via Beyond political patronage and tribalism | The Zimbabwean 16 July 2014 by Vince Musewe
Patronage continues to limit our potential as a country because we do not seek the best solutions or apply our best people to resolve our problems.
We must learn from our own history that political parties have failed to deliver because by their nature, they are unsuitable platforms for good leadership and accountability to the people.
Every five years the masses troop to the voting booths hoping that things will change. They are easily duped by endless rallies and gifts from politicians who ignore their real needs once we have voted for them.
We have seen how Zanu (PF) after “winning” the last elections have merely focused on entrenching themselves and ensuring that party cronies are rewarded with jobs in state enterprises and government projects. This of course has nothing to do with their election promises of creating jobs and empowering citizens. The sad fact is that those that voted for Zanu (PF) with expectation are still sitting at home today, poor and hopeless.
We should not be surprised at all because these are the standards of politics in Zimbabwe. You join a political party so that you may receive favour, you do not join it for the purposes of developing Zimbabwe or its people. It’s obvious that the masses never learn and it is our responsibility to create a new awareness
There are now a lot of new political parties emerging in Zimbabwe and I really wonder what the expectations of those forming them are. No doubt they all claim that they are democrats who want to see this country develop, they claim that they will empower citizens; they are all the same.
You cannot expect different results from the same structures because structures determine behaviours and therefore output. We must look outside the box for new governance structures that fundamentally change the results we are getting.
Zimbabwe is still a young democracy but it appears we are not learning from our mistakes and therefore we will replicate the same results of patronage and tribalism until we fundamentally change our political structures.
We must first look at why political parties, once they are in power, do not focus on the country and the citizens. I think this has a lot to do with our culture and experiences. There is this pervasive selfishness in our society, where political parties and social organisations do not look at the benefits to the country but at immediate benefit to themselves.
We still also have some degree of tribalism in our society where tribe is used as measure of loyalty and safety. I am told, for example, that Mugabe will always want to know where you come from before you are appointed to any substantive position in government. Ministers tend to mirror this behaviour when appointing members to the boards of state enterprises or awarding government contracts.
I do not know how we can get rid of this, besides changing thepolitical leadership and also changing our political structures.
Patronage continues to limit our potential as a country because we do not seek the best solutions or talents to resolve our problems, but merely use party loyalty as a measure to appoint or reward individuals. This is such a pity given the talents that Zimbabweans have.
In order to get rid of patronage and tribalism, I am proposing that we elect as President an independent candidate who does not have any political party baggage. This will then allow such an individual to make decisions by putting country first.
I am also proposing that we elect as many independent minded individuals into parliament so that they may represent the country and not political parties. The quality of the debate in our parliament is really disturbing and we cannot expect Zimbabwe to develop until we have competent people presiding over the debates that are held in parliament. We need fearless and brutally honest debate on all the challenges we face. Unfortunately this will not happen as long as Members of Parliament are forced to support the party line even when it is not necessarily the best solution for the country.
We are not developing as a nation because we are not questioning our structures that we have. We are using old structures but expecting new results.
I think it is healthy to have multiple voices and platforms for people to express themselves, which is what democracy is all about. However, I fear that most of these platforms merely want to replace Zaniu (PF) but do not propose to do anything differently once in power. Because of this Zimbabwe will continue to lag behind other African vibrant democracies – despite having a very educated populace.
In my opinion, political parties will replicate the same behaviours and the same results because of the way they are structured. We need to spend our energy on changing these structures. – Vince Musewe is an economist and author based in Harare. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org