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Of polls and the politics of good intentions

Reason Wafawarova on Monday
Politicians are like lawyers and parents who always carry around themselves this inexplicable aura of social invincibility arrogantly derived from the presumption that by virtue of accumulating the highest number of votes in an election, or by spending four years in Law School, or by siring someone into biological existence, one automatically acquires an irrefutable set of super rights over all other mortals.

Human affairs are not the easiest topic to understand, and that is why popularity in politics can suddenly turn into derision and infamy.

Politics are never a matter of righteousness. Rather politicians survive on expediency. No politician will openly say they are in it for fame, materialism, for greed, for selfish ends, or to enrich themselves. We would beat them up if they did.

We hear our politicians calling for “national dialogue”, and we have seen some of them travelling around the country in cross-party crowds — ostensibly to prove to us that they all mean well and are after the best for our welfare. Very impressive show of statesmanlike concern, we believe.

In 2009 we were told the Mugabe-Tsvangirai-Mutambara marriage was a coalition of good intention, and Tsvangirai magnified the deal to the level of a “Global Political Agreement”, whatever that meant.

We all came to realise that the deal was a purely political one, solely meant to solve a political crisis of contested power after a disputed election.

Of course, the deal was done in the decent name of our plight as Zimbabweans. The official intention was to end the country’s economic crisis, to benefit all Zimbabweans by reviving our ailing economy.

Today we hear both ZANU-PF and the opposition MDCA led by Nelson Chamisa have our best interests at heart, and that they are driven by the desire to make our lives a lot more bearable and enjoyable.

We as Zimbabweans have walked this 20-year-long journey of polarity, and we all know that we cannot successfully build a prosperous nation without trust, unity, common purpose and the confidence needed in running a viable economy.

What is the real intention of an opposition politician who promotes distrust for our national institutions, distrust for the police, for the army, for the central bank, our line ministries, distrust for our chiefs, for our churches, for our artistes, and indeed for anything seemingly going well for the country?

We do not have a rallying point as a nation, and that is why anything and everything can be sacrificed on the altar of political expediency. Our politicians from across the political divide take us voters for granted— and this is precisely because they know 100 percent that after winning power, they have no obligation to be accountable for their promises.

We hear one of our prominent politicians saying the main issue to be dialogued about in Zimbabwe is the legitimacy of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, and we ask ourselves if electioneering matters are what we want at the moment. Maturity calls for respect of the law, even under protest.

The matter of Mnangagwa’s legitimacy was settled at law in the highest court in the land, and all channels of appeal were exhausted.

But we have this one politician relegating the agenda of national healing and development to the sidelines, while he selfishly pursues vainglorious political arguments driven solely by personal ambition.

During the talks for the Mugabe-Tsvangirai-Mutambara inclusive Government, we remember the telling fights over who was to control the police and the military, and someone even ended up saying the Education Ministry was a “minor ministry”.

At the time Acting Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa announced a US$2 million package for the procurement of vehicles for parliamentarians, and that was the only time he was not heckled by opposition politicians. Every other budget item he announced was met with vociferous heckling. His priorities were apparently all wrong except this one.

Chinamasa went on to allocate US$100 per month for teachers, and $27 400 per annum for parliamentarians, and again there was unanimous approval from both sides of the House.

There was nothing phenomenal about the legislators’ salaries, but there was absolutely every need to question the comparative rationality between this meagre pay and the next to nothing allocation for teachers.

Voters trust that their vote will bring them good leadership that will transform their lives for the better, but politicians seem to think winning the vote is a pathway to personal aggrandisement.

Political doctrinal systems erected by politicians are centred on the creation of a concentration of power, as once argued by Harvard Professor of the Science of Government Samuel Huntington.

When politicians are in this endeavour to build a concentration of power, or are operating from such, there are always these tendencies and devices that naturally flow from the small crowd of politicians to the masses.

Often, politicians sell their selfish ambitions in such a way as to create the misimpression that it is the evil nature of their political competitors that they are fighting. We see this everyday with the relentless demonisation of the person of Emmerson Mnangagwa by Nelson Chamisa’s propagandists on social media, and by Chamisa himself.

To facilitate the marketing effort, these doctrinal systems are designed to portray the political competitor as diabolical by nature.

While the characterisation may sometimes be close to accurate, or indeed spot-on, the crimes cited are rarely the source of the call for forceful measures against these political opponents.

The real issue is always the fact that these political opponents stand in the way of plans to access a concentration of power.

When Saddam Hussein became a political opponent of the United States, mainly for his anti-Israel rhetoric and his support for Hezbollah and the Palestinian resistance, he was suddenly portrayed as an egregious threat to the survival of humanity — much against the reality that he was a defenceless target of the US, when one considers America’s military might.

To do away with perception of Hussein’s defencelessness, the George W. Bush administration simply lied that the man was armed with weapons of mass destruction.

