A coalition that may resurrect somnolent ZANU ‘PF’ ” Nehanda Radio

via A coalition that may resurrect somnolent ZANU ‘PF’  – Nehanda Radio 27 June 2014 by Tshepo Mabalane Mabalane
The long confrontation by Zimbabwean opposition parties  with the tyrannical and slimy ZANU mob has had a fundamental impact on the country’s political culture. The most dramatic example of this political culture is the repetitive mass mobilisation and fragmentation of the Zimbabwean opposition in the past 34 years in general and the MDC’s last 15 years in particular.
Simba Makoni, Morgan Tsvangirai and Dumiso Dabengwa at a press conference last year
Public discourse has it that there is an emergence of yet another coalition which may add  a new dimension and hopefully a new dynamism as well, to the  Zimbabwean political culture. This may not be a bad idea after all, however it should be known that if precedence is anything to go by, this coalition is bound to splinter.
Such  disintegration(s)  is not peculiar to Zimbabwe but characterises  all coalitions where temporary  popular  loyalism drives  movements and  in the process ignores the blind side of patterns and motives ingrained within the participant  individuals and groups in this type of  volunteerism.  It is therefore these  blind sides that become many a coalition’s Achilles heel that often than not lead to self-destruction
With all due respect, it is great, admirable and responsible men and women who embark on such noble endeavours of coalitions when most people today  regard Zimbabwean politics with contempt and amusement of a never ending circus. However, false steps could lead to disintegrations before the coalition even starts gelling and colluding.
Such clutching at straws, may instead actually serve to awaken, renew and reinvigorate the enemy that the coalition seeks to fight. My piece is therefore based on the  coalition’s construction of battlements. I emphasise that political strategy is of central importance in coalition formation and success.  I have three key observations that I discuss in this short but highly  opinionated  piece.
Identity: Unity versus Distinctiveness
Central to political strategy in coalition formation and success is  the question of the coalition’s identity. Generally identity here refers to the coalition’s system of shared meanings in respect to how it defines itself from naming to practice or modus operandi. This identity is very important because it influences what the coalition wants others to think about it. In addition it is the glue that holds the coalition together.
Coalitions, we should bear in mind are a temporary grouping of entities, formed for a short-term and narrow aim and objectives,  such as countering a common enemy.
It is therefore clear that the different groups have found it difficult to defeat ZANU each fighting from their little corners. Thus,  it is apparent that the aim of the coalition is to gain more influence,  power and synergy than the individual organisations can achieve on their own against the tyrannical ZANU government and even boot it out of power.
As pointed out earlier, the coalition is not a new thing in Zimbabwean politics. The united MDC’s key objective until the split was clearly mobilised around the Mugabe must-go mantra. It was precise and clear and it had many takers.
But that slogan has lost its salt despite the fact that the MDC-T ,if it still exists, wants to milk it until it turns to powder with their ideologically impoverished ‘Dii pa State House” slogan. Logic and political sincerity  dictates that  two or  more mobilising points which are built on why Mugabe and ZANU should be removed must be formulated.
There is always a risk of fragmentation before even the coalition embarks on its project. Wisdom will dictate a post-mortem of what split the groups in the first place. Many reasons have been given but I think opposition parties have missed the point by a whisker and some by a mile.
The split was caused by the limited drive to entrench a single narrative of a homogenous Zimbabwe with one problem(Mugabe)  yet the MDC was a conglomeration of groups with different interests but had in common the need to counter a ZANU hegemony.
It would be hypocritical if not suicidal at best,  not to mention a delusion at its worst to repeat the same mistake. Such an approach will be insincere because Zimbabwe is not a homogenous entity but a contestation of diverse groups each with its own unique set of values. This confusion is generally defined as the unity versus distinctiveness dilemma.
Many theorists in Development studies such as Ben Yong and Robert Hazell have emphasized this dilemma of unity versus distinctiveness. Here groups in a coalition need to offer a clear account of their own aims and identity so as to avoid loss of identity once in power.
