December 16 2017 – THE recent events leading to the fall of Robert Gabriel Mugabe from office opened a completely new chapter in Zimbabwean politics and somehow it is up to the people of Zimbabwe to decide on how to handle the present in order to influence the creation of a sustainable future.
For 37 years the country had one dominant leader and at one time it did not seem possible that he would leave office anytime soon given that there were people urging him to stay on despite his advanced age that had already been giving him problems.
No doubt, Mugabe had started well but with time he simply lost grip on issues around the day to day needs of the country. Prior to recent events, there had been a number of developments that created serious challenges for the Mugabe administration starting with Economic Structural Adjustment Programme [ESAP] that decimated our industries causing serious unemployment as most factories closed due to the influx of cheaper goods particularly from Asia.
Since then, the country has faced numerous political and economic problems that have stubbornly persisted to this day.
ESAP caused massive socio – economic problems and these translated into a political crisis that saw the birth of the MDC From then on, the political environment has never been the same because MDC blamed Mugabe for the collapse of the economy and the political battles to dislodge ZANU PF started then and have continued to this day.
The opposition movement blamed the ruling party for lack of leadership and a break down of the rule of law and essentially lack of democracy in the country.
Interestingly, democracy is an elusive term and concept that can be used very selectively by different regimes in the world. In much of Africa, people have concentrated on the creation of an environment considered conducive to the holding of a free and fair election.
By and large, they forget that it took several years for the UK or the USA to get to where there are today but even then, their citizens are still not convinced that their governments are democratic enough.
In the USA, black Americans feel very marginalized and the level of brutality at the hands of the police is still a serious problem that does not have a solution in sight.
Does democracy have any value if thousands of black people find themselves most likely to be jailed than their white counter parts in the so-called model of democracy? Meanwhile, the UKwent into war in Iraq without proper approvals by parliament.
Tony Blair apologized years later but thousands of innocent people perished and throughout history, the same people that opposition look up to committed war crimes in innumerable cases where they invaded sovereign countries in pursuit of self-interest.
It is important not to indulge in reckless generalizations about democracy because it takes long to realize the highest form of democracy. The idea that Africa is used as an example of a continent that vastly lacks democracy is stretching the truth too far. The mere fact that a country chooses to define its road to nation building differently does and should not make it undemocratic. There is need to take into account a lot of background issues, the culture and traditions that shape each nation’s understanding of itself and how in such circumstances, the nation chooses to address its social, economic and political goals and objectives.
Sometimes there are inevitable slowdowns due to the existence of realities that require attention and emphasis to shift to areas of national survival. For example, the action taken by the Zimbabwe Defence Forces was exceptional in the sense that had that not happened, the damage to Zimbabwe would have been fatal. The simplistic view that is often taken by people with a narrow understanding and application of democracy is that such action is not allowed at law. The question is, when should the army defend the wider interest of society? In our case, the whole world tried everything they could including the application of sanctions but they failed to achieve their objective.
What the whole world failed to do, Zimbabweans did it for themselves in a less painful way than methods used by the combined force of Europe, the USA and their allies. The imposition of sanctions on Zimbabwe succeeded in hurting the ordinary people as it still does today. One wonders why opposition parties represented by an MDC Alliance believe that the retention of sanctions is a good strategy? It hurts the support base in a very cruel way because sanctions have no capacity to isolate the poor people from their impact. That is why it is not sensible to ask for their retention or extension of sanctions because they cause more harm to the innocent public.
The only beneficiaries of sanctions are the people that seek to gain entry into government by exposing the electorate to unjustified suffering. Democracy that is built on blackmailing the electorate is of the lowest and worst form and should be punished by denying the advocates of such an inimical system victory at the polls.
Opposition must never be for the sake of it and those driving it must read the mood of the nation correctly otherwise, they expend a lot of energy in things that are not judged as most important by the electorate. In relation, to purported opposition political leaders, can they justify their own legitimacy? Some of them are mere one-man organizations if not just a collection of a few thousand members and there is no evidence that they have ever held national conferences and congresses to renew their mandates and legitimize their existence as genuine membership driven political groupings.
ZANU PF is going through the process of legitimation right now and can all opposition parties claim to be legitimate in terms of having proper party structures, holding a congress and are their internal election procedures fair and equitable? It is they that are clamoring for democracy and is it not fair that they go through these internal democratic processes so that in the famous words of Tendai Biti they can “walk the talk.”
Another major challenge was the introduction and implementation of the Land Reform programme that led to white farmers losing their land to the state and the subsequent fallout with Britain and its allies including the United States of America who imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe in a bid to reverse land reform. The combination of a failing economy and sanctions worsened Zimbabwe’s position resulting in the loss of faith in the institution of government.
The end of the Mugabe era has given ZANU PF an opportunity for a fresh start and the new leader President E D Mnangagwa has put a lot of effort in democratizing the party. He has practically told ZANU PF that no one should ever be allowed to personalize the party and hero worshipping must be consigned to a political dustbin.
In the meantime, on the political front, MDC was piling up pressure claiming that every election from 2000 to 2013 was stolen by ZANU [PF] through rigging. Rigging is like a ghost. Everyone is afraid of it but no one has ever seen it. The problem is that the belief is wide spread and the fear of ghosts is real even in the absence of proof.
There is need for a change of the mind set particularly the belief that external intervention will change the minds of Zimbabweans to act in favor of opposition parties that are bereft of good policies and quality leadership. Clearly, it appears as if these groups have no mind of their own hence they are quick to rush everywhere in search of support and ideas in an attempt to look and sound cool.
