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Mnangagwa’s Downfall: The Proverbial Case of Giving the ‘Kiss of Life’ to a Dying Goblin

By Blessing Vava Kissing the Goblin The battle for the soul of ZANU PF and succession of President Mugabe had been a tumultuous ...

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Mnangagwa’s Downfall: The Proverbial Case of Giving the ‘Kiss of Life’ to a Dying Goblin

By Blessing Vava

Kissing the Goblin
The battle for the soul of ZANU PF and succession of President Mugabe had been a tumultuous game that has in the past four decades claimed the scalps of veteran nationalists. From 1976, after the toppling of Ndabaningi Sithole, the leader of ZANU, Mugabe has out manoeuvred any potential or aspiring successors to remain the soul of ZANU PF and at the same time its life leader. Those in that category include the revered Josiah Tongogara, the feared Edgar Tekere, the sharp Eddison Zvobgo, leaders who harboured ambitions of one day leading the liberation movement. In a typical fashion of a dream deferred, all the above mentioned met their demise with no success in succeeding Robert Mugabe, who has remained the leader of the party since 1976.

 Even the indomitable late Father Zimbabwe Joshua Nkomo could not take the crown neither, after leading  the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA) in the war of liberation he was called a traitor and at some point, arrested by Mugabe and accused of treason. The same tragedy befell erstwhile comrades, Solomon Mujuru and his wife Joice, accused of trying to topple Mugabe from power. This is the same fate that has met ‘most loyal’ comrade Emmerson Mnangagwa, who over the past four decades naively thought he was the anointed one to succeed Mugabe. For Mnangagwa, he lived with Mugabe for all these decades learning and forgetting nothing. As Grace Mugabe insinuated over the weekend that Mnangagwa claims to have known Mugabe for four decades but in reality he does not know who Mugabe is. The question is was that observation wrong? Mnangagwa became too much comfortable and failed to understand that Mugabe has one principle in politics, keep your friends and enemies closer. What befell Nkomo, Ndabaningi, Mujuru were all lessons to learn for Emmerson that Mugabe was one man not to be trusted no matter what.  However, it seems Mnangagwa failed to understand the nature and character of Mugabe and his obsession with power.

Mugabe’s obsession with power: lessons to learn
In my previous article I deliberately referred to the late Samora Machel’s warnings about Mugabe taking charge of ZANU after the toppling of Sithole. The leaders of the Frontline states had already noticed bad leadership traits in Mugabe and their scepticism about him have finally been proven decades later. This is where we are today; he has been in power since 1980.  It seems Mugabe has never relented from his dream of becoming a Life President of Zimbabwe and it now almost seems on course after expelling the remaining veterans of the war in ZANU PF. President Mugabe’s continued hold on power has been aided by naive and selfish people who contributed in the creation of a Monster, and building a cult on the personality of Mugabe for selfish reasons. This is the scourge that has returned to afflict Mnangagwa.   Suffice to say, Mugabe has not changed tact in his bid to be the Life President of Zimbabwe.  Mujuru failed to learn, and for Mnangagwa, he should have learnt that no matter how much you play the loyalty card to Mugabe or even swallow a bullet for him, the man just doesn’t care. He is a narcissist, it’s all about himself and no one else. Mugabe is shrewd and unforgiving and believes in no other winner besides himself. He has been a master of dirty tactics, a political weapon that he always deploys to deal with perceived enemies. In describing Mugabe and his quest for power, the late Joshua Nkomo once said this about Mugabe:
I have suffered, I have worked so hard for this country before independence, during the war. I worked so hard after independence to make our independence stick and this man today calls me a traitor, me a traitor? A man who worked so hard for this country? I have never done anything wrong and Robert knows it. I tell you this is for personal power let him stand up and deny it, this is for personal power. He is frightened of my stature, he is frightened that he will not win the next elections. This is what he is doing, trying to smear me, very sly, very dirty.
Another interesting revelation on Mugabe’s crudeness is in Rugare Gumbo’s interview by the Rhodesian Herald on the 21st of February 1980:  “He (Mugabe) uses people — the Presidents of the Frontline States, people like Joshua Nkomo to build himself up and then he tries to destroy them. He cares nothing for the masses or for the country. All he cares about is Mugabe. “When he joined the party he had only a dirty shirt and trousers. Now he has money — a lot of money. He is wealthy. He built a fortune on the backs and the sweat of people like us. He takes his wife all over Europe and spends thousands. This is the man who wants to make this country Marxist. He must be stopped.” Rugare Gumbo stops talking. Then in a hushed tone, he says; “Yes, I am bitter. I am also afraid — for my people and for my country. Those who vote for Mugabe will do so out of fear, and it is wrong. They must be told not to do it. Mugabe’s intimidation must be stopped. The people must be united. I will do everything to accomplish this.”

