INFORMATION minister Jonathan Moyo has lately been attempting to present himself as the ruling party’s newfound ideologue as he regurgitates the shibboleths of the 1980s
in a bid for political survival, analysts have said.
Political analysts say Moyo – once a trenchant critic of Zanu PF and now its deputy spokesman – is loudly yearning to revert to what many would see as the political dark ages of the 1980s when Zanu PF was a monolithic ruling party in a de facto one-party state with a command economy.
Between Zimbabwe’s Independence from Britain in 1980 and 1990, Zanu PF adhered to one-party state politics and command economics in the name of Marxism-Leninism.
That effectively nipped in the bud efforts to promote multi-party democracy and corroded the economy inherited from the colonial regime in a relatively healthy state.
Leadership and policy failures, as well as mismanagement and corruption, which clearly manifested themselves early into self-rule as President Robert Mugabe became preoccupied with power consolidation, worsened the situation.
The seeds of the current national decay and failure were sown at the time.
Analysts say Moyo is advocating a revival of Zanu PF’s own version of Nazi Germany’s Gleichschaltung – marching in step – to preserve Mugabe’s faltering rule.
Professor Brian Raftopoulos of the University of Zimbabwe’s Institute of Development Studies said Moyo’s recent harping on ideology shows he badly wants Zanu PF to turn back the political and economic clock.
“Clearly Moyo’s recent statements indicate that he wants a reassertion of the totalitarian order of the 1980s. He wants to go back to the statist approach to governance and an authoritarian system,” Raftopoulos said.
“That is not surprising because of late we have seen a vigorous reassertion of the state which lacks legitimacy and thus relies on coercion in its exercise of power.”
Raftopoulos said Moyo’s campaign was indicative of an official desire for bygone absolutism.
In statements carried in the state media recently, Moyo was quoted as saying that beyond Zimbabwe’s “limited” current economic crisis there was a more critical crisis – which is “ideological”.
He claimed Zanu PF’s “nation-building” project of the ’80s was derailed by the introduction of economic reforms through the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme in 1991.
“The daunting task of nation building for economic prosperity for all Zimbabweans remains elusive unless we go back, at least conceptually, to the project that was abandoned when we adopted Esap in 1991,” Moyo recently told the National Economic Consultative Forum.
“At the moment, we do not have ideological cohesion and stability to work with a common purpose.”
Moyo accused “ideologically excluded youths”, an “ideologically indifferent professional class”, and a “rootless middle class” of sabotaging the “nation-building project”.
The minister, who used to denounce Mugabe and Zanu PF, recently told students at the Midlands State University that “non-state actors” had abandoned talk of “leadership change” in favour of “dangerous regime change”.
He criticised civic groups and intellectuals for abandoning Zanu PF after 1990, but also urged them to “come back home”.
Analysts say Moyo’s new line, which directly contradicts his past political outlook when he condemned authoritarianism, echoes Mugabe’s statements in the ’80s when he used to posture as a socialist.
“Moyo is campaigning for blanket national docility and subservience by civic groups,” Raftopoulos said.
“He is hostile to civic organisations which used to identify with the government because he does not like them to be autonomous to challenge the rise of a dictatorial state.”
Opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) MP Tendai Biti said it was a “tragedy” to see ministers resisting democracy while clinging to “Stalinist ideas”.
“The attempt to flatten the state into a homogeneous political entity is tragic and smacks of fascist thinking,” Biti said. “The government has no business in prescribing ideological fundamentals. Instead, it has a duty to ensure macro-economic fundamentals are stable and sound for investment and economic development.”
Biti said Moyo’s suggestions that Zanu PF had a consistent ideology in the pre-1990 period were “false and dishonest”.
“Zanu PF never had a consistent ideology after Independence. What it had was exhausted nationalism, which it hysterically propagated through socialist rhetoric. That’s what Moyo is trying to revive but he is flogging a dead horse,” he said.
“The reality on the ground is that we are dealing with a ruthless regime that always wanted a one-party state and to maintain power by force. This is well-documented. The Matabeleland massacres bear testimony to this.”
In its election manifestos before 1990, Zanu PF always mentioned the need for a one-party state and “scientific socialism”, claiming they were the sine qua non for development. It also wanted a corporatist approach to economic management.
During the 1985 election, for example, Mugabe wrote in the preface of his party manifesto that a one-party state and socialism were the major goals for Zimbabwe. He said Marxism-Leninism was the official ideology.
“Only when there is a one Zimbabwe people with one leader will a scientific re-organisation of society along socialist lines be possible,” Mugabe said.
“That is why Zanu PF seeks to bring all Zimbabweans under its umbrella so that there is only one leader – the party – for one Zimbabwe.”
As a result, Mugabe deeply resented opposition. He targeted the now defunct PF Zapu in a ruthless manner.
“Zapu and its leader Dr Joshua Nkomo are like a cobra in the house. The only way to deal effectively with a snake is to strike and destroy its head,” he urged his supporters in 1983. After his party’s victory in 1985, Mugabe called for the liquidation of Zapu, declaring: “Now take your sticks and beat out the snakes among you.”
Analysts say Moyo, Mugabe’s willing henchman and spin-doctor, is intent upon refocusing his unreconstructed party on its modus operandi of the ’80s.
They say he wants an ideology of coercive mobilisation, aggregation and integration of various interests into the “national project”, penetration of civic groups and self-imposition, which are all hallmarks of totalitarian regimes.
The essence of totalitarianism lies in its ideology. It offers a set of self-serving propositions about society and one-sided accounts of history in which the existing order has to be radically overhauled and tries to refashion the economy, society, family life, education and culture in its own image.
Analysts say this is precisely what Zanu PF is trying to do. They see Moyo as battling to achieve this through his last-ditch propaganda project which has failed to find public purchase.
Political scientist Roy Macridis says as opposed to voluntary participation, totalitarian regimes offer forced mobilisation or induced participation.
As opposed to representation, he says, totalitarian regimes offer coercive integration and while democracies allow for a fairly broad parameter of political competition, totalitarian regimes are more restrictive and the will of the ruling party and its leader are often imposed on the people.
Macridis says penetration of civic groups is yet another trusted method of totalitarian regimes, which differ in form and approach with democratic systems.
Whereas democracies try to win the support of civic groups through sound policies, totalitarian regimes try to penetrate, restructureand integrate different interest groups.