the tom-toms!

He added: “. . . we are not going to eliminate imperialism by shouting insults against it. For us, the best and worst shout against imperialism, whatever its form, is to take up arms and fight.” Marx criticised Feuerbach for failing to recognise that “all mysteries . . . find their rational [explanation and] solution in human practice”.

So one cannot just rail against a tendency in the national thought structure; or moralise about it. Rather, one must rationally trace its provenance in social processes shaping our party ZANU-PF, and our nation, Zimbabwe. Processes both external and internal to the two, processes both adverse and positive, progressive and retrogressive. And then attempt some explanation. And then build a sound theory as a tool for social action, both for now and for the future.

Total lack of ideology?
To summon Amilcar Cabral again: “The ideological deficiency, not to say the total lack of ideology, within the national liberation movements – which is basically due to ignorance of the historical reality which these movements claim to transform – constitutes one of the greatest weaknesses of our struggle against imperialism, if not the greatest weakness of all.”

Then Cabral directed his address to the armed phase of the liberation struggle against imperialism; I am addressing a governing, bureaucratic phase, hopefully of the same struggle. As the recorded meeting between Che and Nasser revealed, a revolution gets less romantic, more frustrating when it transforms itself into a governing bureaucracy. But the weaknesses remain the same: ideological deficiency or total lack of ideology which Cabral identified, which he exhorted national liberation movements to overcome.

Amilcar Cabral

Amilcar Cabral

ZANU-PF has not been spared the same weakness, which appears even more starkly today than it ever did in its past. It is grave, so grave that it is even frustrating its efforts to hegemonise the national space. And like Cabral, I trace this internal weakness to a failure to correctly read the national social situation which we claim we seek to transform, and which instead has engineered serious internal weaknesses within the movement.

Defining the tri-lemma
How is ZANU-PF constituted as it retreats in convocation in Masvingo? What is the national situation within which it has existed, within which it situates itself, and against which it defines its agenda for transformative action? I am referring to Zimbabwe’s social structure, and how this impinges on ZANU-PF in its governing bureaucratic phase. What is the broader global environment within which it seeks to move Zimbabwe as a State actor given its anti-imperialist stance which has pitted it against powerful rulers of the so-called global village? The party, the nation, the global: that trilemma which ZANU-PF has to interpret, tackle and harness.

The issue of social structure requires a whole article on its own. I choose not to tackle it, only imply it by some of the observations I will make in respect of both the party and the nation. The key point is to remember that from the point of view of social structure, party and nation are oversimplifications, it being more accurate to talk about the class identity of forces that shape and dominate them in current circumstances. But against what is set to happen in Masvingo, such a discussion would largely be academic. I mean to be concrete, interventionist, if I can.


President Mugabe

What the hell has gone on?
First, the Party. Unlike in past conferences, even congresses, ZANU-PF finds itself in a quandary, in a very delicate situation with far-reaching ideological and even existential implications. There is a way in which the Party may be read as having reached a confusing phase of de-census, a non-consensual phase both in terms of a definition of its past, and a projection of its present and future as an organizing, governing idea dominating the political scene.

Frankly, there is a perplexing re-narrativising of Zanu-PF’s past as a movement of national liberation struggle in ways that recklessly expends the lustre it has always carried from that defining phase. The Party’s present also exhibits an equally perplexing, near-fratricidal state of de-census.

Such that the old, homogenising narrative of sacrifice and struggle – all along its strongest glue – reads badly fractured; the once reigning sense of internal cohesion, itself the basis for broader national cohesion, screeches woefully for want of a smoothening lubricant. There is just too much noise coming from its moving parts and Masvingo cannot avoid asking: just what the hell has and is going on?

Confronting internal weaknesses
To draw from symptoms, however one looks at the Norton by-election, it put a lie to the Party’s brag founded on bagging previous by-elections which either went uncontested or weakly contested. Chimanimani, I daresay, is still part of that misleading easy victory. Bikita, on the other hand, may turn out to be some test, not so much because there is a strong opposition in that by-election, but because the Party’s capacity to overcome its internal weaknesses, its self-debilitating internal characteristics, will be on full show. Only then will we be able to tell how deep the ideological deficiency, if not lack of ideology, has afflicted it.

For a sound analysis of the state of the Party must certainly go beyond the easy cheer of opposition weaknesses; it must confront disharmonious lapses in ZANU-PF structures, strategies and personages, indeed look at the impact of these on the voter. It must assess how the ZANU-PF brand is faring in the political market, how sumptuous it still is in the eyes of the voting beholder.