Mnangagwa and resurrecting the Goblin?
Consequently, it is now a reality that Mugabe’s game has always been about power and nothing else. Interestingly, those who have been harbouring ambitions and yet worked tooth and nail to aid his consolidation of power have no one to blame apart from their selfish interests and political naivety. That is exactly why Emmerson Mnangagwa’s downfall is something the prodemocracy forces in Zimbabwe should welcome and capitalise on. I will explain later on in the article why and how I think the opposition and other forces can capitalise on Mnangagwa’s downfall. However, I would not want to delve much on Mnangagwa’s dark past and his alleged involvement as Mugabe’s hitman that is well documented. Hence, in the same breath I would like to point out that the most disgusting of him was his involvement in resurrecting the goblin in 2008 (kumutsa chikwambo change chafa) and now the same goblin has claimed his scalp. This I make particular reference to the 2008 plebiscite in which the incumbent Robert Mugabe lost to Morgan Tsvangirai by 73%, a figure announced by Mugabe while addressing chiefs in 2014, never mind the correction he made. Mnangagwa confirmed and boasted at a rally in Headlands on the 4th of having saved Mugabe in 2008, denying Morgan Tsvangirai and the people of Zimbabwe a victory.
President vofona, ahh zvakamirasei? Ndikati ndomamiro azvakaita,      Mugabe: saka todini? Mnangagwa: sokuti ndiri gweta ndaiziva kuti kune clause iya yekuti you must have 50 plus 1 percent. Ndikati ah imwi maita henyu 43%, uyu (Tsvangirai) 47 asi pakati penyu hapana awinner, saka kunoitwa runoff. Zvikanzi udza mai (Grace), ndobva ndaudza mama, zvikanzi toita sei manje ? ndikatoti hunzai baba nditaure navo, ndikati baba imi gadzirai cabinet   
(‘’I called the President to tell him the results and he asked for my advice and as a lawyer I was aware of the 50 plus 1 %, therefore there is no winner since you  got 43% and Tsvangirai 47% so we are heading for a runoff. Then I advised the president to organise a cabinet’’)
 This is the same man who coordinated the military and militias to lead a violent campaign ahead of the June run off poll, killing opposition supporters and destroying their houses. It is also reported that after the March elections, Mnangagwa took over as chairman of Joint Operations Command (JOC).  And when he became aware he (Mugabe) had lost the March 29 presidential election to opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party leader Morgan Tsvangirai, Mnangagwa’s first action was to advise Mugabe not to concede defeat but that he should force a second round run-off election and that at the same time the veteran leader should put pressure on the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to delay official results of the election. Therefore, Mnangagwa deserves no sympathy and surely got what he deserved. Today he should rue the day he contributed to the controversial constitutional amendment of the ZANU PF constitution to consolidated Mugabe’s one centre of power, giving the President of the party unfettered powers to appoint his deputies, positions previously elected at congress. For Mnangagwa, he is a man who stood for nothing, he lacked principle, he lacked tact and was relying on borrowed robes, but they have now been taken from him.

Don’t hate Grace, she has done it for you
While ZANU PF is going through a seemingly self-destruction path, it is rather amusing that the opposition and other prodemocracy forces are intricately involved ‘emotionally’ that is, sadly a majority seeming to be sympathising with Mnangagwa. What they must understand is that the hatred for Grace Mugabe should not therefore translate to sympathising with Emmerson. So instead of enjoying or becoming analysts on what’s happening in ZANU PF, the opposition need to strategies and capitalise on the chaos happening in ZANU PF. Though it might seem as if ZANU is imploding, the party might actually be on the mend and in fact they are undergoing a transition to a post Mugabe era, no matter which angle we look at it ZANU PF will be a different animal altogether after their congress in December. Maybe Chirimambowa’s article, “Succession Politics in Zimbabwe: GraceMugabe and the End of Patriotic History” is instructive in understand the current politics. Chirimambowa argues that the ‘Grace’ moment present opportunities for democratisation rather than chaos:
ZANU PF-although by default and politics of convenience-is undergoing some kind of perestroika and glasnost, it presents opportunities for cross-political elite convergence on the limitation of liberation credentials based politics.
As a result, it also means that ZANU PF is changing tactics, they have already replaced the liberation generation with through the Youth league, and the tone has already been set at the interface rallies. It is unlikely that ZANU will use violence in future elections, but patronage and intimidation as a means of wooing voters. The 226 Isuzu vehicles bought for the traditional leaders are a case in point, and about 320 cars and trucks for campaigns, free residential stands being parcelled to the youth.

