Other than the lack of political will combined with the hiatus of ideas to develop the country, part of the challenges we face as a nation is the lack of transformation by Zanu PF. For that reason, the party has become the major cause of our socio-economic and political problems and an immovable barrier to addressing them. In their absence, Zimbabwe will have no problem at all and free to progress.
Even when the need for the reform agenda is glaring in their faces, they continue to perceive it as a threat to power, clear evidence that Zanu PF is not made for our times, but yesteryears. They have failed to demonstrate the ability to balance between political power retention and remaining relevant to the needs of today’s generation, which explains why every problem to them must be addressed by violent or military means.
The party was formed in 1963 as a political and military organisation during the war against white minority rule. Its sole objective was to remove the predominantly white minority government, headed by then and late Prime Minister Ian Smith, through political pressure and military force. While this goal was achieved in 1980, following the Lancaster House Agreement of December 1979, when the United Kingdom granted independence to Zimbabwe following a brief period of direct British control, the party has up to this day not dumped its tools of trade — political pressure and military force.
Ideally, the entire Zanu PF structure was supposed to be formatted in 1980 to prepare it for the peace-time developmental challenges. That was the same time the political and military wings were supposed to be either separated or disbanded. But the party chose to proceed with a structure designed to fight wars hence it ended up causing the death of many people in various phases of the country’s post-independence history.
In addition to being a danger to citizens, there are more challenges associated with the perpetuation of an irrelevant yet perilous structure. One of them is that it has created and cemented a culture of entitlement, impunity among its members and an abhorrent and nauseating sense of heir apparency from its competing political and military wings. This is why Zanu PF can quarrel within itself, but quickly unites when confronted by an external enemy.
While for four decades, the nation has continued in vain to expect Zanu PF to act maturely as the governing party with the responsibilities of administering the affairs of State, the more the people realise that they were fooled, the more it is dawning on them that the party is the monster in our midst. Other than having mastered the art of protecting political power as their inheritance and access to plunder, none of which has anything to do with developing the nation, the more people are getting fearful of the former liberation party.
In a context like that, it is futile to imagine that the nation will one day get on track without Zanu PF reforming or allowing national reforms. This is made more difficult by the long queue of those on the succession line waiting for their chance on the throne. It is the same people on this queue who mobilised to get rid of those associated with the G40 group who were assumed to be cutting the political queue. If for four decades Zanu PF has been in power, it has not dawned on them that leadership is about the people, improving their welfare and deriving political pride and power from that, then it means the party has never been relevant in post-independent Zimbabwe.
It is for the same power retention reasons and keeping the succession queue undisrupted that the word reform either from within or outside makes them cringe in anger and bitterness. They are blind to the idea that it is the only way Zanu PF and its legacy can survive the gradual wind of change. Successful political parties have embraced reforms and renewed their ideological posture in order to be more relevant to current demands.
The Communist Party of China embraced capitalism in the late 1970s to become a developmental State premised on the capitalist mode of production. Following Mao Zedong’s death in 1976, Deng Xiaoping, the Vice-chairman of the party won a power struggle against the chairman Hua Guofeng.
Deng spearheaded the reform and opening policy which opened China to world markets. In order to effectively sustain the new ideological posture, the Communist Party reformatted itself and embraced a meritocracy paradigm with people in government and political party structures being selected on the basis of their skills and abilities and not anymore political loyalty. This is what gave birth to the mighty China of today.
Here in Africa, while the Ethiopian economy started growing since a decade ago, the country’s politics in November witnessed a similar morphing following the coming together of three of the four ethnically-based parties in the ruling coalition formed in 1988 to fight Mengistu Haile Mariam.
The new party called Prosperity Party is expected to the embrace more new allies as part of recreating and re branding, while creating a national and collective vision in a country beset by tribal politics. This is how leaders try to bring unity and cohesion than perpetuate division as in our case. The 43-year old Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Mr Abiy Ahmed, has argued that given the way the economy is growing, it is necessary for his party to reform and adopt a more liberal economic posture and allow more space to the private sector.
Tapiwa Gomo is a development consultant based in Pretoria, South Africa. He writes here in his personal capacity.