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Even with full stomachs, democracy struggle continues

Good morning Zimbabwe and complements of the New Year. It has been a while since we last had a conversation. A lot has transpired during my absence. 2017 could not have ended any better. I cannot fathom anything better than the fall of the incompetent and corrupt former President Robert Mugabe and his wife, Grace.

Good morning Zimbabwe and complements of the New Year. It has been a while since we last had a conversation. A lot has transpired during my absence. 2017 could not have ended any better. I cannot fathom anything better than the fall of the incompetent and corrupt former President Robert Mugabe and his wife, Grace.

By Whitlaw Mugwij

They have eyes, but they do not see

Ancient wisdom must have informed Grace that when a drum is playing too loudly, it’s close to tearing apart. But I cannot fault her, even our so-called political analysts did not see November coming. They could not even decipher the decisive import of Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga’s Press statement following then Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s expulsion. But my greatest disappointment came when they failed to understand the presence of military tanks in the streets of Harare. There and then, I perfectly understood what Jesus meant when He said: “they have eyes, but they do not see.”

Like doubting Thomas, they had to see the now Foreign Affairs and International Trade minister Retired Lieutenant General Sibusiso Moyo on the television clad in his military gear to understand what was happening. Quite frankly, if I was the opposition, I would stop taking political advice from such people.

Has Zanu PF become stronger?

As if their failings were not enough, they now tell us, that the opposition is going to be walloped in the coming elections. Speaking with so much authority as if they have crystal balls to see into the future.

Before Mugabe’s downfall, they constantly told us that Zanu PF under Mnangagwa would be weak because he is unelectable. Now they have switched to a different hymn book. What is it macomrades, has Zanu PF become stronger?

In order to prepare adequately for the forthcoming elections, the opposition must study this issue seriously. I personally posit that Zanu PF has become stronger under Mnangagwa and here is why:

The economy

Since the early 1990s, our economy has been struggling. Some have often cited the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme as the progenitor cause. However, I sincerely disagree. The genesis of our economic problems was laid in our economic policies in the 80s. Thus, we have never been financially prudent as a nation. We relied too heavily on aid to finance recurrent expenditure and development. Anyone with a bit of sense would have known back then that it is an unsustainable way of funding growth.

Mnangagwa, unlike his predecessor, understands that investment and not empty platitudes, is key to solving our economic challenges. However, there are two caveats, to this point. Firstly, it is one thing to know what needs to be done and another to do it. In as much as many Zimbabweans welcome the changes in the government‘s tone on the economy, they remain sceptical on its ability to implement its plans. Secondly, investment is a long-term game, but unfortunately our people want short-term improvements in their lives. In short, Mnangagwa will not be able to appease many of the urbanites. To take advantage of that, the opposition must change its language and start speaking economy.

Weak opposition and petty were activists

I have noticed a very worrying development in the pro-opposition camp. Instead of talking about unemployment, healthcare, corruption, investment, good governance, devolution etc, the opposition is focusing rather on petty issues. One day the discussion is about the number of Mnangagwa’s bodyguards, another day they are questioning why First Lady Auxilia Mnangagwa did not do hospital visits before becoming the First Lady. These are petty bourgeoisie discussions. Day-by-day we are losing the moral high ground on the economy when in fact the economy is our forte.

There is no doubt that the opposition is weak. The coalition is rife with internal contradictions, MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai is not feeling well, and worst of all the coalition’s coffers are dry. David Hofisi in his blog post, supports my claim by asserting that Mugabe’s removal was supported by many because the opposition is weak. We do not have enough time, but we have no choice, but to put our house in order. The coalition must speak with one voice and all internal contradictions solved in-house. If we are not careful, we will be confined to the opposition benches once again.

Consolidation of Zanu PF’s pillars of support

The frail, power-hungry Mugabe together with his erratic, infantile and divisive wife had estranged Zanu PF’s key pillars of support. The war veterans and the security sector were the Mugabes’ prime targets, even though they had been key to Zanu PF’s survival post 2000.

Now that the security sector and the war veterans successfully defeated Mugabe, they are bubbling with energy and are going to campaign vigorously. The chiefs are malleable, they follow wherever the wind is blowing, and I suspect they will want to prove their loyalty to their new paymaster.

However, Mugabe has his own loyalists in some parts of Mashonaland, their numbers are unknown and unverifiable. And we must also bear in mind that this is the first election after Joice Mujuru left Zanu PF, hence, there is a strong likelihood of Bhora Musango. This provides an opportunity for the opposition to capitalise on.

In a nutshell, I believe Zanu PF is stronger, but I also do not think the 2018 elections are a forgone conclusion. Did the fall of Mugabe signal a new era?

Regardless of what Jonathan Moyo and his G40 cohorts say, Zimbabwe has entered a new era. The challenge for us, is to decipher what kind of new era it is.

We do not have to dig too deep to find the answers. Mnangagwa’s interview with the CCTV Talk Africa programme sometime in 2015, gave us an insight into his ambitions and his vision for Zimbabwe. During the interview all his answers were modelled along how Deng Xiaoping transformed China. Thus, studying Deng and the transformation of China we can learn at least two lessons which I think are going to be key in this our new era.

In that interview Mnangagwa saw himself as a replica of Deng, with a mandate to modernise Zimbabwe. In slightly over a month after taking over government, he has shown that he is focused on the economy. His re-engagement efforts, the National Budget and his State Of the Nation Address point to this new reality.

Here is the flipside to Deng’s transformation of China. When Deng took the reins of power, many anticipated he would democratise China.

However, in 1989 that notion was dispelled when he ruthlessly crushed the Tiananmen Square protests. Armed with live ammunition and tanks, the army massacred hundreds among hundreds of thousands of demonstrators who had been calling for democracy, greater accountability and freedom of the Press.

I have no doubt that Mnangagwa will address our economic challenges but he too, like Deng, will not level the electoral playing field. Even if he wanted, the army has invested a lot in deposing Mugabe, so they will not easily hand over power to the opposition.

To get a glimpse of what this era is not about, let us revisit the story of the eight Mthwakazi Republic Party activists who were arrested, tortured and detained for demanding truth and justice for Gukurahundi. What has changed is that we have moved away from Mugabe‘s lackadaisical approach on the economy. Gone are the days of his rhetoric and empty platitudes.

Rest assured that Mnangagwa’s eye is on the economy, but never forget that his other eye is on power retention. For this new administration, everything else is secondary to these two primary objectives.

Our struggle for democracy continues unabated. Hopefully in this new era, we will conduct it on full stomachs.

Whitlaw Mugwiji is a political analyst and social commentator. He writes in his personal capacity.