It is a very unfortunate development, but one which has become something of an expected ritual each time we glide towards a presidential election in Zimbabwe; a technocrat or an intellectual of repute will, enigmatically, stand out to pronounce their candidature just shortly before the polls. This is not to dissuade Zimbabwean citizens from contesting in a presidential race, but it is the spontaneity and the abruptness that induces a sense of shock.
guest column: Learnmore Zuze
The 2008 election which, to date, can be deemed as the ballot which provided the incumbent President Robert Mugabe with his toughest electoral challenge, sprung forth such a surprise. The last sticking, out memory would be that of Simba Makoni, an academic in every way. Another academic elitist party was the professor-headed MDC-N which went on, at the time, to throw its weight behind Simba Makoni. Makoni, a former Finance minister who was a leading member of Zanu PF, broke ranks and formally announced on February 5, 2008 that he would be a candidate.
Notably, another colossal figure in the academic realm, in the election, was none other than the incumbent Mugabe himself. Witty, but not exactly a towering figure in the world of academics was one Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC-T. These men squared up in a mouthwatering election in 2008. The gun of the presidential race went off on March 29, 2008 and millions of Zimbabweans poured into voting booths to express their will.
It must be emphasised that for all intents and purposes, Zimbabwe, at the time, had become a collapsed State. There was no more order in the country’s economy than in a flatcar full of scrap metal. Zimbabwe was a total mess. In foreign news, the Zimbabwean crisis stood out like a gumpole in a desert. The great trek to foreign nations continued.
The hyperinflation meant the thriving of the parallel market which everyone was forced to resort to. Comically, the collapse was as clear as daylight to everyone yet Mugabe continued with his fervent denials. Former South African President Thabo Mbeki, who will not be fondly remembered by Zimbabweans, made the infamous statement, “There is no crisis in Zimbabwe,” at a time when even domesticated dogs could feel the pangs of hunger in the country.
Now, going by the rules of logic, which, if you ask me, are not so logical in politics, there is a recurrent school of thought assuming that the intellectual is smarter than others in politics. The intellectual height of the men who contested the 2008 election dwarfed opposition leader Tsvangirai by miles. Makoni had some people firmly convinced that he was precisely what the doctor had prescribed for the Zimbabwean crisis.
But the announcement of the results proved what every sound political analyst in Africa knows: Education is never a factor in politics. Tsvangirai had floored all the intellectual giants. He won with 47,9% followed by Mugabe with 43,2% and Makoni with 8,3%. Many articles had been penned to diminish his academic standing in the world’s eyes, but he stood out head and shoulders above the rest with a 47% win which others claim was even higher than that. How had he managed to pull the carpet from under these intellectual giants’ feet? How did he do it?
Zimbabwean politics drips with examples of how “academic smartness” does little at election time. Parliament, itself the legislative body of this country, has a chunk of men and women who never went past primary school. One can even dig deeper into the country’s very Cabinet and single out whole ministers who only have basic education yet they make the body of policy formulators.
This is exactly the lesson that should be firmly grasped by Dr Nkosana Moyo. He needs to understand this practical phenomenon at this critical time as to join hands with other comrades who have been in the trenches in the last 17 years. Zimbabwean politics, in particular, and African politics in general has little, in fact, nothing to do with one’s academic standing and fineness of ideas. It is yet to reach that level of consciousness, it’s not even one which puts to test the ideas of candidates.
Joseph Chinotimba, with his restricted academic intellect, can wrest a parliamentary seat from a professor of political science; that’s our reality. It must be admitted, and sadly so, that politics in Africa is still at the very rock-bottom level, where the candidate who can rally people in a particular cause wins the day.
Nkosana and other concurring intellectuals would do well to grasp this self-evident truth: Zimbabweans are not swayed by academic dexterity neither are they concerned, in the slightest, with the ideas.
Right now, what the jobless graduate, the retrenched worker, the vendor in the street and the underpaid worker wants is to be freed from the pharaohic grip of Zanu PF. There is no point in internal opposition wars.
What Nkosana et al will only help achieve if they remain headstrong in participating next year is to add five more years of unemployment, corruption, misery and impoverishment to the long-suffering people of Zimbabwe. They will perpetuate grief. Every vote counts next year.
In 2008, if only Makoni had rallied behind the main opposition, Tsvangirai could probably be finishing his last term this time and massive changes would have been seen. The man, unfortunately, contested independently and robbed Zimbabweans of a ticket out of misery. Nkosana Moyo must learn from this past if he is indeed for the people of Zimbabwe. There can be no pretending that Tsvangirai is the figure that spells the greatest threat to Zanu PF. The sooner he understands that there is and was no need to antagonise fellow opposition stalwarts, the better.
Nkosana must come to others.
Learnmore Zuze is a law officer and writes in his own capacity. E-mail: email@example.com