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Bad strategy sometimes ‘wins’


The month of January always fascinates me, not least that citizens are ever so embroiled in a vicious circle of mournful complacency for more reasons than one.

It is generally a month of “strategising”. At individual level, people make resolutions. Families agonise over school fees while communities haggle over church programmes.

Private companies and government departments ponder over budgets of the year.

As a fan of planning myself, I am obsessed with strategies because of near-religious conviction that success is driven by collective action with an epicentre of individual initiative.

However, I tend to narrow down the focal point to political strategy because the way people are governed jolts my intellect.

And so when I consider that Zanu PF and the MDC have already strategised for 2011, the concept of strategy as defined by MIT doctors Arnoldo Hax and Nicolas Majluf populates my mind.

In their best-selling book The Strategy Concept and Process (1996), they proffer several angles which I will refer to later.

However, listening to the hollow screams of mechanical compliance from Zanu PF zealots makes me wonder how this party actually dreams of ever winning a parliamentary majority in a free and democratic election.

This, even after 20 years of institutionalised misdemeanours and a decade of well-documented plunder.

Their strategic trajectory must be headed for a distant galaxy.

Picture this: six months before the rehearsed jamboree in Mutare, their chief leader is huffing and puffing about how important post-GNU elections are in etching out their party’s absolute control of critical state apparatus.

And by the way, Robert Mugabe has always been in control of government.

In other arenas of political discourse – like The Herald – aha! ideologues will argue- quite rationally — that you cannot be in power for 30 years unless you are a . . . good strategist.

In its own, crude way, this prognosis is closer to the truth than democracy is to the politburo. Yet Machiavellian and Maoist compulsion may prevail, but leave a sour taste.

When political strategy brings death, destruction and grief to its citizens, it is a misnomer to use the “word” good in the context of strategy.

Maintaining a stranglehold on political power while riding on the bodies of 25 000 dead citizens has no moral or political justification.

Machiavellian coercion that wrings allegiance through pain and suffering has no place in modern-day strategic sanity.

In Zanu PF’s realm of political scoring, tears of mothers in distress and smouldering fires of burnt village huts is an acceptable symbol of brand visibility.

Hax and Majluf say strategy is a coherent, unifying, and integrative pattern of decisions that determines and reveals the organisational purpose in terms of long-term objectives, action programmes and resource allocation priorities.

I notice these two learned men make no mention of good or bad strategy, but at some other point in their book, they refer to competitive advantage as a derivative of a good strategy.

You might notice a contradiction in my interpretation of Zanu PF strategy that rings a sinister congruency with the MIT gurus.

Zanu PF is a coherent entity. When they decided to plunder white commercial farms, the instruction was carried with vicious unison from Victoria Falls to Vumba.

They all united against MDC and exhibited integrated decision-making in meting out violence on opposition party supporters.

Their purpose was clear – maintain and perpetuate hegemony for long-term political survival by promising free farm inputs and the Reserve Bank to allocate resources for short-term competitive political advantage.

And yet strategy can go awfully wrong. Whatever Zanu PF has been doing since 1980 may fall within the realm of successful given that Mugabe and the ruling elite are still in power, but the high levels of poverty, unemployment, migration and infrastructural dilapidation point to a political institution whose strategy is retarded.

Their repertoire of strategic toolkits is embedded with rogue behaviour, deception, violence, hatred, corruption, and coercion as a norm, not an exception.

When normal MDC political beings seek God’s guidance in designing laws that promote humanity, participation, mutual respect, fairness, justice and equal opportunity, Zanu PF conspires to set up torture camps and arrest journalists.

My hope is that we Zimbabweans – and Jacob Zuma’s impotent Sadc – have a lot to learn from the international community which remains unanimous in recognising Alassane Ouattara as the winner of the Ivory Coast election, rather than stoop so low as to accept presidential cheat Laurent Gbagbo as a legitimate people’s choice.

In 2000, MDC could have turned ballot majority into political gain by refusing to accept a Mugabe claim to fame, but Morgan Tsvangirai’s strategy of litigation was self-defeating.

In 2008, Mugabe’s rejectionist machinery overshadowed MDC yet again, sucking in the gullible and deceptive Thabo Mbeki into a frenzy of political collusion with Zanu PF.

The aha! ideologues applauded his proverbial nine lives, but this stunted accommodative strategy bounced off the walls of rationality when the civilised world refused to reward Mugabe with a free ride to Oxford Street.

And so as MDC has met to strategise, while their other “T” counterparts conspire legitimate strategic regime change in May 2011, one hopes that the two groups will examine hitherto untried strategic options.

This time, litigation, compliance and accommodation are not on the menu.

Zanu PF can expropriate all the land, invade companies and promise projects, but if they steal the election in 2013, Gbagboian arrogance will only incense us into an Ouattarian courage.

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