The politics of benefits and standing by the sidelines


A My nephew, a final year engineering student at the Harare Institute of Technology, recently came back from the rural areas wearing a Zanu PF cap, not only that he has a number of such caps and hordes of T-shirts of all shades.

Report by Rashweat Mukundu

I got curious and asked him how the voting went in the rural areas and he was straight open with me that he had joined Zanu PF and wants to rise within the ranks.
I asked him why and he said: “There are benefits, uncle.”

We engaged in a debate in which I did not so much dissuade him from joining Zanu PF, but rather that politics and leadership must be driven by principles and a desire to serve rather than “benefits”.

I did not get a clear answer on what benefits he had received from Zanu PF apart from the cap and T-shirt or, better still, what benefits he would receive and how.

His fees were due and I was going to pay anyway.

I argued with him that if he indeed benefited from his leadership position in Zanu PF which is well and good, what happens to Ambuya Majokoro, our neighbour in the rural areas who cannot represent herself to receive benefits, and what happens to his own colleagues who are not going to be engineers, but surviving on subsistence farming in rural areas.

What also happens to the weak and poor who are on the fringes of political life, when all that political leaders aspire for are personal benefits, he tilted his head in deep thought, only to say after a few seconds, “but the MDC-T was never on the ground”.

I did not contest that and we left it there.

Last week I was part of a group of young people at a birthday party in Dzivaresekwa.

And again I was curious to know their thoughts on politics, the answer was the same, but more analytical.

This group was made up of young men who are university and college graduates and others still in college.

All the five said they did not vote because they were not registered and they did not care anyway.

Not only that, they also say they will not spend more than an hour standing in a line to register to vote, “what for?”, they asked.

“The system must be made easy otherwise why I should vote?”

One of them went on to say he does not see any difference between the MDC formations and Zanu PF.

“All politicians are the same,” he quipped.

Interestingly all five of the Dzivaresekwa group rejected Zanu PF’s empowerment talk, arguing it is all a lie, “tell me who has benefited from that?” I was asked.

The common thread in thinking among all the young people I talked to was the same.

They are better off looking after themselves than engaging in politics and if politics is to matter it should benefit them or made easy.

It appears that what Zanu PF has succeeded in doing is to distort the political environment to such an extent that all that matters is the individual. It is as a result of that contagion that there were serious fights for political space in the MDC-T, it was all about the individual.

And by association the MDC-T was equally changed. The language that has been used over the past decade and amplified even more in this year’s election campaign was that of empowerment.

Empowerment targets the individual and you sell your loyalty for “benefits”.

Where Zanu PF talks of community empowerment, this gain involves individual benefits and not so much the community. The building of schools and roads, be it by companies, local or central government, is not a “community benefit” in the sense of economic empowerment, but what should happen in any normal and functioning society, that the government builds schools and roads.

However, these are all touted as benefits that communities accrue from supporting Zanu PF and through that they receive “community ownership” benefits in the form of schools and roads.

Our national politics is so distorted that many would rather see issues from a personal rather than a national or collective point of view.

Many are sold a lie that they would benefit from empowerment, but only a few, and only those close to the centre of power will benefit.

The rest of society is left to chase a shadow election after election.

It is this distortion that is making it difficult for many to distinguish between the lies and the truth.

Interestingly, politicians in Zimbabwe no longer talk so much about the need for people to work hard, to be honest citizens, but rather what the party will do for them. Our society is now divided into segments of those who, depending on their loyalty, will benefit or those who will be punished and it is no surprise that President Robert Mugabe said so about the residents of Bulawayo and Harare, who voted for the MDC-T.

Our politics, shifted to a game of benefits or punishment and you choose your side.

The same story will be repeated at the next election that Zanu PF empowers and loyalty to the party comes with benefits and the MDCs will equally attempt to sell us what they can do for us and not so much what we can do for ourselves.

Equally as many will be fed up with politics and stand by the sidelines. So after the July 31 election I visited my mother in Marondera, and she had received a 20kg bag of maize meal and 25 broiler chicks from an aspiring Zanu PF candidate.

I was told the whole street or location as we call, Cherima, had received the gift.

Upon enquiring, she said: “What could I do?” when everyone was forced to accept the gifts.

“I only got a few of things, others have whole rooms full of maize meal,” she added. Benefits!


  1. Your mind is distorted Rashweat. Research, write and expose companies which evade paying corporate tax. If you label building of schools, roads, dams and other infrastructure individual benefits, your views are not honest.

  2. I totally agree with you Mr. Mukundu. The politics is now bad. The sentiment of benefits you are talking of is true. If you dont agree with them, you will be excluded and punished. Its just like desperate employees willing to work for peanuts in unsafe conditions in some of our industries because they are desperate and dont have another option. People have been made to be desperate and they do not know what to do, but just to sell their souls to the Zanu pf shefs for short term benefits.Corruption has thus increased to unprecidented levels. You have to know someone to to sell something to a government department, e.t.c.

    I think we need to take leaf from the democracy in SA where people strive to be transparent. Look at the Police commisssioners issue, how Zuma is grilled in parliament and many other examples.

    We are in trouble and I wonder if it will end or we will just end up another failed state.

    • Aaaah! unoiziva SA here iwe? How can you wish to reduce Zimbabwe to the level of SA?
      You want to commend a whole Police Commissioner who appoints one of her top commanders without running a simple criminal record check? Tibvire apa!!!

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