The MDC and the future
However, this calls for the opposition, in particular the MDC to seize this moment in the wake of an impending election which is almost six months away. Sadly, the leader of the party and the Alliance Mr Tsvangirai is going through difficult moments and has been in and out of hospital going through the straining chemotherapy sessions. In my own view, I think there is now a need to have a frank discussion about Tsvangirai’s health vis-à-vis the succession. Never mind what the spin doctors and those closer to him presenting brave faces that the man is recovering fast and ready to lead the coalition.  They need to be honest with themselves and plan ahead. Unlike ZANU PF, the MDC’s denial game will only lead to the demise of the party, which at this critical juncture has been presented with a golden opportunity to remake itself.  Tsvangirai has reached a dead ending, and no miracle or magic will even improve his fortunes if he is standing against Mugabe. The GNU did him bad, and therefore the party needs a new face. Had he handed over the baton after the 2013 defeat he would have saved the MDC and his brand as a democrat and not a cult leader like Mugabe. I argue that, he still has a chance to be different from Mugabe, this is the time for him to step down and prepare a new leader to bring in fresh ideas and a new impetus altogether. The Save chete chete mantra is akin to the ZANU PF cultism of Gushungo chete chete, being slogans that have created cults and dictators. Those singing the Save chete chete mantra are not genuine and sincere, but are rather doing it for selfish gains and not for the greater good of the party. It’s typical of the politics in ZANU PF where people are bootlicking Mugabe for the sake of personal benefit and not conviction. The most progressive move for Morgan to do is stepping down and paving way for an extraordinary congress that will choose a new leader for the party to lead as the elections draw closer. The issue of his health needs no emotions. The human body is not made of steel, it does go through such moments, and it is difficult when faced with a terminal ailment like colon cancer. Only yesterday while featuring on SABC Tsvangirai was at pains to convince the world that all was well. Anchor: We are now joined by the president of the opposition in Zimbabwe. He is joining us from his hospital bed here in Johannesburg where he is being treated for cancer. Mr Tsvangirai thank you very much for joining us welcome. Perhaps…Tsvangirai (interjects): Thank you Peter…(coughs)I am…I am not …I am not in hospital ..eh..I’m just taking a rest outside a...a hospital…eh…I’m just taking leave outside the hospital. Sadly Tsvangirai denies that he is not in hospital, but outside hospital taking a rest. Well… we all know that hospitals are not places to take a rest! Therefore in these difficult moments it does require a sober approach and accept reality. Though some might call it stigmatisation I still posit that a frail looking Tsvangirai will not do the MDC any good during the campaign period, he needs to rest and allow others to carry on the fight. The election period is a rigorous process, which will require a lot of travelling, meetings, rallies in my view will prove difficult for the MDC leader to encounter.  Tsvangirai will forever be a hero of our time for having led the struggle against tyrannical rule by Robert Mugabe but this is now the time to pass on to a new generation of leadership.Even Moses had to pass on the baton to Joshua, he never entered Canaan!!

Blessing Vava is a blogger based in Chipinge. He can be contacted on blessingvava@gmail.com

Monday, 23 October 2017

Samora Machel’s warning to Zimbabwe on Mugabe: not yet Uhuru

By Blessing Vava

The month of October casts a dark cloud over of our Mother continent Africa, as it swallowed great revolutionaries who greatly shaped the struggles against colonialism and imperialism. On the 19th of October 1986, Samora Moisés Machel the first President of Mozambique died when his presidential aircraft crashed near the Mozambique-South Africa border.  We will never forget on the 15th October 1987 and 14th of October of 1999, Mother Earth called Thomas Isidore Noël Sankara President of Burkina Faso and President Julius Kambarage Nyerere of Tanzania to rest. Giants in the anti-colonial struggles, Nyerere and Sankara departed leaving an indelible mark that will forever be engraved in our hearts in the same way that President Samora Machel did.

As we commemorate the luminaries we remain mindful of what they stood for and their vision for Africa to be a great continent to live for future generations. However, the purpose of my article is focusing on the legacy of President Machel, a towering figure in our struggle for liberation. With other leaders of the Frontline States, Machel provided solidarity in form of military and social support for Zimbabwean fighters as they waged a protracted war against the Smith regime. Had Samora been alive today I am sure he would be saying to Zimbabweans remember my warnings on Mugabe given the state of affairs in Zimbabwe right now. Those who were at the forefront during the war gave narrations of how Machel was sceptical of Mugabe assuming the leadership of the revolutionary movement. At least he had seen beyond!

