Zimbabwe’s Political Future – Opinion

via Zimbabwe’s Political Future April 9, 2014 by Prof. Ambrose B. Chimbganda

Email: chimbga42@gmail.com 

The current talk about the formation of a new political party, possibly a splinter party from the MDC, and the internal squabbles in ZANU (PF) prompt me to join the discourse on the likely political future of Zimbabwe.

The starting point, perhaps, is to ask ourselves what we can learn from the formation of splinter parties. At the moment the MDC has four factions led by Tswangirai, Ncube, Mutambara and Sikhala; and the latter has, in his wisdom, rejoined the mainstream MDC of Mr Tswangirai. The stark lesson that can be learned is that no matter how tempting it may be we can never achieve our political objective by fighting individually or as a small faction.

The old adage that “the weak become strong when they fight as a united front” is true in the political context of Zimbabwe or, for that matter, any other country. Each individual faction in the MDC can never hope to dislodge ZANU (PF) if it fights the battle on its own. A loose front or coalition is not ideal either because it is often fragile, weak and usually lacks an ideological fervour that makes it a coherent force.

To emphasize the importance of unity, let us pause to ask this brutally honest question: Why did the MDC fail to defeat ZANU (PF) in 2008? The disciples of factional politics would make us believe that they lost because the elections were rigged or manipulated. They would even accuse each other that one of them had been paid to divide the opposition.

However, the naked truth is that if Mr Tswangirai, Dr Makoni and Professor Ncube had stood together as one, the result would have been very different. And, today, Zimbabwe would have been confronting the future with more hope and greater certainty than is currently the case. Here, we need to remind ourselves that those who do not want to rise above sectional interests and personal ambitions will forever be judged harshly by history.

One critical point we should bear in mind is that whatever differences may exist in the MDC, ZANU (PF) or any other political party is perfectly natural. The disagreements should be welcome because true unity never relies on the uniformity of opinions but on the convergence of different ideas from different personalities.

Also, what should be appreciated is that honest differences in a party that are debated robustly are not symptoms of disunity: they are in fact a manifestation of a dynamic party. Similarly, for unity to be real it should stand the severest strain, like steel, without buckling under pressure. And what we know is that more often than not, splits are usually not caused by ideological differences, but are an outcome of personal egos, tribal sentiments or are motivated by financial gains.

The power of unity

Regarding the necessity for unity, the late Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia gives us precious advice on the importance of unity. His humble message to other heads of states, some of whom had seemed reluctant to form the O. A.U, is spiritually uplifting:  “History teaches us that unity is strength…. We need to submerge and overcome our differences in the quest for common goals, to strive with all our combined strength for the path of African brotherhood and unity”. These purifying words should be our guiding principle when we want to lead other people.

Muhammad Iqbal is more philosophical about unity and sees the connection between humanity and spirituality: “Political leadership enables us to pass from matter to the spirit. Matter is human diversity, while the spirit is light, life and unity”. He goes on to remind us that “the destiny of Man lies in unity and not division. If you keep on dividing, you will end up like a troop of monkeys throwing nuts at each other out of separate trees”.

For those who harbour ambitions of forming a political party, and by the way it is their democratic right to do so, they must be reminded that any political party that does not have its roots from the masses is nothing less than tyranny. Any democratic movement must be drawn not from the self, family or one class but must find its soul and spirit from different people, interest groups, different classes and tribes.

Zimbabwe’s liberation parties

A quick look at the political parties that fought for Zimbabwe’s independence can provide some lessons which our current political parties can learn from. As most of us know, ZANU was formed as a splinter party from ZAPU. There was no clear ideological difference between the two parties, except that their support base tended to be divided between the Shone and Ndebele, with each party having a cosmetic number of leaders from each tribe to mask its tribal orientation.

As a result of the cracks within the nationalist movement, one school of thought maintains that Zimbabwe’s independence was unduly delayed because the two political parties could not form a common front to fight against a well equipped colonial regime led by Ian Smith. The petrol bombing of rival supporters in the townships is thought to have been a misdirected armed struggle. The older generation can attest to the fact that this was a dark period in the history of our struggle, especially when the Peoples Caretaker Council (PCC) was formed out of the ashes of ZAPU, which tried to crush ZANU.

Those who were in favour of a new party, on the other hand, argued in frustration that it was necessary to form ZANU because ZAPU had not brought independence at a time when our northern neighbours, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, had been granted independence mainly because UNIP in Zambia and MCP in Malawi were more militant than the “gradualists” and “good boys” of Southern Rhodesia. The political division between ZAPU and ZANU continued during the Second Chimurenga War throughout the sixties and seventies, in spite of the efforts by the O.A.U. to unite them under FROLIZI, UANC, ZIPA, the Patriotic Party and so forth. 

