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Elites and sub-elites in Zim politics

This article grew out of a general observation of the political personnel in this election. The memory of it fills me with the urgency to philosophize politically and to venerate theory-making in politics. I will refer to Pareto and Mosca towards the end of this article.

The fundamental basis for holding elections is the value which citizens put on normative aspects as contained in the mother law of the land. Political candidates in the Zimbabwean election perhaps have recently learnt some lessons from Turkey’s snap elections where incumbency played a factor in the electoral outcome. Perhaps, conjecture-wise, they also followed the Mexican election where incumbency didn’t prove to be significant.

Elsewhere, with the World Cup of shockers moving towards the end, lovers of the world’s most beautiful game have witnessed the importance of big match temperament. Several own goals, penalties and technical glitches have been the subject of scrutiny in people circles. The World Cup has been a game of tactical supremacy: steeped in how coaches scouted the other team.

Back to elections, we saw how the Turkish elections consolidated the incumbent’s power. How the Mexican elections produced a change of hands in government. The two elections show that there is no formal, no systematic way of winning elections. Zimbabwe, what will be the outcome? What I want to do of course is to deal with the place of minorities and majorities from the perspective of two of the indicators of good governance – voice and legitimacy.

Good governance for Zimbabwe is entrenched in the Constitution and is the pillar of our constitutional democracy. Elections give citizens the opportunity to gauge the extent to which they legitimise or delegitimise the governing elites. In politics, whether practised in the ordinary or constitutionally, two classes of people appear – a class that rules and a class that is ruled. The first class, always the less numerous, performs all political functions, designs policies of governing the governed and oversees their implementation.

By way of explanation and without patronising or demeaning any party, the elections in Turkey and Mexico provide the observer with obvious lessons on how those competing for the governance seat in Zimbabwe must demonstrate to the electorate how they protect its various voices.

Judging from expert opinions, we have observed from the various media platforms how different expert reports have predicted a landslide for either incumbent President Mnangagwa or MDC Alliance’s Chamisa. But looking at the electoral confidence as part of the voice of the electorate, the effect of the expert opinions may be simply political.

Various sections of the electorate want to see how prospective governors intend to improve standards of living in the economic and social spheres. Fortunately or unfortunately, we have roughly six million of Zimbabwe’s population who decided to add their electoral voice to the governance matrix to be ushered in after July 30 2018. And more than half of them are in some “wait and see” mood.

We must also note, apart from just focusing on poll predictions, that getting to be elected is a multi-faceted contest. We have seen political parties, as the apogee of the general will of their supporters, campaigning in different ways: launching manifestos, participating in symbosiums and seminar series, using door-to-door campaigns, advertising in various media outlets, and even invading social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, holding star rallies in various provinces, marching, and so forth.

Through monitoring media reports, I have also seen for instance, that some of the 23 presidential candidates appeared on the first page of The Herald, dissecting their prospective visions for governing Zimbabwe with alacrity. One candidate wants to rekindle the freedoms of 1980. Another wants a spiritual inclination to governance. The other wants to cut down on unnecessary cash outflows, and so forth. Most of the campaign strategies of the independent or party-based candidates, who have not been given even the faintest hope of winning this election, have shown that they have pool of sharp ideas.

But their biggest challenge is encapsulated in challenges to the rules of the minority. Lawyers and political scientists are perhaps aware of what Mosca called the rule of the minority over the majority by the fact that the former is organised. Mosca referred to the dominion of an organised minority, obeying a single impulse over the unorganised majority is inevitable.

In essence, the power of any minority is organised for the very reason that it is a minority. When the minority speaks of dreams, the nation itself, its aspirations, recourse to solving social grievances and ills, and so on, its leaders and members exhibit some fine attributes, real or apparent, which are highly esteemed and very influential in the society in which they live.

Those who have read Paleto and Mosca are perhaps in the know of how both philosophers conceptualised the elites in the sense of groups of people who either exercised directly, or were in a position to influence very strongly the exercise of political power. At the same time, they recognised that the “governing elite” or “political class” is itself composed of distinct social groups.

The Zimbabwean election has clearly exposed us to some of Mosca’s theory on elite puzzles which emphasises on the emergency of the sub-elite, a much larger group which comprises, to all intents and purposes, the whole “new middle class” of civil servants, managers and white-collar workers, scientists and engineers, scholars and intellectuals. Using this model, we have seen for instance, school headmasters leaving their classrooms; journalists leaving the newsrooms, and pastors leaving the pulpit, to go and participate in political activities.

Whether this is interpreted as unethical in some sections of society, it is a political fact that the sub-elite group constitutes, as presented by Mosca, a vital element in the government of society. How interesting this election has been?

What Mosca postulated is very simple but sentimental in nature. We have seen seasoned lawyers, former child parliamentarians, members of the clergy, former civil society activists, and so forth striving so fast to join the upper elite in this election.

I only hope that the sub-elites and upper-elite continue to appreciate Mosca’s observation that the stability of any political organism depends on the level of morality, intelligence and activity that the sub-elites have attained. They are not special; they are not brilliant; and they are not privileged. They must simply offer something different. It is the electorate – the voters -who reward them with some approval vote in the coming election.

Source :

The Herald

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