ZIMBABWE has gone for a quarter of a century under confrontational and conflictual leadership that eschews consensus building in the management of the country’s affairs, eliciting acute suffering of her citizens.
The emotive issues of land, the economy and governance have provided a platfrom for power contestation in Zimbabwe since Independence.
Arguably, it is the absence of good leadership across the divide and little about the role of outsiders that has seen a continuous increase in poverty and the widening of the gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots”, paradoxically in resource-rich Zimbabwe.
The shared absence of good leadership in the liberation movement and the democratic contingent resulted in the lack of sincere dialogue on national issues, with either sides preferring hard-to-get tactics through confrontation and outright conflict.
Meanwhile, poverty has soared to 76% of rural households with Matabeleland North having the highest percentage poverty levels at 87%.
It is palpable that political parties have sought to outclass each other and get cheap political points as part of their voter canvassing, rather than seek to improve the lives of citizens and move Zimbabwe forward.
No genuine attempts have been made to attain consensus and to normalise the situation in the country by all protagonists as the welfare of Zimbabweans is set aside while power retention and removal of the nationalist government become the primary occupation.
Confrontation and conflict have been a chicken and egg situation as the ruling Zanu PF resorted to violence in response to blatant confrontation by the opposition and vice-versa. The opposition tended to use confrontation in response to escalating conflict engineered by the ruling party.
One after another like a deck of cards, the opposition, during its emergent stages, responded to the failing Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (Esap) that was ravaging the economy through strikes, while Zanu PF responded to the “NO” vote of the February 2000 referendum through a violent land reform programme.
Not to be outdone, the opposition responded by creating and internationalising a new discourse centred on governance crisis and human rights abuses, thereby attracting worldwide condemnation of the Zanu PF regime.
On both sides of the divide and on both issues, the welfare of the people was set aside as politicians sought to out-do each other, under visionless and delusional leadership.
Even though the MDC introduced the issue of land reform in its 2000 manifesto, they were blindly forced to wholesomely oppose it, citing the chaotic and violent nature of the programme.
The MDC overlooked its long-term implications on wealth accumulation, poverty alleviation and upliftment of citizens, particularly given the collapsing economy where retrenchments, just like today, had become the norm, triggering mass exodus back to peasantry life in rural Zimbabwe.
Even though Zanu PF had failed in its neo-liberal policies under Esap, since 1990, the opposition failed to exploit this failure by creating a new discourse on economic management underpinned by deliberative policy designing platforms and processes that facilitate genuine and inclusive engagement of non-state actors.
Zanu PF had to make a U-turn, thereby adopting state intervention methodologies in economic management in 1996, leading to land grabbing post February of 2000, even though this was now a case of too-little-too-late as the economy was already tethering on the verge of collapse and inequality remainig high, with a Gini co-efficient of 0,63 by 1995.
The internationalisation of the conflict by the opposition under a “violation of human rights” discourse following the escalation of violence, further pushed Zanu PF to mobilise arms of the state including security apparatus and the entire bureaucratic machinery to defend “national sovereignty” under radical nationalism.
Again, whereas the MDC sought to mitigate state instituted violence on its members and Zimbabweans in general, the emphasis on globalisation of the governance crisis without paying attention to economic rights and social justice issues undermined its outreach to the broad Zimbabwean masses who were already and continue to struggle with immediate livelihoods and survival issues.
Disgracefully, this has been aided by Zanu PF-instigated fear over the years.
Importantly, even though Zanu PF’s strategy on land had managed to avert defeat in 2000, 2002 and 2005 general elections while the MDC was trying to come to terms with human rights abuses and other liberal democratic deficits associated with land grabbing and electoral processes, people issues remained unattended to.
In other words, the MDC’s ability to undermine the legitimacy of the Zanu PF government through the internationalisation of the governance crisis discourse did not avert the production poverty and underdevelopment in Zimbabwe.
As if this was confirmation of token empowerment intentions by Zanu PF, or its “talk left walk right” intentions, the resettled people remain without security of tenure and continue to rely on the perpetual benevolence of Zanu PF leaders, itself accounting for silent violence to the voters and for the faulty electoral outcome.
Never mind the indigenisation mantra and the 2013 defective electoral result, poverty and inequality are on the rise as Zanu PF policies, including ZimAsset, its latest economic blueprint, have turned out to be mere populist statements by a persisting Zanu PF hegemony that depends on patronage and corruption.
Continued illegitimacy has remained an albatross on the neck of the Zanu PF government, aiding poor economic performance post-July 31, 2013.
The persistence of visionless, clueless, predatory and delusional leadership across the board has meant that Zimbabweans continue to suffer from grinding poverty, inequality and underdevelopment, moral decay and hopelessness, fear of the state and absence of dialogue, injustice and impunity, exclusion and absence of accountability.
This leadership has relied on confrontation and persisting conflict at the expense of development in Zimbabwe.
It is therefore imperious that a genuinely inclusive and listening leadership that can annihilate polarisation by securing consensus on contested key national policy issues through genuine citizens’ deliberative participation in governance issues, normalise relations and bring Zimbabwe back into the community of nations, be given a chance to run the affairs of the country.
It is beyond doubt that Zimbabwe now needs a leadership with the courage to act differently, capable of creating a new narrative of consensus building centred on poverty alleviation, easing inequality and creating a welfare and stable economy that renews service delivery and equality of opportunities for the people.
Shonhe is a PhD candidate in development studies.