Reforming Zanu-PF

Reason Wafawarova on Thursday

“There are many white Zimbabweans who are convinced that Tony Blair’s foreign policy ruined their lives in Zimbabwe, inasmuch as there are many among them who simplistically conclude that their fate is all Mugabe’s fault.”

ZANU-PF Politburo member and Minister of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services Professor Jonathan Moyo says the “best way to reform ZANU-PF is from within,” correcting a long-held misimpression that he once said “the best way of destroying ZANU-PF is from within.”

There is an unhealthy separation of people in the party’s leadership positions from the generality of the membership, and not only does this separation breed hatred, suspicion and distrust, it also destroys the monolithic structure the party has enjoyed since its liberation war days.

The jeopardous attitude that says leadership in ZANU-PF comes with material benefits and preferential treatment is not helpful to the underlying principles of the party; not least its people-empowerment policy.

As a liberation movement, ZANU-PF has always taken seriously the potential dangers of the external enemy, and that is why traditionally the party has always preferred a centralised power structure, and even a secretive modus operandi. But the party realises that it cannot do away with the identity of a modern party, or a post-war democratic institution. As a modern party relevant to today’s grassroots, the party has to be seen to be transparent, and also to derive its influence from its membership.

There are three major commitments ZANU-PF made in 1980, and we may have to revisit these if we are to understand the behaviour of ZANU-PF politicians, particularly that of its top leadership. The party committed to conflict resolution at Lancaster House in 1979, and that led to the ceasefire agreement that brought the freedom fighters out of the bush into designated assembly points.

In the aftermath of its election victory in April 1980, the party committed to reconciliation with its wartime foes, peaceful co-existence with the former oppressors of the Zimbabwean majority, and adopting the let bygones be bygones principle.

Thirdly, the party committed to future co-operation with the international community, ranging from its Eastern bloc allies to its former foes in the imperial West, as well as with fellow members of the developing world, then commonly referred to as the “Third World.”

In 2000, we saw policy clashes with Britain reigniting the master-servant conflict of the pre-Independence era, as Britain took exception to our collective resolve to redistribute land among the landless masses, of course at the expense of white farmers of European and mainly British stock.

While we endured a military conflict in the 15 years preceding our independence in 1980, the post-2000 decade was characterised by a telling diplomatic conflict between our country and the collective cabal of the Western community, including their outposts like Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

There is no second-guessing the cost of this conflict to the Zimbabwean populace, especially in regards to the ruinous effects of the illegal economic sanctions arbitrarily imposed by the West on Zimbabwe.

Apart from watching and lamenting the monstrous immorality of the sanctions ruin, the ZANU-PF leadership did very little in mitigating the ruin, and that is precisely why the economy went right into the abyss in 2008, almost knocking the liberation party out of government, with the now evidently clueless MDC almost picking the pieces.

The reconciliation commitment of ZANU-PF was trivialised by the Tony Blair government, and sadly the United States, Australia and other Western countries underestimated the gravity of Blair’s recklessness: instead of admonishing him they cheered him on, and even joined him.

There are many white Zimbabweans who are convinced that Tony Blair’s foreign policy ruined their lives in Zimbabwe, inasmuch as there are many among them who simplistically conclude that their fate is all Mugabe’s fault.

The cost of the diplomatic conflict between Zimbabwe and the West on the part of Zimbabweans cannot be described as inconsequential. The country lost most of the developmental cooperation it had secured over the years, especially with its traditional trading partners in the West.

This period had a significant impact on ZANU-PF’s modus operandi, as well as on its credo and ideological standing. The internal democracy of ZANU-PF almost reverted to wartime status, and only the ideologically significant became relevant for the leadership of the party, side-lining technocrats and other experts in the process.

Revolutionary songs and slogans were reinstated as a major mobilising tool for the party, the youth were revolutionarised and radicalised against the emerging external enemy, and the party had to distinguish between its internal democracy and party democracy required while in government.

We saw war veterans crawling back into active politics, the military pronouncing high alert vigilance against the threat posed by Western meddling, and of course patriotism and the defence of the motherland overrode politicking on developmental policy or human rights rhetoric.

Until the objective of the liberation struggle is fully achieved, if indeed that will ever happen in our lifetime, ZANU-PF will continue to see itself as a liberation movement, just like the ANC in South Africa, swapo in Namibia, and MPLA in Angola.

In 2010 the ANC, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, and Al-Fatah of Palestine met in Sweden to discuss the transition of liberation of movements into modernised democratic parties.

