AS Zimbabweans countdown to the Monday realignment elections, there is a palpable self-organising and self-propelling clamour for historic change — the spirit of 2018 — blowing in the air across Zimbabwe and among Zimbabweans in the diaspora.
By Jonathan Moyo
While this clamour has been building up within Zanu PF and, especially from the MDC formation since 2000, its current push was triggered by the military coup that ousted former president Robert Mugabe in November last year and looks set to climax into a new paradigm after the July 30 polls.
This 2018 zeitgeist — the defining spirit or mood of the time as shown by the prevailing ideas and beliefs — is expressing itself as “the Chamisa Moment” through what students of the great German sociologist, Max Weber, call “the self-interpretation of society”.
The change Zimbabweans are clamouring for is paradigmatic in ways last seen in the country when it changed from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe in 1980. Chamisa has said this time the country is changing from Zimbabwe to Great Zimbabwe, meaning from the First to the Second Republic. Transition between the two has been underway since 2000.
Society invariably interprets itself ahead of its interpretation by experts and it often does so through the spread of new practices of ordinary people or through the trailblazing works of charismatic leaders who define a new normal or a new moment. Such practices and works always come first before theories or laws. That is why there is a well-established principle that theory follows practice, and not the other way round.
To understand the emergence of the Chamisa Moment and its symbolic representations and ramifications, it is important to first examine the key pillars of the old system that are being vehemently opposed by the people.
When a country is pregnant with change as Zimbabwe was in 1980, and as it is now, it becomes seized by a meeting of minds among ordinary people whose shared mood is against the system or against the incumbency beyond its individual personalities or representatives.
The change from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe in 1980, which can arguably be characterised as “the Mugabe Moment”, was fundamental and paradigmatic in historical, ideological and political terms. At its core, the transition was a constitutional transformation to establish a new republic.
That transformation gave birth to the country’s First Republic on April 18, 1980, when Prince Charles symbolically marked the end of formal British colonial rule by pulling down the Union Jack and replacing it with the Zimbabwean flag that was hoisted under the Lancaster House Constitution.
The Rhodesian edifice was founded in 1890 on pillars of racism. The laws and practices of the Rhodesian state, as a system, were racist in content and colonial in character. Whether this was represented by Ian Smith or later Abel Muzorewa was irrelevant. When Zimbabweans decided at the polls in 1980 that Rhodesia must go, after a 15-year protracted armed liberation struggle, it had to go as a system, hence Muzorewa did not have an electoral chance as a black person fronting racist Rhodesia whose time to go had come.
It did not matter that Muzorewa had the powerful Rhodesian military on his side. Similarly, it will not matter that President Emmerson Mnangagwa has the army on his side. As Victor Hugo said: “No army can stop an idea whose time has come.”
While it is debatable in a constitutional democracy, as recently claimed by the embattled Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba, that only an earthquake can stop the July 30 elections; a compelling truth that is beyond debate is actually Hugo’s maxim. This saying is ringing true across the country as the 2018 election campaigns enter their last mile down the stretch with two days to go before voting day on Monday.
The time has come for the 38-year-old First Republic to go. Nothing can save it, not even the army or a coup.
This is important to explain.
Over the last seven months, makers and beneficiaries of the November military coup have been pushing the line that it would be foolish for anyone to think that the army grabbed power from Mugabe only to surrender it within seven months through elections. The subliminal, if not overt message, is that the army has weaponised the military coup into a political strategy to ensure Zanu PF wins the elections by hook or crook.
There are two aspects of the coup whose implications on the elections have gone unexamined.
First, while the November 2017 events were a pivotal trigger in the removal of Mugabe, the success of the action required the mass action of November 18, without which the military action would have ended in grief with its makers facing treason charges. There is no doubt about this. Mugabe was ousted largely because of the subsequent mass action and its consequences. The army fired the first shots and ran to hide behind the crowds, largely people who want real change not thinly-disguised military rule.
So the movers and shakers of the November 2017 mass action were not the army, Zanu PF or war veterans but pro-democracy MDC activists and affiliates who have been in the trenches since 1999 agitating, under the “Mugabe must go” mantra, for the democratisation of Zimbabwe and adoption of a new people-driven constitution to reform and root out the First Republic established under the Lancaster House constitution whose hallmark was an omnipotent executive presidency.
Aware that they did not have the people with them, the makers of the military coup enlisted the support of pro-democracy activists by opportunistically exploiting their “Mugabe must go” mantra, while offering them fake promises of an inclusive post-coup Government of National Unity and new dispensation.
While pro-democracy activists wanted to see Mugabe go, in line with their “Mugabe must go” mantra, the presumption of the November coup-plotters that the objective of the democracy movement was only to see Mugabe go was misleading. The “Mugabe must go” mantra was a strategy; never an objective in itself. One does not need to be a rocket scientist to realise that the real objective of the democracy movement has always been to see the First Republic go as a system built over 38 years by Mugabe and ruthlessly enforced by Mnangagwa, his deputy Constantino Chiwenga, Perence Shiri and other inner-circle cabalists.
The First Republic, whose time to go has come, was founded on the pillars of:
The entitlement pillar has expressed the mentality that Zimbabwe’s politics must be driven by a select clique, a cabal whose composition is largely tribal, and which traces its origins to Mgagao in Tanzania, ostensibly because the group led the armed liberation struggle, never mind that many other senior struggle commanders actually did.