The Samora warning
Dzinashe Machingura a commander during the struggle said that Machel had very profound misgivings about any thought of granting Robert Mugabe any importance whatsoever, let alone viewing him as being some kind of central-player-in-the-making. Dzino explained of an incident, a meeting between Frelimo and ZIPA command structures in 1976 in Mozambique at the height of the war. Samora had called for the meeting with the ZIPA leadership to discuss its long term plan with regards to Zimbabwe’s prospective leadership. Mhanda aptly illustrated the moment: ‘’ Rex Nhongo then submitted our list, with Mugabe at the top. Machel leapt from his chair in disgust. He was clearly not happy that we had included Mugabe, let alone as the leader. He went on to tell us that he had removed Mugabe from the refugee camps for a good reason: ‘He loves the limelight,’ and is opposed to unity.’’ However, President Machel went on to accept Mugabe as its new leader, but Machel was not far from the truth as evidenced by Mugabe’s selfishness as he has morphed himself into a life president. A notion against the ethos of the revolutionary code that leaders come and go.

Leaders of the Frontline States
Again, in 1974 Mugabe had previously been rejected by the Frontline leaders after he was released by Smith to go and meet the Front Line leaders, Kaunda, Julius Nyerere (Tanzania), Agostinho Neto (Angola) and Samora Machel (Mozambique). According to Dzino and corroborated by Rugare Gumbo in an interview with China Global Television Network, that  Nyerere especially was so angry at the idea of a leader being so obviously sent to them with Smith’s connivance that he refused to talk to Mugabe and demanded that he and his followers go back to Rhodesia and return with Sithole.
Rugare Gumbo lamented: '' When we were released from prison we were asked who our leader was and we said Robert Mugabe and Nyerere and Samora then said, ''Are you sure?'' 

It is evidently clear that Robert Mugabe was a blue eyed boy of Ian Smith, contrary to the Pan African giant he portrayed himself. The late Joshua Nkomo’s biography The Story of My Life, page 10, made the same revelations about how Mugabe used to get preferential treatment in jail, allowed to organise meetings that orchestrated a coup against Ndabaningi Sithole. Here is Nkomo: ‘’Next morning we gathered for our meeting with the presidents of the black nations of Southern Africa who were in the front line states of the struggle against racism. Julius Nyerere walked in off his plane and greeted us all, and the first question he asked was: ‘Where’s Ndabaningi?’ The Zanu team, surprisingly enough, did not include Sithole, whom we all regarded as president of that party. Instead there were its secretary general, Robert Mugabe, and its secretary for youth and culture, Morton Malianga. It turned out that five members of the Zanu central committee had been kept in prison and allowed to hold meetings there. This tiny group, without consulting their members or their colleagues, had decided to depose Sithole as their president: Mugabe and Malianga were acting as their spokesmen.  Nkomo went on: ‘’The presidents could not accept these two relatively unknown people as valid spokesmen for Zanu, so they were sent off to wait in their rooms while the business of the meeting was tackled.’’ All this points out to some interesting observations, that Mugabe’s role in the liberation struggle is rather a vanitisation of a narcissist geriatric posing, and posting his selfies. Secondly, our history books are so distorted in their eulogising of Mugabe, and in the fullness of time intellectuals, historians and writers must revisit that area and give Zimbabwe a correct narrative of the liberation struggle. The Kudzai Chipanga’s of this world and many of the sycophants who have elevated Mugabe to God should however be reminded that Zimbabwe belongs to all of us and inspired by many generations before us who were fearless and not Mugabe and ZANU PF. President Mugabe is inherently insecure and forever threatened by fear of the unknown. As we remember Samora Machel, Zimbabweans must stand firm in defence of the ideals of the liberation struggle and independence which the genuine heroes fought so hard to achieve. We should defend the legacy of all departed comrades who fought for real freedom, not for the freedom of one family and a few cronies.  

The war of liberation was not an individual struggle
For ZANU PF they have forgotten that the liberation struggle was not an individual, or a one party struggle but rather it as to free all the masses of our people from the yoke of dictatorship under a racist imperial white settler regime. The recent political developments are just but an indication that ZANU PF is a self-serving party which has used the liberation narrative as an excuse to stay in power. Various political formations, the youth movement, civil society, trade unions have since independence decried the economic decay, underdevelopment which has had to accompany political liberation. Sadly, a majority of Zimbabweans have left the country and are scattered all over the globe because of oppression, economic exclusion as people are still trapped in the poverty and starvation that existed under colonial domination. President Samora Machel’s warning indeed cautioned of what we are experiencing under a self-serving leader. Mugabe’s rule has been characterised by dictatorship, patronage and extremely intolerant forms of leadership. His inability to persuade and politically convince those that disagree with him, has resorted to use of force and coercion as his leadership style.

