Anything wrong with regime change in Zim?

The purpose of this article is to analyse and discuss the concept of "regime change" and how it is perceived in Zimbabwean politics today.

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ZANU-PF leaders have, since the formation of  the MDC in 1999, been accusing the  party of being in league with Western countries in order to bring about regime change in Zimbabwe.

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The big question is: Is there anything wrong with regime change in Zimbabwe? There are two sides to the story of regime change. 

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Definitively, regime change is the replacement of one regime with another.  However, regime change depends on the form the transition takes.  In other words, how regime change occurs, whether it is a democratic or non-democratic transition.

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From the above, it can be established that the first side of the story of regime change is based on the transition from one political regime to another through the democratic process and the other side is through the non-democratic means.

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It is common knowledge that the concept of regime change has come to be popularly identified with invasions and overthrow of incumbent leaders such as what happened in Iraq and Libya. 

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This concept of regime change is what ZANU-PF leaders are erroneously using to describe a change in the government of the day.  
Regime change should not simply be perceived as a violent overthrow of an incumbent government but rather whether it can also come about through democratic elections.

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Against the above background, it is highly inconceivable that regime change in Zimbabwe can come about through non-democratic means such as foreign military intervention.  ZANU-PF leaders’ fear for a foreign-imposed regime cha-nge should be viewed as merely scare-mongering designed to postpone real democratic change in Zimbabwe.

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The majority of Zimbabweans  are yearning for an internal regime change, which should come about through free and fair elections that are driven by a homegrown new constitution.

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They are not interested in an externally imposed regime change, which is likely to create more problems as is evident in Iraq and Libya.

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In light of the above, it is therefore important to construct a new constitution that would set into motion an inclusive political process that would be driven locally, with mechanisms established to accommodate diverse interest groups and power brokers across the country. 

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The new constitution should also establish mechanisms designed to prevent an internal regime change that comes about through non-democratic means such as a coup d’etat by certain unruly elements within the Zimbabwe National Army who have recently been making noises about such illegitimate action. ZANU-PF elites and others like them must accept the idea of political change in order for democracy to succeed.  

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Therefore, threats to prevent an internal regime change brought about by democratic means should not be entertained.  What is important is to continue to develop the political system that serves the interests of the Zimbabwean people who are aspiring for change and reform.

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Why is ZANU-PF afraid of regime change in Zimbabwe?  The answers to this question can be located in ZANU-PF itself. For the past 30 years, the government failed to adequately prepare for local conditions and to incorporate local voices in political reconstruction activities.

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The ZANU-PF government failed to promote a democratic culture through the media, civil society and civic education.  Instead the party monopolised usage of State resources in order to remain in power indefinitely.

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Thus, the legacy of the previous regime has had a strong negative impact on the Zimbabwe society and political system. Citizens who suffered years of human rights abuse are, through the Government of National Unity, being offered space for public participation in general elections. ZANU-PF is afraid of mass public participation in the electoral process which is likely to bring about regime change.  Public contestation is the only method by which ZANU-PF is likely to be swept away from power. 

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Any regime change must emerge from political struggle over major issues which the previous regime failed to address.
Instead of promoting transparency in every sphere of economic activity, including mining activities in Marange and Chiadzwa and establishing a detailed plan to reform the media and improving the infrastructure across the board, ZANU-PF embarked on a mission of promoting both individual and collective personal interests at the expense of the nation. Now that the winds of regime change are blowing across Zimbabwe, ZANU-PF leaders are in a state of panic and uncertainty.  

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The Ministry of Information and Media and its satellite stations can only take rearguard action through waging a psychological warfare.  President Robert Mugabe is treated with sultanastic tendencies and military jingles are continuously being played on television and radio. 

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The population is continuously reminded of the war of liberation and the “liberation credentials” of ZANU-PF leaders.

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Nobody disputes that ZANU-PF played a central and instrumental role in liberating Zimbabwe.  What is in dispute is the way the “liberation credentials” are now being used in an effort to perpetuate ZANU-PF rule.  The partisan use of the public media, both electronic and print, by ZANU-PF, demonstrates the party’s psychological and political vulnerability.

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Another manifestation of the aforementioned psychological vulnerability is the “father knows best” mentality that continues to permeate through all the layers of the public media functionaries.  For example, it has become too predictable that news headlines begin with a paternalistic tone associated with either President Mugabe or any of his Vice-Presidents.  Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is never headline except when it is negative news.

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ZANU-PF leaders are fundamentally motivated by the desire to cling to power.  They are infected by the “winner-take all” mentality.  While this philosophy might work in politics, however, in the real world, political change will come sooner or later, to those who pursue inclusive policies designed to bring about true democracy.

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Thus, when all is said and done, the answer is very simple: there is nothing wrong with regime change in Zimbabwe as long as it is prosecuted through the ballot box.  

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One thing however, is for sure, we cannot ignore Zimbabwe’s hunger for change. The country has come a long way but still has far to go.

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-Austin Chakaodza is a political analyst of African Affairs and Professor at Regents College, London, UK. This article was first published in the Financial Gazett    

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