SINCE time immemorial, the political class has been defined across the world by class, capital and raw power.
In many instances, these groups of people have formed elite pacts to foster their hegemony in communities and are generally referred to as the establishment.
British scholar and newspaper columnist Owen Jones in his book The Establishment unravelled who is the establishment in the British Isles.
He pointed out how politicians who have studied at Oxford and Cambridge universities have dominated political offices in the United Kingdom.
He further invented a new political term — the revolving door — in reference to people who now blurred the lines between and among politicians, media personalities, big capital, non-governmental organisations’ officials and politicians.
Jones argued that these groups have formed what can be called the establishment, a ruling class, an elite group that decides who becomes a premier, what policies will he/she pursue and above all despite some perceived differences between the Conservatives and Labour —the two major parties — they were all beholden to the establishment.
He further noted that the aforementioned groups — the establishment — could move seamlessly from one group to another. This was exemplified by how one can leave politics to join the media or non-governmental organisations or vice-versa.
Another interesting book that touches on the political establishment is Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth.
Fanon was clear that after independence, the nationalist governments should establish a national bourgeoisie.
Fanon, however, laments the lack of national bourgeoisie and mimicry of the former colonisers by new rulers without the attendant capital to keep the position safe.
Zimbabwe’s establishment has been difficult to define because it has been very fluid since independence in 1980.
After the late Robert Mugabe became Premier, power resided in Kutama Old Boys Association. These people decided many of the senior political appointments, debated economic policies and generally became the natural reservoir for government leadership positions. The other group was made up of former Goromonzi High School students.
Still from the education sector, University of Zimbabwe (UZ) played a crucial role in creating national intelligentsia. It had the unrivalled position of being the only university in the country from the 1950s to 1990 when National University of Science and Technology was established in Bulawayo. In other words, UZ had a 40-year headstart to other colleges in developing national leaders.
UZ also enjoyed the position of refining the military raw power. The former guerrilla leaders who had assumed political power with requisite political education have all drunk from the Mount Pleasant fountain of education.
Many Cabinet ministers attained their degrees after 1990 and many in the military received their degrees at the institution.
The other group that is part of the establishment locally is the capitalists — unfortunately many of them are white.
This is the group that influences politics in the boardroom.
Many among others are Nick van Hoogstraten, Billy Rautenbach, the late John Bredenkamp and Richard Moxon. There were also some farmers like the Nicole brothers. Then there is black bourgeoisie such as Econet’s Strive Masiyiwa, TA Holdings mogul Shingi Mutasa and banker Nicholas Vingirai. Then there is the group of “new money” that includes Sakunda’s Kudakwashe Tagwireyi, Justin Maphosa, James Ross Goddard and the Rudland brothers.
The major point is money drives politics. Those who finance politics have a greater say in dictating the national economic policies.
Political parties may bark about nationalisation of State assets, better public administration and pro-poor policies, but these are all cooled at the table where money changes hands — and profits are calculated.
In the last three elections — 2008, 2013 and 2018 — the big capitalists poured money into politics. The media exposed some of the dealings, especially in cases of Moxon, Masiyiwa, Rautenbach, Bredenkamp, van Hoogstraten and more recently Tagwireyi.
Economic policies pursued soon after the elections like zero-import tariffs, privatisation of mines, doling out of mining concessions and most recently tax holidays for certain companies tell the story.
Zimbabwean politicians across the political divide in Parliament have refused to publicly declare their assets. This is despite the fact that the parliamentary reforms committee of 1997 chaired by Mike Mataure recommended public declaration of assets.
Parliament passed the Political Parties (Finance) Act that allows public money to be distributed to political parties that attain at least 5% of the national vote and are represented in Parliament. While this law was good, it falls short on two points — mandatory tabling of audited financial statements by the parties that receive public money and mandatory declaration of donations from individuals or corporates.
This opaqueness on political funding breeds and abates State capture — the unsavoury control of the State by the unelected and unaccountable dark forces. Politicians generally are not renowned for their morals or principles, many become malleable at the sight of money on or under the table in return for favours.
It is not uncommon to hear of the “money for questions” scandals in Parliaments. This is where certain MPs are paid money to ask certain policy questions by big capital.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has failed on many fronts, but he can be remembered for draining the swamp if he brings transparency and accountability to our politics.
He simply needs to pass legislation that calls for parties to table audited financial statements, parties to publicly declare their donors and monies received and finally all MPs to publicly declare their assets annually.
Can Mnangagwa rise to the challenge or go down as the man who abetted corruption by deliberately failing to enact preventive legislation when he enjoyed a two-thirds majority in Parliament?
Or his inaction confirms State capture by capital?