The leadership battle within the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) has been widely documented and discussed over the last few years. What I find fascinating about this entire discussion is the general focus surrounding many of these articles. Perhaps it’s just me, but most seem to revolve around the potential candidates and their various chances depending on events that week. Too often we read about the seemingly never ending politicking and apparent jostling that takes place behind the scenes. I often wonder what His Excellency RGM makes of all this fuss.
You see, I think people seem to forget or ignore that replacing him isn’t as simple as replacing Yahoo’s CEO; and they’ve been plenty of those Yahoo CEOs in the last few years. People must be reminded and I will reiterate this now. RGM has now become an ideology – yes that’s right an ideology! To replace him without proper consultation requires careful and a calculated strategy that ensures that those involved won’t feel the wrath of the Zanu-PF (ZPF) machinery. Those who have felt it will testify, probably not publicly at first. These Zanu people aren’t stupid! To illustrate my point let me use one classic example. I don’t blame or accredit RGM alone for the infamous ‘land distribution programme’ by the way, but look at the effect it has had on other countries, particularly in other developing countries. We all seem to completely ignore the facts and take the easy route and blame RGM for the entire situation. Yet history books will show otherwise. What began as a social issue with the war veterans has now become a political statement. I am looking forward to a time when we are furnished with a plethora of books that clearly detail what actually happened during that difficult period. The truth surfaces eventually. Look at other countries like Brazil and Kenya who also started asking about their land and who actually owns it. This is part of the ideology I’m referring to. When I speak to other Africans and I have spoken to people from Cameroon and Guinea who openly admit that they support RGM in general but more importantly his stance on this land issue. So you see it won’t be as easy as we might think to replace ‘the old man’. Will Zanu find someone with this kind of effect? A few months ago I met a Brazilian and a Kenyan at some event I attended. I asked them about the land issue in their respective countries and their own opinions of RGM. Both of them admitted that RGM has had an effect on some people’s consciousness in their respective countries – some have already started asking who owns the land anyway. The RGM ideology is infectious it seems.
Here is an individual who continues to defy the sceptics. How many times has he supposedly died? RGM must find this extremely amusing. I know I would. However rumours of ill health continue to plague him but like most people I continue to wait to see how things unfold. As I mentioned earlier, the truth always turns up eventually. I often wonder how he really feels about the succession battle. I’m sure he’s already identified a suitable candidate. I’m also sure he hasn’t expressed his thoughts as openly as we would all like him to lest this creates even more divisions within the party. I recall in 2004/2005 hearing rumours of RGM endorsing Joyce Mujuru as his successor. I even heard rumours of a shift in strategy at the British Embassy in Harare and their willingness to soften their stance on Zimbabwe if Mujuru replaced RGM. Then again, these could have just been that – rumours.
One of main issues with this leadership battle is the constant fascination with the post Mugabe era. I’m sure we all wonder what a Zimbabwe without RGM would look like. Let us for a few minutes focus on the current status quo, So RGM has ruled Zimbabwe for over 30 years now. Ever wonder how and more importantly why? You see, my issue with some individuals when this touchy subject comes up is the apparent lack of objectivity. The discussions are often polluted with too many emotions for my liking. I am not being abrasive or insensitive but I want to focus on the facts for a few minutes.
The facts are, there were 2 main parties (headed by Joshua Nkomo and RGM) who both fought for the liberation of Zimbabwe. In fact Joshua Nkomo could have sealed the deal in 1977 with Kaunda’s help and perhaps things would have been different right now. One of these leaders eventually won the first Zimbabwean election and has ruled Zimbabwe ever since. This article is not intended to teach the history but to merely address a few points to an already pertinent issue. A coalition government, (yes that’s right) was installed upon the 1980 election with many unique and interesting faces. Parliament even had 30 seats reserved for whites only. Gukurahundi took place in the early 1980s lest we forget. However we are yet to resolve this particular thorny issue – and this we must if we are to move forward as a nation. Zimbabwe seemed to prosper both socially and economically. An economic meltdown ensued in the late 1990s. The reasons for the economic demise are always being debated. However RGM remained in charge throughout all this and even after the much debated 2008 elections. That tells me something about the situation and even more about the man himself. He’s not fool and I believe there stands a political genius.
People often want or perhaps prefer to completely separate Zimbabwe today with a pre-Independent Zimbabwe. Let us never forget how difficult it is to replace a revolutionary party like ZANU-PF. Ask the DA or COPE in South Africa. I’m sure they both have some interesting stories to share. People often forget how historically connected the army, the air force and ZANU are. We often brush aside the work being done by the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) and more importantly who their direct boss is. Perhaps we don’t fully appreciate our history and I’m referring to pre-1900s or thereabouts. We should perhaps look at the relationship between the tribes (both the Shona and Ndebele) and the white settlers. As I continue to study our rich history, I am starting to understand why relations between the Shona and the Ndebele are the way they are right now.
I believe our history has a massive effect on the current political landscape. There are those amongst us who had hoped that with the economic demise in the last 10 to 12 years would force the Zimbabwean to revolt in the Tunisian style and push RGM out of office. No! What some of us didn’t quite appreciate about the majority of the population in Zimbabwe is that revolting similar to both Tunisia and Egypt just wouldn’t work. Personally I just can’t see it happening for a number of reasons. Not that I think we are too passive (and perhaps we are) but instead we would rather find a way of ‘making a plan’ with every difficult situation thrown at us. It was once suggested to me that were the Ndebele tribe the majority in Zimbabwe, then we might be looking at a totally different situation. Who knows?
I recall reading a tweet from @GarethCliff a few months ago, which read:
Are Zimbabweans cowardly or so traumatised by Mugabe that revolution there is impossible? I mean this with respect
Without wasting time I responded with this:
Interesting tweet re Zim & revolution but I kindly urge you to visit the history of Zimbabwe B4 tweeting i.e. holistic approach
Essentially what I was attempting to point out to Gareth was for him to look at our Zimbabwean history before tweeting like that. I should have taken this conversation further than I did that day and perhaps this is my opportunity. There are still some issues which can explain why the old man still stands and I hope that I have addressed some of those issues. We could start with the opposition for example. I grew up reciting ‘united we stand, divided we fall’. Without going into the reasons and the multitude of theories but, the MDC split for some reason. How can they mount a proper challenge whilst they are divided like this I often wonder? We mustn’t ignore how effective the ZPF machinery is and naturally how difficult it is to remove a revolutionary party. Morgan Tsvangirai (MT) has offered ‘change’ to as an alternative. There are people who want that ‘change’ to be quantified. There are also people who question Tsvangirai’s strategies and whether they are in fact his own. All these things have some bearing on this leadership battle I believe. We also have to remember (just in case we forgot) that RGM has supporters who support and agree with him (that ideology angle again) and not necessary his ministerial team. There are many moderate voters who would still vote for RGM assuming age wasn’t an issue for example. I can’t give you numbers but I know these kinds of people exist. This is part of the history I was referring to and there’s more to it than this.
I believe that the battle for Zimbabwe continues. Those who are working hard within ZPF to take over will indeed find their own set of challenges. With the death of Retired General Mujuru and the effects of the wikileaks episode, it seems that the leadership battle is further for reaching a conclusion. Whilst those who battle continue to do so, I would suggest that we also pay closer attention to other contenders like Oppah Muchinguri – Zanu-PF Women’s League boss, Sydney Sekeramayi – Minister of State Security and the young turks like Savior Kasukuwere – Minister of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment and Walter Mzembi – Minister of Tourism & Hospitality. I don’t believe we have seen the last scene of jockeying in this seemingly never ending battle.