Judging by the blame-game and personality politics of Norton, one senses an absence of courage to confront evident internal weaknesses through candid dialogue. Does it not suggest a real crisis of ideology and focus that messages from key figures of the Party at virtually every meeting have routinely been inward at a time when the nation is in the throes of a myriad problems? Inward, ironically, without being introspective? That rallies are being summoned to focus attention on clashing personalities, clashing ambitions, never on policies and programmes?



Successionists, secessionists, the twin evils
Secondly, again highlighting symptoms, both the Zimdef scandal and the recent so-called Mafios resolution have, in addition to the usual divisive factional politics, hinted at the resurgence of tribal and regional politics harkening to, and retracing the faultlines of early Independence. Both point to the stretch and a strain on the Unity Accord. Not so much because the value of the Accord is exhausted, but because there are unscrupulous politicians seeking to duck accountability by hiding behind it, and to overload it with imputations which are simply opportunistic and untrue.

This insidious trend points to deeper challenges around and ahead. Time was when the politics of the so-called Gukurahundi and Mthwakazi were wholly oppositional, well outside the harmonised and homogenised discourse of ZANU-PF.

One is not so sure now. Big mouths inside ZANU-PF itself are borrowing arguments from Mthwakazi, lisping the divisive vocabulary that reopens old wounds, that inflames passions of secession. Apart from succession, the tone of factionalism is assuming undertones of secession. Succession, secession, the twin evils.

Both Gukurahundi and Mthwakazi politics are being dangled as fall-back politics should the succession issue escalate beyond its present levels, or take a turn that is not favourable to some of these characters. Succession will thus lead to secession. For the first time after so many peaceful years, there is a real threat to national unity and national cohesion.

Significantly, the First Secretary and President of the Party recently hit out at both G-40 and Lacoste, suggesting he reads – correctly too – a destabilising Euclidian parallelism in both. I am not so sure that this state of conflict inside the Party is non-antagonistic any more. It might require something a lot stronger than moral suasion. What that is, I can’t say. Nor is it my business to say. But Masvingo may have to deal with this issue.

A real fracture, disjuncture
Then you have the issue of the war veterans association leadership. I am careful not to equate the association with the broad body and membership of war veterans. Yet whilst such a distinction may be valid organisationally, the impact of this whole altercation between the veterans and the Party is hardly wholesome, and blights just about everything in its wake.

From the point of view of ZANU-PF’s history, the altercation has spawned a counter-narrative, has fragmented the once coherent story of the national liberation struggle, in the process diminishing the once enchanting story, diminishing ZANU-PF’s exclusive claim to, and use of it. It has tested and taxed rather severely the founding myth of this country, our nation’s informing heroic history. On the ground, it has fed into factional politics by way of utterances which are perceived as sympathetic to this or that faction, in the process making factionalism an enduring problem in the Party. Or making it potentially bloody.

We are talking about a stratum that has fought a war here. Not a brawl among civilians. On the ground, it has severed the much-needed sequential, socialising link between the veterans and emerging Party youths, thus harming replicability of the ethos of militant resistance and struggle against imperialism. The fact of a youth movement which cannot repeat a single song from the struggle is telling enough.

The fact of inventing new songs, new idioms, new slogans for present times, is telling. Even new enemies from generations attached through filiality, both biologically and metaphorically. There has been a very bad disjuncture, a real fracture, in the Party.

The threat of disengagement
Yes, on the ground, the conflict has created a disturbing sense of apathetic detachment of many veterans who simply won’t want to be caught up in the ensuing melee, who won’t want to be forced to make choices in this polarising conflict. The more so when the acerbic and disrespectful rhetoric verges on the person of the President and First Secretary of the Party.

Or implies some distance from, if not a break with, ZANU-PF, all along the only political home they have known and belonged to. Or, as is happening, when the altercation emboldens enemies of the struggle, however reconfigured, whatever present complexion, who now read a tempting internal weakness in the once formidable liberation movement. By far, this is the most damaging dimension of the whole conflict. And the most threatening to a post-Mugabe Zimbabwe whose arguments against imperialism will stand dented, will have to make do with a diminished human symbol in the form and name of a maligned President.

Overall, ZANU-PF thus meets at a time when it cannot take itself and its ethos for granted, however strong it remains on the ground. Here I draw an obvious distinction between mere electability, as against the critical existential health of the organisation.

