Zimbabweans will vote on 30 July 2018. Although 23 candidates have registered to contest, by most accounts the two chief protagonists in this election are Emmerson Mnangagwa and Nelson Chamisa.
Last week, we explained why Chamisa and the MDC Alliance would be the smart choice. Simply put, Zimbabwe needs a fresh start. There are reasons why we believe it’s time to retire Mnangagwa and ZANU PF. As a collective, they have been in charge for 38 years, albeit under a different leader, Robert Mugabe, whom they ousted in a coup last November.
They have had 8 months to persuade voters that they are different, but the probation period has been a failure. Here, we give reasons why it’s time up for them. It will be good for ZANU PF as a party and Zimbabwe as a country to give others a chance. Out in the terraces, ZANU PF might either learn to truly reinvent as a progressive party or perish like some liberation parties on the continent.
Having taken the baton last February, with very few outside the MDC giving him a chance, Chamisa has energised the democratic movement and given hope to a largely young population that is yearning for change. Although there has been a big facade to suggest change, appearances have done little to cover the realities.
The System hasn’t changed
Although long-serving leader, Robert Mugabe was ousted from power last November, the system that he created remains in place and unchanged. Mugabe is gone but Mugabeism persists. There’s still a conflation between party and State - the State and ZANU PF have been made into one thing. ZANU PF is like a creeper - that plant which grows upon another and if left without control, will eventually engulf and suffocate its host. That’s what ZANU PF has done to the State. This is at the root of the poor governance culture that impedes development. To change the system, ZANU PF has to be removed from the State, just like a farmer must remove the creeper weed for the crop to survive.
It's always the economy.
ZANU PF has committed so many crimes and errors during its 38 year rule but by far the most visible is the economic collapse. The party inherited a functional although inequitable economy. Now, it is both inequitable and dysfunctional. The state-owned industries it inherited have virtually collapsed.
Incredibly, ZANU PF will blame everybody except itself. The biggest weaknesses are a lack of competence, lack of discipline and corruption. ZANU PF has many failure but it is incredibly inept when it comes to economic management. It lacks discipline and prudence, spending far more than it can afford. It resorts to printing money, which lands everyone in serious trouble.
The egregious corruption has seen ZANU PF leaders being among the wealthiest citizens even at a time when the entire country has gotten poorer. ED has been in charge for 8 months but he has failed to stem the economic hemorrhage. He has failed to solve basic challenges like the cash shortages which have seen millions spending nights in bank queues and a black market in foreign currency festering again, 10 years after the record hyperinflation of 2008. Zimbabwe lost its currency under ZANU PF and pretend-currency blunder ZANU PF has only made things worse. Not even the obvious advice of citizens to avoid the bond notes strategy was heeded. The ruling party does not listen to economic pridence. Now. it's elites are benefiting from the currency challenges.
Simply put, ZANU PF cannot be trusted to manage a successful economy. They have neither the skills nor the wisdom to manage the economy. Another 5 years under their inept rule will drive the country into deeper problems. Whatever money will come into the country will simply sink into an economic Black Hole. Those who think ZANU PF can somehow stem the tide are deluded.
Lack of remorse
ZANU PF prides itself as the party of liberation but to many survivors and victims of its repression, it is also the party of oppression. Gukurahundi, Operation Murambatsvina and the 2008 election violence are some of the most notable brutalities that have defined its rule. They now blame Mugabe, but Mnangagwa was his loyal right-hand man and enforcer. Many in the current administration aided and abetted these atrocities. Obert Mpofu, one of Mnangagwa's senoir ministers was known to sign off corrence as Mugabe's "most obedient son".
Instead of being remorseful and atoning for these past wrongs, Mnangagwa's mantra is to "let bygones be bygones". In an interview with The Economist a few months ago, he blatantly denied that there had been any violence in the 2008 elections, claiming incredulously that the elections which were widely condemned had been free and fair. This is despite recorded evidence. The pain and suffering endured by victims of ZANU PF will not be recognised and accounted for under a ZANU PF Government. A simple "sorry" is too hard a word for them. But the victims and survivors are the same people they wish to lead.
ED and his administration have had 8 months to demonstrate that they are capable and willing to change Zimbabwe’s fortunes. While there has been an attempt to permit political freedoms and open up the country to the world, this show has been designed to buy approval by the sceptical Western community. They have not paid much attention to domestic problems. Hence the economy has continued to struggle, with basic problems like cash shortages persisting. Investors are holding back because of uncertainties. Repressive laws have been kept on the statute books. Politically influential people are still grabbing farms and awarding themselves lucrative state contracts.
