The integrity and image of our country has been severely damaged to the extent that it is now seen internationally as an outcast.
Our state institutions are now so corrupt that you often cannot be served without paying a bribe or asking a “chef” to do you a “favour”. And the economy has shrunk to a point where civil servants can no longer be sure of receiving their salaries on time.
More depressing is that our workers and young people have now been reduced to a life of misery with no hope of ever getting decent employment because many of our factories and industries are shutting down. Their only hope is to eke out a living on the streets or leave the country and become a neighbouring country’s burden.
As we all know, the root cause of our problems is the absence of a consistent rule of law, bad governance, lack of transparency and accountability.
Compounding our woes is the fact that government’s land policies have ruined our country’s capacity to produce enough food for the people.
Worse still, our mineral resources are being plundered by a small, voracious clique in cahoots with predatory foreign companies which are hell-bent on making quick profits before our country returns to normalcy.
Added to this is our dilapidated infrastructure with our schools and hospitals, which were once the envy of many countries, now mere shadows of their former glory. Our road, rail and air transport systems — like some of those in power — are old and ailing.
Equally bad is our polluted and poisonous drinking water, as well as our feeble and erratic electricity supply.
And mind you, without good infrastructure, clean water and electricity, we can never hope to attract substantial foreign investment.
Above all, the general morale of our people is now very low. Many of our people are currently pessimistic about the future and are either hopelessly resigned to their fate or look to divine intervention. And if you talk to the people, you will hear the same call that they want change because the suffering they are going through is unbearable.
Yet, in spite of our people’s pain and suffering, you cannot fail to appreciate their indomitable spirit.
They work tirelessly on their small pieces of land, move about trying to cut some small deals, sell their small merchandise to make a living, send their children to fee-paying schools, crack jokes and exude an abundant warmth and love.
This is the irrepressible spirit of our people that needs to be harnessed to form an unstoppable locomotion for total emancipation.
The country’s first option, then, is a spontaneous uprising where the masses, without being galvanised by some revolutionary demagogue, will stand up to demand their inalienable rights.
This is a real possibility where many of our people, especially the youth, are unhappy and despondent. And there comes a time when people are not afraid to die so that their children and posterity can have a better life.
Also, history shows that the most fertile ground for change is hunger, poverty, unemployment, injustice, repression, corruption and an uncaring regime. Zimbabwe is pregnant with all these elements, and it only takes a spark to ignite an explosion.
But let us be realistic in our expectations. Spontaneous revolutions are rare and far apart and they often end up in chaos, such as the French Revolution of 1789 and the Russian Revolution of 1917. Although these revolutions were necessary, they spawned dictatorship in the form of Napoleon Bonaparte and Joseph Stalin, respectively.
It is, therefore, necessary to manage change because pseudo-revolutionaries, opportunists and quasi-democrats can easily hijack the outcome.
Our own Zimbabwean liberation struggle is a clear example of how an ideologically bankrupt leadership can betray its own people. The Arab Spring in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Syria is a warning about how a loosely co-ordinated people’s struggle can end up in anarchy.
Another possibility is the reconfiguration of the current political parties, especially a split in the ruling party which is seen by most Zimbabweans as having ruined their lives.
In particular, as some opponents of the ruling party would argue, it is necessary to bring to an end the political dominance of Zanu PF so that we can build a new social order with different values. In this context, the current factions in Zanu PF can be seen as a good omen for change because a divided Zanu PFcannot hold on to power for ever.
The possibility of a split in Zanu PF is consistent with regional and international trends. For instance, in Zambia Kenneth Kaunda’s Unip was so inept that the late Frederick Chiluba’s MMD was able to win elections and usher in a new government; and a few years ago, Michael Sata’s Patriotic Front in turn ousted Rupiah Banda’s MMD.
In Malawi, the feared Kamuzu Banda’s ruling MCP lost to Bakili Muluzi’s party and just last month Joyce Banda’s ruling party lost to that of Peter Mutharika. This has been the same trend in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Senegal, Madagascar, India, Turkey and many other countries. Can Zimbabwe be an exception?