A tale of two liberation movements
There is no doubt that Mugabe has been the biggest curse that Zimbabwe has ever got, his empty rhetoric as the champion of black empowerment has remained on his mouth. Since ZANU PF got another mandate after the ‘resounding’ victory in 2013, the party has dismally failed to transform Zimbabwe through their ill-fated ZIMASSET blueprint which has since gathered dust. The party’s obsession with elections is worrisome as if a new mandate in 2018 would translate to a new order of development and economic recovery. Mugabe like all ancestral spirits who from time to time need appeasement through traditional rituals, has become a living ancestor who, despite facing no challenge from within his party needs regular endorsement to reaffirm that that he is the ultimate leader of ZANU PF. For example they have already indicated that the party is going for an extraordinary congress in December to ‘endorse’ Mugabe as the party’s candidate and centre of power. It is all about him and he wants the limelight, as described by Machel. The useless conferences by ZANU PF clearly show that they are out of touch with reality and should however take a leaf from their all-weather friends the Chinese Communist Party, who had their congress these past days.  
While ZANU is gathering for a special congress to ‘endorse’ Mugabe, the CPC’s congress was highlighting the successes that the party has made since their last congress. The congress report recorded China’s average annual growth rate of over 7 percent, which contributing more than 30 percent on average to world economic growth. Under the CPC leadership, China created more than 13 million new jobs annually for four consecutive years between 2013 and 2016. China Daily also reported that new jobs created in the first 18 months of 2017 stood at 9.74 million are some of the highlights from China. Since 2013, China has lifted 66 million Chinese people– equivalent to the population of France –out of poverty. They have benefited from the Targeted-Poverty-Alleviation strategy put forward by Chinese President Xi Jinping. Under the strategy, China aims to lift 10 million people out of poverty each year, and is expected to reach the goal of “eliminating poverty in China by 2020. The congress also outlined China's future development at a new historical starting point and indicates the effects the country's development will have on the world.  Xi Jinping’s talk of the China Dream should inspire ZANU PF and President Mugabe to lead us to the Zimbabwe dream. A Zimbabwe dream that should in it carries the aspirations of the masses. However, I should say that Mugabe doesn’t have any Zimbabwe dream but a Mugabe dream as he has literally become a life president.

 A big lesson for ZANU PF is that congresses are not for rituals to endorse the ‘the ancestor’ but rather an opportunity to articulate strategies and tactics, providing a programmatic and methodological guide for any serious movement that seeks to develop the country. ZANU PF seems lost; theirs is about power, and power to One Man, chastised by Samora as a selfish individual who shouldn’t have been given any leadership role of that magnitude.

Blessing Vuvuzela Vava is a blogger based in Chipinge. He can be contacted on blessingvava@gmail.com

Monday, 21 August 2017

Thinking Beyond MDC-99: Some Notes on Designing Winning Coalitions

Blessing Vava**

The defeat of the opposition by ZANU PF in the 2013 plebiscite eroded the once vibrant power of the opposition. Since that heavy defeat of the MDC-T, the ruling party ZANU PF has been consolidating its support base to an extent that pundits have already predicted a landslide win for the liberation movement in 2018. Yet, benign to the so-called resurgence of ZANU PF are internecine struggles and convulsions that make it vulnerable to its own self-engineered demise. With endless splits, the once vibrant movement, the MDC-T has been reduced into a ‘pressure group’ that now needs to rejuvenate itself and undergo a serious metamorphic phase to reclaim its lost glory. As a mitigating measure, the opposition has forged an alliance in the hope that they will field a single candidate under the auspices of the MDC Alliance, with Morgan Tsvangirai as its sole candidate. 

The Need for Numbers that Matter.

 In so doing, the opposition is responding to the reality that ZANU PF is a colossal animal that requires all forces to unite and confront it in the upcoming elections.
High school reunion of 1999 boys?

The default logic of politics is that the numbers matter at the end of the day and the fact that they have coalesced means that they need numbers. However, the critical question that has to be asked is whether the MDC alliance will bring the numbers that matter as argued by McDonald Lewanika, a London School of Political Science Doctoral Researcher in Gravitas Vol 1 Issue 2 of 2017. Lewanika observes that:

             In the final analysis, an opposition coalition alone may be necessary but       
             insufficient to lead the opposition to victory, and a coalition of opposition  
             parties, which doesn’t take on board broader societal interests, and interest   
             groups in urban and rural areas may be doomed to fail. Opposition parties     
             can fail to garner the numbers that matter for defeating ZANU-PF if they
             do not accede to the reality that putting together a winning coalition may
             entail moving beyond the limited space of political parties to encompass
             other social and economic interest groups, in urban and rural areas.

