By Tendai Biti.
Harare, Zimbabwe (News of the South)-Wananchi,as we enter the shadows of yet another election, it appears that the gods of dementia have unleashed their angels on the motherland intoxicating in the process the native, his goats, his pigs, his dogs, his cattle and his rats.
Wananchi,that the gods of Derangement have taken over the national psyche has been self-evident in the past seven days.
Firstly was the proclamation by the Spirit-In-Chief at the World Economic Forum (WEF) that the motherland is not a fragile state and that the Zimbabwean economy is the second most developed economy in Sub Sahara Africa only after South Africa.
Now if we did not know this man well, we would have thought that he had discovered a new intoxicating variant of prepared Indian Hemp that was so potent that it required to be protected by a patent.
Wananchi, with 95% of the population unemployed, 75% living in extreme poverty, the motherland is a banana republic. A little tin-pot chocking in debt, with collapsed social services.
Someone should wake the spirit from a slumber and remind same that while it was sleeping, Ethiopia, Kenya, Zambia, Angola, Mozambique, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Sudan, all have doubled up their GDP and long surpassed Zimbabwe.
Speaking of sleeping, the suggestion by Presidential spokesperson Charamba that the spirit does not sleep but merely rests its eyes is an astonishing reinvention of spin.
Proof beyond reasonable doubt that Lyssa the Greek god of madness was reigning supreme.
For us, our real beef is not with a President who after all is 94 years old but the genius of the WEF who hatched the idea of abusing this man and inviting him to expose himself and all of us in Durban.
Wananchi, then there is a man named Toneth Tobaiwa Mudede who hails from the Central Kingdom of Zvimba.
Despite the fact that he turned 60 some 20 years ago he continues to serve masquerading as the Registrar General of the country.
He is in fact the Registrar-General of the country personally responsible for NIKUV and the NIKUVED 2013 election.
This man has a tremendous capability to speak with another part of his anatomy which is not his mouth.
This week he postulated that the concept of dual citizenship so proudly entrenched in Chapter 3 of our constitution and indeed one of its real bright spots was anathema that ZANUPF would move to repeal .
This coming from a mere civil servant, even one that is 20 years past his retirement date is unacceptable and high level madness.
Wananchi,this was the week that also saw the release of the Afro-Barometer report on Zimbabwe which proclaimed that the Spirit was the most popular and trusted leader in our country.
The truth of the matter is that in all dominated and captured societies the Bandit-In-Chief masquerading as the head of state is always the most popular and most trusted citizen.
The reason for this is of course fear.Fear is the unarticulated premise that holds a vice like grip on captured societies.
However unlike others we content that these academic surveys are valuable and a major source of material .Indeed they are a constant reminder of the citizen’s structural weakness.
The challenge of the Wanaichi is that at material moments it is anti-truth and anti-intellectual.
Wananchi, the attack on the online intellectual newsletter , Gravitas must be understood in this context.
The young intellectuals running Gravitas namely Tamuka Charles Chirimambowa and Tinashe Chimedza must be commended for starting this project and seeking to implant intellectual discourse within the body politic.
The three articles they published recently have raised controversy. These articles are titled
1. Reflections on the National question: Land, Transformation and Progress.
2. Zimbabwe’s reconfiguration: The New Sites for Electoral Contestation
3. Mass discontent: The rise and decline of the MDC?
Wananchi,it is important for these articles to be read and for comrades in the struggle to celebrate the diversity of intellectual engagement.
The common theme in the articles is regrettably a devaluation of the change project on 4 main premises which are:
1. Its failure right from the beginning of linking itself to organic social struggles beyond the neo liberal rights discourse
2. The fall of the working people or what Professor Raftopoulos calls the reconstructed social base
3. Under playing ZANU’s redistributive agenda and creation of a genuine social base
4. The opposition s failure to reinvent itself, to adapt and its own divisions and splits
Wananchi ,whilst there is evidently value and truth in the central theme of the papers it seems to us that a lop sized attempt to deal with the problems of the opposition unintentionally creates preposterous self-serving conclusions.
The one self-evident conclusion is that in the short term ZANU cannot be dislodged.
That its control of the patronage economy and the new social base is absolute .
That despite its fractures, the opposition even in a grand coalition can’t dislodge the same.
Such conclusions lead to the dominant discourse of the day ,that a solution must be found in ZANU.
That a post Mugabe candidate must be found who is first of all strong but with an acceptable veneer of reform capacity.
Inevitably this self-serving proselytizing leads to destination Emmerson Mnangwagwa ,fondly ,if not foolishly referred to as ED in the papers.
Another unintended and unarticulated premise is that the change project has expired .That it reached a peak in 2008 and therefore fizzled out naturally .
To that extent the change project is equated with the democratization agenda, the conclusion, Fukuyama-like in its aberrations is that “we have reached the end of history .”Democracy is dead in Zimbabwe. Long live democracy.
With the death of democracy and the democratization agenda comes the new apostasy,that Zimbabwe needs stability over democracy .That achieving or maintaining stability leads on an incremental scale to democracy.
