ZANU PF digging own grave

The recent inability to distinguish between Jacob Zuma and Nelson Mandela was just a tip of the ice-berg. The classical lapse brought memories of grandparents of comparable age who often call grandchildren by other people’s names, even those of the departed. Maybe this serves as a reminder that the elders will be about to join the other world only experienced by those who were called before us.

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At one time, not many people ever imagined that a man with the supernatural powers to command bees, who was also feared for his cruel propensity to feed political opponents to crocodiles, would one day be a matter for historians. When time was up, Dr. Kamuzu Banda’s old and tired body was buried the same day as his party. If you ask any Malawian child who is 15 years old or younger what MCP stands for, you may be lucky to get the correct response before they turn to google.

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Next door, Kaunda repeated the same mistake when he thought he was the only person anointed to lead Zambia. When the late Chiluba jumped from trade unionism to land at State House, UNIP became history. Today, Kaunda is known more for his love for golf than his time at the helm of a nation. Further inland, Daniel arap Moi perfected the same lunacy with Kanu. When the need to pass the baton onto Uhuru Kenyatta dawned on him, irreparable damage had already been done. In no time, Kenya African National Union was wiped off the face of Africa.

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Contrary to that, Frelimo realised that a party could not be stuck with one leader forever. Today, they have had three leaders. Some may argue that Samora would still be in charge if he had not died in that fateful crash. However, if he had lived longer but resisted singing from ZANU PF’s satanic verses and took lessons from Swapo and ANC, he wouldn’t have fallen into the same trap. In Tanzania, the former liberation party shall always be at the heart of the nation, primarily due to the efficacy of succession planning.

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By choosing the opposite, ZANU PF has cleared the road to self-destruction. They are preparing to dig two graves concurrently at the grand funeral, one for the dear leader and other for the party. While the majority will not mourn the total collapse of ZANU PF given our recent history, some will be concerned that the country will be reverting to the de facto one party state of the early 80’s. MDC will certainly emerge as the sole dominant player without any viable opposition for some time. For stability, in the first few years, this may be positive. But in the long-term, the development could be disastrous.

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History has shown that some of the world’s best economies and most successful nations enjoy “bipolar democracy” where political competition is rife mainly between two big parties. In New Zealand, the Labour Party knows that if it sleeps on the wheel, the National Party will jump on. The same applies to Australia where Labour and the Coalition are ever at each other’s throat. The British Conservatives and Labour do the same while Republicans and Democrats don’t know which party will produce the next American president until election results are out. Even though the Botswana National Front (and of late the Congress Party) has not been able to form a government yet, it always causes sleepless nights to the ruling BDP. This is how true democracy works and should be sustained.

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Unfortunately, ZANU PF continues to act as if it was destined to rule forever when all indications suggest otherwise. What the nation will get from this impractical, myopic and unstrategic approach is a much stronger and unopposed MDC beyond Mugabe as internecine struggles become the order of the day in the ZANU PF camp. Any type of sport featuring strong opponents tends to be more exciting than one where the winner is known even before the fixture is out.

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To ZANU PF, no matter how much of an anathema this might be, now is the best time to start thinking seriously about a potential and credible successor rather than wait for massive electoral defeat with the hope to regroup and pull a surprise later. The Sandton lapses must serve as a lesson no matter how much spin we put to it. Also, there is need to learn to survive without turning to life support provided by securocrats because the oxygen bottles are set to be switched off soon. As a nation, we are now getting to a point where the difference between a leader and an ordinary citizen may as well be only an election away. If it is permissible to disown presidential ambitions publicly, why should the opposite be treasonable?

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chambokom@gmail.com