Bringing Down Dictatorship, Thinking in Other Terms

The following is a detailed opinion piece by one of our regular columnist and well known former University of Zimbabwe student activist Promise Mkwananzi – On the issues affecting Zimbabwe.

 (i) Revisiting Effective Strategies

It is almost naïve in Zimbabwe now to talk about mass political defiance. I can understand why this is the case. But for my naiveté, I shall proceed to assess the possibilities of revisiting that strategy. My hope is to provide a typology with which the people can confront the dictatorship with minimal possible loss of life and other causalities. By no means is this an easy task, but it must be accomplished because of the belief that people must not be subjugated by such regimes.

I have had occasion to be at the forefront of confronting dictatorship, and I am well aware of the loss of lives, torture, and destruction of property that comes with such a process. I know people who have died, or whose relatives were killed or who survived the brutality that sustains the dictatorship today. I draw my inspiration from the amazing sense of courage and resilience which the people of Zimbabwe have shown over the years, and the knowledge, through reading and hearing stories from other countries that it is possible to dismantle a dictatorship and establish democratic rule. I am not competent to prescribe ways and means to achieve this but it is my hope that this article will contribute to the great question of the day in our country at present: How to bring back the power of the people to have leaders of their choice? This has been an absent phenomenon in Zimbabwe for a long time; it cannot be allowed to continue unchallenged.

(ii) Bracing for the Tough Times Ahead

I am well aware, from experience and stories from other countries that have confronted dictatorships that oftentimes the odds are against those fighting for freedom. In most, if not all cases, people find themselves confronting dangerously armed and vicious regimes. In the specific case of Zimbabwe, I remember vividly, the mass stay-aways, strikes of the late 90s, the defiance actions of the early 2000s, including the historic no vote against the constitutional referendum, the final push and the horrors of march 11 2007. I remember, even more compassionately, individuals, whose lives were sacrificed, including during the 27 June election façade, and more recently the loss of human life in the COPAC process. Many more losses, pains, deprivations and intimidation of various kinds and dimensions have been suffered by each and every one of us (Zimbabweans opposed to Mugabe Regime) in varying dimensions and contexts. These events have been historic in our country, yet they have not earned us the freedom that we yearn for.

Mugabe remains seemingly firm in his position. Indeed such realities can sometimes invoke feelings of despair and loss of hope. They might even lead to fatigue and fragmentation of the movement. Sadly, this is usually the aim of the dictator which people fighting bondage must at all times endeavor to prevent. For example, you may have wondered why authoritarian regimes torture people when it has been shown that tortured people usually become more resolved in fighting the system. Authoritarian regimes use torture not to deter its victim but the would-be activists and other activists who have themselves not been tortured but have heard of and now see the possibility and prospects of being tortured themselves. All these are tried and tested tactics which dictators (including Mugabe) use the world over to disrupt opposition actions.

The forthcoming 2011 general elections will be fiercely fought, this is exacerbated by the fact that ZANU PF may lose and still refuse to give up power after all. In this scenario, many more lives will be lost-and yet again, if we are not careful, freedom will not be achieved. Increasingly, people may see no need to further sacrifice their lives for a cause of this nature. It is in this context that I make my submissions for a change of strategy and tactics.

It has become eminent to realize the opponent for what he is-a brutal dictator-who will not implement a single reform outlined in the GPA. It is indeed wise to realize sooner rather than later that and to prepare to fight the next election under the overarching framework of an unfair election rooted in the repressive legislative context of POSA, AIPPA etc. Above all, to recognize that this election can still be won in spite of violence and intimidation-what cannot and will not be achieved is transfer of power-which is where a call upon all Zimbabweans to join the army and reclaim their sovereignty from Robert Mugabe and his vampires emanates from.

 

(iii) No International Assistance in Sight…

Before I go into the details of my proposed strategies, I wish to discuss briefly why Zimbabweans must not bank on international actors and why these will not come to rescue Zimbabwe. When people feel so hopeless about their own fate, it is sometimes, a somewhat safe haven to console themselves by saying that SADC/AU/US/EU will intervene.

Some may even contemplate guerilla warfare, after learning of the insurmountable force of power which the regime enjoys in and through qausi-military juntas, youth militias, Jabulani Sibandas, Joseph Chinotimbas etc. in addition, the regime might still enjoy artificial support through rent seeking, patrimonialism, kickbacks and cuts-all of which in one way or the other maintain the regime intently in control. A few reasons show why foreign intervention remains a remote prospect

1. States are rational actors who are always calculating maximizing gains and minimizing losses-in such a scenario, foreign states might implicitly prop the errant regime in order to gain socio-economic and even political advantages. This is especially so when the country are neighbors.

2. Foreign countries usually tend to intervene only when the local movement has shaken the foundations of the dictatorship and exposed it for what it is. The guerilla warfare option is not an option because it usually results in further loss of life than even the ones perpetrated by the brutal regime, it usually lasts very long and hardly ever leads to democratic rule e.g. Savimbi, Ngunda etc. the long term effects of this option are as too ghastly to contemplate as those a coup-they will not lead to democracy, in fact might lead to more dictatorship. Having ruled out the above and briefly explained why these would not be viable options, I now turn to discuss some of the tactics which we as Zimbabweans ought to think about in our protracted endeavor to re-liberate our country from our erstwhile liberators-an ironic paradox indeed.

(iv) Confronting Reality in the Eye

The challenge of bringing down a dictatorship such as the one we have in Zimbabwe is rooted in the following approach. All the courageous peoples throughout the world who have decimated despotic rule through non-violent actions seem to have employed, at least at one stage or the other, some if not all of the following tactics.

There is need to strengthen the local people in their confidence and conviction that it can be done. I discuss this in much detail in my other article "Combating Political Violence Through Establishing, Enhancing and Supporting Communal Defense Mechanisms and Rapid Response Units for the Vulnerable Communities in Zimbabwe: A Food for Thought for the Upcoming 2011 General Elections" (Forthcoming). The social movements and groups need to be strengthened and to work together for a common goal. This includes putting aside selfish, parochial and shortsighted ambitions for a greater good, by and through rallying behind the candidate with the greatest chances of winning. This must be anchored by a powerful resistance force-implemented on the basis of a very good plan. Charles Stewart Panel once bellowed at a worker’s rally in 1879:

 

"It is no use relying on [SADC, AU etc]…you must only rely upon your own determination. Help yourselves by standing together. Strengthen those amongst yourselves who are weak. Band yourselves together, organize yourselves, and you must win!!!"

This is the challenge that Zimbabweans are today being called upon to embrace and accomplish in 2011. A strong, robust and vibrant internal force, supported by outsiders where possible-vested with discipline and courage should be able to eventually shake the pinnacles of Robert Mugabe’s dictatorship. Once this is achieved, a basis for foreign intervention will have been created.

The GPA will not deliver any of its promises, elections are likely to go ahead with POSA, AIPPA still in place, intimidation and violence will not relent. The task might seem too ghastly to contemplate-but Robert Mugabe has given us no other choice. If we are not prepared to win elections under these conditions and through some of the strategies I have outlined above, then what is the point of going into an election through which you can never take power even if you win it. There is need for further deliberative engagement.