The Zimbabwean political environment is readying itself for what may turn out to be the most hotly-contested election in the country’s tortured history. Opposition parties are salivating at the prospect of contesting the elections against a factionalised and seemingly moribund ruling party, their own inadequacies notwithstanding.
Indeed, Zanu PF invited and nurtured failure to the extent that Zimbabwe has become a broken if not a failed state.
Thus the need for common sense reforms and socio-economic transformation has become extremely urgent in order to overcome the existential threat posed by a dysfunctional state.
This begs the question: Is the opposition up to the task of re-building and transforming a nation that is in need of a new vision and clarity of purpose? The overused “Zanu PF/Mugabe must go” mantra is a political “red meat” slogan that excites crowds at rallies, but does not provide a vision on how Zimbabwe can be rescued from its current state of desperation.
Defeating Zanu PF at the polls will not readily translate into socio-economic and political stability; neither will it ensure an end to all that ails Zimbabwe, including the moral and ethical bankruptcy that permeates the length and breadth of the country.
In fact, there is a strong possibility that things could get worse in a new dispensation, if the electorate does not incisively and aggressively interrogate the fitness and intentions of those who would want to occupy the highest office in the land. Zimbabweans should not look for an anointed saviour, but should seek for accountable governance, strong and efficient institutions that are grounded in the rule of law rather than partisan law.
It is instructive to take note of the Zambian experience. In 1991, the country’s former President Frederick Chiluba, also former leader of the Zambian trade union movement, was overwhelmingly democratically elected (by 76%) and dethroned the long-serving President Kenneth Kaunda. Zambia, like Zimbabwe, was in a fiscal mess and Chiluba was hailed by Zambians as the knight in shining armour who would lead the country to prosperity.
In his inauguration speech, Chiluba lamented: “The Zambia we inherit is destitute, ravaged by the excesses, ineptitude and straight corruption of a party and a people who have been in power for too long. After 27 years of Mr Kaunda’s leadership the coffers are empty. The people are poor. The misery endless.”
This aptly describes Zimbabwe’s current state of affairs and these words can come from any member of the opposition. However, Chiluba failed to live up to his reformist promise. Instead, he became an extravagant, immensely corrupt, autocratic despot, who attempted to amend the constitution so that he could extend his presidency term to three terms. Fortunately, Zambian civic society stopped him in his tracks.
This does not mean Zimbabwe’s opposition parties are so inclined. But the electorate must be alert to the current economic conditions that have driven the population into abject poverty, including those who aspire to govern this country. It is therefore highly probable that Zimbabwe’s new governing class will seek to transform its own economic conditions through looting and other nefarious activities before serving the national interest. The Government of National Unity provided ample proof of such tendencies. Because all the leading presidential candidates, at different levels and varying degrees, are flawed and have, during their political careers, displayed incompetence, irresponsible leadership and bad judgement, Zimbabweans must not have tunnel vision.
Citizens must be driven by an incisive activism that demands answers to questions such as: What strategies are going to be employed to drive the much-needed economic recovery? How are they going to mend the broken but critical sectors such as health, education and infrastructure? Will the leadership aspirants adhere to the rule of law and respect the constitution? How will they fix and strengthen dysfunctional state institutions? How do they intend to fight rampant corruption and patronage across the board? Will competency supersede party loyalty in the appointment of key positions that determine efficient governance and service delivery?
What programmes will be advanced to nurture, develop and guide the country’s youth, so that they can acquire professional and leadership skills that will assist in the development of the country?
Will they ensure transparency, accountability and common sense in government processes, as well as establishing a strong moral compass? These are but a few questions among the many that a future government must urgently and truthfully address. Zimbabweans should not be hoodwinked by flashy slogans, rhetorical platitudes and empty promises.
In order to derive the agency to speak truth to power, the people must take full and unapologetic ownership of their citizenship. All those who seek to govern (not rule) the country must be subjected to intense scrutiny so as to ensure that the people get the government they want and deserve.
It is their constitutional right to do so. Politicians, by their very nature, are an arrogant, self-serving and often times disrespectful lot, that needs to be constantly monitored and held to account. Failure to do so will further entrench poverty, inequality, unemployment, corruption and lawlessness.
Zimbabweans must be proactive towards shaping the future they desire. The time to peacefully exercise that constitutional mandate is now, because to act after the elections might be too late.