A FEW weeks ago Zanu PF took the rare step of announcing that it had set up a committee to address the issue of succession within the party. This announcement, made after a politburo meeting, was also accompanied by the announcement that another committee to deal with ideological issues had been set up.
The issue of succession and ideology are key to Zanu PFâ€™s survival beyond President Robert Mugabe. By making this announcement the party leadership has set in motion a process that it might not be able to stop. Zimbabweans would be expectant that finally the party might come to terms with and sense its self-destructive mode and take a new turn, hopefully for the better. Â
For Zimbabweans, the Zambia situation where the Movement for Multiparty Democracy now dominates the political scene like the former Unip of Kenneth Kaunda shows that in the long run Zimbabweâ€™s democracy will benefit from a reformed and democratic Zanu PF. The complete dominance of the body politic by one party has to be avoided. And in any case, it will be interesting to see if a new political alternative to the current Zanu PF and MDC ideological positions can emerge within Zanu PF.
It was the demise of Chairman Mao in China, infamous for his violent Cultural Revolution and intolerance of dissent, that resulted in a major turn on economic reform. The China we see today, though not the best example on democracy, is an outcome of reform that started in the Communist Party of China. Without this, China would have gone through another cultural revolution as Zimbabwe has seen a third Chimurenga, with destructive results.Â Â
It is possible that nothing much can be achieved from these announcements. The issue of succession has been talked of in Zanu PF before and Zanu PF is inconsistent in words and delivery. This issue has also been used by Mugabe to bait the ambitious who have been exposed and dealt with ruthlessly. The fate of the likes of Dr Eddison Zvobgo was sealed on the succession question. Zvobgo was more poignant, likening the succession question in Zanu PF with the story of the madman of Ngomahuru, who upon the receiving the baton in a relay race ran away with it into the mountains. The consequence is that the madmanâ€™s team lost the race.
Indeed President Mugabe and Zanu PF have lost the race, as well as the trust and faith of the people of Zimbabwe. The partyâ€™s hold on power through democratic means has slipped. The party now survives on violence, deception and patronage.Â Without violence and its dwindling patronage system, the centre cannot hold in Zanu PF.
The announcements appear to be a belated realisation that a top leadership hitting the mid 80s cannot be relied upon to take the party into the future.Â Zanu PF has been blind to the fact that since the mid-1990s it lost the people of Zimbabwe completely. This is despite the failure to unite the nation soon after Independence leading to the massacres of innocent civilians in Matabeleland.Â Zanu PF faces the real possibility of complete demise if it mishandles its succession issue.
At the centre of this succession is the need for a credible and visionary leadership to rise within the party. A leadership that can lead with brains and vision and not violence and patronage as we have seen in the past. It is clear that the patronage system of Zanu PF has permeated all facets of its political body and the state. A senior official in the Local Government ministry is known to boast that he is not a member of Zanu PF, but a shareholder. People who have shouted the loudest in support of Mugabe have suddenly become rich, not only owning ill-gotten farms but also getting all sorts of deals to supply this and that.
City council security guards, who a few years ago were doing commendably well by arresting pickpockets at Mbare Musika now have a new and enriching vocation, shouting praises of President Mugabe and are now living pretty. Zanu PF has relied so much on its abuse of state security organs, the CIO, army and police to the extent that not many people have any trust in these. Â
But this abuse cannot go on forever. At some point the vakomana, meaning security chiefs that Zanu PF has relied on so much, will also have to give up. Zanu PF has looked outward to external forces such as the security forces and patronage to maintain its hold on power. Failure of the party to realise these weaknesses and take them into account as part of the succession debate and ideological refocus means the future of the party is doomed.
Those who have stood by Zanu PF, especially the security chiefs, have created a false sense of security based on browbeating citizens and the opposition. The same grouping has lacked the foresight to realise they still need to be trusted by the people and must show a vision that can be shared.
It is here that the ideological committee set up by the politburo and includes the likes of Didymus Mutasa comes in. A critical question that it has to answer is:
will the committee be willing to face Zanu
PFâ€™s demons in the face and seek to exorcise them?
These demons include an archaic, redundant and unattractive ideology. This ideology is based on the politics of either being with us or against us, race and ethnicity and conceptions of belonging and homogeneity which neither tolerate dissent nor respect basic principles of democracy.Â In this politics of Zanu PF, all citizens are expected to reconcile their views with those of Zanu PF and accept to be subservient to the dominance of Zanu PF, literally, to survive.
There is nothing wrong with Zanu PF advancing its nationalist ideology, as long as this is done persuasively and in the interest of the country. However, Zanu PF nationalism is a convoluted political position driven by an insatiable love of power. Since 2000, Zanu PF has shown total disdain for the MDC, and all its actions have been driven by hatred of the MDC and not selling its programmes and winning the hearts and minds of citizens. Â
Moving forward, one hopes that Zanu PF, as a minority party, will seek to reengage the people of Zimbabwe on what it can offer. As a minority party, Zanu PF can no longer afford to bury its head in the sand like the proverbial ostrich, but actively seek to locate the heart beat of society, by reforming and repenting from its bad ways.
Zanu PF needs to abandon its ideology of deprivation, nepotism, violence and chaos and reengage all sectors in Zimbabwe fromÂ academia, civil society, business and labour if it is to be a party of the future.Â Otherwise all the efforts at succession and ideological reform will come to naught. Despite its appearance of strength and the grandstanding of security chiefs, Zanu PF is really in a corner and a shell of its former self.
Rashweat Mukundu is a Programme Specialist: Media Freedom Monitoring, Misa Regional Secretariat.
BY RASHWEAT MUKUNDU