Zimbabwe: Zanu-PF Primaries - Stoking Fires of Dissent?

THE late Indian mystic guru Osho, born Chandra Mohan Jain, and also known as Acharya Rajneesh, once said ambition is the root of politics.

In fact, he said; "Mind is politics, because mind is ambitious and ambition is the root of politics. If you are ambitious you are political. Your ambition may take the form of religion, but the politics is there. Then you are competing with other saints".

Osho concluded that when there is ambition there is competition, and when there is competition you are not a friend to others. You are an enemy and others are your enemies.

The competitive mind lives in an inimical way, lives in hatred, lives in jealousy; its whole function is out of jealousy.

An outspoken philosopher and critic of socialism and institutionalised religions, Osho was a controversial figure who garnered an international following.

In a democracy, elections are central to the appointment of leaders and, often times, these elections are hotly contested, bringing in the aspect of competition.

The system of electing leadership entails that the leaders are the representatives of the electorate who will seek to champion the needs and aspirations of the people whom they represent.

Whether the elected respects their mandate has often been the bone of contention in Zimbabwe.

In the 2008 elections, one of the issues that threatened to torpedo the ZANU-PF camp was the imposition of candidates during primary elections.

This led to the "bhora musango" scenario in which those who lost out because of the imposition of candidates decided they will not campaign for the party, but instead, made sure the preferred candidates lost, much to the delight and benefit of the other political parties.

Often, such a scenario has also led to candidates going it alone and contesting on an independent ticket.

Here, Osho's views on competitive minds take hold. Rightly or wrongly, "bhora musango" was motivated by ambition, hatred, jealousy and competitiveness as Osho would have put it.

So, as the country lumbers towards elections sometime next year, President Robert Mugabe's party is faced with yet another conflagration over primary elections, specifically the imposition of candidates and vote buying.

Earlier in the year, District Coordinating Committees (DCCs) had to be completely disbanded amid similar allegations during district elections, with violence flaring up in Masvingo and Mutare.

The move courted controversy and criticism that the party was alienating itself from the grassroots. The DCCs were largely seen as an influential body come primary election time and in the matrix of succession politics in ZANU-PF.

Now, as a direct result of the DCCs' disbandment, the Politburo decided two weeks ago that all ZANU-PF bigwigs who sit in the powerful organ should go and campaign for the party at district level, a move that has given the senior officials a head start in campaigning for primary elections.

But more significantly, there are other maneuvers to protect the old guard, through policy regulations, from being ousted at primary elections expected after the annual conference to be held next month in Gweru.

Rugare Gumbo, who is the party's spokesperson, told the media two weeks ago that the party would hold inter-district meetings countrywide to be addressed by Politburo members and other senior officials as a way of revamping party structures throughout the country that would see the introduction of new party cards. Every Politburo member must be involved in mobilising supporters, he said

But on the conduct of primary elections, he said the issue of regulations has been deferred to "maybe just before the conference". But proposed regulations reported last week could put a cap on the number of years one is supposed to have served in the party to be allowed to contest in primaries and subsequently, general elections.

This has been seen as a move to safeguard the old guard who are reportedly facing intense pressure from some "young Turks".

Bulawayo based political commentator, Dumisani Nkomo, says ZANU-PF primary elections will definitely be characterised by fireworks.

"I see the securocrats playing a critical role here and taking advantage of the power vacuum created by the disbanding of DCCs .This is strategic for the old guard who enjoy support from the top echelons of the military. Some may want 'bhora musango' or push for their own seats and silently work with the former opposition in case it wins," said Nkomo.

Hopewell Masola WaDabu-dabu, a political commentator, said ZANU-PF primary elections would be manipulated to favour the old guard, after all, for most of them, this is their last chance to enjoy the trimmings that come with the office.

"In any institution run by the old guard you cannot say one of them (President Mugabe) will not face any in-house challenge and then expect the others who have offered him guided support to accept to be challenged by the so-called new Turks proverbially referred to as the Johnny come latelies," he said.

Masola said the old guard have cemented themselves into an indestructible entity such that there will be no way the young Turks would get a free ride to the primaries.

"The only young blood will get in through the grace of the old guard, a case of aristocracy."

Dewa Mavhinga of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute said that going into the 2013 elections, ZANU-PF would be in a much better position than it was just before the 2008 elections.

"President Mugabe is a grandmaster political tactician who has learnt from the 2008 'bhora musango' scenario and will make sure it will not be repeated. That all ZANU-PF provinces have endorsed (President) Mugabe's candidature is an indicator that he will most likely be able to keep a tight lid over dissent and steer his old ship through primaries and 2013 elections," said Mavhinga.

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