THE magic number used to be 21, an age when parents gave away a key to their kids to mark their entrance into adulthood. However, the world conspired in the past 50 years to cut this by three good years to 18, the new number that heralds adulthood status in most jurisdictions when people are allowed to vote or be voted into public office.
The standard has been lowered, but the responsibility is becoming weightier by the year as the world fights problems that very few in the past century ever dreamt of in their wildest visions. The world is now dealing with climate change and economic inequality that have opened the floodgates of migration to the West in search for economic refuge.
Every other day, public leaders are busy ducking responsibility for their actions, and in Zimbabwe we are made to believe “bad luck” is the reason why we are in this political and economic mess.
Yes, tough luck, indeed, that we have chosen blindly and for the foreseeable future we will retain the same failed, incompetent lot we believed was God-given based on our warped approaches to politics.
Today, Zanu PF mandarins start rolling into Goromonzi High School in their swanking sport utility vehicles and the German sedans for the 18th annual people’s conference. Conferences that have become ritual talk shops, where delegates come to endorse leadership and in this instance Emmerson Mnangagwa’s 2023 presidential candidature.
The party secretary for administration, Obert Mpofu, told the State media that “some of the key issues on the agenda include devolution, food security, social services, macro-economic stability, inclusive growth, infrastructure development, as well as value-addition and beneficiation”.
Fine and dandy, but in my discussions with Zanu PF branch members in Harare, Midlands and Mashonaland West, I don’t remember anyone of them articulating the above issues. My mind quickly started thinking about who is drafting these things for the party? Do the majority of conference delegates understand the issues Mpofu said will be up for discussion? If the branches did not debate these issues, the delegates would be endorsing using what legitimacy?
In my discussions with some of the Zanu PF members, I heard them talk about inadequate water supplies in urban areas, massive electricity loadshedding and skyrocketing prices of basic commodities. These are the issues that are affecting the poor working class, including Zanu PF supporters, in urban areas.
I also heard from those in peri-urban and resettlement areas talking about land tenure, land audit, agriculture subsidies, agriculture markets and access to cheap money for production.
However, these are missing discussions from what Mpofu said would be at the table at Goromonzi.
Both urban and rural Zanu PF members I also heard them discussing the state of education, housing and health. They spoke loudly about how they are struggling to pay fees for their children, take their ill relatives to hospitals and failing to access potable water.
They also complained of not having affordable social housing to raise their children in safe and conducive environments.
The people across the socio-political divide also spoke about the stagnant salaries that are not commensurate with their labour. They spoke about wage poverty.
Interestingly, these are issues that Zanu PF has not decided to put on their agenda. There are no discussion papers on these matters. Probably, because the party feels secure and that its majority would not be trimmed any time soon and, therefore, the issues can remain parked.
Most worrying is the fact that Mnangagwa would be a king without an agenda. Mnangagwa is a man without ideas defining him, leading simply because he has the support of the military and nothing else.
After 18 years, the Zanu PF people’s conference should dare dream. It should be a party with contesting ideas not personalities. A party with big ideas to shape the nation’s developmental trajectory. This may be asking too much of a party now filled with yes men and women. A party now just a shell without a soul, compared to its hey days when Edgar Tekere, Maurice Nyagumbo, Lazarus Nzarayebani, Solomon Mujuru and Dzikamai Mavhaire would stand up and speak truth to power.
We’re talking of men who were the soul of the party and at one point stopped the late former President Robert Mugabe’s idea of a one-party State dead in its tracks. They used their ideas to define the party.
They were bold enough to tell Mugabe at the 2006 Goromonzi conference that he had to step down or fight alone the 2008 presidential election. It was that silent revolution at Goromonzi that pushed Mugabe to amend the electoral laws and harmonise the presidential and parliamentary election in 2008. In many respects, that past is now fading history in Zanu PF. The delegates would just feast and celebrate Mnangagwa’s coronation. When their luxury vehicles drive out of Goromonzi, on Saturday December 14, leaving a plum of dust or flicking up mud if it rains; so will the people’s hopes for respite fade into the past, while another year ahead of yet more useless talk, in the people’s name, beckons.
Paidamoyo Muzulu is a journalist and writes here in his personal capacity. He can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org