Nick Mangwana View from the Diaspora
An American clinical psychologist Nancy Molitor described how after primary elections her practice is full of people with serious emotional distress.
She says that some come to vent about broken friendships and some even broken relationships with family after they backed different candidates, putting serious strains on their relationships.
She said some come in with lost appetites and some complaining of loss of sleep. It is clear that there is serious emotional strain that comes from primary elections at an individual then family and then community level. How much more do primary elections put strain on intraparty cohesion? It is intraparty cohesion and unity that Zanu-PF put up a Reconciliation and Healing Seminar starting today until end of day tomorrow.
The level of competition in Zanu-PF primaries this time around appeared higher than in the past. There was something quite attractive about aspirants. There are many reasons that can help explain this level of interest in politics.
One of the reasons could be that President Mnangagwa has done a splendid job in detoxifying our politics. Joining politics is no longer like going to war. It is now just a contest for an influential position. The other reason why Zanu-PF generated so many candidates could be simply its political dominance on the landscape.
Many people knew that winning the primary elections was almost a coronation moment because the likelihood of winning in the harmonised elections is high. Some of those that won the primaries have already adopted the “Honourable” title. What a dishonourable way of running ahead of oneself.
Some were encouraged by the fair way in which everyone who had support and made the very enabling criteria was given a fair shot while some simply joined for the simple reason of wanting to be part of a good thing; this thing they call the new dispensation. Whatever motivated all these people to seek the party nomination, it produced a highly contested primary election which shook the party — destabilised it to some extent.
This column has challenged the opposition in the past, telling them that Zanu-PF holds primary elections because it’s a strong party.
The loss of the primary election that meant so much produced denial, anger, anxiety, humiliation and all the way to grief in others. Zanu-PF primary elections were fought in a climate of negativism, much to the detriment of the main party agenda which was to win the harmonised elections.
The party has to be applauded for putting up a Reconciliation and Healing Seminar to purge the anger and grief of many as well as reunite the party by healing the fissures induced the primary elections.
Let’s face it, some of the things that happened have left a sour taste in the mouth. But imagine how Hillary Clinton felt when Obama won that Democratic nomination in 2008. At least in that one everything appeared fair. But naturally defeat is bitter, but when it’s unfair it is worse.
Let’s restore dignity to the losing candidates, especially those that lost “unfairly”. The winning candidates should not gloat and they should cascade that to their supporters in the community. It helps for us all to acknowledge that the winner is Zanu-PF.
Some have suggested that the party does away with primary elections because of their divisive nature, positing that they reduce the party prospects come the harmonised elections. That’s wrong and retrogressive. Primary elections are an opportunity to produce quality candidates.
They are not an opportunity to produce the best electoral fraudster. So there is no suggestion that we should stop this brilliant system of candidate selection.
On the contrary, we should just clean it up.
Primary elections, when conducted fairly and transparently, are a system which gives constituents a voice. There is a great possibility of producing high calibre candidates. When constituents elect someone in primary elections they have the responsibility of ensuring that the same person is elected against other parties.
While Zanu-PF is too big and solid a party to be handicapped by primary elections-induced fissures, the party has already gone through so much in the last five years that something had to be done. So the healing and reconciliation “away day” came in due season and was a stroke of genius. It is now time to embrace one another.
There are disenchanted supporters who were toying with the crazy idea of voting the opposition. Bitterness is understandable at the end of a hard, bitterly fought primary election season, but for anyone who is Zanu-PF to even consider voting the opposition is an anathema. One hopes that after this healing is done there will be hugs and kisses between former rivals.
Primary elections are party-generated internal conflict events. They are a serious part of democracy, but they have to be fought with fairness in order to avoid justifiable chagrin against one’s own party. Let bitterness come from merely losing rather than from losing due to an electoral fraud.
This unnecessarily heightens tensions which were already being felt in the party due to suspicions that there remain some among the cadreship that are still frolicking with the G40 offshoots that has now formed itself into another small party. But it is time all supporters of different candidates set aside their differences and come back into the party fold and support the party nominees.
Anyone found advocating for the self-inflicted “bhora musango” sabotage should be considered a party insurgent. They should be counselled gently in order not to destabilise the party, but after the harmonised elections, insurgency should get its comeuppance. Dissent is natural in democratic institutions, but it is only tolerated if it doesn’t defeat the primary objectives of an organisation.
In this case the primary objectives of this organisation called Zanu-PF is to retain power. When members’ dissent lead to torpedoing that primary agenda then their dissent turns them into dissidents. They are sleeping with the enemy and there should be dire consequences for that.
The party has to be united. Even if it means throwing a bone at the losing candidates, so be it. The Zanu-PF Manifesto has “Unite” as one of the pillars for achieving the socio-economic promises therein. That unity has to start with the party.
People’s bruised egos and hurt feelings should play second fiddle to the party interests which for all intents and purposes are aligned to national interests.
Primary elections are healthy. A lot of energy and resources are invested to produce the best that the party can offer, but like anything else they have their own side effects. They produce frenemies. These are friends who have such intense rivalry that they could pass for enemies.
The recent primaries produced a lot of these and put a real strain on party faithfuls. It is great that the primaries were set well ahead of the nomination court unlike in 2013. This has allowed ample time for healing process to start and even be accomplished now aided by this group therapy happening today and tomorrow at the Zanu-PF headquarters. It is time to mend the rifts and heal the wounds. Let us all make peace one to another. Winners have to plead with the losers because whatever you may think of them, you will need them, their vote and their supporters’ votes.
After the address by the President tomorrow, one expects there to be a common ground and a pledge to work together. What Cde Chris Mutsvangwa and Cde Mutendereki did in Norton went a long way to heal the party in Norton. It is a model that works. It works better if key members of the losing teams were to be absorbed into the winning team and they play a key role in spearheading their former rivals’ campaign as that is what will draw the disenchanted losing team supporters.
This is what can only widen the grassroots base of the winning candidate and aid healing as well. Another example that comes to mind is the magnanimity shown by Cde Keith Guzah in that Nyamhunga speech where he was calling for intraparty healing.
After the seminar tomorrow, let Zanu-PF work as a team. The 2018 Team.
Primary elections amplify our internal contradictions. So let us make them as less messy as we can. After that, let us all come together, heal and drive the party agenda forward.