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National development: victim of succession politics?

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The economic insecurities and political conflict playing themselves out in Zimbabwe are reminiscent of the year 2008, when hyper-inflation and electoral violence were rife. This time, however, the stakes are even higher, as a floundering authoritarian regime faces a leadership succession crisis with little clear guidance on how to navigate the transition.

By Obert Gutu

As if struggles within the ruling party over the succession to the Presidency were not bad enough, Robert Mugabe’s advanced age and failing health have also left him increasingly unable to control events. And so, the country is transfixed by a an internecine power struggle and the longer it goes on, the more likely that any political transition will be unpredictable, disorderly and perhaps even violent. The row over Mugabe’s hotly-contested succession has brought the military into the middle of the battle more than ever before, as the security sector continues to brazenly interfere with politics, signalling how the armed forces are going to be a major factor in the succession race.

Leadership succession and renewal is vital in any organisation despite, the difficulties in projecting its future success.

Zimbabwe’s problems, which have been created by decades of authoritarian misrule and poor economic management, will not be quickly solved.

Any successor to the current President will have to deal with a bitter political legacy and difficult economic conditions.

Zimbabwe’s economy remains weak and vulnerable to potential shocks that might precipitate political instability as well. At the same time, government suppression of fundamental freedoms continues. Past crises have produced waves of refugees that have burdened Zimbabwe’s neighbours. Zimbabwe is currently in the grip of an economic crisis, which has resulted in shortage of cash and many company closures and job losses.

As a sovereign republic, Zimbabwe should be governed by a legitimate and responsible administration that is elected by the people in free and fair elections, in accordance with the dictates of our national Constitution.

The people of Zimbabwe have suffered through decades of misrule, unchecked corruption and rampant abuse of their fundamental human rights and liberties.

Zimbabweans deserve to live in a peaceful, democratic and law-abiding State in which the government of the day does not terrorise them and clamp down on their constitutional rights such as freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and freedom of association.

It would be a misconception for one to believe that succession would automatically lead to national development. In fact, what the nation needs is regime change in terms of which there is going to be a complete overhaul of the government.

In the case of Zimbabwe, it has been realised that politicians and party supporters have wasted energy devoting more time to succession matters.

In many African countries, it is customary to discuss the issue while ignoring the structures of the parties the leadership comes from.

Most, if not all the African parties, have deputy Presidents and yet people have come to accept that succession debate must be located outside the aspirations of these people.

In Zimbabwe, Zanu PF has passed up several opportunities to fully address the issue of succession of the leader Mugabe, it is quite unfortunate that instead of addressing the core crisis that of leadership renewal, the party has often resorted to sanctioning those who make the presidential ambitions public like when it disbanded the DCCs in 2012, which linked provincial structures with the district structures. DCCs polls were contested along factional lines (Joice Mujuru-Emmerson Mnangagwa camp) which have fronted the succession race in Zanu PF.

There is need for leadership renewal in every organisation, though there exists conflicting theories about leadership, but observations points out the key leadership renewal is important for effectiveness.

The current state of leadership in Zimbabwe points to the fact that there is growing leadership vacuum, which needs to be filled sooner than later.

It cannot be argued that it is a fact that change of leadership in Zimbabwe would almost immediately inspire some measure of confidence in the economy. This is supported by Mohamed Salih, who suggests that a major consequence that has stifled the renewal and succession issues in Africa is the absence of internal party democracy and the nondemocratic nature of African governments’ party leaders is that the latter attempt to stay in power despite constitutional provisions that restrict their office to a specific number of terms (mostly two).

He further posits that “there is also a strong correlation between government party leaders tampering with the constitution to secure more terms than what is constitutionally permitted and the flaring up of acute conflict. Other cases of succession-driven conflicts in the prelude to democratisation are those of Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Burundi, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Togo. Observations have also revealed that
key leadership renewal will put manoeuvre the country into credible improvements in key areas such as economy and social services.

In light of the soon coming harmonised elections in 2018, the issue of succession politics is currently a hot issue in the ruling Zanu PF. There is are hot discussions on the “Lacosté – G40” factions and who will ultimately win between the two. This has caused divisions and conflicts within

the ruling party resulting in it having some of its own supporters losing confidence in it. This has also resulted in the international community continuing to lose interest and confidence in investment and offering financial assistance.

In conclusion, it may be noted that succession politics hinder national development. Intra-party struggles in the ruling party result in various stakeholders involved in national development becoming reluctant, and sometimes withdraw altogether from the same. It also results in the party supporters, and the nation at large to lose confidence in the national leadership as it exposes the weaknesses of the leader.

l Obert Gutu gave this address at the Mass Public Opinion Institute public seminar at the New Ambassador Hotel, Harare, on August 31, 2017. He is the MDC-T spokesman.

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