Zanu-PF: The proverbial suitor?

On April 19, 2018, a few hours after Independence Day holiday, NewsDay carried an opinion piece by its deputy editor, Nqaba Matshazi, questioning the genuineness of Zanu-PF’s recent fascination with the Rwandese and Chinese economic models. He could have added the Russian model as well to make his argument even more convincing.

By Tapiwa Nyandoro

Matshazi had a sneaky feeling that rather than the economic models at worst, or apart from them at best, it was the politics of these two countries, or three if you include Russia, that most fascinates and excites the Zanu PF leadership.

Neo-authoritarianism, as evident in liberal eyes in these two or three countries is the foundation of the ideology much beloved in Zanu-PF think tanks, if ever there are some, one would conclude after reading the aforesaid opinion piece. To Rwandese, Russian or Chinese leadership, the ideology may be read as enforced or disciplined meritocracy.

Evidence suggests the Chinese model has worked spectacularly well in delivering sustainable socio-economic development over four decades. The jury is still out on the Russian and Rwandese models, the two being much short lived and, therefore, not adequately stress tested and validated.

“Rinonyenga rinohwarara, rinosumudza musoro rawana”, is a Shona proverb that succinctly captures Zanu-PF’s approach to the 2018 elections, according to the deputy editor’s analysis or fears.

The proverb means the love struck, or rather lecherous suitor, after a virgin’s hand in marriage, is humble, until after the marriage has been consummated, where upon the rascal’s arrogance, comes to the fore.

It is a crude piece of ancient wisdom that some unfortunate brides unaware of it before being swept of their feet, have lived to rue. Bitter experience would be their lesson well after the stable doors have been opened and the horse had bolted.

It is a lesson that Matshazi and many other neutral observers fear will be taught to Zimbabweans soon after the 2018 elections, should they make the mistake of voting Zimbabwe’s ruling party back into office.

How true that sentiment, perception or fear is, is the moot point. Ominously a columnist, in a State-controlled weekly, a few weeks after the coup that ushered the new regime under former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa into power, waxed lyrically about the merits of neo-authoritarianism, about to be unleashed by the new regime on the unsuspecting masses in defiance, in particular, of some aspects of good governance such as the rule of law, accountability and respect for the voice of the people, besides sparing them State sponsored violence.

Chillingly, the same message, more or less, was carried in the editorial comment of that same edition the same day.

But, the newly installed President seemed not to go along with these aspirations, preferring to present himself as a born again liberal democrat in love with the rule of law and the upholding of human, political and socio-economic rights as enshrined in the country’s constitution. That used to be an abomination in the last decade of the previous Zanu PF regime under Robert Mugabe.

Bishops were exposed on national television in compromising positions to kill off their criticism of the regime’s wayward ways. Mandela was not spared either, being taunted as having been too soft on Whites, even when he could no longer defend himself.

A widowed Vice President was accused of plotting an assassination and delving in witchcraft, even though none of the accusations was ever proved. The regime had clearly gone mad.

To the contrary, Mnangagwa has launched a major charm offensive to woo Western powers to his side and that of his country based on denouncing previous use of State and party sponsored hate speech, lies, violence and intimidation in day-to-day politics and in elections.

He has committed himself to political, economic and governance reforms that are the hallmark of good governance in democracies and the capitalist world.

This has been well received by the political opposition in the country, which, however, has been caught unaware by the turn of events, so much so that it has lost its composure, accusing the ruling party of stealing its ideas, instead of celebrating the fact as any loyal opposition would do.

It has also been welcomed by the West. And to the surprise of those who consider themselves the leftists or ideologues in Zanu-PF, by China as well.

The DPRK, Cuba and Syria may have a word of advice on how superpowers may co-operate behind the scenes when one’s mischief, based on trying to profit from a polarised world, or by furthering the cold war, threatens their relationships.

It is a lesson ED has learnt the hard way. During the war of liberation, ask as they may have done, the Zanla forces never got SAM 7 missiles that would have confined the Rhodesian air force to its bases. Have you ever wondered why the lethal shoulder fired anti-aircraft missile was never availed to Zanla?

But that could side-track us; back to our debate. On one occasion, to confirm his born again status, the new President said he was prepared to press on with necessary reforms even if it costs him an election.

Such a stance, if genuine, takes him into the rarefied world of statesmen.

According to Finance & Development [March 2018], “Politicians who deftly buy support from various groups are rewarded [by the groups on voting day], not those who enact reforms in the wider public interest”.

Mnangagwa’s predecessor had become the master of “deftly buying support of various groups”, abusing State resources and public office by dishing out like confetti hard cash, land, vehicles, commissions, jobs, directorships mining claims, concessions, subsidies, sovereign guarantees, farm machinery and agriculture inputs, in return for staying in power, to the detriment of the nation’s economic well being.

The new incumbent’s rhetoric, however, as the West has noted, has not always been followed by much action.

Resistance to his new vision in his beloved party may be the reason. Alarm bells rang loudly in many a crooked heart that has become the core of Zanu PF, when he committed himself to honouring property rights.

Spirited attempts to isolate the US’s position on electoral reforms from those of the EU and the UK, were, however, thwarted by the President who remained calm and collected, no doubt aware that the greatest danger to the republic and his welfare could only arise from his party that has virtually captured all government institutions, but not necessarily the hearts and free minds of most conscious Zimbabweans.

The President went a little bit further, inviting 46 countries, the US included, to monitor and observe the 2018 general elections.

Desperate critics found it hard to restrain their admiration. A miracle had unfolded in front of their disbelieving eyes. A leopard had changed its spots.

Time magazine duly acknowledged the fact, recognising the President as being among the world’s top 100 most influential personalities. It is an incredible achievement for a leader of such a poor country as Zimbabwe.

Auspiciously for the country and its new president, a change of guard in Republic of South Africa had followed orthodoxy lines, bringing to the helm a new President in Cyril Ramaphosa, who is also a liberal democrat much liked by the West and most probably a rapidly evolving China as well.

The doctrine of none interference in internal affairs of other countries, that is much liked by authoritarian regimes, is most likely to be shown the door in Southern Africa going forward.

Robert Mugabe was a disciple of this wicked doctrine. Now his admirers, still in the party, have better watch out. That should give the new president courage to enact the needed reforms.

But change has its costs. Those among his party’s faithful, who tell him that, “Send not to ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for Zanu PF”, may have a point.

Tapiwa Nyandoro writes in his own capacity.