Suddenly Saddam was classified as a chief terrorist and a friend of terrorists.

This was despite the fact that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had been graciously removed from a list of countries supporting terrorism by the Reagan administration in 1982.

The idea then was to enable the flow of military supplies to the rightwing dictator, so he could help in America’s agenda of obliterating Iran.

The doctrine of good intentions sometimes requires that aggression and terror must be portrayed as self-defence and a dedication to inspiring visions.

Julian Assange is facing extradition to the United States because he embarrassed Washington by publishing how the world’s number one superpower does business around the globe, and the Trump administration has resorted to accusing him of stealing information whose publication threatened the national security of the United States. Assange has even been described as a terrorist, yet all he did was to publish information in the public’s interest, as would any decent journalist.

The domestic politics in many nation states are driven by the inspiring doctrine of good intentions, where selfish ambition and illicit aspiration for material gain is portrayed as a dedication to democratic values, or a revolutionary commitment to correcting political injustices.

In this context it is always necessary to create misimpressions about political opponents as “Great Satans”, and also about one’s own unique nobility and political righteousness.

The image of righteous exceptionalism appears to be the universal driving force behind career politics, and the constant theme is always the lofty good intentions to bring happiness and independence to a suffering world. There are politicians who want us to believe they were born to save us, to live all their lives sacrificing for our own good.

Donald Trump

The standard story line for politicians, especially the African politicians, oscillates between two conflicting tendencies.

One is populist idealism, which is based on a fiery gospel of noble intentions and the other is sober realism, which says that there is need to realise the limitations of achieving the preached good intentions.

When one is in opposition politics, it is simple to follow the easy formula of success. This is why Nelson Chamisa thinks he carries with ease the capacity to make Zimbabwe a First World economy within no time, with spaghetti roads, bullet trains and airports all over the place.

The man cannot even preside over a peaceful district election within his own party, where people beat each other up and fail to carry out an election involving just a handful of voters, yet he believes he is organised enough to transform an ailing country into a First World economy.

When one is in opposition, all that is needed is to simply preach an undying commitment to limitless freedoms, the creation of jobs for everybody, the cutting down of taxes and the provision of free social services.

Chamisa promised $15 billion free money from Donald Trump in the lead-up to the 2018 elections, and even lied that he had held a one-on-one meeting with Donald Trump. Anything goes for rally political promises.

President Mnangagwa must be aware of the need to balance between populist idealism and sober realism. Deliverables and promises are not one and the same thing, and we advise the Government to focus on the practical reality of our success prospects.

In between lies transparency and pragmatic effort for the achievement of the best for the people of Zimbabwe.

The delivery of basic social services requires round the clock hard work as opposed to crafting ways of creating pleasing but vainglorious hope in our people.

It is easier for politicians in power to be demonised as Great Satans and enemies of the people. Only transparency, hard work and delivery of irrefutable economic benefits will silence the critics.

But we have these good for nothing politicians who think once voted into power, all they need to do is enjoy their newly acquired social status of political power, and nothing else.

To some, corrupt and illicit gain is going to be the ultimate achievement, yet they always come for the vote vigorously preaching the gospel of good intentions.

We hope we have among our politicians, genuine and honest human beings who see winning an election as an opportunity to serve one’s nation with distinction; an opportunity to put a smile on the faces of fellow Zimbabweans.

Do we have politicians who think about the children, the malnutrition, the poor sanitation; the dirty water that our villagers drink, the preventable deaths happening in our hospitals?

Why did we see so much scepticism over the facelifting of Matapi Hostels?

Are we as a people genuinely concerned with the welfare of Mbare residents, or we wish to use their telling poverty as a political tool to demean our political opponents?

ZANU-PF’s practical commitment to its promises has not been impressive either, except for post-independence achievements of the 80s, and perhaps the strides of the land reform programme.

There is a lot of unfinished and unstarted business related to the party’s election manifesto last year; and it is hard to believe the party will fully deliver on some of its election promises, especially those related to social services.

We must allow sober governance of the country, and as such we must for a while shun the abrasive power politics that polarise us as a nation.

We can continue to hold swords fighting endless inter-party wars on social media and in real life.

We are a country of nice people, and we must realise and cherish the decent cultural values that make up the Zimbabwean personality. We are one people, and must always allow unity to take precedence of our diversity and our differences in opinion.

Zimbabwean politicians have in the past mobilised external forces against each other, mobilised economic sanctions against the masses they are meant to serve, and even mobilised for — albeit unsuccessfully — military intervention against our own motherland.

We cannot advocate for economic sanctions against the same country we say we love.

Even today we have some among us who wish for American bombs to fall over the buildings of Harare, if only that could topple ZANU-PF from power.

This is the time to turn our sabre-rattling swords into ploughshares, and start to work hard for the good of the nation.

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

Reason Wafawarova is a political writer based in SYDNEY, Australia.

Source :

the herald

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