Didymus Mutasa; ZANU PF too is capable of change

I have followed keenly on the recent euphoria for glasnost that seems to have gripped some of the leadership in ZANU PF. My particular regard is their open acceptance of the problem of violence and their commendable efforts to distance themselves from it.

From President Mugabe, Deputy Presidents Mujuru and Nkomo and the party’s Chairman Simon Khaya Moyo, one thing has been coming out, that at the top the right words about non-violent politics seems to continue coming out. I have listened to all this with interest. I also heard the President’s Independence speech and I must say I was impressed by what I heard. I have been cautious though, as we have heard these speeches before from the leadership of ZANU PF but that has never transformed into something tangible for the nation. I must say there has been nothing to encourage me that this is nothing more than rhetoric. Leaders of political parties need to commit themselves to non-violence and words are bare if they are not shored up by real commitment. 

Enter Didymus Mutasa. 

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It is his speech more than anyone’s that should encourage us to believe that there is something. While addressing ZANU PF’s Harare Province Mutasa went further than any of the leaders had done, he identified the problem, Chipangano by name and in implied admission that it is the creation of ZANU PF, he asked the Chairman of ZANU PF’s Harare Province Amos Midzi, why the group is still there. It is interesting that he too believes that Chipangano must be disentangled at the political level and not at a law and order level reinforcing the already held fear that all along ZRP’s efforts were being frustrated by politicians where it came to the issue of political violence.

This is what leadership is all about. I have previously expressed disappointment with ZANU PF that they have failed to live up to the legacy of their liberation credentials. The images of log-wielding barbarians calling themselves war veterans and chasing up opponents of ZANU PF still linger in the minds of many. A liberation party must have a liberation charisma, an identity that separates it from others and I must say those images are a clear depiction of the opposite. They are a depiction of a thoroughly-bred mafia forcing their will on a subjugated citizenry.

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Brand name ZANU PF was never helped by those beatings it was damaged and the militia and war-lord mentality that brought about the likes of Chipangano is simply kindergarten politics. It reminds me of the days when I was growing up, the “gangs” that thrived our neighbourhoods; ZERO Boys, Ninjas, Crew 17 etc. They had one common thing they were formed and manned by young men and women who were out for a thriller and all because of immaturity. Once they became mature they left and founded families, jobs and settled down. How a political party that has so much history behind it manages to align itself with adults who have ZERO boys mentality and who refuse to grow up escapes me. 

Understanding one’s legacy

I was born into a very big family and my grandmother was among the junior-most wife of a royal. This therefore meant that I was in this rare situation of having cousins that were much older than my father. In my country we simply call our cousins brothers and sisters if they are related to you through a same-sex sibling of either parent. But in the event that they are related to you an opposite-sex sibling of one’s mother and they happened to be female then they are your aunts. This is the dilemma that my cousin’s daughter, Ossie found herself in. She was 8 but she got the shock of her life when I called her auntie. Being the talkative character she is she refused and said “No, I am not your aunt. You are my uncle!” That meant she was refusing all the entitlements of mother that she rightfully must get and instead she was reversing that and giving me all the credentials and entitlements that come with being her father’s brother. 

Sadly ZANU PF finds itself in the same dilemma. At what point does ZANU PF lose in Zimbabwe? Do they lose if there is rule of law? Do they lose if they are defeated in elections and a new party starts to govern? Do they lose if there is justice? Their fear clearly shows the wrong mindset that they think they will lose if either happens. They are clearly wrong as such fears are premised on sheer ignorance of what ZANU and ZAPU represent.

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The mere fact that people are voting, that there are opposition parties in Zimbabwe, and that we have a country called Zimbabwe, our own country, where we can aspire to be councillors, MPs, ministers and Presidents is down to ZANU and ZAPU and their selflessness during the liberation struggle. That can never be taken away from them. When George Bush was hit by a shoe while addressing a forum in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq he said: “They are enjoying their democracy”. Whether he meant that from the bottom of his heart or not is not a matter for this discussion but what interested me is that he thought his efforts had brought democracy and even the punishment he was getting from Iraqis were the fruits of his labour as Saddam had never allowed them that.

Ian Smith banned our political parties and it only took the barrel of the gun for him to even fathom discussing with blacks. His stance was supported by psychology, white scientific knowledge that he used as the basis for his argument that the black majority was not ready and was not capable of voting let alone form political parties and he thought a whole millennium was necessary to see that evolution coming. ZANU and ZAPU fought to change that perception and with it brought democracy to the country. 

Democracy and not entrenchment

One of the fundamental goals of the liberation struggle was achieved through the advent of democracy and the rule of law. Like every other political player ZANU and ZAPU put themselves before public scrutiny in 1980, and I must say rightly so. Of course both are political parties and want to survive and to do so they have to win in elections. But like everyone else they have to be prepared for the verdict of elections. They have to train their mindset towards that and always understand that they never fought to remain in power in perpetuity but to bring democracy to the country.

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They should not treat the verdict of democracy as scorn because their struggle was never for entrenchment but for democracy, for liberation from the apartheid and racist oppression that Ian Smith had imposed on our motherland. Yes everyone should be passionate about their political organisation if they want to but to go beyond passion and demonstrate that you want to introduce repressive laws, repressive measures and all forms of oppression just to remain in power in perpetuity is a clear betrayal of the same principles that led them to war. Liberation movements must marvel in that they were able to bring the dignity of a vote to their people without which all these political parties could never have been there. Whether that vote is then used to remove them from office must not be viewed begrudgingly as all it represents is a setback. If they are defeated they will fight the election another day. 

Going to the extent of training, arming and sustaining gangs that fight the same democracy and tolerance that they fought for is retrogressive. Strong countries are not built by creating a constant state of tension among the citizenry. Contrary to what others have said it is the polarisation and not the dollarization in Zimbabwe that has ensured we do not move forward. Words that intend to stop that are very commendable but it is the extra mile that Didymus Mutasa has travelled, the naming and shaming of Chipangano and his acceptance that it is ZANU PF’s problem that is really encouraging since it is commitment and not mere talk. 

The responsibility to protect their legacy encompasses the responsibility to protect democracy. Picking up a fight against the freedom to choose is ZANU PF fighting itself as theirs was never a struggle for entrenchment. Chipangano may disband but that’s not the end. They have to re-orient their supporters some of whom I must say are never in ZANU PF as supporters but for something else. They love the institution not because of its relevance as a player for the whole country but its relevance to their own survival as individuals. In the same light MDC too must face it and start addressing the issue of violence among its members.

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Pretending that violence only comes from ZANU PF will never help matters. Leaders must embrace tolerance and address this issue that has bedevilled our politics for long. MDC has in the past also attacked ZANU PF supporters, assaulted people who were wearing opposition t-shirts and tore those t-shirts, taken down opposition posters and also attacked each other on the basis of internal dynamics. That “green on blue” violence was deliberate, and we have people like Trudy Stevenson who bear the scars of such violence. Acceptance will save us, we have to agree that violence has become a feature in our politics, across the divide and stop it now. It is necessary because it is the only way towards our salvation and the salvation of future generations. As for me I don’t want real democracy to come in the future, I want it now because we are all capable.

Be Judge!

Julius Sai Mutyambizi-Dewa
mutyambizidewa@yahoo.co.uk or 00447401182271