Winning the masses for positive change

A man takes a look at the presidential run off election results posted on a tent in Harare's suburb of Mbare on Saturday 28 June.Zanu PF leader Robert Mugabe leads ahead of the opposition MDC leader who pulled out of the race.EPA/STR

By Mutsa Murenje 

I HAD received satisfactory results from my Advanced Level exams at Ruya Adventist High School in early 2003. Due to my contiguity to the seat of educational power, I had been informed that I had scored 13 points and that I had set the record for the year.

Like every other high school graduate, I began looking for a place at a tertiary institution in Zimbabwe. I was clear about where I wanted to go, University of Zimbabwe.

I hadn’t been there, but I had brothers and other relatives who had studied there before me. Also, the University of Zimbabwe promised to be the most appropriate place where I believed my personality would be shaped in profound ways.

I knew some influential people who were there and had been there and they proved to be the cynosure of all eyes. Among this group, were the likes of Brian Kagoro, John Makumbe, Learnmore Jongwe, Lovemore Madhuku, and Masipula Sithole. I was happy to meet the late Jongwe at Solusi University in May 2002 during the institution’s sixth graduation ceremony that was also attended by Paul Themba Nyati. I would also meet Madhuku on several occasions in Harare. The late Makumbe later became my lecturer, and his influence became instantaneously contagious.

But there was one that I couldn’t meet. I had been quite expectant, and I was almost certain to meet him. Unfortunately, Sithole died suddenly in April 2003 after suffering a massive stroke. He was only 56 at the time of his death. My world had been shattered and it appeared as if my hopes had also been dashed.

His Public Eye writings in the Financial Gazette were irresistibly seductive, yes for a hermit like me. For, apart from books, how else would I spend my time? I later bought two of his books, Zimbabwe: Struggles-within-the-struggle and Political Essays. At the time of his death, the United States Institute of Peace, where he had been a fellow, described Sithole as “one of Africa’s most respected scholars … a professor of political science at the University of Zimbabwe and founding director of the Mass Public Opinion Institute in Harare”. More importantly, and most would agree, the institute underscored Sithole’s “deep commitment to the people of Zimbabwe”.

Like Sithole, I am committed to the people of Zimbabwe. I also believe that we now need a winning formula for positive change to be realised in our country. We have seen the possibility of opposition political parties winning political power in some African States. Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, and Zambia quickly come to mind. In neighbouring South Africa, we have increasingly seen how the Economic Freedom Fighters has positioned itself as a leading opposition party to the governing African National Congress. Successful elections won by Hakainde Hichilema and the United Party for National Development in Zambia have bolstered our confidence in electoral politics.

Since 2008, there had been torpidity in our electoral politics. Somehow, the obstacles placed on our democratic path by the junta-controlled and partisan Zimbabwe Electoral Commission made us believe that political power might be hard to gain through the ballot box. Following the teachings of Mao Zedong, the late Robert Mugabe firmly believed in power being a direct result of the barrel of the gun.

The usurpation of power by President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga in November 2017, also seemed to reinforce this erroneous and primitive belief. And yet, history tells us that legitimate power can be obtained non-violently.

For this to happen, the masses must be won. This is particularly true because the highest form of legitimacy evolves from our historical and sociocultural contexts.

Power is sought by legitimate means and for legitimate ends. As things stand, Mnangagwa usurped power for personal political and economic advantage, to the detriment of everyone else.

This isn’t the way to use power especially when one obtained it illegitimately. The use of military force and electoral rigging are illegitimate ways of gaining political and economic power. The time has come for us to vehemently resist undemocratic and unconstitutional politics as represented by Mnangagwa and Chiwenga.

Without doubt, regional and international solidarity is a functional prerequisite in our struggle for a free, just, and democratic Zimbabwe. It is equally important, especially for the Movement for Democratic Change led by Nelson Chamisa, to note that while foreign support is desirable, there is a danger of becoming a puppet of the sponsor. Reliance should be on Zimbabweans because therein lies legitimacy. As Sithole observed: “An ideology that originates and finds its inspiration from concrete conditions within Zimbabwe, because it is both relevant and real, is more likely to achieve consensus among the people of Zimbabwe than one imported from strange libraries abroad, and it is the leadership that emerges from Zimbabwe and controlled by and accountable to Zimbabweans that will protect and promote the interests of Zimbabwe in a world of nations that are self-seeking. We are the protectors of our own interests”.

To my fellow citizens, once renowned for being the “jewel of Africa”, our country now suffers from massive devastation. Mnangagwa and Chiwenga keep destroying our lives and liberties and we must stop them. Let us come together and build our power to introduce the changes we need in our country. We are faced with elections in 2023 and it is important that we know our rights:

˜ Supporting or campaigning on behalf of any candidate;

˜ Voting freely for any candidate of our choice;

˜ Having our vote kept confidential.

Though rarely said, after elections, elected officials must be held accountable for the promises they make to attract support from voters. In any functional democracy, it is the responsibility of every citizen to be informed before voting. We need to:

˜ Register before the deadline;

˜ Know the date of the election;

˜ Know our assigned polling station and documentation to bring;

˜ Know the candidates and issues.

Lest we forget, the historical trauma we have experienced has considerable harm on our physical and mental health and socio-economic opportunities. Colonialism and imperialist capitalism stripped us of our rights, dignity, and sovereignty. Sadly, these injustices persist today.

Thus, the past isn’t and will never be the past for as long as it shapes the present so profoundly.

This calls for leadership because leadership is about change, a vision for the future, and bringing people together to create positive change. The struggle continues unabated.