The fundamental lesson learnt is that coalitions are the key to electoral success for opposition parties but at the same time designing a winning coalition needs to consider diverse and complex interests rather than simple arithmetic reductionism. The idea of coalitions ahead of an electoral process is not a new phenomenon, a glance in many parts of the continent can attest to the value of cooperation by the opposition movement and building alliances to achieve common goals. There are many examples in Africa, where the opposition have 3 successfully coalesced to defeat the incumbent and some cases are instructive: Gambia (2016), Nigeria (2015), Lesotho (2012 and 2015), Senegal (2000 and 2012), Benin (2006) and Kenya post-2002. In these cases, the coalitions were successful because, they designed alliances that were informed by and based on the different social classes composing their societies. It is my contention that the recent coalition signing ceremony that happened in Harare on the 5th of August 2017 was nothing short of a high school reunion laced with pomp, fun fare and hot air rather than any heat to melt the hegemon or dominance of ZANU PF. The event which drew a significant crowd failed to restore hope amongst many Zimbabweans who yearn for a better alternative to end ZANU PF’s decades of misrule. In my view, the coming together of these ‘former’ comrades was nothing much to write home about. In much simpler terms, it was just an elite pact or rather a high school reunion of 1999 boys and a congregate of the banqueting; simply rearranging chairs. In reality, they took the prefects to the banquet and forgot the students from the classes (society). There is a lot of work to be done if that said coalition is to see the light of the day.

 Names Matter: Where is the New Zimbabwe Alliance?

Firstly, the name itself ‘MDC Alliance’ is not inspiring at all, it is trapped in the nostalgia of history, in particular 1999 and in this case, they could have sought Job Sikhala’s permission to run under the rubric MDC 99. I do not doubt he would have accented. However, the only danger of this strategy is that in as much it will send a clear message of the terms of the reunion, it will be oblivious to Professor Brian Raftopoulos’ observation of the reconfigured political economy and calls for new forms of organising. In addition, it becomes exclusive to the present realities that there are now new kids on the block such as Zimbabwe People’s First, National People’s Party, citizens’ movements and new voting demographics, thus becomes limited in attracting the numbers that matter in designing a winning coalition. Naming and branding are very important in politics and the coalition needed a name that unites the people and at the same time a name that gives the people hope. Branding is all about appealing to peoples’ dreams. Politics is all about selling hope to a people. Political branding is gaffe-prone territory. It is a delicate operation where missteps and unplanned moments can spell political doom. This is indeed homework for the coalition. Maybe, The New Zimbabwe Alliance may have helped in giving a national outlook and as well as aspiration for a better tomorrow, thus sending a clear, simple and straightforward message that can easily resonate and at the same time energise the masses. Secondly, the speeches by the principals were nothing but hot air with the usual rhetoric of ‘Mugabe must go’ and massaging inflated egos of the politicians without proffering a clear framework on how to solve the economic political impasse engulfing the nation. There was a sense of insincerity and it shows that the leaders are not coalesced around certain ideological principles, a shared national vision which is more than the Mugabe must go rhetoric. With allegations that the donors were behind this coalition, it already paints a bad picture on part of the leaders as greedy people who are driven by their own material conditions. Coalitions should not be formed because the donors have said so, but they should be formed on the basis of the people’s aspirations.

Forget Makarau and Think People.

 As it stands the coalition has failed to inspire hope and questions which we might have to ask are: What has changed and what is new, in the wake of the same political players that failed to unseat Mugabe whilst still united? Whilst there is much talk about electoral reforms and emphasis on transforming Justice Rita Makarau’s ZEC; it has to be borne in mind that ZANU PF has already declared that it will not reform itself out of power and any over-investment or over-reliance on that strategy is tantamount to chasing a waterfall. Without the much talked about electoral reforms, what is the strategy of the Alliance in as far as ensuring pacification of the margin of fear and margin of rigging? I would hasten to say that the MDC Alliance might need to go back to the founding documents of that movement of 1999 in Gwanzura, as those are still as relevant as today. The National Working Peoples Convention and documents like ‘Beyond ESAP’ clearly articulated a shared vision of the mass democratic movements, the working class, the churches, students and other social classes of our broader society. In the same vein, the MDC Alliance needs to go beyond the 1999 analytic lens and realise that there are other new social classes such as, rank marshals and touts, Kombi drivers and operators, artisanal miners, vendors, new farmers, millennials, cross border traders, and the new citizens’ movements amongst many other existing groups or that may emerge.

