IT'S THAT SILLY SEASON AGAIN
...Zanu PF Politicians are back with their fistful of air
Elections in Zimbabwe are around the corner and silly season has arrived.
Politics is a profession which demands of those in it, behaviours they normally would not exhibit.When elections beckon, for instance, politicians change from being the all-important untouchable and unreachable beings and suddenly become soft spoken, caring and available people who find pleasure in kissing babies and helping the needy like the rest of us. Like chameleons, they adopt the colour that blends with the people and during this crucial season, politicians engage full gear with the promise of Canaan, never mind the record of failures and unfulfilled promises from previous elections. In a functional democracy, it is the opposition that should campaign on promises, while the incumbent is judged on the record of their achievements, or lack thereof.
Not in Zimbabwe!!!
If such an exhibition of political cunning were to win awards, Zanu PF would definitely lift GOLD. With 37 years of shameless failure behind them, they are approaching the 2018 election with nothing to show except maybe a trail of destruction. In the last five years, the economy which analysts say is the albatross around the revolutionary party's neck which had become stable during the Government of National Unity(GNU) between Zanu PF and the MDC is now in comatose. The industry has collapsed as companies can no longer afford to break even. Health and essential social services are on its knees in the country which is failing to even meet the demand for water in the country. This is in spite of the fact that projects like the Kunzvi Dam initiative which would have solved the water issues are still in limbo more than 20 years later. But of course, comrades in Zanu PF have found a scapegoat in sanctions. Everything the Zanu PF government have failed to deliver on is blamed on either Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC and the West.
Over the years Zanu PF has shown disdain for accountability and performance as a basis for seeking people’s mandate. The late Vice President, Simon Muzenda, once said that “Kana Zanu PF ikaisa dhongi pa ballot box,vhoterai dhongi racho ( If Zanu PF fields a donkey in the elections, Vote for that donkey). As if that is not enough, in February, current Vice President Emerson Mnangagwa, boasted that Zanu PF will rule forever. He once said something to the effect that “Rambai muchitaura, isu tichingotonga, literally telling all complaining against the misrule, that you can say whatever you want, but we continue ruling. To them, ruling is thus, an end in itself, no matter how bad and undemocratic it is.
Zanu PF Scorecard for 2018
2018 is perhaps going to be an election like no other as it comes after the GNU from 2009 to 2013 which saw the stabilisation of the economy, controlled runaway inflation and brought hope to Zimbabweans. However, the five years from 2013 to date have actually seen the reversal of those gains and more. In this coming election, Zanu PF has to be judged by its performance in the last 5 years and the scorecard should at the very least check on whether the economic parameters are better now than they were in 2013. The much-publicised ZIMASSET which promised to create 2.2 million jobs must be examined microscopically for what it did, or did not do. Of course, we know what happened. Companies shut down en- masse and droves of workers joined the jobless masses. Zimbabwe has become a nation of vendors with University graduates competing for corner space in the streets of Harare and other cities, where they eke a living out of selling sweets airtime and belts among other things. On Friday 15th September 2017, President Robert Mugabe, in his capacity as Chancellor of ALL universities, capped 3260 new graduates from the University of Zimbabwe. Most are sure to join their unemployed colleagues.
The Season of Promises
Members of Parliament and other political heavyweights will in this silly season emerge from 5 years of hibernation, start smiling at everyone and shake hands with all and sundry. Children will get the rare benefit of a kiss and lifted up in the air for the sake of the cameras. The politician’s pockets ooze with generosity and for the first time, one can have a scud(opaque beer) on their account.
They have already started to explain what they meant by creating two million jobs. For an educated member of parliament like Psychology Maziwisa, to have the temerity to explain that 2.2 million jobs target was far exceeded if you count all the informal jobs that were “created”, is an insult not only to the youths he is supposed to represent by virtue of his age and his constituency in Highfields but also to all learned people, and in particular lawyers of whom he is one. Try telling that to a graduate selling airtime, that thanks to his Government, a job as an airtime vendor was created for him!!
But then again Maziwisa's utterances do not come as a surprise. We all now know it is in Zanu PF DNA to give explanations for their incompetence. He is definitely not the first and won't be the last. A couple of years back, Minister of Agriculture, Joseph Made once declared the nation would experience a bumper harvest after flying across the country in a helicopter, only to blame baboons for the disastrous harvest which eventually ensued.
