Moomin philosophy, Zim’s 2023 elections

Zimbabwe goes to polls in August this year.

IN the enchanting world of Moominvalley, as illustrated in The Dangerous Journey: A Tale of Moomin Valley penned by Tove Jansson, lies a profound philosophy that mirrors the complexities of our own political societies.

As Zimbabwe prepares for the pivotal elections on August 23 2023, we find ourselves drawn to the timeless wisdom of the Moomin animated characters and their unique struggles. Within their whimsical tales, we uncover striking parallels that shed light on issues of inclusivity, individuality, power dynamics, and the role of various actors in our political discourse.

The Moomin teaching fit into what Giacomo Rizzolatti called ‘mirror neurons’ that enable us to interpret others based on our emotional and bodily responses.

The mirror neuron has a functional motif as it helps me, for instance, to feel the same as you feel in a certain situation and thereby enables me to understand you. Ndokunge kana waibata nyaya yacho, (that is, if you follow the line of reasoning carefully).

Animations remind us of how Leda Cosmides and John Tooby (2008) wrote in developmental psychology about unconscious, algorithmic reasoning mechanism in humans that helps us to predict and explain other people’s emotions and behaviour.

This could be ‘Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC president) Nelson Chamisa has lost it’, ‘President Emmerson Mnangagwa is clueless’, ‘Democratic Union of Zimbabwe leader Robert Chapman is a third force’, ‘Forever Associates Zimbabwe (FAZ) and the army are stockholders,’ ‘the election has already been rigged,’ and so on.

Nine key Moomin principles

The Moomin philosophy could help both the electorate and realist politicians in many ways. For starters, let me simply summarise the Moomin philosophical points.

Firstly, everyone is welcome at the Moominhouse. In Moominvalley, the door of the Moominhouse is always open, embracing a spirit of inclusivity and acceptance.

Contrasting this with the locked doors of power institutions in Zimbabwe, we question the extent to which our Statehouse truly welcomes all voices. Can we aspire to a political environment where diversity is cherished, and the opinions of all citizens, regardless of background, are genuinely heard and valued?

Secondly, the Moomins embrace uniqueness and difference. The characters of Moominvalley are celebrated for their individuality, as they are allowed to be exactly who they are, free from societal pressures.

In contrast, Zimbabwe's political landscape often demands conformity, stifling the diverse perspectives that could enrich our nation. We must reflect on the actions of political parties like Zanu PF, CCC, MDC Alliance (MDC-A), and others, and question whether they truly encourage the expression of unique voices or merely seek conformity within their ranks.

Third, the Moomins acknowledge greed and fear in ‘our’ midst. Sniff, a character in Moominvalley, embodies both greed and fear.

Similarly, our laws punish anti-patriotism and clichism within political parties, leading to an environment where fear of retribution can stifle genuine debate and dissent.

Four, the responsibility of leadership is divided into the Moominpappa, the head of the Moomin family, portrayed as irresponsible, and Moominmama who shoulders the burden of caring for everyone, often to the point of exhaustion.

This dynamic reflects the leadership landscape in Zimbabwe, where leaders and political parties often exhibit irresponsibility while citizens bear the brunt of their decisions.

Five, the Moomins realise the transient nature of alliances. Snufkin, a beloved character, is known for leaving after being a good friend.

Similarly, faction leaders, spin doctors, third forces, opinion shapers, so-called political analysts, forgotten cadres, and religious figures come and go in our political sphere, leaving behind a sense of instability or fly-by-night politicians.

As the 2023 elections approach, we must be cautious of transient alliances and carefully evaluate the motives and credibility of those seeking our support.

Six, diversity and the multifaceted nature of society is key. Moominvalley's inhabitants possess many sides, evolving much like humans.

This complexity directly influences the electorate, leading to voter apathy, debates between voting for change against Zanu PF through leadership change or self-renewal on the one hand or maintaining the status quo with Zanu PF at the helm on the other.

If we add the impact of social media skits that sometimes overshadow the importance of participating in the democratic process, politics of the status quo becomes business as usual.

We must reflect on how these societal dynamics shape our choices as voters and citizens.

Seven, there is an understanding of the Groke and Stinky equivalents.

Within the Moomin tales, characters like the Groke, undeniably scary but lonely, and Stinky, who tries to be a bandit but achieves little, reflect real-life counterparts in our political society.