They have resorted to the old Mugabeist methods: awarding wage increments to civil servants on the eve of an election to buy support without care for the economic consequences, bribing traditional leaders with cars instead of attending to social needs of the communities. There were so many low-hanging fruits which ED and his administration could have picked easily but they simply couldn’t be bothered. They have been too pre-occupied with putting up a show for the international community instead of attending to domestic needs.
Promises and lies
ED and ZANU PF are treating Zimbabweans like kids by their grand promises which are inconsistent with reality. In the Mugabe era, ZANU PF was fond of announcing “mega-deals”, splashing huge figures on the front pages of the State media. They were false and never fulfilled. In the ED era, ZANU PF and State media have simply picked up from where they left, proving old habits die hard. They claim to have brought in 16 billion worth of FDI and 70000 jobs, all of which is not supported by facts. When people say "10 + 4 = 40" they are making fun of ED’s arithmetical error at a rally, it’s also a reflection of the problem of grand claims and promises which ZANU PF is fond of making when they can’t be supported by facts. Just like during the Mugabe era, they like to announce grand deals, to make big promises, with unreasonable figures. Just promises, no delivery.
Old wine in new bottles
One of ED’s greatest letdowns when he assumed power last November was when he announced a Cabinet which was full of deadwood from the Mugabe era. Many people had high hopes of a new era but seeing a Cabinet with people like Obert Mpofu, Josiah Hungwe and the usual characters from the Mugabe era sent the country into a tailspin. This was the old ZANU PF, same faces and same ideas and same style. They like to call it a New Dispensation, but really it has been more of the same. Making Zimbabwe endure 5 more years of this would be absolute torture.
Culture of Entitlement
ZANU PF leaders think the entire nation owes them because they are the party that led the liberation struggle. They forget that during the liberation war the guerrillas said they were the fish while the people were the water. They forget that the war could not have succeeded without the contributions of the people. They forget too that many sons and daughters perished during the war and never returned home. This superiority complex has resulted in a culture of entitlement which has led to exclusion and drained the economy. The leaders looted the War Victims Compensation Fund in the 1990s. Not a single one of them returned the loot.
Thereafter, they joined ordinary war veterans in receiving $50000 lump-sum payments from the government which had a knock-on effect on the economy. Up to now, ZANU PF leaders base their claims to leadership on the war, not on competence to lead and deliver for the people.
There is also a high level of contempt for public institutions. ZANU PF has been in power for so long that its political elites have become too arrogant and no longer feel accountable to anyone. When Obert Mpofu appeared before a parliamentary committee a few months ago, he treated it with such contempt that ordinary citizens were compelled to feel for the hapless committee. Ministers are supposed to respect and fear parliament, but not Mpofu and his ilk.
There is a whole new generation of young people which is demanding new, forward-looking leadership which respects institutions. ZANU PF doesn’t have that kind of leadership. They think they have an absolute and inalienable right to rule the country. It’s time for them to retire and enjoy the comforts they have amassed in 38 years of power.
“[We will] continue to identify the correct line of the revolution and follow it. And the correct line is “where we ought to go” because there is a difference between “where we want to go” as a nation and “where we ought to go”. A leader must not take the people where they want to go, but where they ought to go, whether the people or the leader want it or not, or whether it is hard or not” (Mnangagwa in an interview, The Herald 2015)
This encapsulates the commandism which is at the heart of ED’s approach to leadership. People have no liberty to do what they want but they must toe the line. It seems to go along with his much-vaunted Command Agriculture which is now being exported to areas of the economy. It is antithetical to the Open for Business mantra which speaks of freedom. It contradicts the mantra that “The voice of the people is the voice of God”. It a big ruse. Instead, his voice is law and people must be directed. It’s not a leadership philosophy that promotes freedom. Rather it promotes an authoritarian view of the world. After 38 years of one party which commands and represses, Zimbabwe desperately needs to escape the clutches of authoritarianism.
Zimbabwe’s problem for more than 50 years is that it has had strong leaders and weak institutions. Mnangagwa is a strong person whose reputation precedes him. He is feared more than he is respected because of the mythical status he earned as Mugabe’s enforcer. Although he protests that he is as soft as wool, he has struggled to escape the image of a hard-man. The problem is the overbearing influence on public institutions which are subordinated to strong leaders. Institutions like ZEC have failed to escape the large shadow of the presidential figure - it was Mugabe and now it’s Mnangagwa. The judiciary has also come under the spell of Mnangagwa.
The first thing Mnangagwa did with the new Constitution was to change the provisions for the appointment of the Chief Justice and other senior judges so as to give more appointment powers to the President. This tendency to centralise power in the presidency is not only commandist but also designed to give the president control of key institutions.
