Years ago, Masipula Sithole made an observation about Zimbabwe that has remained true to this day. In doing so, Sithole decried the propensity of Zimbabwean political parties to splinter and multiply.
By Seewell Mashizha
According to a recent count by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) there are, as of now, 75 political parties registered for the 2018 elections. As might be expected, a number of the parties are the result of this habitual splintering.
Thus, we have seen the sprouting of such apparitions as Tendai Biti’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Elton Mangoma’s Renewal Democrats of Zimbabwe — itself a splinter from the MDC Renewal Team Party, which in turn convulsed out of the MDC-T.
Add to this, Welshman Ncube’s MDC and you have a catastrophic blend of paralysis and confusion. To this we might add what at one time was Job Sikhala’s MDC-99.
The splinter syndrome is not restricted to the MDC formations. Zanu PF has shown the way over the years, starting with Edgar Tekere’s Zimbabwe Unity Movement (ZUM) which challenged Zanu PF at the elections of 1990.
More recently, contradictions in Zanu PF created the Zimbabwe People First (ZimPF) which soon ran aground and former Vice-President, Joice Mujuru, fashioned her National People’s Party (NPP) which appears to have suffered a still birth.
But in true Zimbabwean fashion, new dramas and configurations are emerging with Rugare Gumbo retracing his steps back to Zanu PF. Gumbo was at the recent extraordinary congress of Zanu PF. One wonders how long it will be before there is another fall-out involving him.
After initially appearing to have scored big in Mugabe’s last Cabinet re-shuffle, the G40 configuration is in disarray after the tables turned, the utterings of the garrulous Jonathan Moyo notwithstanding. For some reason Moyo appears to think that Zimbabweans are as mercurial as he is and that they will follow his whims.
In the flip-flopping that has typically characterised his political career, Moyo’s latest metamorphosis has reduced him into a favour-seeking sycophant. Given the way in which he has on many occasions vilified the country’s immediate past President, his current stance is testimony to the fact that he has no permanent friends, only permanent interests.
The goings-on in Zanu PF are duplicated in the opposition formations. The MDC-T has had its own flip-floppers. Consequently, the MDC-Alliance is a less than phenomenal return home by the MDC-T’s prodigals who now find they can work with their “erstwhile” leader. Predictably, there is a view that the MDC-Alliance is a non-event. These two scenarios are the major ingredients to an election that promises to be a defining one for parties and individuals alike.
The political landscape in Zimbabwe is likely to yield to new imperatives and realities. We are likely to see a new dispensation, as some political parties and individual politicians are probably doing their swansong even as we speak: one last dance with the electorate and then it is Armageddon more or less.
Going forward, what is critical is whether or not the political gladiators are seen by the people to have an enduring appeal and discernible empathy for the struggles of the populace. Above all, performance will be seen to have been critical in deciding the voters one way or the other.
Those who will be seen to be closely attuned to the needs and aspirations of the people will carry the day. Newly-inaugurated President, Emmerson Mnangagwa’s team can score big if it applies itself to the tasks before it with skill and diligence and keeps its ear to the ground. That there is a lot of goodwill for Mnangagwa’s interim term is undeniable. The goodwill cuts across the political divide. Even MDC-T spokesperson, Obert Gutu has been less than cordial to the trip to Washington by Biti, Chamisa and Dewa Mavhinga.
Among the team that prostrated itself before a congressional hearing in Washington is Peter Godwin a former Rhodesian soldier and the author of Mukiwa, a biographical reflection on the bush war that ushered in majority rule. In Mukiwa, Godwin talks about Willie Ndangana and the crocodile gang. The Godwin’s were members of the white farming community in the area then known as Melsetter.
According to Baxter Tavuyanago (2013) the little known “Crocodile Gang” (CG) was a five-member Zanu commando unit deployed in the Melsetter district of Manicaland in 1964 following the first Zanu Congress held in Gwelo in May 1964.
The CG was led by William Ndangana and included James Dhlamini, Victor Mlambo, Master Tresha Mazwani and Amos Kademaunga. The group conducted sabotage activities against the Smith regime and as their activities gained momentum, the gang executed a white farmer, Pieter Johannes Andries Oberholtzer at a makeshift roadblock on July 4, 1964.
Oberholtzer has since been recorded as the first white man to die in an act of war since the First Chimurenga of 1896/7 (Sadomba 2011: 11, Bhebe 1999:28). Tavuyanago contends that the group’s activities were, in actual fact, the set of events that set the Second Chimurenga war in motion.
The killing of Oberholtzer had the effect of removing a major psychological hurdle by demonstrating that the white man was not invincible. From this point on it became clear that victory against white elitist rule was attainable. Peter Godwin has never forgotten the Melsetter incident and continues to harbour personal grudges against liberation movement parties.
Nevertheless, he can be forgiven for pursuing the interests of his own people.
Conversely, the same cannot be said of the likes of Biti, Chamisa and Dewa Mavhinga.
No matter how much subterfuge and double-speak Biti and company deploy, the truth remains staring at them in the face: they appeared cap in hand, on bended knees and begged for more economic sanctions against their own people, the very people whose vote they will want to entice. No euphemism or deliberate equivocation can disguise that fact.
What makes their action even harder to understand is the degree to which it is antithetical to the prevailing mood in the country. If these men were Americans bad-mouthing their own country in a foreign capital, the full wrath of America’s Patriot Act would rain upon them.
The USA Patriot Act is ostensibly an antiterrorism law enacted by the US Congress in October 2001, at the request of George W. Bush. Often referred to simply as the Patriot Act, it was signed by Bush on Oct. 26, 2001. The act gave new powers to the United States Department of Justice, the National Security Agency and other federal agencies in terms of the domestic and international surveillance of electronic communications.
Despite claims to the contrary, the Patriot Act raised concerns among civil liberties groups and other critics surrounding the data privacy rights of US citizens — concerns that were heightened significantly in 2013, when NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked evidence that the law was being used to justify the bulk collection of data on millions of phone calls.
Patriot Act opponents, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, claim that the law has reneged on previous checks on civil liberty abuses and compromised privacy and discouraged free speech.
Snowden is in exile now for his role against Patriot Act provisions. There is probably something to learn about how to deal with the undesirable activities of renegade citizens, especially when the interests of the overwhelming majority of the people are threatened.
Zimbabwe’s sanctimonious and avaricious opposition functionaries are allowed to roam free and collaborate with “enemy states” for purposes of filling their begging bowls with the proverbial pieces of silver. It is an open secret that the coffers of the MDC-T have practically run dry. The real problem with Zimbabwe’s opposition elements is their ineptness and lack of imagination and enterprise. Is it any wonder therefore that they are failing to breathe life into their campaigns after the departure of Robert Mugabe.
Now that Mugabe is gone they appear to be lost and clueless and are driven only by ambition and caprice so vile that they wilfully tie themselves to the apron strings of the US and almost literally beg to go to bed with Donald Trump, a man who is probably among the most despicable characters the modern world has had to contend with.
The relegation of Palestine in the estimation of opposition politicians is a clear indication of the sort of ideological bankruptcy that has seen them courting Trump so soon after his recent racist boob on Jerusalem.
Clearly, the opposition has misread the writing on the wall. The man in the street feels, for the first time in a long time, that there is at least a realistic hope of attaining an improved quality of life. The opposition does not seem to care one way or the other.
In the harmonised elections of 2018, there might be a price to pay for being a sanctions party.
The MDC formations were unable to demonstrate their mettle during the GNU. Consequently, they now have nothing to sell, especially within the more assertive groundswell of nationalist fervour.
Seewell Mashizha is a social, political commentator.