HomeOpinionOf statecraft, diplomacy and Hichilema

Of statecraft, diplomacy and Hichilema

By Nevanji Madanhire

For the next five years Zambia’s president-elect Hakainde Hichilema will be fighting off the opposition — that’s the nature of politics.

He will need allies at home and in the region.

The first thing that will happen to him is that soon after his inauguration he will be browbeaten by his regional neighbours into what is called consensus thinking or even worse, groupthink.

Consensus thinking means all decisions are made in a way that all participants must agree on the way forward. It doesn’t allow any member to deviate from the unwritten norm. It’s all about self-preservation and Hichilema will need loads of that.

Consensus thinking’s blood cousin is groupthink. In this case group consensus overrides any common sense desire to think differently and present alternatives and any desire to criticise a position or to express an unpopular opinion.

Hichilema will join the Southern African Development Community heads of state and government and even be made to lead it, in one capacity or another, before his first term runs out. He will have to have coffee (or a beer) with the grandees of the region who have been at it before he was even born. So, the illusion that because the opposition won in Zambia therefore the opposition will be winning in other countries in the region is just that, an illusion.

But there are many lessons the opposition in Zimbabwe can learn from the Zambian scenario. There is nothing better than an organised opposition. Edgar Lungu lost not only because of his love for his tipple (although it probably played a huge part), but also because of his love for foreigners, particularly the Chinese.

In Zimbabwe the opposition is not organised, and that’s not rocket science. It also has an uncanny love for foreigners. Again, that’s not rocket science, remember where its leadership flew to when it lost elections in 2018 and what they asked for!

Zanu PF also loves foreigners, particularly the Chinese, but a huge chunk of Zimbabweans may forgive them for that. They had no choice in the face of the snub they got and continue to get from the West.

Events in the past few days have shown that people generally loathe foreigners especially when they come in and begin to dictate stuff. The Taliban in Afghanistan would not have succeeded so easily if they didn’t have the buy-in of indigenous peoples.

The buy-in of indigenous peoples doesn’t come from pronouncements of abstract concepts such as democracy and good governance. It comes from concrete actions that give them land and food. In Zimbabwe, indigenous peoples understand pfumvudza more than they will ever understand the amorphous concept of change.

Hichilema went on the ground and spoke to the people and convinced them about the necessity of beating Lungu using concrete terms. In Zimbabwe the opposition is mute on why change is desirable and not just for its own sake.

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