We must identify those who instil fear and those who fall short of their grand promises.

By recognising their true nature, we can navigate through the political landscape with a discerning eye, ensuring that we make informed choices and hold our leaders accountable for their actions.

 Eight, there is beauty in comparing the symbols of power.

While many recognize the iconic tall blue Moominhouse, few are aware that it was inspired by the now-demolished Glosholm Lighthouse.

This comparison prompts us to reflect on our own symbols of power, such as the Great Zimbabwe ruins, and how they align with the Zimbabwe of today.

We must examine the influence wielded by cartoonists, caricatures, writers, academics, political scientists, and even investigative journalists, such as Hopewell Chin'ono, in either enabling or challenging the growth of the current regime.

Similarly, the significance of the year 1954, when Moomintroll reached its chubbiest form, should be juxtaposed with the forthcoming 2023 elections to deepen our understanding of the political trajectory in Zimbabwe’s 43 years of existence as a sovereign state.

Nine, the result in the Moomin philosophy is that philosophy meets politics.

Lessons for Zimbabweans

Drawing inspiration from Moomin book one-liners like “If you're afraid, how can you be brave?” and “All nice things are good for you,” we realise the profound interplay between philosophy and the political society in Zimbabwe.

We must seek quotes and political statements that encapsulate the essence of our struggle for a fair and just society, even though we could be stockholders, supporters, critics, or enablers, whichever label we identify with.

By intertwining these philosophical musings with the realities of our political landscape, we can ignite a powerful discourse that challenges the status quo and demands a better future.

The pertinent question perhaps becomes: What philosophical tapestry mirrors the struggles and aspirations of our own political society? Let me weave together the teachings of Zimbabwean, African, and democratic political thinkers with the animated philosophy of the Moomin characters.

Realistically, beyond Mnangagwa and Chamisa, the path towards a more inclusive, just, and democratic Zimbabwe is based on many fundamentals.

First the philosophies of luminaries, such as Joshua Nkomo, Herbert Chitepo, and Thomas Sankara have emphasised the importance of inclusivity, equality, and self-determination.

Their teachings resonate with the Moominvalley's ethos of welcoming everyone to the Moominhouse, inviting us to build a political landscape that embraces diversity and fosters genuine participation.

Second, from the concept of Ubuntu/unhu/umunhu (humanness), emphasising communal harmony, to the principles of consensus-building and participatory democracy, we find echoes of African philosophies in the Moomin characters' interactions.

Third, exploring the teachings of democratic theorists such as John Locke, Montesquieu, and Amilcar Cabral helps us to uncover parallels with Moominvalley's celebration of individuality and the pursuit of liberty.

We could use the above to draw lessons from Zimbabwe's Plebiscites today and yesteryear.

For instance, reflecting on Zimbabwe's historical plebiscites, including the referendum of 1980 and subsequent elections, we observe a nation in constant evolution.

The Moomin characters' multifaceted nature, evolving much like humans, serves as a poignant reminder of Zimbabwe's own political journey.

We must acknowledge the triumphs and pitfalls of the past to inform our decisions in the present, ensuring that the electorate remains engaged and votes with an understanding of our collective aspirations.

In all this, someone must stand in or bridge the gap.

While toxicity may not be ended, we can choose better to stranger voices in shaping public discourse and highlighting political realities that affect us.

Much like the Moomintroll character, who reached its chubbiest form in 1954, these voices have influenced the course of Zimbabwe's political landscape.


In exploring the Moomin philosophy and its resonance with the 2023 elections in Zimbabwe, we uncover profound insights into issues of inclusivity, identity, power dynamics, and the role of various actors in our political discourse.

By heeding the lessons from Moominvalley, we can strive for a political landscape that embraces diversity, encourages individuality, and upholds the principles of transparency and accountability.

Let us approach the upcoming elections with a critical lens, guided by the wisdom of both literature and our own aspirations for a brighter Zimbabwe.

We need to reduce toxicity, warped political ideologies, violence and elbow politics that divide us as peace-loving Zimbabweans. Together, goodness is the only investment that pays.

Hofisi is a lawyer, conversationalist and transdisciplinary researcher. He has interests in governance and international law. — [email protected]



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