BROADLY speaking an election season is about leadership renewal, it’s either we continue with the old or new personalities are elected. At stake are not the individuals at it were, but the ideas they purport to stand for their characters, deportment and attitudes they exude and the possibility for them to protect and promote national interests, ethos; guaranteeing national defence and security.
The debate should, therefore, be on the messages for the future projected by the different political formations and individuals as well as their histories. In our debate, it’s prudent to scan the environment, as it were, and determine the applicability of projected views and ideas to both the external and internal environment. Considering the situation in Ukraine, for example, makes it very clear on how the internal environment can be affected negatively by the external environment. While at stake is largely the economy, the external and internal dimensions need to be analysed as they have direct impact on the growth of the economy and wellbeing of the electorate. In this instalment, we discuss the impact and influence of the external environment to the 2023 election season.
The issue of national interests
The major interest for individual communities, the society and the nation at large is having food on the table at the end of the day. The big question though is how to get that food on the table and sustain the system of getting it on that table. Aspirants of leadership roles should, therefore, articulate how they would ensure that the nation puts the food on the table and more importantly sustain the system by taking or position the country appropriately within the international game plan. The leadership to be ushered in through the election season 2023 should partially be assessed on their understanding of the dawning new world order and based on our history how they will position the nation to cultivate and sustain trade relations favourable to the people of Zimbabwe.
While it is favourable international trade conditions to Zimbabwe that would ultimately see or enable the country to sustain its economic growth, it is international politics that determine the favourability of the trade relationships. International politics have =evolved overtime from period before the Second World War which was characterized by colonialism to the Cold War era whose main features were the bipolar and the proxy wars. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 November signalled the end of the Cold War which saw the demise of the Warsaw Pact and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, thereby ushering the unipolar system. The unipolar system saw the raise of the USA as the self-proclaimed international police with sanctions and open aggression as main arms of compelling compliance. Where the application of the two was problematic or not conducive, soft power and the media were used to influence favourable disposition towards the United States of America and its allies. The international systems and democracy were used to contain those countries perceived to be challenging or having the potential to challenge the unipolar system. Despite all the measures, Russia which was one of the main countries targeted for containment with intent to subdue it in the long run felt the USA and its allies had crossed the red line on the expansion of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation using Ukraine as a proxy. In response, the world witnessed the use of military force experienced in Africa and Asia before, becoming a reality in the heart of Europe. Russia’s special military operations in Ukraine from February 2022 was perceived as and in reality, it is a direct challenge to the unipolar system. The immediate implications of the challenge were the shortage of grain on the international market or its high cost and energy turmoil in Europe.
Of course, one would wonder as to the relevance of this international situation to the 2023 election season in Zimbabwe. It is important for us as a people to draw lessons on the protection and promotion of national interests from the activities of other countries. On one hand we have the USA and its allies furthering, promoting and protecting their national interests and acting to guarantee their national defence and security. On the other we see the response by Ukraine in balancing sovereignty and the rights of its people to life.
In pursuit of the policy of containment, the USA and its allies used soft power to influence events in Ukraine leading to a coup in 2014. The Russian response was the annexation of the crimea but that did not deter the USA to pursue, and promote their national interests. Although the Russians and the Ukrainians are largely the same people, the USA through the use of soft power managed to foster a strong sense of separatism in the minds of the Ukrainian leadership. A similar approach was used to contain China by the USA through Taiwan. This serves to demonstrate that when it comes to national survival, a country may stop at nothing and would use all the resources at its disposal to protect national interests and guarantee national defence and security for its people.
The Russians on the other hand have demonstrated that nothing was sacred when it comes to the protection of national interests. The use of firearms is always an indication of the gravity of a situation which the Russians demonstrated by launching the special military operations in Ukraine. Here parallels could be drawn with Zimbabwe’s Operation Restore Legacy of November 2017. While the scenarios were different, the intended objectives remain the same; that is the protection of national interests and guaranteeing national defence and security. Countries always act differently depending on their situation and circumstances. China in a similar situation on Taiwan used stratagem and in Zimbabwe it was Donhodzo. The 2023 election season is, therefore, contextualised by Donhodzo which ushered in a new era. Operation Restore Legacy was not a coup d'état, but a Donhodzo which was basically the cooling down of the high temperature by the military that was brewing in the ruling Zanu PF party.
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But of course, Donhodzo cannot be separated so much from August 1, 2018 shooting of post-election protesters. While Restore Legacy ushered in a new administration, it did not address some if not all of the Western concerns, chief of which was the land reform, the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Amendment Act clearly stipulates that the land tenure should revert to prior 2000 status, but the new dispensation was set to finalise the process and not to reverse the programme.
As was expected, the sanctions were not removed and the 2018 elections were under the same cloud of preplanned disagreements resulting in the August 1 shooting of unarmed civilians. The merits and demerits of the shooting is outside the scope of this article, suffice it to say the demonstrations provoking the deployment of the army should be construed as the Western soft power at play. The deployment of the security forces was a response and whoever organised the demonstrations which were responded to militarily did not consider the consequences that would follow. Parallels can be drawn with Ukraine where the President was pushed and encouraged to stand up as a hero, defending the so-called Western value systems.
Very little consideration is being given to the lives, property and infrastructure killed and maimed; damaged and destroyed. Drawing these parallels help the electorate to determine characters, attitudes and demeanor of the individuals they should put in positions of authority. Restraint in desperate situations is also very important. Taiwan separated from mainland China in 1949 but China has taken a very long route to reunification. Recently the USA directly provoked China by sending a very high government official to Taiwan snubbing the protests from China. In response, China demonstrated restraint when it conducted military exercises around the island demonstrating capability but not aggression. Such restraint is also expected from our leaders who would be selected in the coming election season. We saw the results and these must inform us on how national interests can be promoted without shedding blood.
Zimbabwe’s location in new world order
The examples discussed above may appear far-fetched but, in my mind, I have no doubt that those actions will have a profound impact on Zimbabwe and the world at large. Who wins in this military confrontation in Ukraine would be the multipolar world with the USA and its allies on one side, Russia, China and the other BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries on the other side with some countries opting for non-aligned positions. Now here is the thing, based on our history where should the country be located? The concept of non-aligned is no longer as it applied during the Cold War. Things have changed as there is likely to be another international monetary system membership of which would determine allegiance.
As a people, these are the things that should inform the electorate as to who to give the leadership role. Where the country would be located should be informed by our history. A country which fought a protracted liberation war should never forget the roots that nourished it to gain its nationhood. Take a clue from South African opposition EFF in particular whose ethos and ideology are rooted in the freedom charter which was pronounced by the ANC in 1955. That way the golden thread of the revolution remains and continue to run in the coming generations. The leadership to be ushered through 2023 election season should be assessed for their understanding, articulation and promotion of the principles and ethos of the revolution.
The international environmental has a direct and indirect bearing on the wellbeing of the country. As such towards 2023, the electorate should assess the aspiring leadership for their understanding of the prevailing international situation that is likely to lead to a new world order. Locating Zimbabwe in this new world order is crucial as it will determine the ability of the leadership to promote and protect national interests as well as guaranteeing national defence and security.