Lessons to be learned

What is it that can be learned from the earlier political parties? The first lesson is that unity is quite necessary if you want to bring about change. In a way the formation of the Patriotic Front was pivotal to the landing of a final blow that forced Ian Smith to negotiate for a transition to majority rule; but the continued division within the nationalist movement delayed the advent of independence. An important lesson which both ZANU and the MDC and the other parties seem not to have learned is that relying on support from one region or tribal group creates mistrust and resentment. Can the current ZANU (PF), ZAPU, MDC or any other political party be said to be truly national? Does this political configuration bring hope to our future generations?

Has Zimbabwe learned from the split that occurred in ZAPU in 1971 which led to James Chikerema and George Nyandoro to form FROLIZI?  Do we still not have those tribal inclinations in our current ZAPU? What about ZANU? Has the party learned from the tribal divisions that led to the assassination of Hebert Chitepo and others in Lusaka in 1975? What has the party learned from the death of General Tongogara in Mozambique just before independence? It would appear that the ruling party has not learned much from its past mistakes because we have seen over the years the mysterious deaths of prominent and ordinary citizens, just like what happened during the liberation struggle.

The same can be said about the MDC. What has the party learned from its past about internal dissent? Can the leadership convince the public that they have learned to win an election, or they can offer a more democratic system than ZANU? Is the party not descending into a regional organisation like ZANU? By beating up some of the dissenting voices, is the party not doing exactly what ZANU (PF) does? If indeed the MDC or ZANU (PF) is going to split, can the leadership say that they have been able to accommodate different voices? In its handling of affairs, can the party leadership claim to uphold the principle that “we are all equal in the knowledge that we are different and that we are all the same in the knowledge that we are distinct individual beings”?


In the final analysis, the big question that needs to be answered is: why do we still have politically motivated deaths or assaults when such a barbaric and savage culture has long ended in many countries? For some people the simple answer is tyranny and impunity plus the absence or lack of the rule of law. In my view, the problem goes far deeper than that. There is the feeling among some of the leaders that “I own the party, country and its people”. Obviously when such leaders still have the “Animal Farm” mentality that “all animals are equal but some are more equal than others”, then we are not going to have a democratic system.

The concept of personalising political parties manifests itself when some leaders refuse to discuss leadership renewal or to accept failure. As party followers there is need to insist on collective decisions and to resist vehemently the temptation that political parties belong to an individual. When we are faced with autocracy, we should not think of leaving the party or forming a splinter party, we should correct the wrong things because the party is ours. That is how we can build a vibrant and long-lasting political system for the future. An undemocratic splinter group is equally bad if not worse than its parent party.

In saying this let us acknowledge, however, the fact that in some cases we may have leaders who erroneously believe that the success of a party or nation is measured by the number of years they stay in power or the number of years they have “won” an election. This may be the reason why some of them cling on to power for too long until they are forcibly removed or they are relieved by the earth’s force of gravity. They do not realise that their leadership is judged not by the number of years they have stayed in power but by their vision, their transformation of society and the quality of life they have created for the society based on Mahatma Gandhi’s endearing principle that “my brother is as much as I am”.



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    Given the situation that has prevailed in the past the formation of any new party will do no good as with other formations greed selfishness and dishonesty cannot be visible in those that form the Party at it’s onset. The culture of good politics must begin in Parliament with the people that were elected by their constituents. I have no doubt that most of the constituents in most of the constitutionalities have the same or similar aspirations. Most of these men in Parliament are people that have not held Cabinet posts yet they don’t know how much power they wield as a unit. If maturity would prevail in this group they are in a position to check these Cabinet members who think that they are little gods and can do or implement what ever they want. They would need to first respect each other, beg to differ where they don’t agree,and basically look out for the peoples welfare. If they vote together on basic things without fear or favour and when in Parliament have constructive arguments that bring out good ideas this will reduce the powers of Ministers who have too much power anywhere. The trend here is that when they walk into Parliament they are already instructed how to vote even if they don’t like it.My point is that this group at this stage is the only group that can get us out of this mess if only THEY MAN UP.

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    Tsuro Magen'a 8 years ago

    Well thought.

    But Prof politicians by their nature are greedy,ambitious individuals. Each individual in his political space of his party is thriving to be finally take over. They are the same.

    It seems this is more pronounced in Africa, combined with uncouthed(sp) methods.

    The battles we see in ZANU and MDC is power and control.

