POLITICIANS in this country can be remarkably naive. Long before Covid-19 unleashed mayhem upon God’s green earth, there was lots of excited chatter in opposition circles over calculated moves by “the system” to look beyond Emmerson Mnangagwa and begin laying the groundwork for a transition to a successor within Zanu PF.
The political calculus — from the perspective of some ambitious opposition figures — was that this drift towards a change of guard in Zanu PF would somehow present them a glorious opportunity to leverage on the power play and ultimately stake a claim for a piece of statecraft pie.
The opposition would find accommodation at the high table and make political capital while the sun shines. What the naively ambitious opposition chaps did not countenance is that “the system” is an edifice built on manipulation, deception, unemotional coldness and a moral code motivated by the dictum “the end justifies the means”.
A few weeks down the line, look at the political carnage scattered across the desolate landscape. The one-party state project — dismantled at great cost by a courageous pro-democracy movement in the 1990s — is back with a bang. Evidently, not everyone learnt a lesson from the catastrophic euphoria of November 2017.
Political philosopher and semiotician William Mpofu describes the chaotic postcolony of Zimbabwe as a domain of the madness of power. The frenetic pace of the politics of betrayal in this country constantly reminds us that there are no saints in politics — only sinners.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s timeless words are a sobering reminder of what we are dealing with here: “The battle line between good and evil runs through the heart of every man.”
There is no shortage of political drama. Businessman and cleric Shingi Munyeza, a member of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Presidential Advisory Council, has set the cat among the pigeons by boldly preaching that Zimbabwe’s Pharaoh-like tyranny is about to crumble spectacularly under the weight of its own brutality, violence and corruption. I have known Munyeza as a fearlessly forthright man who tells it as it is — unlike some opportunists who never hesitate to sell their souls for a morsel of sadza. If you cannot stand on principle, you can fall for anything. But beyond the distraction of online clicks, we need to examine what has driven Munyeza to openly make these pronouncements.
If it is indeed a case of elite discohesion, what exactly are the underlying currents, objectives and dynamics at play?
Some amateurish spin doctors and political charlatans — many of them hiding cowardly behind ghost names — have accused journalists of maliciously labelling this government a dictatorship. But how else do you describe a regime that shoots unarmed civilians in broad daylight, in the heart of Harare, and stubbornly refuses to bring the murderers to justice?
During the ongoing Covid-19 lockdown, no less than 15 journalists have been harassed and detained by agents of the state. Their crime? Simply doing their constitutional job.
We must step out of our little silos and locate our bearings within the milieu of a post-Covid polity. One of my favourite contemporary thinkers is the Slovenian theorist Slovaj Žižek.
In record time, he has written and published a book on Covid-19, aptly titled Pandemic! Although I am not always in agreement with him, I find his postulations audacious and enchanting. The central thesis of his latest book is that Covid-19 is the logical by-product of toxic capitalism.
He then makes a controversial proposal: since capitalism has failed, we should now craft and embrace a 21st century version of communism.
It would be simplistic and misleading, of course, to conclude that Žižek is campaigning for outright communism. He is referring to the need for the provision of health and education for all — so that these services are treated as vital public goods rather than market commodities.
We can throw away his affinity for Marxian ruminations if that makes us sleep better at night, but we should by all means acknowledge the urgent necessity of re-imagining Zimbabwe’s governance. The post-Covid world will demand clean, competent and accountable leadership; our very survival will depend on it.