Candid Comment

Stuff that turns naïvety into virtue


By Joram Nyathi

“ZANU PF is in a corner and is desperately looking for a way out,” declared Pius Wakatama in the Standard this week. “Under the present circumstances,” he

went on, “Zanu PF would not win a single seat in a free and fair election.”


Whenever I hear statements like this I feel there is virtue in being naïve. My naivety makes me sceptical of claims that Zanu PF cannot win a free and fair election. Given the state of opposition forces and the simple fact that history doesn’t have many examples of opposition parties winning all seats in an election, there is little reason to credit it. Instead we have seen that the worst dictatorships still have supporters.


I am naïve enough to know that we have never held a free and fair election. I have never heard of a country under the sun that has held free and fair elections. At best election results must reflect the will of the majority. The difference between Africa and the US and European democracies is that when challengers lose an election they concede defeat and congratulate the victor. In Africa it is un-African to concede defeat, which is far from saying elections are not rigged.


Wakatama was commenting on the Zimbabwe We Want document. What alarmed me was the cynical slant taken, the opportunistic venom against the church initiative. He implied that we were so delusional as to imagine that the churches had raised their voice to “put things right”. He had every reason to be disappointed. Churches don’t work magic and it is therefore unfair to take their proposal as if they claimed supernatural powers for themselves to influence the direction of politics by turning President Mugabe into a saint overnight. They are only making a legitimate contribution to national debate, a more constructive contribution than the self-righteous noises of opposition politicians thus far.


It is helpful that the opposition MDC has been more reticent on the document. The church initiative has become the latest butt for those who over the past seven years have been radical in theory but cowardly in practice. We have blamed Thabo Mbeki for his “quiet diplomacy” and praised the West for its “megaphone diplomacy”. None of them has worked in our favour. And the churches are fully aware of those failures.


Threats of confrontation with the regime have come to naught. The church has now become the latest scapegoat for the failed revolution by providing “a breathing space for the regime”. But blaming everybody else for your failure cannot constitute a solution to the political crisis we face.


Wakatama talks of a “divided and confused” government. But when it comes to self-preservation Zanu PF is more united than we imagine. It is because opposition forces and civic society are so divided, so confused and so petty-minded that Zanu PF has become smugly arrogant despite the wasteland caused by its bad economic and political policies. It will take more than an attack on alternative propositions to achieve a change of government or policies.


If opposition forces want to make headway in the fight against Zanu PF they will need to admit a few hometruths. Zanu PF is less vulnerable now than when the MDC was formed in 1999. The MDC is itself much weaker today than when it was conceived. When the MDC split in October last year I pointed out in this column that the leadership had betrayed the people who had been beaten, tortured, raped and starved in the name of change. I was assured that there was no such split but that a “few malcontents” in the leadership had left the party. There was the real MDC and the necessary “numbers” to prove it. When the results of recent rural district council elections were announced we couldn’t see the numbers in Mashonaland West, East and Central. Not even in the Kadoma mayoral election.


Which brings me to the other point — that we should not discuss the National Vision document because everybody knows the solution to Zimbabwe’s political and economic crisis. Really? Are Zimbabweans so masochistic they are deliberately prolonging their own suffering? Why hasn’t that foolproof solution been applied in the past seven years?


It is further claimed that Mugabe “never promised to abide by the recommendations” of the National Vision. This is a self-invented conclusion from the self-serving lie that Mugabe dictated the contents of the document to the much impugned clerics. Recommendations are never binding.


The contradictions can be staggering. How can Mugabe call for a homegrown constitution and then turn around to say the Lancaster House document is homegrown? Can anybody imagine Mugabe wanting to reduce his powers by sharing them with a prime minister as proposed in the Zimbabwe We Want?


If it is true, as alleged by those who think they own opposition politics, that Mugabe dictated the National Vision document to the church leaders, at least they achieved what the rest of the world has failed to do — forcing Mugabe to concede that the national crisis escalated “exponentially” with the advent of the fast-track land reform.


After seven years of a mutually destructive war of attrition among political players, the churches are saying let’s give peace a chance, let’s accentuate the positive against the negative, let’s pick up the pieces and build the Zimbabwe we want. I fail to see how this initiative is inimical to the militant approach of amadoda sibili who have promised to lead from the front.


Apparently, it is easier to fight shadows than the real enemy.

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