Gunning for the “long durree”
The second dialectic situates ZANU-PF within national politics and programme of action. Call it ZANU-PF in national governance. As a ruling Party, the test to ZANU-PF inheres in its continued capacity to plausibly pose and frame the national question, while answering it at the same time, consistent with its founding values. For it is at this level that the Party comes into daily contact with the citizen whose faith and belief in it must daily be sustained and renewal.

The way the Party frames and poses the national question must be encompassing and totalising enough to accommodate a broad range of burning issues and interests. But without being all things to all people, without losing its personality. Over the years, what has marked off ZANU-PF against all other parties has been its own way of approaching the National Question.

It has always done this within a value framework that validates its founding ideals and its broad vision of greater society. Not the current pseudo-intellectualism, the current egocentrism masquerading as thoughtfulness. And the just delivered State of the Nation Address (SONA), has shown how this exercise of raising the National Question can easily get enmeshed in all manner of fretful concerns on the here and now, the immediate.

Beyond crass oppositional criticisms of SONA which must be ignored, the tone of reaction to the address suggests a citizenry pressed and plagued by many questions, tormented by many challenges. In such a state, it is very easy to be swayed, even by the most superficial. Masvingo must re-moor debate, indeed prove to be an answer book to the real issues with lasting impact on the citizenry. ZANU-PF governs and guns for the long durree, never for the day, week, month or year.

Re-jigging productive forces
Not that the President’s book does not have answers. It has, as indeed is demonstrated by the four key policy initiatives taken so far, but which appear not understood by many in the Party. I am referring to SI64, Command Agriculture, the infrastructural project to dualise the Beitbridge-Chirundu Highway, and of course the far-reaching decision to restore a national currency.


President Mugabe

Judging by the elite reaction to SONA, it is clear the opposition has no clue what will hit them in 2018. Of that, let very little be said. Masvingo’s real challenge is to marshal all voices in the Party to grasp the deep interlinkages in a series of measures taken so far, and to draw a fuller picture of what the bigger strategy is for the Party in the year ahead.

Just by way of example, there is a vast difference between looking at teething problems associated with the introduction of Bond Notes, and situating this currency initiative within the broader framework of re-jigging productive forces in the whole social structure for the resumption of the programme of empowerment and indigenization of the economy. What is more, the whole strategy has to be sold to the populace, has to be used to mobilise the country for the economic recovery whose benefits must begin to show in 2017, in time for 2018, all for another five years during which the economy must grow while transforming its whole ownership structure.

Bond notes

Bond notes

Neither cheer nor jeer does
With such a tight implementation time-table, the Party cannot afford discordant voices, especially coming from within. Not even non-believers or parochial successionists and secessionists who are given to interpreting broad national strategies in factional terms. These must lose ground and argument to ideologically clear-headed nationalists driven by the real national agenda, and ready in the not-so-distant future, to commit class suicide for the continuance of the revolution.

The present loud-mouthed lumpens, with all their shallow sophistry, must be handled with a firm, decisive hand, so they do not enervate the Party’s vital support base. Equally, the Party must keep its eye on the ball so it is not swayed by petty arguments focusing on symptoms. Again arguments around current cash shortages come to mind, arguments being brewed by a retreating band of elite confusionists who hoped the Bond Note would be rejected. They are stunned by the fact that the Note has been embraced, that demand for it is just phenomenal.

That means ZANU-PF has won a key test; why get distracted by superficies? And a superficial, knee-jerk response would be to print more Notes in response to a cry which will be met sooner than later, in the process raising the spectre of a worthless currency. Is it not interesting that hardly two weeks into the new Note, there is already an expectation that it plays the magic wand? Need we be detained by such expectations, all in the name of a Christmas break which lasts two, short days? Mortgaging life-long trust for a two-day wonder? We should never be cheered by the enemy and think we are doing fine. Or jeered by the same and then think we are doing wrong.

Tell no lies, no easy victories
A strategic response is to press on with tackling key issues of the real economy so the Note is stabilized by a Nation which goes back to work, a Nation which goes into full production, creating new, bigger, tradeable wealth. From such a perspective, both SI 64 and Command Agriculture become key. The one blocks unnecessary imports, the other generates raw materials for exports, the interactive set we badly need. Simply, we must produce to eat and to sell to the rest of the world. The import bill must compress drastically, get drastically trimmed to accommodate those capital goods and raw materials we need to produce more only. Masvingo must get all Party cadres to grasp this key message. It mustn’t encourage answers that are as false as they are easy. Tell no lies, there are no easy victories, said Cabral.