As regards the MDC-T, all indications are that although the party is suffering from internal haemorrhage, Morgan Tsvangirai’s faction appears to have a considerable grassroots support which can easily make it the largest political party in Zimbabwe. The failure to wrest power from a divided ruling party in previous elections is, however, a damning indictment that will haunt it for many years to come.
This aside, we need to encourage those who have a genuine concern for the welfare of our country in both Zanu PF, the MDC formations and other parties to find each other so that we can work out strategies to save our country from total collapse.
Some think we can bring about change by replacing Zanu PF with an interim military regime, especially by officers of a lower rank who have not been part of the plunder of our country.
The main argument of this school of thought is that, in the first place, Zanu PF is in power because of its support from the army and therefore it is only the army that can remove it from power.
They suggest that a military government can work with civilians for a limited time in order to pave the way for a free and fair election that is internationally recognised. This sounds attractive.
The proponents of this alternative, however, ignore fundamental flaws. To start with, can the Zimbabwean army be trusted to be the custodian of our democracy? Can it hand over power to an emasculated civilian government once it has tasted the sweetness of power? Does our army uphold the values of democracy and the tradition of fair play? My answer is a big NO.
Our people cannot hand over power to an institution whose track record is repression. This option is potentially suicidal and catastrophic.
Those who harbour this option should listen to the sermon on the mountain that the chaos and instability of post-colonial Africa is largely due to the savagery and ruthlessness of military regimes.
The dark memory of Joseph Mobutu Sese Seko of the then Zaire (DRC), Idi Amin of Uganda, Emperor Jean Bokasa of the Central African Republic, Colonel Haile Mariam Mengistu of Ethiopia (he is still here in Zimbabwe), General Sani Abacha of Nigeria, Charles Taylor of Liberia and many other military dictators is still fresh in our minds. And we should not lose sight of the fact that by its constitution, the army is not a democratic institution. Therefore, we should not flirt with the army when it comes to the establishment of democracy and good governance.
Change through the ballot
Some of our people argue that the most likely option is to change the government through the ballot by voting out the Zanu PF government. Those who believe that this is the route that is likely to bring about social, political and economic stability maintain that other options are likely to polarise the country, and may not bring about lasting peace.
Assuming that this is the most viable alternative, political parties need to play the game using different tactics so that they do not repeat the mistakes they made in the last three elections. Unity of purpose is absolutely essential and I need to add my voice to that of the suffering masses who want a better life. Here, allow me to put across questions that are often asked by ordinary Zimbabweans.
Do you (political parties) listen to the plight of our people? Do you hear their cries? Are you bothered about their suffering? Where is your moral conscience? Haven’t you learned from the past elections that, alone, you cannot bring about political change to our country?
If change is going to come through the ballot, we need to insist, as a pre-condition, on a level playing field such as an authentic voters’ roll, free and fair voting procedures as well as a transparent vote-counting system.
The other issue is the media, which includes the radio, television, newspapers, Facebook and Twitter. Political parties need to have their own media, to articulate their agenda and other issues. This is a common phenomenon in many democracies where some newspapers, radio and television stations are aligned to some political parties.
While talking about elections, it does not help our people to be continuously fed with the scapegoat that victory was stolen from the MDC-T. Everyone knows that where the political playing field is not level the ruling party uses all devious means to stay in power.
The pertinent question that needs to be asked is: if indeed the MDC-T won, what concrete measures did they take to claim their legitimate right? Is it not being naive to expect Sadc, AU, or the EU to fight our own battle? Is it not the same naivety that makes some of the political leaders to think that change will come through an economic meltdown?
Equally so, is it not political drunkenness for some people in government to think that Zimbabwe can do without the rest of the outside world?
These proposals are not cast in stone and neither are they intended to steal the thunder from those with political ambitions. As Bernard Shaw would say, the proposals are intended to “prevent evil from triumph” and to “take responsibility for our future”.
Professor Chimbganda is contactable at firstname.lastname@example.org