HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsWhen the ability to debate is stifled by power struggles

When the ability to debate is stifled by power struggles


Two similar but unrelated events occurred few weeks ago.  The first was the announcement of possible elections by end of March 2013.

Develop Me by Tapiwa Gomo

The announcement was made through court papers instead of the usual way.  The actual dates are yet to be announced.

The second event was the United States election debate between the current President and Democrats candidate Barrack Obama and the Republicans’ Mitt Romney.

Debates wil help Americans decide who is a better person to lead them in the next four years based on the candidate’s ideas and policies.

It is like a flea market of ideas. All the voters have to do is chose a candidate whose ideas they think are relevant to their contexts and needs. No weapons involved.

The United States debates have become so popular across the world, as they are viewed by others as the epitome of democracy even though they are of less importance to people outside America.

Wishing to have such open debates in Zimbabwe is indeed a pie in the sky, as we leave in an environment where political leaders can not be challenged.

But some of our young generation of professionals is just attracted to these battles of ideas, such that they woke up as early as three o’clock in the morning just to catch the live debates.

Judging by the social media traffic, it was clear that Zimbabweans, both local and abroad, Zanu PF, Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn (MKD) or MDCs, wish for the day when they can either witness or participate in such debates for the sake of their beloved country. Political debates are just an exciting event where ideas outclass each other without causing bloodshed.

Today our knowledge of issues, or lack of, is our biggest source of failure and lack of development. It is characterised by inadequacies, mired in confusion and political cultism and dependent on Western frames.

It is not based on informed positions on issues and relevant solutions, neither does it represent independence of thought or sovereignty we make noise about.

Take for instance those who claim to be pan-Africanist; they offer nothing beyond policies of retribution. Pan-Africanism has become synonymous and pre-occupied with fixing people of the pale colour not with addressing issues.

This is because there is no effort to unravel the real issues that underlie our lack of development, but blame others for everything that goes wrong. China, Brazil, Russia or Singapore focused on themselves without blaming anyone.

Examples of such political behaviour include the land reform, the response to economic structural adjustment programme and the hyper-inflation together with the political confusion that ensued.

The challenge with such an approach is that it confines citizens’ thinking to illusionary problems annihilating the real issues, because there are never brought to the fore in the first place.

Such an approach creates an impression of rulership within ruling elite, when in fact there are ruining, not only the economy, but citizens’ ability to be creative and think beyond the limited scope of the ruling class.

Countervailing initiatives to such situations are also characterised by the same myopicism and blindness to issues.

The entire political sphere degenerates into a vicious cycle where the ruling class blames the former colonial establishment, while the new political projects pre-occupy themselves with toppling the current ruling class and retaining sheds from colonial capitalism.

The battle in the end, is no longer about issues of development, but power at any cost, including shedding blood.

Today as it stands, Zimbabweans do not know where and why Zanu PF, MDCs or MDK are wrong or right because none of their policies have been put to public debate.

It is politics of personalities, patronage and emotionalism and not about issues — not even about development policies. Our politics today is pre-dominantly about how to remove Robert Mugabe from office, Morgan Tsvangirai from politics,  Welshman Ncube from his MDC, not about ideas.

When I was young my grandfather told us of a story of a lion which invaded a family in a certain village. The lion first killed the family’s cattle one by one, but the family was allowed to eat part of the meat left by the lion.

So while they lost control of the cattle, they still had access to meat. When the lion finished the cattle from this family, it moved to another’s family cattle, but brought back the meat to the first family.

For as long as this family had a constant supply of meat, they gradually lost the need to own cattle anymore.

A few months later, a young man emerged from the village and fought the lion away much to the disappointment of the first family.
A battle ensued between the first family and the young man’s family. The first family was not happy.

While the lion was in fact, a dangerous creature, their meat supply had been disrupted. They could not feed the family anymore.

On the other hand, the young man’s family argued that the village could do better by restocking livestock than depend on the left-overs from the lion.

As the battle continued, the desire to access meat and own cattle fell away as it transformed into power struggles with nothing to do with either cattle or the lion.

This story in someway characterises our political context and our knowledge base which explains why young professionals wake up early in the morning to watch two presidential candidates in far away places outclassing each other.

All they can do is drool with envy as they prepare to witness another sad episode of election in 2013.

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