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Candid Comment

Zanu PF must learn from ANC

By Dumisani Muleya

IT has been instructive to follow the raging succession battles within the ruling Zanu PF and South Africa’s governing ANC. The power struggles rocking the edifices of

the two parties have brought out strikingly distinct political cultures in currency in the organisations: one of subject politics and the other participant politics.

While Zanu PF has been organising its “million man” march through the streets to ensure its leader Robert Mugabe becomes president-for-life, the ANC was showing its leader Thabo Mbeki, who wants a third term at the helm of the party, the exit door.

The irony in all this is that Mugabe has been a disastrous failure during his reign, while Mbeki has done fairly well as president of South Africa.

In the Zanu PF succession struggle tyranny will win the day, while in the ANC democracy will triumph.

Mugabe is almost certainly going to be endorsed as the leader of the party and presidential election candidate next year at the party congress from December 12-14, but Mbeki is mostly likely to be booted out at the ANC conference on December 16-20.

Zanu PF members have been running around all over the place singing praises for Mugabe, urging him to cling on to power and remain in the blind alley despite his catastrophic misrule and economic meltdown.

By contrast their ANC counterparts are pulling out all the stops to push out Mbeki in the next week or so, not because he has failed, but on account of that he has overstayed his welcome.

Mbeki has been at the ANC helm for 10 years, since 1997, while Mugabe has been Zanu PF leader for 30 years, from 1977.

This brings me to the compelling question of political culture which not only affects Zanu PF but the Zimbabwean body politic broadly. There is a strong need for Zimbabweans to change the existing political culture and adopt a new value-system which permits practice of democratic politics.

Zimbabwe is currently where it is now partly because of the prevailing obsequious political culture which is a legacy of commandist liberation struggle politics and attendant myths and propaganda, the de facto one-party state of the 1980s, fake socialist policies, and the enduring “Dear Leader” mentality.

Our collective orientation towards national politics and the perceptions of political legitimacy and traditions of political practice are undeveloped. In this day and age, how do you still find people saying a leader, a failed leader for that matter, must be president-for-life? Where else in the world do you still have this? This shows there is something wrong with the political culture in Zanu PF and in Zimbabwe generally.

In this country people believe in following leaders without questioning where they are coming from or going. This is evident in both Zanu PF and MDC where parochial subject politics hold sway.

Any form of criticism — no matter how well-intentioned and constructive — is often seen as almost a hanging offence! Of all places, go to Quill Club, a drinking hole for journalists (they are not responsible for crushing debate) at the Ambassador Hotel in Harare, and witness the Stalinist suppression of alternative views by opposition party sycophants allergic to criticism.

What is happening in Zanu PF is rather different from what we are seeing in the ANC. A leader can be criticised from within and held to account by ordinary members for his actions.

However, in Zimbabwe party leaders can mislead, misrule and mismanage without any serious consequences.

In fact, at times leaders are strangely enough rewarded for failure. Zanu PF last week gave Mugabe a beautiful Xmas gift — a “million man” march – for the disaster he has visited upon the nation!

How do people march in multitudes to celebrate calamitous failure?

Compared to the ANC, it is clear Zanu PF has a different political culture partly due to different historical circumstances and national dynamics.

Zanu PF’s political philosophy is antiquated. It still believes in misguided and failed ideas. Zanu PF still believes in command economics. It still wants to be directly involved in the running of the economy through an amorphous policy framework and discredited policies.

Zanu PF still clings on to price controls despite their obvious failure. In July governemnt deployed police to shops to reduce prices by force in a bid to curb rampant inflation, a move that displayed authorities’ dramatic economic ignorance.

Add to this, the smash-and-grab strategies applied on land and now to be visited upon foreign-owned companies, especially mines, and the whole policy picture looks amazingly crass, if not Stone Age.

Whatever Zanu PF’s ideology, this is not the issue. The issue is political culture.

A political culture differs from ideology in that it is often unique to a country. People can disagree on an ideology, but still share a common political culture.

What is happening in Zanu PF and the ANC should offer valuable lessons in the relationship between political culture and democracy. There is need for a fundamental overhaul of our failed state-building project, political superstructure and the economy for Zimbabwe to progress.

We need parties which promote a progressive political culture, ones which allows political leaders to be replaced if they have failed or overstayed.

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