The Majority Are Not Always Right

THE misleading notion that the majority are always right and must have their way needs to be challenged in the face of yet another imminent stalemate between the MDC and Zanu PF over the presidential contest.

 

While I acknowledge that it is logically contingent that the run-off elections are in accordance with the amended electoral laws, the solution needed for Zimbabwe, I believe, is now well beyond the capacities of these two political parties.

As we go into yet another of the many tragic elections that have failed to deliver a solution to Zimbabwe’s crisis, for me, the outcome is a “predictable surprise”.

The election will happen amid the worst violence in the history of Zimbabwe and deliver a disputed result. If Zanu PF wins through intimidation and other tactics, the MDC will contest the result alleging vote rigging and election violence, Mbeki’s manipulation of the regional mediation process and the interference from the army to retain Mugabe in power.

If the MDC wins, Zanu PF will not accept defeat, resorting to the usual strategy of “protecting our national heritage and attack on Zimbabwe’s sovereignty from British imperialism through their fronting in the form of the MDC”. This will give them the premise to escalate the current political violence by a well trained youth militia descending the country deep into turmoil.

The first round of the presidential election was merely a dry-run for Mugabe to test the real popularity of the MDC. The delay in the announcement of results and the 90 day period simply buys the manipulation machinery enough time to review, adjust and correct any mistakes based on what they have learned from the first round.

So, come June 27, we will be exactly where we were when the presidential results were announced. This we know already before going into these elections. A prior knowledge is independent of experience, while a posteriori knowledge is dependent on experience.

Based on what we have experienced and know as Zimbabweans, I would have expected all parties to respond in a more mature and responsive approach given the magnitude of the crisis. But again, a posteriori knowledge tells us that our leadership is not known for acting in the best interests of the nation.

Rather than simply say, the electoral law requires a run-off, we shall therefore have a run-off, even when we know it will not resolve the crisis. The presidential run-off election therefore an exercise in futility and a mere waste of resources, perhaps courtesy of the Mbeki government.

This scenario clearly reflects the lack of will by the political leadership to look beyond “themselves” for a real and lasting solution to Zimbabwe’s crisis of governance.

There is an erroneous belief, largely fed by the need for power, by both Zanu PF and the MDC that after the presidential elections, one of the two presidential candidates wins and his party assumes power, gets into office, and forms a government and it’s business as usual. However, many things have happened to “us’’as a people of Zimbabwe such that it cannot be business as usual. Many defenceless people have been beaten, killed or maimed, fled the country, raped, houses burned, crops and animals destroyed. There is too much hurt and pain to move forward with a majority government leaving behind minority voices and concerns.

We are a country torn apart, with record high inflation and unemployment, lack of basic services and daily necessities. It is no longer only about getting a new government into power, but about first creating an environment for effective governance. Therefore, there are a number of pre-requisite things that needed to happen before we can return to majority rule, primary to this, a new people- driven constitution.

From a philosophical point of view, the doctrine that reality is composed of many ultimate substances and the belief that no single explanatory system or view of reality can account for all the phenomena of life is particularly true in the case of Zimbabwe’s crisis. Neither the Zanu PF nor the MDC arguments tell the full story of Zimbabwe’s problems. Each side of the argument is a partial reflection of the problems facing Zimbabwe, and each a narrow-minded view/perception of reality.

Because Zanu PF and the MDC have dominated the political playing field, the perceptions of many other stakeholders to the Zimbabwean crisis have not been heard or considered in framing solutions to the crisis. For Zimbabwe to move beyond the unhealthy stand off between Zanu PF and the MDC, divergent thinking is required.

You cannot do the same thing repeatedly and expect to get a different result. You will get what you have always gotten, in this instance, a disputed election. It is also referred elsewhere as the state of being insane. In terms of political growth in Zimbabwe, we need to move beyond the politics of struggle and enter a new phase of constructive engagement that is not polarised by party politics, history in the liberation or democratic struggle, race, ethnicity or gender.

A new phase that does not judge someone based on whether you were with us in the struggle or against us. We struggled against colonialism and racism; we struggled against an oppressive Zanu PF government. But as we move forward, do we want to continue to struggle against each other or should we rather unite and focus on the real struggles against poverty, hunger, the HIV and Aids pandemic, gender discrimination, and illiteracy. These real struggles have taken a back seat while we call each other names, kill and try to outsmart each other for use of words and modern political language. There is no growth with negative politics, only stagnation. Going anywhere?

Hence, the either Zanu PF or MDC scenario needs to change by broadening the participation in governance of other interest groups. Zimbabwean politics is not the preserve of the political elite where the voices of minority ideas and opinions are marginalised.

