WHAT is Zimbabwean political exceptionalism?  How has it evolved?  In what way does it impact the character and personality of Zimbabwean politics?

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mawere

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In its simplest form, Zimbabwean political exceptionalism refers to the presumed special character and personality of the LEADER as uniquely gifted and skilled to preside over the nation’s affairs. Indeed, Zanu PF has had President Mugabe as its leader for almost 40 years and, within the party, he remains a towering figure with no equal.

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The recent developments that have seen his former deputy, Hon. Joice Mujuru, and persons perceived to be her followers, thrown outside the political cockpit of both the party and State have clearly demonstrated the inherent exceptionalism that has dominated political thinking in Zimbabwe.

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Hon. Mutasa has naively sought to draw a distinction between two Zanu PFs, i.e. the legitimate one led by President Mugabe with him as the legitimate Secretary for Administration and the other one also led by President Mugabe and him missing in action.

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The aggrieved persons, some of whom have chosen to challenge the consequential decision to expel them from Parliament, have sought to argue that a genuine justiciable dispute was created by the manner in which the congress was held and the role of the First Lady in producing the current state of affairs in the party and State.

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None of the so-called rebels have sought to directly challenge the exceptionalism that has defined Zimbabwe’s post-colonial order. They all revere the LEADER and will all be quick to pledge allegiance to him just as the so-called political barbarians who now find themselves as gate-keepers.

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It is Hon. Mutasa’s contention that President Mugabe is a victim of the machinations of what he describes as the Mafikizolos yet it cannot be said that even if the current court challenge were to succeed, how Hon. Mutasa would overcome the challenge imposed by President Mugabe’s acceptance that Hon. Mutasa & Co were authors of their fate.

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The argument that the outcome of the congress is invalid solely because some actors find themselves outside a bus driven by the same person who remains ostensibly unchallenged is a tired one. So far, even Hon. Mutasa and Gumbo have not sought to challenge the driver, suggesting that at the core of the dispute is an attempt to be included and not to change the character and personality of Zanu PF politics.

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When President Mugabe made the point that no court of law can substitute internal party processes, he obviously attracted negative views but one cannot argue against the futility of asserting rights in a court forum that have to be implemented in a political animal kingdom. It does not occur that the exceptional animal in the party and state will change his views and that the court will assist in the resolution of a dispute that is political in nature.

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If, for instance, Mutasa & Co were to win the current court challenge, it is not clear how a competent order of court will be obtained to restore them to their former appointed positions when the appointer has already spoken. Hon. Mutasa was an appointed person and this fact is easily lost when discussing the nature of the injury caused and the relief sought.

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The exceptional person has already determined that Hon. Mutasa lost his right to be considered as a member of the standing committee of the party because he failed to garner support for inclusion to the Central Committee.

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According to President Mugabe, Hon. Mutasa’s attack is ill-advised and ill-conceived, and as a long-serving member of the party, he should and ought to have known that the only person who cannot be challenged is the exceptional person and this cannot be extended even to his deputy let alone an appointed Secretary for Administration. Mutasa’s true remedy lies and ought to remain with his fellow villagers, so the argument goes, who have yet to signal a change of heart by asserting that they made a mistake in electing someone else to represent them in the Central Committee.

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The exceptional disease is not limited to Zanu PF.  Even the opposition parties have their own exceptional persons. It is always ironic that the people who are presumed to be exceptional can also turn out to be dictators only when they choose to turn their backs on the aspirations of certain followers who also think that they are exceptional and indispensable to the LEADER.

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The experiences of the MDC have exposed this exceptional tendency. The exceptional person often defines the character and personality of the party and invariably crowds out all other people. However, the fact that exceptional people’s power is validated through elections poses its own problems as it is not the case that electoral processes can be relied upon to produce exceptionalism.

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We all want or aspire to be exceptional but the truth is that no single individual can be so gifted as to be exceptional. Even President Mugabe, in the quietness of his time, must also be worried how a simple boy became so exceptional that even his enemies are afraid to challenge him.

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Whenever exceptionalism creeps in, rationality evaporates.  An ideology that is premised on a single individual’s exceptional characteristics is doomed to fail. The true promise of democracy is not guaranteed by exceptionalism but by democratically distributed wisdom and skills.

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It is unfortunate that in the legal challenge mounted by Mutasa & Co, the negative consequence of President Mugabe’s exceptionalism does not form part of the cause of action.  If it did, the relief sought would have been to begin to eliminate the inherent exceptionalism in Zimbabwean politics.

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Why should Tsvangirai, for instance, consider stepping aside when this action and choice would go against the grain of Zimbabwean politics? Tsvangirai, as is the case for President Mugabe, defines what authentic opposition politics is. This approach to politics is unlikely to change and perhaps will remain President Mugabe’s enduring legacy.

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Even when the economy is heading the wrong direction, the attempt to compensate the impact of growing poverty, unemployment and inequality by emphasizing unique qualities of the LEADER does not assist the cause to deliver the promise of a better life for all.

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The attempt to explain why President Mugabe has been the constant feature in state and party politics is principally based on political illiteracy. It cannot be justifiable to expect the Courts in Zimbabwe to overturn the wishes of the exceptional person who, after all, appointed the bench. In addition, it would be foolhardy to expect the exceptional person to be persuaded to change his ways by order of a court. Ultimately, the final arbiter in respect of party disputes is the very person in the mirror i.e. the exceptional person.

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When the exceptional person speaks, he does so on behalf of the universe. Hon. Mutasa is always quick to argue that President Mugabe is special and this stems from his own personal assessment of his inadequacies. He does not seek to step up to the plate and seek the court’s intervention to declare President Mugabe’s endorsement as the LEADER invalid yet he naively seeks to invalidate the appointments of President Mugabe’s subordinates.

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The constitution of Zimbabwe was also informed by this exceptionalism disease in that it confers on the President certain powers, including the appointment of his deputies that Hon. Mutasa seeks to challenge in respect of the party. It is the case that even Tsvangirai is also clothed with the same powers premised on exceptionalism.

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Indeed, it is also the case that political exceptionalism is pregnant with complicated and often contradictory assumptions and worldview. Exceptionalism is an idea that has thrived in Zanu PF politic as well as the state of Zimbabwe. It is an idea that has relegated other worthy human beings to the position of spectators and henchmen and women.

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It was the case that the four former VPs who died in office had accepted that, although close to power, they were not qualified to even dream of assuming the top position which is reserved for the exceptional one.