RESIST THE POLITICS OF POLARISATION

The two presidential candidates from Left Nelson Chamisa, and Emmerson Mnangagwa



 LAST week I read a post which suggested that; "Cataract is the third major cause of blindness. Religion and Politics remain the first two." This assertion rings true in the case of Zimbabwe two weeks ahead of a watershed election pitting Zanu PF's Emmerson Mnangagwa or ED as he is popularly referred to and Nelson Chamisa who goes by the moniker Nero who is the MDC Alliance candidate.

The two heavyweights are vying for the presidency. Both political figures are bringing something fresh. However, their supporters are unwavering in the sense that they neither hear or see no evil perpetrated by their candidate. What is of major concern is the growing intolerance of the supporters of these two presidential candidates. Those who hate ED hate him to the core and cannot see anything good in him and the same goes for the charismatic Nero. It is important that the leaders do not fan these opinion and show the character of the real statement.
  I recall an incident when Obama ran against Senator John McCain for Presidency of the United States, and in one Town Hall meeting, an old lady stood up to call Obama a bad man whom she cannot trust.  Senator  John McCain stopped the lady and said: "No ma'am, he is a decent family man and a citizen whom I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues".  This was  McCain defending the integrity of the man he was running against. He won accolades from many people for saying that and Obama was the first to acknowledge this of the Senator. That's true statesmanship.
Not so in our election which is in all respects getting toxic.
In fact, it has become so difficult to discuss the manifestos of these two candidates without getting attacked left right and centre. This, in my opinion, is not progressive for a nation like ours where we are coming from a 38 year Mugabe dictatorship. This kind of polarisation not only stifles democracy but goes against the goal of resuscitating our economy and rebuilding the ruins of our beloved Zimbabwe. Worse, it blinds objectivity because judgment precedes facts.  Where a candidate is hated, the candidate is first judged guilty and then placed on his defence, if at all lucky enough to be given that chance.   Conversely, where a candidate is liked, he is judged innocent until proved guilty, notwithstanding the weight of evidence in the public domain. I believe that as a nation we need to be more united and face the herculean task we have head on.

As a Zimbabwean, I would have expected the unity and the oneness that saw the tyrant Robert Mugabe bow to prevailing public pressure to resign or get impeached. In November last year, we all took to the streets and demanded that Mugabe leave and he did. This is the kind of unity that will see us moving progressively as a nation.

But alas, we have ED and Nero supporters to contend with, these guys will not see anything good from either candidate. For instance, ED supporters cannot open their eyes to see the possibilities in the dreams of a Bullet train and Spaghetti roads that Nero has for our country.  Equally, Nero's supporters are not open to the possibility of the ED's diplomatic offensive and international re-engagement which will bring in the much needed FDI's which will result in an economic boom, thereby creating the much-needed jobs in Zimbabwe. The truth of the matter is that this election is mainly about the economy and everything else is secondary as it will eventually fall into place once the economy is revived.
 Leaders, not institutions, lead change:
 For better or for worse, it always takes leaders and not institutions to make and enforce change. This is evident the world over.
I have in the past given examples of leaders like Frederick de Clerk in the National Party of South Africa, who released  Nelson Mandela after 27 years in jail and then negotiated black majority rule in South Africa.  This was unthinkable within the racist National Party. Communist and the Soviet republic fell under  Gorbachev.
Right now, we are witnessing a transformation in the relations between Ethiopia and arch-rival Eritrea.  The two countries fought a war between May 1998 and June 2000, over some disputed pieces of territory. It has taken   Ethiopia's new and youthful  Prime Minister  Abiy Ahmed, to engage Eritrea in peace talks and declare the state of war as over. Yet it was Ahmed's Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF)  which he now heads, that had seen Eritrea declared as a sworn enemy, and had refused to implement the 2000 Peace deal and return some land to Eritrea. The  President of the reclusive Eritrea Isaias Afwerki has just made a three-day state visit to Ethiopia. Totally unthinkable !!!
In the United States of America, President Donald Trump is, for good or for bad, implementing  policies  in America that go against the grain of the American values  and that  one would have thought unthinkable: questioning the value and importance of NATO,  insulting traditional allies in Europe, supporting  Brexit in Britain and the breakup of Europe, and fraternising with Russia. Closer to home, John Magufuli is making historic changes to the Tanzanian body politic in a manner not seen since Julius Nyerere. His crusade against corruption,  his approach to frugality with public funds and accountability of government to the people is refreshingly unique, and probably "unAfrican" given our desire to "eat "once in power". You give that to Magufuli, not to Chama Cha Mapinduzi; the party was there, and probably its constitution says the same, but there was no execution. The same can be said for all great leaders, good or bad, from  Napoleon Borna Parte, Fidel Castro,  Hitler, Mussolini.
 I am making the point that it is people, not the institutions they are affiliated to, that make and implement change.
 In the same manner, save for fundamental party values, Mnangagwa cannot and should not be judged on the yardstick of Robert Mugabe, neither should Nelson Chamisa be judged on the yardstick of Morgan Tsvangirai. Truth be told,  Chamisa is already transforming MDC  in his own image, good or bad. In the same manner, Mnangagwa is transforming Zanu PF in his own image, good or bad.