This surely can only be described as startling heresy.
Wananchi, but this heresy is not new.
We saw this heresy in the era of constructive engagement led by President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher who postulated a soft line of engagement against the heinous apartheid regime in the early 80s.
A line that chose stability over black majority rule.
Wananchi, it is what led President Mbeki ironically to deny the change project’s outright victory in 2008 and led him to construct a creature that subordinated the people’s will to so called stability.
But that short term adventurism did not lead to democracy, rather it simply allowed exhausted nationalism to regroup and reinvent with the known result of an electoral grand theft in 2013.
The new stability project which now finds new support from the coldest and strangest of places will be no exception.
It will simply pave way for the reproduction of a further four decades of crude authoritarianism anchored by a mass murderer.
Wananchi, it is simply ridiculous to see democracy as being exclusive to and destructive of stability.
We would submit that democracy is the ultimate underwriter of stability. Not the other way round.
All those countries in pursuit of the Beijing model, being the somewhat lame thrust that a Developmental State led by a strong man can be fathomed, which is undemocratic but reproduces its self through delivery, are aware of their mortality.
Speaking of strong man, it is argued that in the context of stability and underdevelopment, what Zimbabwe needs is this strong man who will purchase his legitimacy through performance. Performance legitimacy is an old slogan, in new bottles.
Singapore and its Lee Kuan Yew are posited as exhibit A of this Developmental model. So too China under comrade Mao.
Now we have Rwanda and the affable Kagame, add Meles Zenawi’s Ethiopia and Sisi’s Egypt and the picture is almost complete.
Libya and its collapse appear to have spurred the new found appetite of stability over democracy. But this, coming from some of those who bombed Libya must be rejected.
Wananchi, what after all is the definition of a strongman?
The man who assaults his wife on a daily basis is not a strong man.
A butcher who commits mass murder and genocide is not a strong man.
A tribal war lord who sees ethnicity as a point of negotiation is no strong man.
The balance sheet of liberal democracy on the African continent remains chequered but in reality there is no sustainable alternative to democracy.
Further any developmental model not rooted in democracy and transformation is ephemeral.
In the context of Zimbabwe it would be wrong and foolish to ignore the immutability of the democratization agenda.
Yes we have made mistakes but our mistakes must not blemish the purity of the change agenda.
After all there is no manual for fighting dictators.
You will not find in Waterstones ,Amazon or Barnes and Noble, a “Dictatorship for Dummies” manual.
To write off the democratic aspirations and capabilities of the present is simply ahistorical and intellectual laziness. It is timidity and appeasement.
Wananchi we will not take refuge in such rank heresy.
The Zimbabwean State is weak and vulnerable. It has never been as weak as it is, ever since 126 years ago when Mr Selous and his brigands in the Pioneer Column raised the Union Jack somewhere in Matopo.
The unresolved succession issue inside it is the major source of vulnerability.
In the past 37 years it has reproduced itself through a powerful leader that has been more powerful than the state .But sadly that light is dimming .The centre cannot hold.
That State is in the throes of a crunching economic crisis. A structural recession that is for all intents and purposes is now a deepening recession.
Deindustrialisation, unemployment and poverty are the reflective of the disequilibrium.
It is an economy that desperately needs structural reform but regrettably those who it control see reform as an unacceptable back door entry point of regime change.
To compound matters, those running the economy are clueless zombies who have spent the last four years indulging in fraud and voodoo economics.
The country too has a bulging demography consisting of 65% of its population being under the age of 35.
With the bulk of those who have controlled it for the last four decades being in their mid-70s, it is a State in transition. That transition is ideological, demographic, technological and sociological. It is that transition that needs to be captured.
The analyses in the articles are electro -centric and therefore miss the broad picture of transition.
The real challenge of all democrats is not in the event of 2018 but capture of the on-going transition. That is the point sadly being missed.
That transition must be captured to ensure it is not derailed by shareholders of the status quo.
It must be captured to buy the peace.
It must be captured to create a soft landing for our country and in the process deny the merchants of violence who want a civil war or a coup de tat in this lovely country we are privileged to call home.
In this debate the opposition can never be written off.
With great respect to Afro-Barometer there is no genuine Zimbabwean who can think that ZANU can win a free and fair election in this country. Never.
But of course they control the infrastructure of rigging.
They survive through electoral authoritarianism.
The Securocrats are the trump card. Party State conflation is however the foundation.
Wananchi,to criticise the opposition without acknowledgement of the state of State capture by ZANU is being ZANU, an adjective of deception and mendacity.
The efforts of the opposition in the context of the above are to find ways and means of decimating the infrastructure of electoral authoritarianism.
If this is no longer possible within the time available to 2018 then the second option is to by-pass authoritarianism through the creation a formidable mass movement that will use the streets as the point of entry.
If not then the creation of an NTA remains the only viable alternative.
For some of us, perhaps the only way in the short term.
Tendai Biti is the President of People’s Democratic Party, an opposition party.
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