Coalitions are based on the idea that whilst working in tandem on common aims and objectives, the different groups should gain  individually from this participation. No one would  want to see a united MDC situation whereby the party gets a slice of power then shoves aside the workers, students, marginalised people of Matabeleland and to a certain extent, the Midlands and Masvingo and embark on jostling for positions.
With such precedence  is therefore important  to clear this confusion between unity and  distinctiveness. Individuals or groups in this new coalition must have their own sets of interests which should not of course override the unifying and overarching aims but at the same time should not be downtrodden because after triumph those interests should be addressed.
Reactivation of a dormant ZANU virus and David Coltart
One fundamental feature that has sustained ZANU over the years has been its ability to suppress with ruthless efficiency  the Zimbabwean populace’s perception of  the possible, particularly the possibility of credible alternatives. The suppression has been instilled in the people such that it is difficult for them  to imagine Zimbabwe without ZANU or Mugabe at the helm.
This impossibility to imagine the alternative has even permeated into all Zimbabwean spheres of life. Its strong odour pervades much of the citizenry’s initiatives where same old faces are recycled in the country’s positions of influence ranging from burial societies to sports administration.
A glaring example would be the MDC-T which itself has some of its supporters not imagining any leader outside Morgan Tsvangirai.
Tsvangirai’s leadership has indeed played a huge role in helping people imagine the impossible. However since 2005 he has been both a victim and conduit to the phenomenon by not only clinging tooth and nail to power but through uttering irresponsible and myopic statements such as ‘Mugabe is my role model’ together with his lacklustre cabinet quoted many a times in admiration of their supposed utmost enemy.
The people of Zimbabwe have also over the years helped buttress the view that there can be no other alternative in their respective areas.  They have both internalised and accepted this reality and rarely question its origins. Some are even bold to substantiate the anomaly with biblical verses such as ‘all authority is chosen by God’. In the end people have found themselves facing the difficulty of relating their own marginal condition in life to those they vote for.
The suppressed perception of the possible is even traceable in ZANU itself which does not believe that anyone else can lead the party or country besides Mugabe. It is therefore important for the coalition in its aims to consider how it can counter the suppression of perception of possibility.
So what could the coalition do?
We need to sufficiently understand the full implications of that answer in order to ensure that this coalition does not subvert the cause  the movement intends to serve and advance.
First and most importantly, timing is very important. The coalition should delay its launch until maybe just under two years before elections. If they cannot wait that long maybe they could even launch after the ZANU Congress in  December.
Trajectories vary, as does the degree of political expediency, but I think, as I have maintained in the past, and with benefit from hindsight, not even the strongest tyranny can remain united unless the opposition remains visible, a threat and very active. However if opposition feigns death or is in actuality destroyed, the party in power no longer feels any threat. In other words it has no mobilising point. What is therefore left is a natural inclination towards fragmentation and disintegration.
In other words the 2013 election outcome was a blessing in disguise for anyone who continues to stand against ZANU as the result became a catalyst for the  party to destroy itself from within, a natural phenomenon the party  or rock diesel sangomas cannot subvert.
The coalition risks being decimated into oblivion by ZANU if it launches early. ZANU is currently in a frantic search for a mobilising point that will become its adhesive as it has exhausted all its adhesives that have ranged from white farmers, the West, Blair, Bush,  the Ndebele, the gays, to the so called ‘totem-less people’.
A delay will therefore give ZANU more time to disintegrate but timing should be precise because a fractional miss could give ZANU ample time to recover and a rushed launch as pointed out will make the coalition the mobilising point and the coalition will be ZANU fodder.
Linked to this first point is that of leadership.
Second, I believe the composition of this movement should solely be determined by our need to respond in unison to common suffering. In line with coalitions leaders are usually head-hunted and not voted for into power.
If this is the case  I would propose, as a symbol of a new footing and a deviation from the monstrous past, the coalition should be led by a woman, a caucasian or a person from the minority for Zimbabwe has been an ethnocracy for too long. It would be a mistake to confine this project within the current ethnocratic framework, for that would be to miss much of the project’s essence.
If ever there was going to be a new footing in word or in deed, David Coltart stands out as a suitable candidate. Nothing will pain the pseudo nationalists than to see a white leader in their lifetime. This will symbolise a new Zimbabwe that has deviated from the racist pseudo-nationalist  past.
