How the spiral of silence haunted Zanu-PF

The spiral of silence was eerie, and many agreed that Zanu-PF was fast-heading to the precipice. However, few could dare voice it.

Source: How the spiral of silence haunted Zanu-PF | The Sunday Mail November 26, 2017


Zanu-PF cadres seemed indifferent to former First Lady Mrs Grace “Mafirakureva” Mugabe’s acerbic tongue which chopped the person and character of perceived opponents in the party.

But that didn’t mean there was no tinge of disapproval in the bosoms of the millions who heard and saw her go off in bursts at political meetings.

She wielded the sceptre of power; who could resist as she introduced a new sub-culture that defied party ideals and Zimbabwe’s culture of respect?

Professor Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann’s Spiral of Silence Theory trully played out in Zanu PF.

Silently, party members digested the gruelling goings-on without daring to stem the tide.

Those facing criminal charges got free reign and continued their nefarious escapades under the wing of “Mwenewazvo”.

Reason was far between, and many in the party hid behind the cover of silence for fear of isolation — the centrifugal force that leads to the spiral of silence.

Only a handful of cadres stood up and told President Mugabe that the putschist cabal lurking about him was railroading him to an ignominious end.

These valiants include Retired Colonel Tshinga Dube and Cdes Betty Mutero and Claveria Chizema, among others.

Col Dube will go down in history as one of the few people who told President Mugabe to name his successor.

In retrospect, it was probably this action that led to Col Dube’s dismissal.

It is understood Col Dube cast aside counsel from colleagues, asserting that he would rather die than bend where principle was concerned.

But now that the chickens have come home to roost, it is the good old Colonel and others of his ilk who now bask in the glory of having stood against the spiral of silence.

Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association leader Ambassador Christopher Mutsvangwa, who was expelled from Zanu-PF on trumped up charges, also stands vindicated for speaking out. University of Johannesburg media lecturer and political analyst Dr Admire Mare said Zanu-PF had muzzled virtuous viewpoints that could have benefitted it.

“Basically, it’s a combination of spiral of silence, conformism and the desire to go with group-think that led the party to this. It’s clear the spiral of silence was evident, especially with regards to the ways in which ‘good’ people in Zanu-PF remained quiet yet the country was being dragged into the precipice.

“These individuals feared isolation, which results from the idea that a social group or the society in general might isolate, neglect, or exclude them from the feeding trough.

“Remember the talk of ‘it’s cold out there’; most cadres resigned to fate and chose to protect their livelihoods at the expense of the reputation of the party and their own. It became a case of closing one’s eyes to corrupt dealings and bad party management systems.”

Dr Mare also said, “Fear of being purged and silenced contributed to the silence we witnessed despite the foul rants by Mrs Grace Mugabe which were very un-African and un-motherly, in most cases.

“My feeling is that Zanu-PF mutated into an undemocratic party where individuals’ freedom of expression and thought was squashed.”

Mother Teresa once remarked that “the worst sickness is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but the feeling of being respected by no one, of being unloved, deserted by everyone”, and this appeared to feed the spiral of silence in Zanu-PF. Many party members chose to wallow in silence rather than stand for truth.

However, the few heroes who chose to call “a spade a spade” will be judged by history as the brave man who pulled the party from the brink.

As the party goes through its renaissance under a new leader in Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa, the revolutionary movement should take crucial lessons never to muzzle the voices of the majority.

Everyone in the party has prior knowledge of what needs to be fixed and as such, should refrain from evils of the past.

The views of cadres should always be heard, no matter how divergent.

It is instructive that the incoming Zanu-PF President and First Secretary’s slogan is Vox Populi Vox Dei (the voice of the people is the voice of God).