Every opposition party goes through a cleansing process

The leader of the Zimbabwe People First (ZimPF) party, Joice Mujuru has done the unthinkable and most political pundits are in a quandary over the future of her political career and the party.

Source: Every opposition party goes through a cleansing process – NewsDay Zimbabwe February 13, 2017

Develop me: Tapiwa Gomo

Let’s accept her as a leader and a future possibility. You know you are the boss when you can hire and fire and Mujuru has just done that without flinching. Before I get into my main discussion today, let’s digress.

When Mujuru took a political sabbatical after she left Zanu PF, people said she didn’t have the spine to challenge her former boss or to stand brutal politics in Zimbabwe. That she did not fight back when she was ejected from Zanu PF, coupled with her silence, thereafter, somewhat confirmed this notion because most people conclude the two factors as political timidity or lack of gut.

She left people guessing on her next move until she finally launched her political party. Unpredictability is a requisite political attribute in Zimbabwe, where infiltration is as cancerous and dangerous as corruption to our wellbeing.

And again, after she launched ZimPF, her move was viewed with a lot of skepticism. For some she was just a disgruntled Zanu PF daughter. Others said she did not have that convincing figure, while her opponents accused her of being a puppet of Didymus Mutasa and company.

Despite that, the recent dismissal of the founding members of her party has proven her mantle, tact and decisiveness. Some have chosen to see a confused party leader instead of an iron lady, who exudes leadership and stamps authority. It takes huge guts to fire a guy like Mutasa.

So far, Mutasa has been fired by only two people in his political career and that is President Robert Mugabe and Mujuru. And those pruned together with Mutasa were not easy push-overs either. But, hey, someone had to remind them that there is retirement. It is time up!

Now back to my main discussion today. Most opposition parties worth mentioning go through a natural and periodic cleansing process. This is simply because the majority of political parties are formed hastily out of the frustrations with the establishment, and not necessarily shared or coalition of interests and ideologies. And in the process, they prune, groom and renew.

Picture this; on August 8, 1963, Ndabaningi Sithole, Henry Hamadziripi, Mukudzei Midzi, Herbert Chitepo, Edgar Tekere and Leopold Takawira met in Enos Nkala’s house in Highfield to plot a split from Joshua Nkomo-led Zapu to form Zanu.

These comrades were unhappy with Nkomo’s leadership at the time. This is despite that both parties were fighting for the same cause — to liberate Zimbabwe.

Two more splits ensued in Zanu before independence. In 1973, Nathan Shamuyarira left to join the Front for the Liberation of Zimbabwe (Frolizi) after Chitepo won Zanu leadership. And after Chitepo’s death on March 18 1975, Ndabaningi Sithole assumed the leadership of Zanu before splitting after the Mgagao Declaration. Both groups, one led by Mugabe and another Sithole continued to use the name Zanu before adding different monikers at a later stage. Sithole’s party became Zanu Ndonga, while Mugabe’s became Zanu PF.

While most people would choose to despair over the splitting of opposition parties, it should be noted that none of the pre-independence splits delayed independence. Change is not in political parties, but within people. Between 1980 and 1999, several political parties emerged and quickly slid into the annals of history.

The year 1999, saw the birth of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), an amalgamation or coalition of people united by their opposition to Zanu PF, but divided by ideological differences.

In 2005, these differences fissured and threatened to decimate the MDC, somewhat shelving the main agenda of removing Zanu PF from power. Since then the MDC became the most reproductive party with several splits ensuing carrying their party leaders’ monikers.

It is a trend set by Zanu, perpetuated by the MDC and soon to be adopted by ZimPF. The point here is that there is nothing new or amiss about what is happening in Mujuru’s party. It does not stop change from happening if people want change desperately. Mujuru has done what needed to be done. Keeping divisive elements in the party is never a source of stability.

Most of those dismissed are uncomfortable with any other leadership apart from themselves and that of Zanu PF, that is, if they are to survive jail in the post Zanu PF era. Some of their hands are dripping with fresh blood, fetid enough to contaminate possible coalition of purpose.

The 2018 election needs to be approached with an open mind that is willing to embrace new possibilities and ideas.

It may seem and uncouth immoral to fire an octogenarian like Mutasa, but then do we want 80-year-olds in new political parties?

Age will take care of them, but the country needs young people not bound by the past, but a generation focused on the future. We have walked a long journey to be waylaid by gerontocracy.

Tapiwa Gomo is a development consultant based in Pretoria, South Africa