In an intelligent but unpublished BA Honours dissertation titled “The Challenges faced by Opposition parties in rural Zimbabwe: The case of MDC in Gutu South, 2000-2006”, John Mutumburanzou examines the poor performance of the MDC in the 2000 election and concludes that the MDC lost the battle for the “common sense view”.
By Munyaradzi Ziburawa
Mutumburanzou argues that notwithstanding violence, Zanu PF effectively used the land reform narrative to appeal to the majority of the rural voters by alleging that the now late opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai wanted to sell the country to the British. To this end, it was common sense for the rural voter and majority of land reform beneficiaries to vote Zanu PF as security of tenure. The false narrative was amplified and repeated again and again, given the monopoly Zanu PF had over the public media.
Elections in essence are a “struggle for the common sense view”. Never mind the theories and other sophisticated ideological postulations, elections are decided by an articulation of a narrative that resonates with the common man. For the American voter, the promise to make America great again could not be resisted, simply because it made common sense to be great again. Never mind how? It was good enough to be great again.
As 30 July beckons, the “common sense view” will win the day. It’s common cause that central to the voter’s concerns are issues of the economy, massive unemployment, cash crisis affecting both the urban and the rural voter — farmers have lost their crop and value mainly because of the cash crisis. It’s also common cause that the economic downturn has decimated livelihoods of the majority and the downturn continues unabated. It’s also common cause that freedoms have been promoted over the past seven months. It’s now equally common cause that Tsvangirai never intended to sell the country to the British. It’s also common cause that Zanu PF is largely responsible for the current state of affairs. It’s again common cause that the Emmerson Mnangagwa-led government has failed to utilise incumbency to solve these common problems despite promising to solve these issues in his first 100 days following his inauguration in November 2017. All these and other issues fit in the common sense matrix shared by the rural and urban voter in 2018.
Efforts have been made by ED to reflect a new dispensation and indeed some far-reaching reforms have been put in place. Chief among these is ensuring freedom of expression as evidenced when the MDC marches were allowed to run uninterrupted as well as attempts to open up the public media to the opposition. ED has fared fairly well in reflecting a reformist approach in this regard. What has, however, been problematic is to apportion all blame for the omissions of the past two decades on one Robert Mugabe alone. The common sense view is that ED and those around him are equally responsible for the vices that characterised the Mugabe regime including Gukurahundii, thuggery, violence and rigging that characterised the previous elections. The “common sense view” is that you cannot accept the achievements of incumbency such as land reform and do away with the baggage associated with incumbency. While the “new freedoms” are sweet, the voter may decide to punish the incumbent for their past deeds. The moral blameworthiness of ED and Zanu PF officials in the excesses that characterised the Mugabe regime is high.
Notwithstanding that, Operation Restore Legacy was targeted at “criminals around Mugabe”, it’s now common cause that no major criminals have been arrested save for the unfortunate G40 elements .The common sense view shared even by the war veterans is that the bigger criminals are still around ED. It should be noted that ED has declared zero tolerance on corruption and has even established an anti-corruption unit in his office. It is, however, common cause that some of those on the list of externalising forex are Zanu PF candidates in this election.
ED, during his inauguration showed clarity on the challenges Zimbabwe faces, when he promised to deliver “jobs, jobs, jobs.” There is no doubt that his administration is clear on the need for jobs. The Zanu PF manifesto promises to create more jobs. There is no doubt that ED hopes to create jobs through mega deals. Perhaps the reality is just that the jobs cannot be created at the pace the unemployed voter expects. The common sense view is however that Zanu PF promised 4,5 million jobs in 2013, and went on to reduce graduates to airtime vendors. The common sense view is that the incumbent has failed to create jobs, indeed the temptation to go for the alternative is only logical for the unemployed. The Afrobarometer survey confirms this common sense view that reposes faith in the MDC alliance in as far as employment creation is concerned.
While ED promised to solve the cash crisis in his first 100 days in office , his regime has shown neither appetite nor ability to solve the cash crisis. It’s common cause that the cash crunch is one of the biting challenges that Zimbabwean voters are struggling with. For men and women who have been spending productive time queuing for minimum denominations; failure to solve the cash crisis is unforgivable. For the consumer whose buying power has been seriously eroded due to the three tier pricing system; inattention to the cash crisis is a negation of common sense.
Even if Steven Sackur thinks it’s “nonsensical’’ that the cash crisis would be solved in two weeks the “common sense view” is to try those who are promising to fix the crisis in two weeks. Never mind the feasibility.
Who really thought that Zimbabwe will be a colony again? The common sense view is that there should be money, and by the way, money is cash in the banks. Never mind Chinamasa’s sermons on the virtues of plastic money.
Driving through Zimbabwe’s roads is now a nightmare. Road infrastructure has been severely dilapidated .Yes, it’s common sense that driving should not be about navigating around potholes. Zimbabweans are widely exposed through physical and online travelling and do admire road infrastructure in other countries such as South Africa and even the United Kingndom. It thus makes common sense to embrace spaghetti roads and bullet trains. Who doesn’t like good things? Who doesn’t want to dream? Zimbaweans would rather do away with the current nightmare and choose to dream again.
It is common cause that the majority of the registered voters who will decide this week are the young generation. It makes common sense to try and entrust a young visionary than a tired cadre, who has been in trenches for the past 38 years. It is common sense to dream than to listen to a tired narrative.
In a piece of advice to his brother Marcus who was running for consulship in 64 BC, Quintus observes that the most important part of any campaign is to give hope, as that wins the candidate goodwill. Chamisa has given hope to millions of Zimbabweans who dare to dream again. Zimbabweans would rather dream again than endure the status quo characterised by stagnation and erosion of livelihoods and potential. Just as Zanu PF won the “common sense view” in 2000, it has lost the struggle for common sense in 2018. It simply does not “make common sense” to vote Zanu PF on July 30 — Zimbabwe will never be a colony again.
Munyaradzi Ziburawa writes in his personal capacity.