Echoes:Curse of majoritarianism


“Imagine if all of life were determined by majority rule. You would have sadza and beans each and every day simply because the majority says so. And since women are a majority of the population, they would all be married to one man,” if I may paraphrase American journalist and political satirist PJ O’Rourke.

By Conway Tutani

Last Friday, newly-appointed Minister of State for Harare Metropolitan Province Miriam Chikukwa declared that the City of Harare should be run in line with the Zanu PF election manifesto and nothing else since it is ruling as the majority party.

“We only have one manifesto, one commander (President Robert Mugabe) and his manifesto is what we are going to use. Tell those MDC-T councillors that we have to work together and implement the manifesto of President Mugabe.”

It seems she wants to serve Harare the same dish day in day out solely on the basis that Zanu PF won the harmonised elections and people have no choice, but to take everything they throw at them.

Where will it stop? Does this mean, for instance, the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, Dynamos Football Club, churches, school development associations, women’s clubs, burial societies, crèches, Zimbabwe National Network of People Living with HIV and Aids, etc have to submit to the manifesto? You can’t turn them into commissariats – that’s purely party business.

Indeed, the reality is that Mugabe is in power at the national level and his way goes, but not totally, because the other reality is that the MDC-T runs major cities and towns like Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Mutare, Masvingo and Chitungwiza based on its local election victories in these urban areas.

So, you cannot make them completely submit to Zanu PF. They have authority in their own right over those cities. After all, these municipalities are also called local government authorities as opposed to central government, the niche Zanu PF occupies at the moment. This is the constitutional state of affairs. There are different layers or levels of power and authority as defined in the Constitution.

It must be pointed out that democracy operates at various levels; it does not come from one source. It is not customised by one individual like, for instance, the Great Leader and Dear Leader of North Korea who found it fit to call the country “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” despite their undemocratic dynastic rule.

Equally, the opposition must accord central government its due space as the higher authority. They mustn’t behave as if Harare is some enclave or some liberated zone. But we don’t want a situation where militias like Chipangano in Harare and al-Shabab in Kwekwe usurp the role of duly elected councils under the guise of implementing the Zanu PF manifesto. They have been situations — far too many – where councils have been stopped from taking action against thieving senior municipal officials simply because those officials are politically connected. Former Chitungwiza town clerk Godfrey Tanyanyiwa, now languishing in jail, was said to be a beneficiary of such political protection, allowing him to steal from council coffers for years and years with impunity. He had created his own fiefdom.

A similar situation developed at State-owned road transport utility Zupco where the workers’ committee, by virtue of being made up of Zanu PF members, had virtually usurped the role of management, resulting in the company tottering on the verge of collapse in the 1990s. Zupco has not regained its former dominant status. If one looks closely at what has been happening, it has had the least to do with the manifesto of the ruling party, but governance issues.

Indeed, Zanu PF is in charge at the central government level, but they ought to have a sense of proportion that this is not a world of absolutes; that rulers do not have untrammelled power; that constitutionalism is explicitly and implicitly about limiting and diffusing power in the State. This starts at central government level with the separation of powers between the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary (note: the Judiciary is at par in the scheme of things even though it is not elected like the other two branches of government) cascading to local government.

With such an approach, central government and local authorities will see eye to eye most of the time and work together without constant reminders about this or that manifesto. There has to be co-habitation.

One real wishes Zimbabwe were like Germany where re-elected Chancellor Angela Merkel, to quote Reuters news agency this week, “romped to victory in Sunday’s election with 42% of the vote”. Yes, 42%, not an absolute majority, but that’s enough for her to form a coalition government. That’s how least polarised and most accommodative the country’s political system is. Germans, after suffering a horrendous loss in the Second World War because of Adolf Hitler’s excessive use of power when — after democratically winning elections — he trampled all over other institutions, now know the wisdom of using power with restraint. This has resulted in the country becoming one of the most stable and prosperous nations in the world.

Back to Zimbabwe, with sincerity and willingness on both sides, Zanu PF — indeed more so Zanu PF — and the MDC-T can arrive at a framework to manage their differences. They have to balance political egos with the national interest. There is need to act with calm and reason — not go berserk with power.

So, it is not all about doing whatever you want simply because you are in the majority.

You need pluralism — a system in which two or more sources of authority co-exist; not Hitler’s curse on Germany of majoritarianism – a system where the majority bullies and torments the rest into total submission.


  1. Well said Mugozha hopefully this “street woman” of ZanuPF will take note and allow the elected MDC-T councilors to get on with the business of running the affairs of Harare.

  2. Firstly your phrase by American journalist and political satirist PJ O’Rourke above is an insult on our intellegence. 2ndly the demands by the opposition are contradictory and lastly the writer is evidently educated but unwise, very ‘bookish’.How do you navigate your ship when you are the Captain? Food for thought.