    In the recent case Mangoma, like Ncube instead of using proper channels which include pursuing vote of no confidence in a leader or waiting for a Congress, he opts to achieve the ultimate goal of every politician, by other means, knowing he will not succeed using the proper method.

    Tsvangson to ensure his grip he sends or looks aside as his dogs bite the Mangomas.

    Unfortunately us the intellectuals we seem not to have the art of politics rather we do not have BAs in People which MT seem to have.

    What we need therefore as ordinary Zimbabweans, who want to leave in peace and put bread on the table is try to retain our power from the politicians and hold them accountable.

    We need both MDC and ZANU bulls to be strong and viable. But at the moment the ZANU bull needs to be castrated.

    Remember the best moments we had as a Nation post 1980, was when the power of ZANU was not total. In the period just after independence Mugabe was not sure and he knew he would easily be toppled and undermined hence we got reconciliation and a thriving economy.

    Slowly he entrenched himself while we sang “Long live Comrade”

    We allowed him to destroy ZAPU, as he played the tribal card.

    Come Unity Agreement the economy picked up, but alas all opposition was swallowed and Matibili was at it again.

    Then come MDC…”Ndiri Mdhara wenyu…we are all Zimbabweans, irrespective..”, suddenly his vocabulary changed leading to GNU and we again had the best moments as a nation..economic growth of 9 percent.

    So Prof I agree, the unity and survival of MDC is in our interest as Zimbabweans, but lets not sing,”Long live” as before.

    Hope Mangomas do not rock the boat at the moment.

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    Roving Ambassador 8 years ago

    Its a good article. Its a good article as a presentation to nation builders and patriots,not individuals whose main aim is to pillage and loot. The unifying factor in ZANU is the corruption that goes on unabated. Democracy becomes a mirage and any means possible to retain power is used, violence, rigging and out right buying of the electorate .
    It then becomes a problem to get rid of the leadership thus bringing about formation s of splinter groups.
    ZANU is beyond redemption, the undemocratic and corruption culture is so deep rooted they actually think its normal. Forget about ZANU.
    The MDC is still a baby in this game,but you can see the tell tell signs, the Zanufication is in progress. The leadership has erred but there is no self introspection. The cult culture is taking root, the leader is always right when the evidence shows otherwise. I am hoping for a unity of purpose in the MDC with new leadership to take the fight to the next stage.
    But knowing Tsvangirai or Mugabe, they all want to go down with “their” parties.

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    Mixed Race 8 years ago

    This is an interesting article with deliberate omissions in our terrible history leading to where we are now. Prof. Ambrose has deliberately left out an important leader during the Lancaster House negotiations that is Bishop Muzorewa a dedicated Christian who helped to moderate the talks to weaken the hard core Mr Smith.It was going to take longer to arrive at a political agreement without Bishop Muzorewa who was the prime minister of the country at time whether you like it or not but its in our true history books .This is the problem we have in this country,misrepresentation of facts.
    The Prof. talks about tribal evils but he deliberately leaves out the darkest period in our history,that is the Gugurawudi era whereby anybody from Mat or Midlands was classified as a dissident until he proved to the army that he was not a dissident. The National Radio and TV stations used to make funny jokes about it eg {Dissident is Mundebele Akaphanduka} which are internationally considered as hurt and hatred speeches.This was the worst type of tribalism which should be mentioned in all fair reports by so-called intellectuals not to suppress it deliberately.
    We can only stop tribalism when we become honest within ourselves and realise that all the tribes have a genuine purpose to be here and there is no language which is supposed to be more important than the other language.If you are in Mat you should use Ndebele as an alternative business language not Shona and vice visa if you are in Mashonaland.I call this respect for all languages and tribes not a twisted Animal Farm Novel saga.I fully agree with you that the misguided politicians have used the outdated divide and rule principles with some limited success but this can be changed if the majority tribe accepts its responsibility of respecting the minority tribes and stop voting on tribal basis regardless of the calibre of the candidates involved.

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    When I touched on the above it seemed like I was going off topic. Far from that. We all know where we went wrong. Weather with the rulers or the opposition. Whilst the Professor is enlightening in his assessment I think the window has passed for any formation of new parties or unity amongst the opposing forces that can effect change. I stand by what I say that MP’s and Councilors not forgetting Politicians that have any kind of influence and have not been tainted are our only hope. If they get lambasted by their partys for agreeing to put the interest of their constituents. first so be it.What role should we play? Make those that you elected accountable by using your pens to point them in the right direction by reminding them their election promises. If you plan on how to win the 2018 election now what guarantee do you have that we won’t have another July 2013?c Remind them why they are there. Remind them that we exist. Tell them what you want. Forget about these all powerful Minister that are enriching themselves.