To assert its presumed entitlement to monopolise state power, the clique that has over the last 38 years claimed power as the country’s “stockholders” has not relied on the constitution as the fundamental law of the land; rather it has used violence to entrench and enforce its claims.
This has led to illegitimacy of the system built and run by the “stockholder cabal” for 38 years, and the illegitimacy has in turn led to the scourge of impunity as the cabal of stockholders thinks it owns Zimbabwe and is thus accountable only to itself. The constitution is what the cabal wants it to be or want it to mean.
In this connection, it is unfortunate but not surprising that the judiciary has condoned naked illegalities either out of unjustified fear of the military or for self-preservation and trappings of office. There are precedents to this around the world.
However, just like the sun will rise tomorrow the disgraceful orders by Judge President George Chiweshe, Justice Charles Hungwe and Chief Justice Luke Malaba, whose respective import is that the military coup was constitutional and legal, and that Mugabe resigned freely and voluntarily, will be set aside in future by proper, independent and competent courts that understand and respect that, according to the new 2013 constitution, judiciary authority is derived from the people and not from ruling authorities. This happened elsewhere.
Otherwise when you want an evil system based on an undemocratic constitution and entrenched diabolic practices to go, you first must shine the spotlight on its constitution and its leader, and then remove both through either negotiations or other means necessary.
It is in this connection that the three key milestones in the establishment of the First Republic were the replacement of Smith as the Rhodesian Prime Minister, Lancaster House talks for a new constitution and the historic 1980 elections which the masses used to pronounce themselves in no uncertain terms to reflect the widely shared aspirations of the liberation struggle, although the revolution was later derailed.
There are parallels and lessons to draw from the spirit of 1980, and the Mugabe Moment, regarding the transition from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe to illuminate the spirit of 2018, the Chamisa Moment, in connection with the transition from Zimbabwe to Great Zimbabwe.
Two of the three key milestones for a systematic transition from one republic to another have taken place: first, Zimbabwe adopted a new constitution in 2013 to replace the Lancaster House one which was the bedrock of the First Republic; second, Mugabe, who was the symbol, face and mouthpiece of the First Republic was removed in a coup last November.
What now remains, therefore for the transition to be completed, is for the system to go via a popular electoral verdict of the people on Monday.
The view that the army cannot grab power only to give it up in seven months is superficial and unsustainable in view of the broad irresistible transition underway. It is clear from empirical evidence, including the spirit of 1980, that nothing can rescue a system whose time to go has come.
Just like the Rhodesian army could not save Muzorewa from electoral defeat, similarly the Zimbabwe Defence Forces will not save Mnangagwa on July 30. This is because it is not only the Lancaster constitution and Mugabe who had to go, one way or the other, but the 38-year-old system as well. The people who supported Mugabe’s removal last November are without question voting for Mnangagwa and Zanu PF to go on July 30 unless something dramatic happens. There are no two ways about this.
It is crude disinformation that Sadc, AU and the international community supported the coup and still want Mnangagwa and his army-run Zanu PF to win the elections. This cannot stand scrutiny. Sadc, AU and the international community are wary of having Zimbabwe set a dangerous precedence that it is okay for the army to grab power and for generals to become politicians to settle succession contests within ruling parties.
Army generals in Sadc and AU must be embarrassed by Zimbabwe’s military coup and cannot rationally want to be associated with it if they believe in living in reasonably civilised and democratic societies. Everyone is looking forward to the July 30 poll to cure the coup. An uncured coup will beget another coup. The only way for Zimbabwe to cure the coup is for Mnangagwa and his army-run party to go as did Muzorewa, his UANC and Rhodesian backers went in 1980.
Related to this, to stay in power Zanu PF would have to be the first liberation movement in Sadc to survive elections after overthrowing its founding Independence leader in a military coup. Disgruntled Mugabe supporters in Zanu PF are too many across all provinces to guarantee Mnangagwa’s defeat on July 30 despite manipulation plots. Add to this the fact that Zanu PF has never in its 38 years in power been as divided as it is in 2018 with thousands of its former politicians, civil servants and security operatives now outside the party and pissing in.
Given the foregoing, Chamisa has emerged as the charismatic proponent of and rallying point for the 20-year-old democracy movement; and the point of convergence of forces from across the political divide whose mantra — the Chamisa Moment — is that “the system must go” through the realignment elections on Monday. It is significant that Chamisa has emerged as the voice of the spirit of 2018 by breaking traditional political barriers and connecting with the voting masses without the usual resources from or mediation of power brokers.
Just like the manifesto of the liberation movement in the 1980 poll was that the Rhodesian system must go, the 2018 manifesto of the democracy movement is simply that the “stockholder” system must also go on July 30. It is not about this or that policy, but that the time has come for the unreconstructed army-run Zanu PF system and is frontman Mnangagwa to go. The direction of the future is to be found in the new people-driven constitution and Mugabe’s removal as the foundation of the Second Republic. Zimbabwe stands on the cusp of the Second Republic, and the masses have the power to deliver real change.
Professor Moyo is a former Higher Education minster, an MP and a political scientist.