  3. Zvemu Zimbabwe zvakaoma chokwadi. The city council mandate is to provide basic services, water, electricity, refuse collection, road maintenance, entertainment facilities, new residential stands, business stands etc. How do these basic services go against any manifesto, unless obviously the mandate of the council is different to what we think. Can someone please explain to me what is the difference between what the city council mandate and that required by the ruling party?

  4. Vanhu vanongo swerera nharo mangwanani. masikati, manheru nepakuvata. Kuita nharo kunge mushonga we chikosoro here, nhai vanhu we! Kungo swero wawata siku nesikati asi chaitwa hapana. Shem stereki.

    We are really a country of talkers and debates with no solutions to our problems. We should start looking at how we can move the country forward. Before the elections the MDC manifesto was shredded to pieces by ZPF saying FDI is not the answer now the same ZPF (Chinamasa) wants to mortgage mineral resources in the ground to attract the same FDI. ZPF yacho now is in the forefront to get the FDI that they claimed to be “evil”. At least the MDC they would attract the FDI through marketing now the same ZPF yavakuda kutengesa nyika. Shuwa people in Zimbabwe are not serious, no wonder we are great amusement to the world.

  5. Democracy is a game of numbers and all wise statesmen know that. Gushungo is renowned for his wisdom and that is why he has been able to work with his rivals like Nkomo and Tsvangirayi although he dribbles them later. At the very least if you win 51% of the vote it means 49% of the electorate has rejected what you stand for. However because they are citizens of your country and you become their president you must take on board their wishes most of which may not be in your manifesto. ZAPU had less than 20 seats when the unity accord was signed but its president then became vice president. The people had rejected him at the poles but he became number two because the president realised that he had a following which did not share the same views as the president’s following.
    Wisdom demands that the president and ZPF looks at the two manifestos, i.e. zpf and mdc –t, the major political parties in Zim and come up with a common national programme. Campaigning is different from running a country and people looking for recognition from the president cannot be national leaders. Those who have the mantle are recognised even if they criticize and differ with the powers that be. Look at Prof. Moyo. He left ZPF after a disagreement, came back into the party, lost his constituency but still found his way into cabinet. That is a national leader. Those who listened to his address at his ministry’s workshop can attest to what the new generation leadership is going to be if what he said is anything to go by.
    The rural fokes want land but the urbanites want lifestyle which ZPF cannot provide. MDC cannot be ZPF because they came second in the elections, they will remain MDC but they must also embrace good things from ZPF although they were stupid to reject working with ZPF in the new government. The few ministers who could have been included in cabinet would have influenced many things. Mind you participating in this government was not the same as the GNU. This is why they are in charge of most towns and still subordinate to Chombo of ZPF.

  6. The mandate of the city councils is really apolitical and has everything to do with service delivery.Zanu “street woman” Kkkkk

  7. That is how democracy works from the USA all the way to Zimbabwe. The majority rules. Conservative Americans are having to deal with same sex, abortion and other evils. Perhaps we do need a better system that accommodates more views, at the same time the minority’s views may be disadvantageous to the majority so it would be unfair to force them down the majority’s throats!

  8. chandinoona apa ndechekuti mapenzi akawanda voted for Zanu pf while at the same time wanting the inclusive Government to continue.These are wat we call MDC-ZANU blogs.They wanted opposition and musangano at the same time.i think the writer is one such fool.

  9. Ndoo democracy yacho. Its the force of numbers, not quality of ideas. In democracy one professor has one vote and one Morgan has one vote. Zvavavaka nekuti zviri kwa sauti. Zviri kwashuga maiti democracy kutapira. Ndoo nyaya yacho ye democracy. Takahwina saka yedu manifesto ndoo iri panyanga.

    • But manifesto yacho yakahwina inotichii panyaya ye running of City Councils. It says jobs will be created, mvura ichabuda mu tap, marara acharaswa saka how will the council be run against those issues. All is needed is for the council to carry out their mandate. 1 question though, how come no land was set aside for stands in urban centers for people who have been on the waiting list for so long a time. Should the land reform not have catered for those long lists or is it because those on the list havana mitupo.

      • Those on the list played politics nema interests avo. Vakangwara vakatokwana kwana vaakutonon’ona mazino vakatarisa nepa window. Zvikanzi land reform imi motanga kuti hee chaotic haa contested land heee election gimmick munofa muri pa waiting list

  10. Unoziva problem ndeyekuti kwakabva munhu mutema kuimba yevhu, yehuswa, nehurombo ndozvinoita kuti vanhu vave ne nhafu. Panze pekuti vaite zvine order ne hunhu kwete – zvanzi ndisu takakusunungurayi, ndisu tichakutonga kusvika madhongi amera nyanga, tirisu takavavhotera kuti vapinde mu hurumende muna 1980. Makudo evanhu.

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