Another area of failure was the collapse of the economy and that led to a hyperinflation period. This was a terrible indictment on the Mugabe government and it killed any hope there was for the revival of the economy and party.
The current economic challenges have their origin in this problem. A government of national unity was formed as part of addressing the serious economic and political problems.
The GNU that followed the controversial 2008 elections stabilized the economy and calmed the political tensions that had built up over the years. It was amazing to see Mugabe and Tsvangirayi working together amicably as if there had never been at each other’s throat.
The differences in policy never disappeared completely and interestingly, Mugabe was the biggest beneficiary of the GNU. He played his game well as an elder statesman and this paid off when he led ZANU [PF] to a resounding electoral victory in the General Elections in 2013.
MDC’s undoing in 2013 was caused by a number of strategic mistakes and Tsvangirayi’s handling of his private life which gave ZANU [PF] massive political ammunition and this paid off handsomely in favour of ZANU [PF]
Since then MDC has not fully regained its cult status despite putting up a brave face. Currently, the simmering divisions particularly between Tsvangirayi and Khupe leaves the party extremely exposed and may cost them another election victory.
ZANU [PF] post 2013 elections and after the 2014 Congress had its own share of problems and prominently after the rise of Grace Mugabe and her ascension to the position of secretary of the Women’s League.
Grace Mugabe clearly wanted to succeed her husband and to do that, she had to try and boot out the strongest contender to the throne vice president Mnangagwa. She was assisted in her bid for the top office by what became known as the G40 fronted by Savior Kasukuwere, Jonathan Moyo, Patrick Zhuwao and of course Grace herself.
In fact, before then, she hounded Joyce Mujuru out of office including a few major personalities that had been with the party for a life time. However, she was not done with the so called clean up and started slowly but persistently to attack V Mnangagwa at rallies organized as a meet the people tour.
Eventually, the attacks on Mnangagwa became personal and vicious leading to his dismissal as vice president from both the Government and the party.
That triggered military intervention meant to restore order in Government and the ZANU [PF] party. The War Veterans actively opposed all machinations to destroy the party and they fought hard to prevent this eventuality and the intervention by the ZDF stopped G40 from realizing their ambition.
The action by the ZDF marked the end of Mugabe’s political dominance and the crushing defeat of G40. The man they loved to hate and had been fired from both the party and Government was readmitted to the party and was appointed First Secretary and President of ZANU [PF] and President of the Republic of Zimbabwe.
This dramatic turn of events takes place within two weeks of Mnangagwa’s dismissal and completely transformed the political landscape of the country. On 18 November 2017, Zimbabwe witnessed one of the biggest political march for freedom by citizens that came out to support the ZDF and the removal of Mugabe from office. If there was any doubt in anyone’s mind about what the people of Zimbabwe wanted, the march for peace and democracy on that day clearly demonstrated the unity of the Zimbabweans in search for lasting solutions to the problems facing the country.
When President Mnangagwa was sworn into office, the crowd at the national stadium was overwhelming and the endorsement of the new President was sealed in style. The President was not under any illusion about mammoth task that faced him ahead and the huge responsibility to mend all divisions in our society and to bring all people together for the task of rebuilding Zimbabwe. He set out his vision in simple style and promised to lead a united Zimbabwe. The task ahead remains huge and can be done with the support of all Zimbabweans.
What in specific terms are some of the challenges that face the country and the incoming President?
Firstly, he has to come up with policies that create progress towards a more peaceful and prosperous Zimbabwe. To achieve that, all institutions of Government must be strengthened so that they can discharge their functions in a responsible and efficient manner and most importantly, in an apolitical fashion.
The President is clear about what lies ahead and he seems to understand that we need to work together with all nations of the world without giving up on our ideals and fundamental beliefs. He further appreciates the urgency of the need to reform government and the public sector in order to free up resources for use by the productive sector. This is key for the revival of our economy. There is therefore need that all Zimbabweans support this effort so that we can together create a better Zimbabwe for all.
The more we think clearly about a future that we want and we commit to work for it is the more we are likely to shape the policy we put in place today to influence the direction into the future we want.
The good thing is that we all recognize that we are going through a transitional period, something old is on the way out and something new is emerging. We have to understand politics as a mixture of continuity and change. The state of Zimbabwe must survive and we must be prepared to make sacrifices for the changes that have been promised so we can grow our economy and achieve the levels of development that improve the lives of all our citizens.
No doubt, the President noted that we still have grave challenges facing our nation such as climate change, poverty, lack of economic development and even national cohesion.
Last but not least, it is important that we understand that the point of departure between the new administration is that unlike in the past where emphasis was on popular sovereignty as a standalone, the President understands that rule by the majority minus liberty is an inadequate condition for success.
The adoption of the concept of a developmental state delivers economic liberty, political liberty, religious liberty and of course these liberties are enshrined in the constitution. It is important to note that sovereignty without liberty can create a tyranny which was the near situation with the predecessor administration.
Essentially, for the lovers of democracy, you are assured of a successful country when sovereignty is built on the foundation of liberty. So far, we are happy that the new administration seems to recognize that liberties are an essential and crucial element of democracy. The President has assured the nation about his commitment to uphold the highest political values possible guided by the principles enshrined in our constitution.
Long live Zimbabwe
Dr Davison Todson Gomo Writes in his own personal capacity and the views expressed here are personal and are not a reflection of views and policy of any organizations that he associates with or this website.
Gomo is a Development Economist, International Trade Lawyer, Educationist and Strategy and Policy Practitioner and he can be contacted directly on firstname.lastname@example.org