HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsPolls close, but change may be a distant horizon

Polls close, but change may be a distant horizon

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Whether elections will be held before the end of July or somewhere in October, the fact remains that elections are by the corner. Even without the date being announced, one cannot avoid feeling the hype.

Report byTapiwa Gomo

Some insiders suggest that none of the major parties is ready for elections anyway, as they are struggling to raise funds for campaigning.

So, as the debate on the recent Constitutional Court ruling on the election date rages on, that period is going to be used to send begging bowls in the shores of Asia, Europe and the United States of America.

We pray the election date debate will not result in a constitutional crisis.

Incontrovertibly, this election is pregnant with expectations, with change dominating such expectations. People are tired of political heckling, they want a better life.

There is a discernible feeling of hope that a decisive election would deliver exactly that. By decisive, perhaps they mean one party of government.

In last week’s instalment, I argued that the forthcoming elections are necessary because the country needs to normalise and stabilise itself.

People need political closure to the unfinished business of 2008. Part of the closure includes the acceptance of a possibility of another government of national unity.

From a psychological and, of course, legal perspective, this government of national unity, as we all know, was a makeshift political arrangement where numbers did not balance to produce a definite winner.

But we must not forget that it was and it is still a government.

This scenario is likely to repeat itself in the next election.

But, of course, it is worth noting that the makeshift government has achieved what a single-party government failed to do over three decades — giving birth to a new constitution which should usher a new era for Zimbabwe through elections and development.

Now, the challenge Zimbabwe faces today is that the change agenda has largely been associated with personalities than policies, which is why the country has so many political parties today.

At 33 years, we have almost 30 separate political parties, still counting, including Egypt Dzinemunhenzva and his African National Party.

This is a consequence of politics based on personalities and emotions than logic.

In simpler terms, political change entails that whatever the present running government is lacking in its ability to govern, therefore policy changes must be enacted by a new administration.

Two fundamental factors underlie the concept of political change.

Change should be demanded either because the current administration has failed to meet the expectations of the people or existing policies are not meeting the needs of the people.

For the former, change involves an overthrow of the existing administration with the view that the new administration will change the socio-political and economic system, while the latter aims at changing policies without overthrowing the administration.

And each of these demands different forms of interventions – inter or intra-party changes.

But the ultimate purpose of the change process should not only be limited to political change, but policy changes in concurrence with the needs of the people.

And perhaps Zanu PF squandered the opportunity offered by the government of national unity (GNU) to influence policy reforms.

And by reforms, I am not referring to the GNU reforms, but developmental policies.

But even those who oppose Zanu PF have themselves to blame too.

They over-indulged themselves in personality attacks instead of selling their ideas.

Or perhaps, our current political arena does not offer or provide an opportunity to be logical.

Change had come to mean kicking MDC or Zanu PF out of office without offering a well-defined post-election roadmap on how the country was going to move forward.

It is not about what a politician is offering for the future, but how unfit to govern the other politician is. It is politics of personalities, not policies.

It is about Robert Mugabe grabbing white people’s land and overstaying his welcome; Morgan Tsvangirai being uneducated, less handsome than the other and his regime change agenda on behalf of the West; Simba Makoni not being trusted for his historical roots in Zanu PF; and WelshmanNcube’s perceived divisive tendencies.

None of these address bread and butter issues.

Sadly, the narratives dominate our political discourse and because there are not based on ideas but largely perception, they elicit emotions which manifest themselves into violence.

That Zimbabwe needs change to chart its way forward is beyond debate, but as long as our politics remains attached to personalities and personal attacks, we are giving our politicians less motivation to develop good policies for our country.

And such a scenario produces personality changes and not policy changes.

It is for this reason that once again, I am arguing that whatever change or lack of it in the next election will not have a major influence on people’s standard of life unless we pressure them now to define what they stand for — not how uneducated, divisive, untrusted and dictatorial their opponents are.

  • lTapiwa Gomo is a development consultant based in Pretoria, South Africa

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