 Now let's look at what that image is.

Mnangagwa

Nero's supporters will never see anything good in ED in spite of all he has done for the country since assuming office in November last year. In fact, they are so unforgiving that they cannot separate the ED under Mugabe's leadership and are fast to blame him for being on that gravy train for the past 38 years.  That is a fact which can never be disputed but it is also a fact that it is people who bring about change and not systems. It is entirely up to the leader of any institution or organisation to stir the ship whichever way he chooses to. Mugabe chose to be an intolerant hardliner and his lieutenants, ED included had no choice but to follow suit.
In a previous article, I posed the question whether ED had a damascene moment because his actions are not synonymous with the Zanu PF as we knew it under Mugabe. We have seen another side of Zanu PF under ED. A more democratic party which is tolerant to other opposing views. We have seen an unprecedented freedom of speech and the freedom to the campaign by the opposition parties. I don't know about you dear reader but I'm yet to hear ED denigrating other candidates during his campaign rallies. I haven't heard him saying pasi na Khupe or pasi na Nkosana Moyo. During the Mugabe last days, ED  used to absorb insults and vitriol from Grace Mugabe and never reacted. My point is, we are probably seeing his persona and leadership style now that he is the one in charge: more reflective and sober in temperament; slow to anger, and rational in his approach to issues.

If the economic reforms and civil liberties being enjoyed at the moment are to be considered insignificant, it should not be on account of the person implementing them. If anything, they should be significant on that account. The very worst one can do is doubt if this is for real or if it is going to be sustained.  It is up to ED and his team to convince us. But to take the good and throw them away with bad is to throw away the baby with the bathwater.

Chamisa

With the same kind of fervour, ED's supporters see nothing good in the 40-year-old Nero whose popularity is spreading like a veld fire especially among the desperate youths who are seeing him as the Moses that will take them to Canaan. His campaign is based on opposing everything that ED and his administration have done and rightly so because this is, in fact, the role of the opposition. The advocate has also placed ICTs as a major tool for transforming Zimbabwe to international standards and one couldn't agree more with this assertion because, in the next generation, the jobs we have today will no longer exist because of the ICT industrial revolution which is upon us. ED's supporters have dismissed this as mere dreams of a delusional young man.
Chamisa is reshaping and re-energising the opposition, and he should be judged on his own record rather than on that of  Tsvangirai. 
I take exception though when Chamisa gets personal and starts denigrating his opponents by using some rude and unsavoury language such as denigrating Mnangagwa's age and thus insulting our fathers who are of that generation; or implying that Thokozani Khupe is a "Tsotsi" on account of her fight with him over the party name. This is something better reserved for Donald Trump and should be a thing of the past. It reminds me of the Mugabe days when Morgan Tsvangirai was called "chematama" as if calling him that brought joy and satisfaction to those saying so, or food on the table. The problems when we keep telling people someone is bad, we inadvertently create hatred of that person in the eyes of our supporters, thus creating the polarisation that sows the seeds of national division.
 There is no doubt that Chamisa is very active and very energetic, and he has brought that into MDC. The energy, however, needs channelling into positive energy, asserting his convictions without bordering on the arrogant, and avoid drawing lines in the sand. If Chamisa wins the election, well and good. But if he loses the election, he still needs to work with the same regime as leader of the opposition formations, and it would be unfortunate if all they remember of him is as a rabble-rouser and troublemaker.
I must admit though that I am a bit surprised with the apparent lack of respect of each other between the two leaders of Zanu PF and MDC, given that they worked together in Parliament and should know each other quite well.
 But, of course, politics ( and power) corrupt and blind like cataract.

Let us engage in a battle of ideas, and issues rather than on name-calling and personal insults. Where we differ we need to do so with respect for the right to hold a different view. I believe that if the ideas of these two men are combined, Zimbabwe will be unstoppable.

 And  By the way:

I have been pondering over the inclusion of relations with Israel in the Manifesto of MDC Alliance, and wondered what was that all about? Was is it really necessary for an opposition party, in Zimbabwe to make a statement as disturbingly controversial as that in a campaign document? The voters who vote in Zimbabwe certainly have neither knowledge nor interest in the matter and so cannot be influenced in their voting patterns on account of that.  Did any thought go into how this affects international relations?
 Or was this designed with a certain audience in mind?
 Soon after that, Chamisa went to Israel.
 On a personal trip.!!

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