A show of this desire for centralised power is evident in their attitude to devolution. In his first budget under Mnangagwa, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa suggested removing devolution provisions from the Constitution. ZANU PF has never been comfortable with devolution. During the constitution-making process, they opposed it. It’s not surprising that ever since the new Constitution was adopted, they have snubbed the devolution chapter.
More recently, just 7 months after he was appointed, the Prosecutor General is already being removed from office. Instead of strengthening the PG and the National Prosecution Authority, Mnangagwa decided to create his own special unit of corruption prosecutors which he placed in his own office. Not only does it undermine the PG and NPA, it also compromises the fight against corruption because it places prosecutors under the most powerful office in the land. How do they prosecute the same office in which they operate?
Zimbabwe needs new leadership which respects and protects the independence of public institutions. ED and ZANU PF are not that kind of leadership.
ZANU PF is a corrupt party which is run by an egregiously corrupt and kleptocratic cabal. They have their hands in every pie. They are selfish. When Diamonds were discovered, it was a moment of expectation as the precious stones could have fundamentally transformed the lives of the citizens. Diamonds have been a boon for our neighbours in Botswana, helping the country to develop and improve the lives of its citizens. But a decade later, there is nothing to show for it in Zimbabwe.
However, political and military elites linked to ZANU PF have amassed a large amount of wealth from the diamonds. ED and ZANU PF politicians have the audacity to go back to the impoverished Marange community to beg for votes when they left them with literally nothing after they pillaged the precious stones in their land. There have been countless corruption scandals over the years and it has continued to fester because ZANU PF is lenient on and tolerant towards the corrupt.
The 38 years that ZANU PF has been in power are utterly undeserved. They should have given in two decades ago but they have survived by thwarting the opposition. They survive by cheating. They use brutal methods including torture and killing opponents. Every time there has been political violence ZANU PF has issued an amnesty to perpetrators, ensuring that they are protected from the hand of the law. This has allowed a culture of impunity to flourish.
Mugabe was not alone when he cheated Morgan Tsvangirai in 2008. Mnangagwa was his campaign manager. The military which removed him from power in 2017 was with him in 2008. The same system that has cheated before is still cheating. The ZEC is still as unfair and partisan as it was during Mugabe’s time. There would be no problem if ED and ZANU won free and fair elections. But despite pretences, they have undermined that process already. The only way to rescue Zimbabwe from the abyss is to get rid of ZANU PF and have a new Government.
Conflicts and factionalism
ED would be history were it not for the military which carried out a coup against Mugabe. ED had left without as much as a whimper. His faction had lost the political battle before it resorted to force. Despite the cover of the people’s march, it was the military that removed Mugabe and it is a military backed administration. With so much power and control,there are tensions which will mean 5 more years of factionalism. The last term was wasted on ZANU PF factional wars. With the current tensions festering just below the surface, if ZANU PF wins we could end up with 5 more years of factionalism and the waste that follows. It is already said the actions compete for power and attention. Investors have to choose the best line. The military group is too impatient to take over.
ZANU PF must taste life in opposition
ZANU PF might benefit from a stunt in opposition and certainly Zimbabwe will benefit from substituting ZANU PF with another party. 38 years has brought arrogance and false sense of entitlement. It has caused a conflation between party and State which has suffocated public service. ZANU PF has tried but failed to reinvent itself. The past 8 months have shown that it is not capable of overcoming its weaknesses. This election is a chance to teach ZANU PF a lesson and to help it find itself.
Since he took power in November last year, Mnangagwa has tried to put up a good show for the international community. His motivation is to demonstrate that he is not like his old boss Mugabe. He may have fooled some but the reality is that ZANU PF has not changed. A number of thugs with questionable track records rushed to stand for parliament under ZANU PF. They see it as a safe haven. One politicians whom Mnangagwa named among the list of corrupt “externalisers” went on to contest in ZANU PF primary elections and won the right to represent the party. It exposed the vacuous nature of claims that the Mnangagwa administration was serious about fighting corruption. Instead of empowering the law enforcement institutions designed to fight corruption, Mnangagwa decided to bring the prosecution unit under his control.
Mnangagwa talks a good game and you are almost tempted to believe it but repressive legislation under the Mugabe regime has remained on the statute books. Zimbabwe needs a disruptive approach to governance, where capture institutions are freed and attitudes change. It won’t happen under a ZANU PF administration. Like the creepy weed that engulfs the host plant and eventually suffocates it, retaining ZANU PF will ultimately kill the Zimbabwean dream. It’s time to change.