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Zanu PF must change or die

ONE of the main reasons why the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), the former liberation movement which brought independence to Tanzania in 1962, has remained in power for 50 years is its ability to adapt to shifting political and socio-economic circumstances, as well as changing leaders and course.

Report by Owen Gagare

Formed in 1954 under the leadership of one of Africa’s liberation struggle movers Julius Nyerere, CCM, formerly Tanganyika African National Union before being initially renamed Tanzania African National Union (Tanu) in 1964, merged with the then ruling party in semi-autonomous Zanzibar, Afro-Shiraz Party, to form the new party in 1977.

Over the years CCM — party of revolution in Swahili — has undergone fundamental changes in a bid to survive.

Initially, CCM ideologically pursued Nyerere’s African socialism model, ujamaa — a Swahili word which means familyhood as the basis of Tanzania’s social and economic development policies.

Some of the features of the ujamaa concept included the creation of a one-party state to help solidify the cohesion of the newly-independent Tanzania; institutionalisation of social, economic and political equality through the creation of a centralised democracy and nationalisation; villagisation of production through collectivised local productive capacity; fostering Tanzanian self-reliance; free and compulsory education and the creation of a collective Tanzanian rather than tribal identity.

After clinging to its failed socialist experiment and one-party state model, CCM later changed leaders and course following the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, which marked the end of the Cold War and preceded Soviet Union disintegration.

Although Nyerere maintained his grip on power for decades, clinging onto the leadership of the party from 1954 to 1990 and the presidency from 1962 to 1985, CCM eventually changed leaders and has been doing that almost every 10 years since his departure.

The party also adapted to changing circumstances and abandoned its socialist agenda to embrace market economy principles and democratic reform.

While CCM has managed to revitalise itself and survive, in Zimbabwe Zanu PF is facing serious survival threats.

President Robert Mugabe has remained at the helm of Zanu PF since 1977 and is resisting change of leadership and policies. Every conference and congress is merely held to reaffirm his continued leadership despite growing internal discontent and resistance.

Mugabe — who seems to have ambitions to be president for life — claims if he goes his party would disintegrate. Although analysts agree with him, they point that this is a self-serving argument merely designed to justify his continued reign. Mugabe clearly does not care if he goes down with Zanu PF.

Fears are mounting that Mugabe’s unrelenting hold on Zanu PF would eventually ensure the party follows the path of other liberation movements like Unip in Zambia, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and Kenya’s Kanu, not CCM or other parties in the region like Frelimo, the ANC and Swapo.

Like CCM, Frelimo, the ANC and Swapo have also managed to ensure change in leadership, policies and direction.

Zanu PF’s waning fortunes are partly attributable to its failure to embrace change.

Although Zanu PF has abandoned its one-party state model and socialist posturing, it continues in practice to behave as if Zimbabwe is a one-party state and a command economy. Its policies are largely blamed for the socio-economic morass the country is mired in.

Under Mugabe, Zimbabwe has moved from being one of the strongest, highly-industrialised and working economies in sub-Saharan Africa to being one of the basket cases. The country’s current paltry budget of US$3,6 billion — which is smaller than the turnover of some supermarkets or companies in South Africa — shows how much the country has regressed in the past 32 years.

Zanu PF’s support base has been dwindling over the years and thus it came as no surprise when it lost its parliamentary majority during the 2008 elections for the first time since Independence in 1980.

Mugabe lost the first round of the presidential election to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and had to be rescued by the military through a brutal and bloody campaign prior to the run-off. Mugabe, who would be 89 when the next elections are held next year, would once again be the Zanu PF presidential candidate, which bears testimony to how the party has failed to learn from its counterparts in the region. Once formidable parties like MCP and Kanu are now weak opposition, while Unip faces extinction due to failure to evolve.

MCP was founded by Hastings Kamuzu Banda in 1960 and it won all seats in the legislature in the 1961 before leading the country to Independence in 1964 but it’s now battling for survival. Unip is almost dead. Kanu is struggling to come back to power.

By contrast, CCM, Frelimo, the ANC and Swapo have adapted and are still strongly in charge. Unless Zanu PF learns from these experiences — including from its allies abroad like the Communist Party of China (CPC) — it will soon be facing its demise.

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