Few fair-minded Zimbabweans would deny that there has been change, seismic political changes, since the launch last year of Operation Restore Legacy. By all accounts, it marked the end of an era. Except of course that there are those who thought and believe that change should have been ushered in by the opposition.
History, in its turbulent and unpredictable way, rejected that logic. That in part accounts for the otherwise inexplicable attempts to liken President Mnangagwa to his predecessor.
Those who wanted the opposition MDC-T and Tsvangirai, not the people of Zimbabwe, to be the agents of change, have refused to give credit to ED for what he has accomplished in a very short period purely because of his long association with the ancient regime.
For a start, there have never been so many individuals aspiring for the office of President in one election — 124. Political parties are campaigning freely, even those without a message. In a long time, nobody has been arrested or questioned under that ubiquitous law about “insulting the Head of State”. Although laws like AIPPA and POSA are still in our statutes, they vex more as a memory than for their application in journalists and political parties’ daily lives.
This has generated the international goodwill which is reminiscent of Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980. Everybody wants to do business with Zimbabwe. That is except much of the hypocritical West, which has assumed the moral high ground by predicating restoration of good relations with Zimbabwe on the outcome of the next national elections. (Britain has been less overbearing and sanctimonious this time around, with the Queen expressing a wish to see Zimbabwe back in the Commonwealth. Instead it’s invited outsiders wailing more than the grieved.)
This in itself adverts to the earlier remark — these nations are part of the unforgiving lot still aching that change should have been a product of right-wing forces, that zanu-pf is incapable of reform, let alone reforming itself, that the change which occurred in November last year should have been seen to be a direct effort of Western instigation, however subtly.
President Mnangagwa has ignored this. Instead, he has tried to engage all nations willing to do business with Zimbabwe, sending his Foreign Affairs and International Trade minister Lieutenant-General Sibusiso Moyo (Retired) to America and Europe, so far, to explain that Zimbabwe is open for business.
Even former commercial white farmers whose land was reclaimed have been assured of compensation, according to the laws of Zimbabwe. It is a matter of time.
Zimbabwe is signing long-term investment deals. Business delegations are jostling to come to Zimbabwe. They see real potential, but hamstrung by the politics of their homelands.
There are a plethora of reforms being undertaken across all sectors at home — in politics, media, investment environment. The media space is opening up further, from digitisation to increase the spectrum for electronic media to the recent licensing of new players, including subsidiaries of Econet. Electoral laws are being reformed.
This week President Mnangagwa restated the law regarding the role of security agencies in elections. He said what used to happen in the past was not part of the new dispensation — the role of the police in elections is confined to maintaining law and order. They cannot be deployed to run elections, a mandate given to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission under the Constitution of Zimbabwe 2013.
ZEC chairwoman Priscilla Chigumba weighed in, saying there must not seem to be a conflict of roles or acrimony between her agency and the police.
These are dramatic changes coming from the zanu-pf leadership, not to mention that none of all these changes help the party electorally. They weaken the ruling party in a very big way, but President Mnangagwa is pressing ahead. His focus is on what is best for the nation, not winning power by hook or by crook. That separates him from those who seek to declare themselves automatic victors by merely declaring an interest to contest for the Presidency.
The campaign language of the ruling party has changed. It’s far from the belligerent rhetoric we had become accustomed to. The slogans are about service delivery. Even the most mean-spirited will admit the absence of the language of entitlement to rule, the absence of references to the liberation war or the land reform. History speaks for itself
zanu-pf held primary elections which were initially scheduled to be a one-day affair on Sunday. We know the process hasn’t ended, with some constituencies set for reruns. There has been a lot of acrimony about the outcomes.
What cannot be denied is the openness of the process and procedures. Something more or less alien even to the opposition which has held aloft the claim to being the champion of democracy.
What zanu-pf began with its primary elections was unheralded and will be hard to replicate by other political parties without tripping and collapsing. That is why the outcome of those primaries confounded every analyst. Cabinet ministers and political heavyweights fell. Young aspirants shocked their seniors. No position was guaranteed and no one was protected.
In the end the electorate spoke. That’s a new zanu-pf, with a rich revolutionary history to boast of, but not allowing that to encumber its developmental thrust which must take on-board the old and the young. We are talking here of intergenerational consensus, not infantile attempts to trash history and divide the nation between those who brought us independence and majority rule on the one hand, and elitist political upstarts on the other, who think their future would have been brighter under colonial economic enslavement because they possess university education, which they deem the sole, legitimate ladder to prosperity, those who stake individual, personal rights over those of the majority.
We all did lament the “messy democracy” witnessed in the zanu-pf primaries, the chaotic scenes, the demonstrations, and the recriminations about vote-rigging or vote-buying. Out of the tears and celebrations, came the party manifesto, which we shall scrutinise in greater detail in coming weeks.
More lamentable is possibly that the opposition may have laughed first instead of last. It has not held its primaries; it hasn’t launched its manifesto. Which will likely take a lot to believe if what issues from Chamisa’s rallies sums it or if there is discordance, a sign of insincerity on paper. Where zanu-pf is clear that Zimbabwe is open for business to all, the MDC-T threatens to kick the Chinese in the teeth for investing in local infrastructure development — perhaps go on to destroy Kariba extension and Joshua Mqabuko International Airport in Bulawayo and Victoria Falls international Airport! Scary.
If there is one thing for which a nation used to miracles and short-termism might want to wrongly punish President Mnangagwa, it is the shortage of cash on the official market. That’s a headache that was never going to be easy to treat, nor is it about to end, regardless of who claims to be the magic worker. There is no open sesame. So the less said for now, the better.
The matter at hand, coming directly from the primaries, and the zanu-pf party manifesto, is how the ruling party manages to douse the acrimony as soon as possible.
One of the most damaging episodes of zanu-pf in the years leading to Operation Restore Legacy was factionalism, which ultimately became G40. It was damaging because not only did the party spend too much time looking inwards, it almost completely forgot that the economy was burning. It had become consumed in its internal, internecine wars that the world outside, the opposition, didn’t count, Zimbabweans in general had ceased to matter. It was all about power — one centre of power at that, rather than serving the electorate.
Since the close of that dark chapter, the focus has been on the economy, the politics of the stomach.
The task facing the President and his commissariat is to mobilise everybody, that is losers and winners, to unite in serving the people and rebuilding the economy. The message should be very simple: the voice of the people is the voice of God. Loyalty should be first to the party rather than the individual. Similarly, service should be first to the majority rather than the party.
Now that the manifesto is out, let the race begin in earnest. Those who lost must bear in mind that there is always next time — five years away.