 Sincere Reconciliation is the Foundation for Democratic Politics

Thirdly, one can get the sense that there was a lot of hypocrisy and if not grandstanding of the highest order especially from the likes of MDC leader Welshman Ncube, who chose to trivialise his speech by ‘apologising’ to the people of Zimbabwe. One wonders what exactly the law professor was apologising for, when in reality his departure from the united MDC was a genuine expression of the lack of internal party democracy under the leadership of Morgan Tsvangirai. Perhaps, the professor might need to tell us what has changed now? The need to forge a coalition is more than just the call for Mugabe to go, but rather it is about bringing a new politics and forms of governance practices that are pro-people and different to ZANU PF’s anti-people politics. It is about delivering social services and a better life to people as well as ending corruption, but above all the coalition should provide a framework on how they envisage taking the country forward. Fourthly, this coalition is not a sincere move but rather it is just meant to address short-term goals of ‘Mugabe going’ rather than to inculcate enduring democratic reform agenda. Instead of the opposition coalescing around a shared vision, ideological underpinnings and principles that will provide a democratic narrative to salvage Zimbabwe, the parties in Zimbabwe are opportunistic vehicles for their own selfish ends. It is just a coalition of individuals without an organic mass movement enough to bring confidence and building the numbers for the coming elections. There is need for the coalition to extend beyond the existing political parties and an elite civil society comprising of individuals who dominated the proceedings at the launch.

Realism Helps

Fifthly, there is an issue of the spoilers: small man with a big man syndrome in the mould of PDP Secretary General Gorden Moyo who is exhibiting shocking levels of infantile radicalism. While his principal Tendai Biti has shown commitment to be part of the coalition, Moyo is busy packing emotions as science and objective reality. Moyo should know that good English and rhetoric is not the same as having the numbers. He and his lot need to be patient, otherwise they face the wrath of history and run the risk of perishing. The painful reality for the other small parties is acknowledging that at least for now there are two political homes in Zimbabwe: Morgan Tsvangirai and Robert Mugabe and the rest will remain shadows for now. Nevertheless, this is no blank cheque for the MDC-T to be arrogant but a call to leadership and exercise magnanimity by realising that all creatures great and small matter. However, it has to be noted that the opposition coalition will have a twofold objective outlined in the perking order and weight below in the 2018 elections. The numeric power that is needed is firstly, to dislodge ZANU PF from power and this is the most primary objective and best-case scenario. Secondly, is to reduce ZANU PF’s two-thirds parliamentary dominance, i.e. capacity to amend the constitution in the legislature and to defend the zones of autonomy as part of withering authoritarianism. The question of Mugabe going is now a question of Nigerian Novelist Dan Fulani’s “God’s Case: No Appeal”. If he wins the 2018 election, the constitution will not allow the nonagenarian to run again for office in 2023, assuming God is gracious with time and life to him, thus this is likely Mugabe’s last dance as president of  Zimbabwe. If he decides to run again in 2023, Mugabe may not rig the biological life circle of a human being; his day is now a matter of time and the tale-tale signs have started creeping in. That day will certainly change the dynamics of our politics. For doubters, a reading of Malawian and Zairean history will give us lessons on how Africa’s former strongmen tumbled from grace in their last days: Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda and Mobutu Sese Seko Wazabanga.

This article first appeared in the Gravitas Edition on Coalition Politics

**Blessing Vava is a Zimbabwean blogger based in Chipinge. He can be contacted on blessingvava@gmail.com. Twitter: @blevava

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Some Reflections on Student activism and the Pitfalls of Celebrity politics in Zimbabwe

By Blessing Vava

''Student activism is a highly conflict-filled terrain with very passionate individuals and groups involved'' said one scholar (Moyo: 2013) in his journal article as he looked at the relationship between politics and student activism. In many parts of the world students protests have been a catalyst for change and in some instances causing the collapse of unpopular regimes. In his paper (Moyo: 2013) concedes that while student activism has been highly associated with social and political change and as a form of affirmative action it has been demonised by governments.
Glory seeker? #thisflag founder Pastor Evan Mawarire (Image; IB Times)

While students have been able to articulate and fight their struggles, against high tuition fees and in many instances it is the fight for free education there has been a concern of those genuine struggles by the students being hijacked by political figures and parties. It is important to note that the issues driving the student anger and rebellion go far beyond the unaffordability of higher education for the poor and the working class. It is having to slot into an education system that emulates the society we live in – an elite ruling class sending its children to study abroad and the perpetuation of inequality and prejudice against the financially weak.

 In the same vein, politicians should leave students alone and equally students need to be careful on the pitfalls of having their issues drowned by those of politicians.  Whereas students have the right to freedom of association the events at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) yesterday are surely a cause for concern.

