Uncommon thinking on political reforms


The problem we face is not political reforms per se, it is the fear of political reforms by Zanu PF. Unless we address that fear, we will continue to have resistance to change.


The end times of tyranny and plunder are with us as we see the craftiness of Zanu PF’s evil confounding them. By their own cunningness, they are digging a pit so deep for their own demise. That is truly the work of our God who will make the wise things of this world foolish.

I truly believe that our beloved country Zimbabwe is at the cusp of a fundamental power shift. However, we must not just watch in anticipation as Zanu PF rips itself apart, but we must get ready to work and reinvent our country so that at last our dreams deferred since 1980 can begin to become a reality.

The implosion within Zanu PF is a predicable development and I squarely put it on President Robert Mugabe’s lap who has failed to nurture predictability and leadership succession because of his unrestrained selfish ambition.

It is obvious that without any political reforms, we cannot expect to create the new Zimbabwe we all want. However, I must repeat, political reforms are not and have never been in the interests of Zanu PF especially now that they are at their weakest. They will resist them at all costs as they have done since 2000.

For the avoidance of any doubt, I am not saying here that we must not have political reforms. Rather I am saying we must find the most effective means to remove the resistance to change by Zanu PF first so that we can have political reforms followed by free and fair elections which I have no doubt that Zanu PF will lose. This is because whatever we have been doing to date is clearly not working and so we must come up with a totally new approach.

There is a phenomenon in systems thinking called the iceberg phenomenon. Systems thinking is the label for a worldview which seeks to identify the root cause of problem situations rather than at snapshots or events. This worldview tries to see that which is not immediately obvious. We, therefore, need to understand and manage the underlying causes of the resistance to political reforms by Zanu PF if we are to achieve any progress on the issue.

So, for example, we are simply demanding political reforms without looking deeper into the issue of fear — the iceberg underneath.

Systems thinking has been described as Uncommon Sense. When faced with complexity in the internal or external dynamics of any system as we do here in Zimbabwe, it is useful use this systems lens to avoid unintended consequences and resistance to change.

With this systemic insight, we can then learn to intervene more effectively, in high leverage areas, within the complex dynamics of politics, power and the need to change. Continually shouting at Zanu PF to change, as we are all doing now, may not result in the change we want to see.

In my opinion, Zanu PF, especially its leaders, fear to lose power through free and fair elections. Understandably so, because that loss of power may result in personal criminal prosecution, loss of income and status. This fear is the same which is causing succession battles as Mugabe holds onto power. It is clear that the more we demand for political reforms, the more resistance to change we are getting.

The question, therefore, must be: What realistic options should we pursue to get the results we want?

In my opinion, the one option is through some sort of political settlement and not wasteful contestation with Zanu PF because we simply do not have any other means to fight them as they did the colonialist. We certainly do not want a civil war and even if we did, the geopolitics of the world, particularly the region, have changed significantly to make that a viable option.

According to research by Edward Laws (August 2012) titled Political Settlements, Elite Pacts, and Governments of National Unity — A Conceptual Study, a growing body of recent scholarship puts political settlements at the centre of the development process. The political settlements approach focuses on the formal and informal negotiations, bargains, pacts and agreements between elite actors, as crucial drivers of the emergence of locally effective institutions and policies that promote the achievement of sustainable growth, political stability and socially inclusive development.

Surely that is what we want? I know we have been there before and, for many reasons, it didn’t work. I, however, think we should try again, but this time with the wisdom of hindsight.

Going to the 2018 elections without any reforms is political suicide and, therefore, unthinkable. I would rather we postpone elections and pursue an inclusive political settlement that addresses the fears of Zanu PF, but ushers in a new era of inclusive democracy through comprehensive political reforms over an agreed timeframe.

Food for thought?

Vince Musewe is an economist and author based in Harare. The views in this article are his personal views. You may contact him on vtmusewe@gmail.com