All the three parties were in governance at the time, but they still saw themselves as liberation movements, and that was mainly because of the challenges each of the organisations was facing in regards to realising the fruits of their liberation objectives.

ZANU-PF, like other liberation movements in the region, has a structure of participatory democracy, with cells, district, provincial, and national structures. Cells elect delegates for the district structures, and the districts do the same for the provincial structures, and so do the provinces for the Central Committee, all in consultation with the lower structures.

The party’s strength is in these structures, and more than policy, the party relies on the people within its structures for mobilisation of votes at election times.

The party largely survives on three surviving of its four liberation war pillars, namely internal mobilisation, international mobilisation, and underground work. The fourth pillar, which was the main pillar during the armed struggle, is militarisation.

In place of militarisation, ZANU-PF has developed the policy formulation pillar, and the party has an unquestionably effective agenda-setting machinery, as evidenced by its popularised policies, like the land reform and indigenisation policies.

In terms of its top leadership, ZANU-PF is still led by the older generations, just like the ANC in South Africa, but the party has young parliamentarians and deputy ministers within its cabinet, and its grooming policy has produced vibrant ministers like Saviour Kasukuwere and Walter Mzembi, among others.

However, there is still a huge challenge for the young aspirants who would want to try their political hand through ZANU-PF. The party’s structures are sometimes so manipulated by elected officials that only people at the pleasure of incumbent leadership can make the grade.

This is precisely how factionalism created the political godfathers that ZANU-PF has been eliminating or side-lining of late. In Manicaland for example, the party structures effectively ended up being no more than the power tool of one Didymus Mutasa, and it is doubtful that in the aftermath of the dramatic fall of Mutasa, those structures have regained the democratic independence they are supposed to command.

Rejecting Mutasa or anyone else alleged to have been part of the Mujuru cabal does not in itself reflect that the structures of ZANU-PF have regained their democratic autonomy in the decision making process of the party.

In some of the cases, it would appear like people like Mutasa have only fallen to more cunning political godfathers, not exactly to the collective power of the majority.

If the structures were in full charge of the current changes, most probably the commissariat department would be facilitating the reforms demanded by the structures instead of putting a blanket ban on suspensions of perceived malcontents, as was recently declared.

Now that the ideological policy war on land reforms and indigenisation has been won in favour of ZANU-PF (at least to a reasonable extent), the party will have to refocus its attention on business – that is service delivery to the people of Zimbabwe.

The party cannot continue to ignore or underplay the reality of corruption, crime, and the ailing economy. We have a declining health delivery system, and there are no sugar coats good enough to sanitise our deteriorating education standards, once the pride of the continent.

The living conditions of our people are petrifyingly unnerving, job opportunities for the young are scarce, and the consequential societal ills become far too many to mention.

The challenges above require a paradigm shift in the thought processes of the country’s leadership. We cannot continue to behave like there is proof that best guerrilla fighters make the best leaders or ministers.

The things we read in the press about some of the fallen and disgraced former ZANU-PF leaders are a serious indictment on our liberation legacy.

We read of people who were over three decades in national leadership, and the nation wakes up, only to be told that they were all along protecting themselves from their own crimes, ranging from corruption, sexual crimes, abuse of office, nepotism, murder, harassment and all sorts of things.

Now that the West has temporarily, or perhaps permanently, abandoned its MDC project, ZANU-PF must see the dire need for reforming itself, transforming its leadership towards service delivery. What ZANU-PF needs at the moment is a pragmatic and visionary leadership, and of course vision and continuity are twins that can never be separated.

To avoid fossilisation, the party needs to actively inject youthful personnel in its national leadership, and anyone that suggests something like 20-year membership to the party as a prerequisite for qualification to the Central Committee lacks both common sense and seriousness.

During Webster Shamu’s reign as the Political Commissar, such nonsense once found its way right to the Politburo, and the proposal was discussed quite seriously, finding its way into the party’s electoral guidelines used at the Youth and Women’s conferences that preceded the 6th Congress.

How does someone with 20 years of card-carrying membership qualify to be part of a youth conference? But more importantly, the party must allow its leaders to give their best when they are still energetic and creative, not after they have been wearied and strained by endless years of the rigorous slander and mudslinging games of the party’s internal politics.

The party must move from politicisation of its democratic processes to a new era of member-driven politics, and when it comes to identifying merit, the grassroot rarely gets it wrong.

Zimbabwe we are one and together we will overcome. It is homeland or death!

REASON WAFAWAROVA is a political writer based in SYDNEY, Australia.