Time may be ripe for a third force

By Geoff Nyarota

THE proposal last week by the publisher of the Zimbabwe Independent for the emergence of a third political force in Zimbabwe made interesting reading. This is, however, not the first time Tr

evor Ncube has articulated this suggestion.


So that he does not remain a voice in the wilderness, while his enunciation of this noble idea is reduced to an annual ritual, I rise in Ncube’s support.

Before doing so, however, I wish to express a view contrary to his suggestion that President Robert Mugabe has become the only Zimbabwean capable of solving the many serious problems that he has personally created since attainment of our Independence 25 years ago.


Notwithstanding Mugabe’s sustained effort to build this aura of indispensability around his own persona, I believe other Zimbabweans can successfully implement programmes of meaningful change and take our country to great heights of development, peace and prosperity. Mugabe cannot rule forever.


For Mugabe to rescue Zimbabwe from its current doldrums certain conditions must prevail. The president must raise the threshold of his political tolerance and refocus his vision from the liberation struggle to post-Independence national development. Zimbabwe would stand to benefit if he regarded himself as more an elected president and less a hereditary monarch, meanwhile reducing his level of the xenophobia that has turned our country into a pariah state. But if his party can no longer put together an election manifesto, as Ncube points out, it is unlikely that Mugabe can formulate the required national rescue plan.


To entrench himself in power, Mugabe has exploited the absence of certain fundamental political ingredients which any serious alternative leadership would need to address or initiate as a prerequisite for any meaningful programme of revolutionary change.


Mugabe’s track record as an effective leader of the armed struggle is entirely without blemish. The economic and political performance of Zimbabwe going back to Independence has, however, cast serious aspersions on his credentials.


Likewise it may well turn out that Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s courage in openly challenging Mugabe and seeking to wrest the presidency from him through a process of democratic change was his only great asset.


Instead of exhibiting the dynamism and vibrancy of a young and progressive party, the MDC has become moribund. Apart from the founding fathers and mothers it has not attracted any new blood or talent, apart from Shakespeare Maya of NAAG, whose arrival added little value to the MDC.


It is the premise of Ncube’s proposal that both Mugabe and Tsvangirai lack the visionary attributes to lead Zimbabwe into a future of sustained development and prosperity. However, what has kept Mugabe in power and Tsvangirai out of it has little to do with their own intrinsic qualifications for the job of president and qualities as politicians. Circumstances have played a considerable role.


While Zanu PF has never been weaker as it enters next week’s fray, it is likely to emerge victorious. The forces campaigning against Mugabe’s dictatorship lack cohesion and unity of purpose.


Even the MDC has ceased to be a homogenous organisation. Zimbabwe’s opposition movement has no shortage of supporters, well-wishers, strategists and indigenous financial backers. However, the greater majority, fearful of the negative ramifications of public association with the opposition, prefer to remain closet advisors, dispensing advice by phone or e-mail.


The proposed third force would, first and foremost, seek to overcome this deep-seated fear of Zanu PF.


The legendary political apathy of Zimbabwe’s middle class and the burgeoning class of the super-rich is yet another obstacle. The working class has exclusively sustained Zimbabwe’s post-Independence campaign for real independence.


It is the people of Mbare, Mpopoma and Chitungwiza who buy the membership cards of the opposition political parties. They attend the political rallies, join the protest marches and, more importantly, turn out in large numbers to cast their ballot. It is they who endure the hardship of tyranny and economic ruin.


The Welshman Ncubes and the Tendai Bitis of Zimbabwe’s opposition politics can be counted on the fingers of one hand. For any third force to take root, the privileged citizens living in the leafier sections of suburbia need to emerge from their cocoon of political complacency, wherein they engage in endless political discourse. Favourite subjects until South African President Thabo Mbeki showed his true colours recently included why he was taking so long to deliver salvation to Zimbabwe.


But perhaps, the greatest challenge that such a new movement would confront is that of ethnic polarisation, which the majority of citizens pretend does not exist when an abundance of evidence exists. Before any new revolution can take off, it is essential that all citizens recognise that they are Zimbabweans primarily and Ndebele or Shona last.


The legacy of violence and intolerance bequeathed to Zimbabwe by Zanu PF and PF Zapu going back to the 1960s cannot be allowed to take permanent root in our national political psyche.


Ethnically inspired political polarisation was the driving force behind the brutal massacre of 20 000 innocent Ndebele tribesmen two decades later. Today sections of the Zimbabwean political community cite Gukurahundi while pursuing an ethnically divisive agenda that would easily torpedo the prospects of any third political force achieving meaningful success.


Radical Ndebele opinion associates all Shona speakers with support for Gukurahundi. This, of course, is absolute nonsense. It is equally absurd to link all white Zimbabweans with the murderous military raids launched by the Rhodesian security forces on guerilla training and refugee camps in Mozambique and Zambia. To castigate modern Ndebeles with the predatory raids mounted on Mashonaland by their ancestors more than 100 years ago is even more illogical.


If the people of Zimbabwe were united in the fight against tyranny their task would be easier. Expending their energy and resources in the senseless pursuit of retrogressive agendas strengthens the hand of the tyrants.


Jonathan Moyo, the mercurial former Information minister whose credentials and qualities would contribute to national development if properly utilised or harnessed, serves as a perfect example. He recently invoked the ethnic spectre of Gukurahundi in his haste to launch himself as an independent politician.


After he spent five years building and lining his own nest through close proximity to Mugabe, once ejected from Zanu PF Moyo suddenly remembered that his own father was massacred by the 5 Brigade. Those in whose ears such sentiments are music have rallied around him in their thousands following this opportunistic disclosure.


One does not need to be a rocket scientist, however, to perceive that for Moyo, the long-term agenda is the renaissance of Zapu, with himself as the successor to Dr Joshua Nkomo. But such an initiative, steeped in the politics of the past as it would be, may potentially be ethnically divisive. It possibly will not resonate well with the rest of a nation seeking to redefine its vision of the future.


Any future leadership cannot take over until they accept that Zimbabwe is a country for all its citizens. This is where Zanu PF has failed.


If the three top commanders of the Zimbabwe National Army hail from Tsholotsho and they are the best military brains in the country then, by all means, let them run the army. Likewise, if the entire teaching staff of Magwegwe Secondary School in Bulawayo comprises members of the Manyika tribe, let them teach the future leaders of Zimbabwe, as long as they are qualified, competent and, above all, can speak fluent Ndebele.


Essentially, before any third force takes root, Zimbabweans need to appreciate that it is they who will spearhead any process of change, not the South Africans, the Nigerians, the British or the Americans. There is much else that the international community can do to assist Zimbabwe to achieve prosperity, especially in the area of investment.


The role of the white community must also be addressed. They must sincerely join hands with their compatriots. They cannot continue to live in two worlds. They stand to benefit from the new revolution and must, like true patriots, contribute to the new programme of national development.


But they should desist from expecting that they will continue to play a primary role in the frontline, determining the pace and direction of the revolution. One of the causes of the decline in the appeal of the MDC was its obsession with setting a quota for white people in its affairs, thus playing right into the hands even of pseudo-revolutionaries.


Despite being democratic and non-racial, many people on the African continent remain suspicious of the role of their former oppressors in seeking to spearhead the new war against oppression. This is the trump card that Mugabe exploits successfully.


*Geoff Nyarota is the founding editor-in-chief of the Daily News. He can be contacted at geoffrey_nyarota@ksg.harvard.edu

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