I watched in disbelief on #thisflag leader Evan Mawarire’s Facebook wall streaming live as he addressed the demonstrating students. At that moment I realized that the presence of Mawarire was a tactical blunder.

Mawarire, a non-student, a man currently on bail on ‘trumped’ up charges to subvert a constitutionally elected government (false charges) addressing students already sent a wrong signal.  He had no business at UZ, his actions might have been ‘genuine’ but I wouldn’t want to say here was a man on an attention seeking adventure to revive his waning popularity after a self-inflicted blow when he fled to the US. 

His arrest yesterday is what is now dominating the news, diluting the genuine efforts by the students who were seeking an audience with regards to the fee increase. The clashes at UZ could have been avoided had Mawarire stayed at home to ‘pray’ for the students. We must always look at the bigger picture and avoid individuals with selfish agendas to override a genuine cause of the students.

For him he has 'achieved' to gain mileage, it’s like he was trying to make a ‘re-entry’ after his movement failed to take off. And for the students, they remain to face their challenges.

I am sure those who reacted violently were as a result of Mawarire’s presence which probably was viewed as a #thisflag protest. While it is good for people like Mawarire to offer solidarity, yesterday he was just at the wrong place and at the wrong time. I have nothing personal against the Man of God, but ‘politicians’ and ‘celebrities’ must stay away from campuses, they should fight in the streets.  Let the students fight their struggles on their campuses, they are many ways of offering them solidarity than to hijack their noble cause simply because of his insatiable appetite for newspaper headlines. Students should be wary of associating with figures that will do little in contributing to their struggles. 

As a result, looking back, history is pregnant with numerous examples and lessons which the students can learn from in as far as the relationship between student activism and mainstream politics is concerned. Many will remember ZANU Pf’s hijacking of the Zimbabwe Congress of Students Union (ZICOSU) which was formed by progressive comrades like Gabriel Shumba. ZICOSU eventually slipped away as ZANU PF became directly in control of the student's body in their bid to control the student's community. This they did by sponsoring leaders of the said Union, sponsoring candidates in SRC elections across the country as a rivalry union to ZINASU. The same can also be said for the opposition the MDC which tried in vain to hijack the biggest students’ body, the Zimbabwe National Students Union, and clearly, the agenda was the same, but rather the party eventually failed in its futile attempt years to come by. But however many will recall that before the formation of the MDC, was the turning point in the struggles of the student's movement in Zimbabwe.

While the students were a critical mass at the formation of the MDC in 1999, the students movement failed to maintain its independence and as a result perceived as either an appendage or rather an opposition movement towards the government of the day which then created a host of problems that came to haunt the students movement up until this day.

It would be critical to posit that after the formation of the MDC, the relationship between the students’ movement and the party intensified the ‘cat’ and ‘mouse ‘relationship between the ruling government and the students’ movement. The “association’’ of ZINASU with the MDC gave the state more arsenal and artillery to pounce on the students as perceived the union as agents of regime change. The state became more vicious towards the students, demonstrations were now being responded with brute force, suspensions and expulsions of student leaders became the order of the day. The government no longer viewed the students union as a critical stakeholder but rather in ZINASU they saw the MDC, and to make matters worse, the idea to form the party was consummated in the packed New Lecture Theatre 400 at the University of Zimbabwe.  
The ‘MDC’ tag has caused nightmares for the union and has been difficult to disassociate with thus making life very difficult for the students union in pursuit of their struggle for academic freedoms.

 Consequently, for the political parties, the students’ community is an easy ground to use for their political expediency. Regional experiences presented us with good examples on the need for politicians to stay out and students to avoid being hijacked. As was witnessed during #feesmustfall in South Africa were several political actors tried to seek relevance by joining the student's protests. 

Many will remember the DA leader Mmusi Maimane and EFF's Floyd Shivambu getting the rod of the students after attempts to address the protesting students in Cape Town. It was apparent that the students cannot be politically controlled, bullied or manipulated.  It was clear that these politicians were driven not by the cause of the students but rather their own selfish agendas as they seek relevance in associating themselves with a movement that had shaken the corridors of power in South Africa.

Other national political party leaders could face the same humiliation if they try to exploit the situation. Quite clearly, the students were aware that once they allowed the politicians to come and address them at campuses their cause was going to be diluted and misconstrued and giving ammunition to the ruling government to dismiss their cause as being pushed by the opposition parties. 

In conclusion, I challenge the students to think beyond the tactics that the yesteryear generations employed because the context and the environment has totally changed. They have to come up with new ideas of organising and defining solidarity in pursuit of the struggle for free education in our lifetime. Zvazviri!

Blessing ‘Vuvuzela’ Vava is a blogger based in Chipinge. He can contacted on blessingvava@gmail.com