OF Slogans and a Fistful of Air
Political rallies are used as the fora to make all kinds of promises for the future and to lay blame on third forces for any failures. They start with the slogans glorifying the dear leader “Pamberi na President Robert Gabriel Mugabe”, raising the right arm in a fistful of air. With the changing times and shifting power balances, there is an added factor this year. “Pamberi na Doctor Amai Grace Mugabe.” When they are done praising each other, the now tired and undemocratic part of the slogans starts;“Pasi ne Opposition; Pasi na Tsvangirai”. The hungry crowds parrot absently” Pamberi” or Pasi”, as appropriate. There is that sense of Deja Vu, a weariness that we have heard this so many times before.
I hope politicians understand that people attend these rallies not so much for the messages but to lay their hands on the freebies the politicians have brought, and, for the village guzzlers, for a gulp of that scud that they have not had for months. Others want to lay their hands on that free t-shirt emblazoned with the picture of the campaigning politician; the last one he got five years ago is now tattered and torn.
The people are hurting badly, and they are demanding answers. Where are the 2million jobs that were promised last time? What has Zimasset done for us as a nation, as a community? The US$ we were now used to is no longer available. Even the Bond notes that came in as a surrogate currency, are no longer available. The 1 to 1 equivalence of the US$ and the Zimbond is collapsing as the parallel market already acknowledges a 40% premium on the greenback. As if to reflect a certain level of economic sophistication, we are transacting everything by card or mobile money transfer. Electricity and water are rare visitors to our homes. What is the way forward Mr Mugabe sir?
New challenges for Zanu PF
The 2018 election poses new challenges for Zanu PF. For the first time since independence, this election is not a simple bipolar affair between Zanu PF and the MDC. The War Veterans publicly announced and vowed to mount an anti- Mugabe campaign and support as they say any progressive candidate against the 93-year-old who has clung on to power for the past 37 years. War Veterans have, by their own admission, been the anchor of Zanu PF in past elections. Then there are the internal fissures within Zanu PF pitting the Lacoste and the G40 teams. Unless the ruling party adopts a deliberate strategy to regroup for the elections, they will be a divided lot, giving the opposition a chance to mount an upset on the long-serving President and his party.
The silly season is with the opposition too.
The question on many people's minds as we fast approach the 2018plebiscitee is does the opposition have what it takes to fight the Zanu PF which has the state apparatus at its disposal? The drama playing out at the moment within the opposition ranks will no doubt weaken their position if care is not taken.
I guess the actions of the political players in the opposition is all part of the silly season fever that those in the political arena are not immune to.
This season of silliness and frivolities is also special as opposition parties sprout all over the place. They are known only by their name and leader and nothing else; they have no known institutional setup or party structures. There are even some parties in the Coalition for Democrats (CODE) formation that most of us have never heard of. We have a grouping of parties under CODE, and a grouping of Parties under MDC Alliance, with both hoping to achieve the same purpose of dislodging Zanu PF. Joice Mujuru on the other hand feels she has the pedigree to lead the opposition , notwithstanding that she is the late arrival who recently fell off the revolutionary party's gravy train whom many still view with suspicion. On the other hand, Tsvangirai thinks leading the opposition is his for the taking because he has the numbers, and the evidence of once beating Mugabe in 2008. Khupe is currently in a foul mood because MDC is putting Matebeleland on the MDC Alliance bargaining table. The opposition should simply make the objective of dislodging Zanu PF the single most important rallying point. There will be enough to go round when they achieve their objective. As Kenny Rodgers said in his song “The gambler”… You never count your money when you are sitting on the table; there will time enough for counting when the deal is done”.
The opposition is failing to seize the opportunity provided by Zanu PF’s internal fights to forge a united front to dislodge the party. But in the silly season, anything can be expected. Memories are still fresh, that had Simba Makoni, Welshman Ncube and Tsvangirai fought together in 2008, Zimbabwe would by now be boasting of 9 years of real freedom.
I am wondering what has happened to the activists and the civic groups that led the thunderous movement of the year 2016? Where is the “This Flag” movement of Pastor Evan Mawarire, the daring youths of Tajamuka? Social protests were organised around almost spontaneously, for example, the any of the introduction of bond notes; socio-economic ills, corruption, unemployed graduates and ZRP corruption etc. These mass actions captured the Nation, and everybody felt change had arrived. With nothing but their mobile phones and the power of their message, the activists shook the repressive system to its bones. If ever there I anything called the right timing to make the right noises, my humble assessment is that the time is now. It is the season to be seriously silly!