We need a pluralistic government (government by many). The condition of being multiple or plural is a condition in which numerous distinct ethnic, religious, or cultural groups are present and tolerated within a society with the belief that such a condition is desirable or socially beneficial.

In political science, the view is that in liberal democracies power is dispersed among a variety of economic and ideological pressure groups and is not held by a single elite or group of elites.

Pluralism assumes that diversity is beneficial to society and that the disparate functional or cultural groups of which society is composed — including religious groups, trade unions, professional organisations, and ethnic minorities — should be autonomous. R Dahl (1961) used this term to denote any situation in which no particular political, cultural, ethnic, or ideological group is dominant.

The propositions for a GNU by the minority voices have been vehemently rejected by the majority, in some cases dismissed with a sense of fury and indignation. According to those who argue against it, the MDC must go for an all out win and get rid of Zanu PF or anything that smells of Zanu PF. After all they have the mandate of the people. I ask myself, even if this route takes us 100 years, are we being strategic here while people get killed and their houses destroyed.

Previous elections, though rigged, did not usher the MDC into power, nor did prior elections contested by forerunners Edgar Tekere, Margaret Dongo and Enock Dumbutshena. Have we not exhausted the election route? Is it not time for a heart to heart or is it men to men talk (seeing they are all men playing in this game) rather than the continued shouts of insults from afar?

Is there no middle ground that can take us to a place were we can begin to change the politics of the country first before going for an outright win. We have seen what an outright win for Zanu did to Zapu and the subsequent massacres in Matebeleland.

How the voices of the minority (20% of the electorate) were silenced and later rendered impotent. What is the ultimate goal that we aim for, a change of government or a change of politics in Zimbabwe? I believe that it should be the latter and our priorities and strategies reflective of that.

What price are we willing to pay or are we willing to let the people pay, for a change of government. One writer commented saying “both Zanu and MDC politicians are sitting pretty and have the luxury of enjoying this fight while we suffer“. While the leadership can afford this conflict, the masses cannot.

As Zimbabweans, we need to start raising the bar on political standards. A GNU will present Zimbabwe with the opportunity to enter into a new politics of positives rather than the destructive path of negative politics whose fruits is violence, intolerance and hate.

It is poisonous and Zimbabweans have suffered from extreme exposures of negative thought which has breed scepticism, disbelief and mistrust of anything new or unknown resulting in apathy and selective reasoning.

This political behaviour, typical in situations of long drawn conflicts and wars, can be suicidal as people miss opportunities for a solution when it is finally presented to them. Most people have developed their theories of the political situation which they use as a frame of reference to explain events around them.

Shifting these paradigms in the event of sudden developments requires mental gymnastics which traumatised Zimbabweans are too fatigued to undertake. Hence, responses to political events are reactive and lethargic.

It is safer and easier to go with the prevailing school of thought as group thinking. However, often growth happens not on the journeys travelled before but by extending ones’ horizons, one discovers new shores.

Growth and self-discovery often lie in the unknown. What is this animal called GNU and how does it work, they will ask?

They will reject it simply because it is unfamiliar and its image not consistent with what they have in their psyche.

Political pluralism is a participatory type of government in which the politics of the country are defined by the needs and wants of many.

In a politically pluralistic society there is no majority. The basic ideas of government are seen through the ideas of individuals and groups to ensure that all the needs and wants of society are taken care of. A politically pluralistic society develops a tolerance for divergent thinking.

There is no right or wrong idea, all ideas and beliefs of the people are valid and evaluated based on their common good.

Hence, my affection for Simba Makoni’s candidature and proposal for the creation of a National Authority.

Possibly, the same vision attracted the 8% minority who voted for him. With a GNU, we allow a process of healing and reconciliation. As the country stabilises and the economy recovers, basic facilities and services restored, human rights entrenched in the constitution, we can then gradually return to majority rule premised on a sound constitution supported by strong institutional pillars of governance.

The obvious risk to political parties for this route is that, once people are no longer hungry and diseased, have access to basic amenities, their rights assured and space created for their voices to be heard the political outlook will be completely different.

Political parties will be judged by their programmes of action rather than a simple call for change or rhetoric on invisible imperialist enemies. Politicians will have to work harder to convince the electorate and debate on real bread and butter issues which have tended to take a back seat in Zimbabwean elections.

I am therefore advocating for political pluralism as a way forward for Zimbabwe through an inclusive consultative government of national unity. They did it in Kenya, why not Zimbabwe “did it”. It’s the better option at this point in time. I say better, not best, because I believe there may be other creative solutions to our crisis, anything, but another presidential election.

Well, that’s the opinion of a minority which the majority will be quick to dismiss. Remember that “The majority are not always right.”

By Maggie Makanza is a Psychologist and social commentator based in Cape Town.

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