By Nick Mangwana
People in Zanu-PF have been called cowards and all such names. Maybe we were. For surely talking to some comrades it is clear very few genuinely loved Robert Mugabe in his last years as President.
An even less figure wanted him to continue leading both country and party. Yet, nobody could do anything about it. Some in the country wanted a military take-over. Some were so desperate that they could have accepted even an invasion by a foreign power. But thankfully things were handled in a more civilised and homegrown way. It ended well with Zimbabwe shedding off its pariah status.
In a clear determination not to appear like revisionists, the new leaders tried to reverse policies that they felt were not progressive and those, which based on someone’s narcissism rather than national good. This they still wanted to do without humiliating the old man in word. But the problem is that when the old man heard the operation that unchained people was called Operation Restore Legacy, he thought it was his legacy being restored. As usual he thought everything is and should be about him. But it was not. It was about restoring the legacy of the liberation struggle. The very ethos and values for which a lot sacrificed their lives and limbs.
Reading through Ambrose Mutinhiri’s interview, one is left in no doubt that the fanciful praise songs and adulations did go to the head of the old man and his wife. The amount of “me, myself and I” that is projected as the old man’s position on issues is astounding. Zimbabwe is not and should never have been about one man.
But, us the citizens and more so those of us in Zanu-PF, created that monster. Each individual should take responsibility for his or her role on how we came to be here and also take a responsible position to ensure we should never be back here again. Sadly, some are already abdicating that responsibility by looking up to the same old man to tell them where they should place their vote.
They are like an animal whose cage has been opened, but refuses to run out and enjoy its freedom.
When this new democracy was ushered in, it brought a lot that we are not accustomed to and we appear to still be in a trance to distinguish what is realistic and what is not.
In the last era conventional checks and balances that are provided for in the Constitution could not restrain one old man’s political will. No wonder his family felt compelled to name his business Alpha and Omega. Why not when he was the beginning and the end of power in Zimbabwe? It is understandable that coming from such an absolutism to one in which someone else calls the shots and you wake up to a day when the only things you can lord over are some bovines in charge of producing milk, which whose cheese nobody buys and whose ice cream everyone runs away from with horror is not easy; can make anyone bitter.
And it is unfortunate that citizens were complicit in producing this and from what we are seeing on the opposite side of the political aisle, lessons have not been learnt. We made this and we can still repeat it.
When rules are bent in such a way as to suit the will of one person, we are showing we have not learnt anything. We still want to be charmed by flourish speeches and embellished promises so we go home enthused and imbued with fantasies just like yesterday? We have already started defending impunity in our opposition ranks and still expect to produce a different outcome from the last? Didn’t we learn anything about demagoguery?
We should subject ourselves to life lessons. Some people are struggling to come to terms with why the removal of one man from power has produced such a dramatic change in both foreign and domestic policy. Well, comrades we produced a monster for years where we concentrated power in the presidency. By 2014 some among us found it appropriate and shockingly with a straight face were declaring “One Centre of Power” as if it was a divine virtue.
But anyone who knows anything about governance will tell you that mantra is euphemism for dictatorship.
Slogans should be used to boost morale as well as motivate people to do the right things. But we used ours to programme people into parroting zombies. Didn’t we all hear some people singing “Tinoda one party State!” in the early ’80s? What was that all about? Keep a close eye on what’s happening in the major opposition party and you will see a replay
Let us talk a little bit about how the One Centre of Power mantra was only a final affirmation of what was. In 2009 an effort was made to thump our noses at Mr Tsvangirai. This was through always addressing the old man by saying “The Head of State and Government and the Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces. . .” At that time those who started it wanted to make it clear that Tsvangirai did not have power regardless of what the Global Political Agreement (GPA) said.
It was a declaration that all of it is embodied in the old man. But the problem is that even after the GPA was gone we could not let that mouthful of titles go. This is not saying that the presidency did not have such powers or positions. But let’s face it, which person is ever introduced in their houses as, “The husband, father of the children, head of the family and main/co-breadwinner”?
If you visit someone and you hear him or her being introduced as such what would you think of them? Possibly that they have centralised power and want all of you to know and be reminded of it.
So we cannot doubt that we created this and if we don’t tread carefully in a bid to assert the authority of the young fellow on the opposite side, this will happen again. Luckily, his chances of gaining State power are slim. Holding on to that thought, let us go back to the old man.
Being so accustomed to absolutism, he refuses to fade in the background and only be called out pro re nata. He is struggling with what they call in psychiatry an adjustment disorder. He feels he can’t dictate things from the actual citadel of power at either Munhumutapa or State House, but still tries to do it from under whatever colour of a roof.
Zimbabweans have to learn from this saga in which we were all complicity. Never again should a nation allow such Executive excess by the presidency. Instead of reminding a president that the power he had was borrowed from the people and it was theirs to give or withdraw, we kept on reinforcing that he was the lord over all things that dared to be born in Zimbabwe and should lord over us as long as he breathed.
With a decimated middle class, who was to bring the leadership to account? We had a poverty stricken populace and indigent community leaders dependent on patronage even for their basic succour. The control of resources became a source of power to control even political narratives. We allowed stewards to turn into squanderers of the national purse. Now that they were accustomed to this life and are demanding to sustain same, some still don’t want to say no. They think supporting the perpetuation of former hubris is lifting two fingers to the current establishment. No it doesn’t.
Instead of citizens continuing to call for accountability, those who were opposed to the former leader are the same people that now turn against the current leader and are now asking him to dispense patrimony.
But it is incumbent upon the citizenry to ensure that the State is not used to serve the interests of the elite but everyone. Current reforms are going in the right direction and should be applauded and supported not torpedoed.
The new dispensation is about building a more open, more accountable and transparent political system. We should never be complicit in concentrating power in one place unless it’s in the voters.
We promoted inefficiency and applauded incompetency and today we have all been turned into cynics. A lot of people who said that the former leader was repressing them are showing symptoms of Stockholm syndrome within weeks of him leaving power. From that long experience of fighting power, some are failing to demobilise. They are still fighting power regardless of what good it’s doing.
They remain anti-establishment no matter how positive, how transparent and how progressive the establishment, which is there, is now. They still want to drive those in power to the wall so that power pushes back. If it all goes wrong we should know we created that in the same way that we should have said No.
It is counter-intuitive for one to even consider the prospects of having the old man influence anything in the current dispensation.
How can it make sense when the whole country was held hostage to the will of one man and later the wills of one woman, holding unfettered, but equally unearned State power. We allowed that in the past, but this time let’s all say, No. We owe it to the next generation.