Secondly, Coltart’s appointment will not be a favour but on merit because has been a consistent activist against tyranny  since 1980. His impeccable record including cost-conscious pragmatism and good work ethics as a minister of education stands him in good stead.
Of course there is a large pool from which a leader could be chosen from which includes Welshman Ncube,  Strive Masiyiwa, Morgan Tsvangirai, Tendai Biti, Thokozani, Mkhwananzi, Nyaradzai Gumbonzvanda, Jenny Williams, Magodonga Mahlangu, Lovemore Madhuku to mention but a few. I however believe a David Coltart leadership will be symbolic in many strategic ways.
Finally, one of the key things that the coalition need not offer a tourist’s gaze is that, the suppression of perception of the possible has been also driven by the construction of a Zimbabwean ethnocratic state that is worse than apartheid. At a micro level all other ethnic groups have been discriminated against by the state to an extent of gross human violations such as Gukurahundi, Marange or the massacre of farmers.
It is at this level where the suppression of perception of the possible rears its ugly head. It is internalised such that other ethnic groups cannot be imagined in leadership positions and the beneficiaries are in rehearsed denial of their ethnic privilege. Ethnicity, therefore has been a central agent in narrativising the ‘nation’  and curtailing of the imagination of the possible.
Consequently other groups that need to be considered in this coalition are not only izinduna, religious leaders, new farmers, dispossessed farmers, small scale miners or civil servants but the growing Mthwakazi groupings. Their concerns are justified and to a large extent similar to other anti-Mugabe groupings, but the difference is that they no longer trust anyone since many movements have continued to reinforce this ethnocratic state.
The seemingly small but immensely symbolic Mthwakazi question
At the heart of the Mthwakazi groupings lies a different  memory of the national past which ZANU pretends does not exist. ZANU has shown this rejection  in many ways ranging from genocide and claiming other people’s  victories and narratives, in its effort to suppress the imagination of possibility.
These Mthwakazi  groups as fragmented as they are, hold in common idea that the nation, just like the past is a discursive construct and there is more than one way of imagining it. However the ZANU government has shown no intention to respect such, as a result the Mthwakazi people have been excluded in all socio-economic activities ranging from national sports teams, systematic deploying of civil servants that have low opinion of local cultures to genocide.
Mthwakazi narratives are basically rejected and excluded from the image of the Zimbabwean self. Even the opposition parties they support have appeared to draw on the same theme employed by the ZANU ethnocracy. However a new generation of young uMthwakazi intellectuals, rank and file sprinkled across the world, it appears, will not be fobbed off with sinecure.
A strong message to the coalition is to learn lessons from the past otherwise sooner or later it will be facing a South Sudan, Isis or Crimea situation which is not good for anyone. That is a mistake that ZANU made. After the genocide it misread the silence. Silence for any scholar or serious politician does not mean demise or death but merely means awaiting the manifestation of possibility.
The uMthwakazi idea is now there, but uMthwakazi will not be taken seriously unless it is well armed and willing to pay a price. At the present moment it is neither, but probably with time it is going to be both and the signs are already there if the ethnocratic  trajectory does not change.
And it only takes unity on Mthwakazi groups’ part and former PF-ZAPU members in ZANU today joining them to totally alter the Zimbabwean political landscape. However, if a coalition could incorporate Mthwakazi groupings then  a new Zimbabwe with a collective memory that acknowledges the richness in diversity and humanity would have been born and pending complications such as secession subverted.
The prayers of the living and departed would have been heard in dismantling this evil regime. Those who lie in unmarked graves courtesy of the liberation struggle, Gukurahundi, opportunistic diseases and others,  will at last rest in peace seeing their lives were not lost in vain as the demonic regime is finally exorcised.
The coalition therefore, I believe, is fighting against nothing but the suppression of perception of the possible. Any false move will see the coalition saving a decapitated copperhead snake that is currently  making sure of its own death by biting itself.
If there is anything, Zimbabwe is pregnant with possibilities.
I do not use the postfix PF after ZANU because there is nothing patriotic about the party.
You can reach the author on mabalakwena@gmail.com