Let’s assess succession candidates

LAST week Higher Education minister and Zanu PF politburo member Jonathan Moyo threw a cat among pigeons after he launched an unexpected yet thought-provoking review of President Robert Mugabe’s succession contenders.

Editor’s Memo: Dumisani Muleya

Dumisani Muleya
Dumisani Muleya

Moyo made a useful, though sometimes partisan and self-serving, analysis of what he termed the “national project” and the balance of political forces within the ruling Zanu PF and the opposition in the context of the current situation ahead of next year’s general elections.

His narrative was that the foundations of the national project, which he described as a summation of the founding values, principles and aspirations of the liberation struggle, are under threat not from the opposition, but from a Zanu PF faction led by Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, locked in bitter power struggle with the rival G40 camp led by First Lady Grace Mugabe that he belongs.

Moyo said the opposition is fractured and weak to pose a meaningful threat to Zanu PF in the next elections, and hence the only game in town is within Zanu PF. This assertion needs scrutiny at some point.

For today, the main issue is Moyo’s contention that Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi would be a better successor to Mugabe than Mnangagwa. It was a bold pronouncement which few, if any, in Zanu PF would dare make in public.

One of the most important points Moyo made was that those who want power must be assessed and scrutinised. It is critical for the country to have a purposeful and reflective debate about those who want power; what sort of personalities they are; their ideological dispositions; policy choices and programmes; and vision.

What we have so far is not helpful. Instead of assessing the leadership qualities and capabilities of contenders, most Zimbabweans involved have taken positions based on such backward instincts as personal interest, political association, economic gain, region and tribe, among others.

Corruption and bribery are also playing a major role in the succession matrix, confirming money and power, sometimes sex and fame also, usually dovetail.

Tribalism, the bane of African politics, including in Zimbabwe where a succession discourse is inevitably but primitively framed within an ethnic prism, is poisoning the environment and the debate.

Mugabe, ironically, spoke about it last week. Yet he is one of the architects of the politics of identity and tribe before and after Independence. This has to be addressed because it’s inexorably a dangerous path; one which can lead to calamitous ethnic divisions, animosity and collective failure.

Competition for control of the state and public resources has since 1980 been dominated by toxic issues of region and ethnicity at the expense of class interests.

In Africa, Zimbabwe included, the main criterion through which socio-political groups define and identify themselves is rooted in region, ethnicity or religion rather than in class. It is through ethnic or religious identity that competition for influence in the state and allocation of resources takes place. It is less about the “haves” and “have nots”, as might be the case in some industrialised societies.

This false consciousness, which prevents people from properly understanding the true nature of their social or economic conditions, is dominant in Zimbabwe even if in reality marginalisation in access to resources and policy influence are generally far more pronounced within ethnic communities than across them.

Deciding Mugabe’s successor is simply a matter of partisan affiliation and popularity for some, even though for others it is about leadership qualities. But the truth is that to be a successful nation, Zimbabwe needs a leader who has vision, is honest, accountable, has integrity and is competent. It shouldn’t really matter what his or her region or tribe is.

We need a pragmatic leader who can embrace different views, analyse problems and identify the best solutions, not based on loyalty to a political party, but rather on what is workable and is in the best interest of the nation.

Feedback: dmuleya@zimind.co.zw