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    Jono Austin 8 years ago

    Mugabe and his 34 years and counting ‘in power!’ Abraham Lincoln who is generally considered the best president of the most powerful and successful country the world has ever had only served 4 years. Mugabe will be cursed in posterity by all right thinking people. A buffoon, a murderer and an embittered small thinking man full of resentment and spite. The legacy he will leave is a totally polarised society and a broken country riddled with corruption.

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    Shambakodzi 8 years ago

    Who is “Tswangirai”? At first I thought it was a typo but not when it’s repeated SEVERAL times in the same text. The nex point is; Zimbabweans have not yet exhausted their options. We can’t be stupid to think that only thye known exisiting parties have the answer to our problems. New initiatives might as well move us forward. We can’t do the SAMe thing over and over and hope to get different results. With Mugabe’s imminent departure, Zimbabwe is likley to become a full military state. The BEST time to mitigate that risk is now. Let’s keep thinking!!!

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    Littledorrit 8 years ago

    Ask colonial mama to take over again and rebuild the institutions and teach us how to run them in a benign and efficient way. We gave not got the morals or balls to do it ourselves – takes real courage to admit our mistakes. Bring England to Zim instead of the other way around. Colonialism extended lifespans brought roads education written language etc. follow the Japanese model which is smart enough to use instead of abuse

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      The truth hurts. But the truth frees. It take a big person to admit wrong.

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    Tongoona 8 years ago

    Prof the political history you give is correct but will not help change attitudes of the current greed and selfish crop of politicians. ZANU PF has been in power for 34 years through hook and crook. MDC failed to deliver in 3 or 4 elections and its failure to fulfill its mandate disgruntled its members resulting in splinter groups forming factions with hangover for the mother party. So they came up with pseudo opposition parties retaining MDC party name differentiated by surnames. It is the main MDC which needs to bring to fold rebel MDCs so that MDC reverts to its original form. In my view there is one MDC, factions have weakened this party.
    Tsvangirai and Makoni cannot genuinely join forces because of the history of their political background. Makoni must rejoin ZANU PF and Ncube should rejoin Tsvangirai this way there will be two main political parties. ZANU PF and MDC cannot politically blend because of ideological difference.
    Zimbabweans have lost faith in both ZANU PF and MDC because these parties are not philanthropic enough. Zimbabweans want something new for a change in ruling and opposition parties. Recycling the same old political parties will not solve our political and economic problems.

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      All Eyes On Me 8 years ago

      If you have the best interests of Zim at heart, you should be addressing the issues that led to the splitting of the parties, rather than just urging people to rejoin this or that party. That majoritarian mentality will never work.

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    Nyoni 8 years ago


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    Ruramai 8 years ago

    The prof is deluded in his belief that if Tsvangirai, Makoni and Ncube had joined forces the outcome would have been different. The results took 5 weeks because they were cooked and insiders within the electoral commission have revealed Tsvangirai won outright. Is the prof therefore suggesting having the 3 in one camp would have resulted in Mugabe conceding defeat? Pigs would fly before the Zanu p.f. mafia lets go.

    The other issue is, it would not work to unite if these opposition leaders do not share the same values. Tsvangirai now believes violence is ok as a way of silencing dissent. How can those seeking to follow a genuinely democratic path accommodate such barbarism?

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    It is not right to read an opinion that suggests we should be ruled by past colonialism. That past is dead and buried, but only exists in a hidden form. We lived in colonial Zimbabwe, and Smith did not provide enough schools, hospitals, homes or jobs for blacks. The current regime was established to destabilize what Smith had left behind as ‘legacy’ for Zimbabweans. The British covertly supported Ian Smith, and wanted him to hand the baton to Mugabe. The result is the mess we have today where a dictatorship was engineered, developed and imposed on Zimbabweans by a colonial government. Not many people have woken up to this truth. We need divine intervention and we must humble ourselves and pray for this.

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    What i dont get is what seems to be generally agreed by tsvangirai critics that he now believes in violence basing their agument on the mangoma incident. They seem to totally ignore his denying to have anything to do with that violence. I understand there were vedio clips which could have been used to identify the perpetretors which the police are said to have refused to use in their investigations. In the event that it may be proved in the court of law that infact tsvangirai had nothing to do with that negative criticism based on this. Fortunately for you the powers that be will ensure that the case will drag on until 2018 lest a quick resolve of this case may not prove tsvangirai to be a violent man and its in their interest to give you tsvangirai haters something to use in your vendeta against him.