God is ZANU-PF
After all, politically the Party has stabilized things, warded off challenges. The fitful demonstrations which characterized the last half of the year are all gone. Challenges in courts are just academic. We can live with them as toys for restlessly idle minds seeking fame and drama. The fear of mass starvation in the wake of the debilitating El Niño factor, though not yet behind us, is largely tamed. We have done very well in feeding the nation, and 2018 will show how grateful the people are to the Party. The rains have come. The farmer is back in the field, breaking the clod, committing seed to the soil.

Didymus Mutasa

Didymus Mutasa

And that ZANU-PF has successfully weathered El Niño related food shortages, while mobilizing inputs for the 2016/17 season under Command Agriculture simply means it has been phenomenally successful both in saving and in serving! Always ZANU-PF, God has since moved in by way of the gushing rains, all to douse street dissent, to refocus the national effort away from leaping passions, indeed to lift the national mood with green hope. It’s over, it’s over, this tajamuka nonsense! Which is why Didymus Mutasa is remarkably clever to place a phone call to the President and First Secretary of ZANU-PF!

(File pic)

Agricultural inputs distributed under the Command Agriculture program (File pic)

Whither in the wake of new nationalisms?
Then there is the external, the global. Worldwide, systems are collapsing, falling. The year 2016 is not very different from 1989 and its long aftermath. The only difference is that it is no longer the Berlin Wall which is collapsing. It is Wall Street which is caving in. There is a major re-making or re-drawing of the world. Empires are busy reformulating their founding or existential premises. Capitalism is facing a furious blowback from the demon of globalization it unleashed. There is a big, militant retreat to the local. The impact of all this wave on small countries, small economies and small politics of countries like Zimbabwe, largely remains unknown. What risks, what opportunities, the uproarious retreat brings and presents to the Party and Nation, Masvingo will have to digest, assess and prefigure.

More than any other party and country on the continent, ZANU-PF and Zimbabwe have suffered direct hits from the global factor. The ANC of South Africa is just beginning to feel it too. We have been in the thick of things and, like small Cuba, our politics and values are too big to go unnoticed by the emperor. In the wake of 1989, we weakly re-christianed ourselves social democrats, firmly re-invented ourselves as nationalists in pursuit of an aggressive national agenda woven around the recovery of our land.


What do we call ourselves now, in the wake of these changes? Is it capitalism with Chinese characteristics? State capitalism in other words? Without the capital? Or is it the capital of partnerships, of finite resources? How do we mobilize these? I hope, gentle reader, you now appreciate why the current ideological crisis in ZANU-PF is so irritating. There are larger questions to be answered, bigger issues to be digested. We have to brace up, which is why we cannot afford the current divisions and altercations.

Non-statal regime change
When Trump says the US will not be in the business of meddling in affairs of other countries, what does that mean for ZANU-PF, for Zimbabwe? Is that a genuine reprieve? How do we take full advantage of it? When Britain leaves the European Union, what is her new global calculation by way of a fall-back? Again what does that mean for ZANU-PF, for Zimbabwe? And the British exit blowback within the EU?

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

There is this general perception that neo-liberal values are set for a beating, given the general trend towards inward-looking global nationalisms personified by Trump’s America. The angst of the well-heeled, organized global neo-liberal movement may very well translate into non-statal actors both in the West and abroad, who aggressively continue with the push for the same neo-liberal agenda, even against the current setbacks. For ZANU-PF and Zimbabwe, this could mean an escalation of regime change politics ahead of 2018, with revalorized political NGOs playing agency. Mean same agenda, same pressures, only mounted from outside structures of hitherto hostile states.

The Trump moratorium may thus be deceptive. After all, regime change politics here have always been subcontracted to political NGOs. The Soros. And although Zimbabwe is not The Gambia, what has happened there must not be ignored, must be studied closely. Even in the heydays, Zanu-PF politics have never successfully cured the national mind against susceptibility to western influences. And, as the currency debate showed, the impact of dollarisation went beyond banking transactions; it created a pro-American psychosis: a mistaken belief that America is our foster parent! So, the Party, the Nation, the Global: such is the trilemma facing ZANU-PF in Masvingo. And the three must be kneaded into a coherent ideology, if the pitfalls highlighted by Cabral are to be avoided.


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