via my views on the world: And while we are fiddling….25 February 2014 by Terence Chimhavi
Events in Zimbabwe since the start of 2014 have been intriguing as they have been agonizing for many, for one reasons or the other. The talk of town of course is around the factional fights manifesting in the various political outfits within our midst, notably the leadership renewal call in the MDC-T and the accompanying violence as well as the many factional battles playing along in Zanu PF. This is threatening to steal the thunder generated by ‘salarygate’, which epitomizes the serious shortcomings apparent in our socio-politics. Its consequences directly relate to our economics and the real struggle that the ordinary Zimbabwean faces daily just to survive.
The revelations emanating from ‘salarygate’ speak to the near dearth that characterizes the majority of our state-run enterprises. These, true to government assertions are supposed to provide critical services to the citizens, to a scale that measures to such services meeting constitutionally prescribed rights of the citizens; right to water, education, healthcare, information, et cetera. This is the first and immediate line through which government should assert and implement its capability to take care of the welfare of its citizens. That this is the exact opposite of what government through these state parastatals was doing, speaks volume of its thinking and intent, more so on the backdrop of a supposed overwhelming mandate from July 31.
The undertones coming from very senior people in Zanu PF and government linking the media coverage of the near collapse of state parastatals to infighting within their party should not be ignored. It seems that for them, they have other priorities which supersede their primary existence – namely to govern the country and well so. And while all along their cheap scapegoat to masking their apparent shortcomings on service delivery has always been sanctions, the truth has been made bare for all, even to the non-different and ignorant observer alike. Granted, sanctions being sanctions are supposed to and will have an impact. And this is not to say Zanu PF and its stewards in government did not know about these goings-on as they now want to portray. They knew and for one reason or the other did not act about it. The most plausible reason being that they were beneficiaries – direct or indirect – of all this brazen looting, albeit legalized.
While it seems like the country is being held to ransom over the Zanu PF factional wars which are clearly affecting national development, it seems the opposition MDC formation led by former Premier Morgan Tsvangirai is having its own share of distractions to be able to provide a watchdog role and oversight over the gross dereliction of duty on the part of government. The recent violence and on-going suppression of leadership renewal calls within that entity speaks to even greater dearth in terms of the understanding of this party and its members to the ideals and expectations of what it purports to stand for.
So far, with the way things have been unfolding, it is clear that this party is not a democratic movement. And just like Zanu PF, they believe that political differences can be resolved through violence. It seems too that they have mastered the art of self-aggrandizement at the expense of serving the people’s interests. But was is beginning to become more striking in terms of how the MDC-T has become a miniature clone of Zanu PF is the manner in which one individual has come to be regarded as indispensable to the party and therefore to the capacity of their party to govern the country. I find it very absurd that in this era of democracy, we continue to be talking about perpetual leadership by an individual in any organization. I personally find this notion contrary to the natural process that bequeaths posterity – that each present generation will pass, voluntarily or otherwise, the baton to the next, and so forth.
This then defeats the belief being peddled by some that some individuals are indispensable to a movement. And this however is more telling of the metamorphosis that the MDC-T and in particular its leader have gone through. Initially riding on the apparent shortcoming of Zanu PF succession politics, in having failed to ensure a more democratic form of succession and leadership renewal, the MDC-T today faces the same quandary over succession and leadership renewal. However, unlike in Zanu PF where successional fights are carefully woven into the political economy – access to and control of resources, including state resources – the weapon of choice for Mr Tsvangirai seems to be outright and overt violence. While at one time his arsenal would also have included donor funding, this unfortunately is no longer the case. We have all witnessed this trend over the years and it clearly has not left the confines of his mind but albeit like wine, has gotten better with age. The 2005 split of the opposition is just but one case in point.
And as in the scenario painted by the old age adage ‘when two elephants fight…’ it is the grass that continues to bear the brunt. Even where the elephants seem not to be in any contact, again the grass is suffering. Very succinct but key lessons emanate from an overall analysis of the current state of our country. The first and major point is that our country yearns for a new political thinking and culture and therefore a political alternative. This to take it out of the current socio-political and economic malaise, and to a future where the citizens – and not just a few political elites and their brooding puppets – are in control of the state’s affairs. A cursory look to the state of affairs within both Zanu PF and MDC-T clearly indicate that such national salvation will not come from either party. They both lack the will and ability to put the people first. The crisis unfolding in the Tokwe-Mukosi area says a lot about the current government.
Secondly and fundamentally more critical is the apparent inaction by the governing party to concisely tackle the scourge of corruption that is now clearly the biggest hindrance to national development – and not sanctions as expounded by others. While Zanu PF may have gotten an overwhelming majority at the last election, they seem clueless as to how they are going to take the country forward. While they continue to pin their hopes on Zimasset, the truth of the matter is that their goodwill is severely eroded, thanks to years of brazen looting of state resources and failure to arrest graft. Where graft has been exposed and linked to senior party officials, such cases have never been pursued to their logical conclusions. And this is the reason why Zimasset does not have many takers, and why many people remain skeptical that Zanu PF will be able to implement it to benefit all citizens, not just its close circle of looters as has been the case all along.
While we continue to watch closely events surrounding the fate of all those fingered in corrupt activities and abuse of public office, it cannot be overemphasized that dealing with corruption remains the major challenge for government today towards setting this country on a more positive developmental trajectory. For as long as Zanu PF continues to tolerate looting by its ministers, leaders, members and those linked to them, then whatever fight against corruption they can have remains superficial and futile. And without addressing this scourge, economic development will remain a pipe-dream and Zimasset like so many other Zanu PF blueprints, will only be good as a bookish blueprint and not change the lives of the people for the better.
Admissions to the effect that petty factional fights could hamper the fight against graft are only working to confirm that Zanu PF no longer has what it takes to take this country forward. Both the will and the way seem to be eluding them, thanks to their failure to concisely deal with succession and leadership renewal. For how can we be stuck with the same leadership 34 years after independence? Zimbabwe’s cabinet today resembles its cabinet of 1981, apart of course from the departed comrades. Does that mean that since 1980, Zanu PF has and is failing to groom a younger generation of leaders who are conscious enough to understand the true ethos behind the liberation struggle? A younger generation that is in touch with the needs and aspirations of the new majority in Zimbabwe – that comprised of young people. Admittedly, the mainstream opposition is not on a very different trajectory to the one of Zanu PF, and therefore does not stand out in any way as an alternative to this malaise. At the end of this all, it is the people of Zimbabwe that continue to bear the brunt.
And while we are fiddling with petty political party fights, Rome is burning.