opinionBy Desmond Kumbuka
In the run-up to the discredited 2008 harmonised elections, an elderly relative in Seke Communal Lands related how she and other villagers had been told at a Zanu PF meeting that it would be futile for them to vote for MDC-T leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, since he never participated in the liberation war.
The only credible candidate for the presidential position, they were told, was none other than Robert Mugabe. So by implication, the electorate effectively had only one choice among the candidates - Robert Mugabe.
This has been Zanu PF's method for the past 32 years. The country, unfailingly, goes to the polls whenever they are due in terms of the constitution, but strictly to elect those that the "revolutionary party" deems to be the right candidates.
This is precisely the basis of statements by army generals who have vowed that they will never salute anyone, specifically Tsvangirai, even if he wins the elections, because he does not possess liberation war credentials.
When Mugabe boasts his regime has always complied with constitutional provisions on polls and has never skipped an election, what he does not say is that Zimbabweans have always been accorded the right to vote but not the choice of who to vote for. This has created a puzzle for the generality of Zimbabweans: what is the point of voting when one cannot decide who to vote for?
The right to identify those that must be voted for, as things stand, belongs to those who fought in the liberation war. And since Zanu PF arrogated itself the exclusive franchise to the liberation war, only it can decide who should be voted for. This prescriptive form of democracy has been the hallmark of its electoral agenda since coming to power in 1980.
Worryingly, Zanu PF behaves as if the liberation war was an ideal to which revolutionaries had to aspire to as a qualification for the future leadership of the country. Sadly today, Zanu PF shamelessly exploits this very unfortunate episode in our lives and subverts internationally accepted democratic principles in the name of a revolutionary struggle.
It is a terrible indictment of these revolutionaries that the lucky survivors of our liberation struggle now seek to reward themselves for helping to liberate the country by clinging to power and looting state resources with impunity. This is a callous betrayal of the scores of truly revolutionary Zimbabweans who died in the struggle. The democracy for which these Zimbabweans sacrificed their lives was certainly not to monopolise power and pursue self-aggrandisement, but one that would allow each and every Zimbabwean one-man-one-vote, to elect leaders of their choice.
It is indeed a sad reflection of the moral standards in this country that more than 30 years after the death of one of the foremost revolutionaries, Josiah Magama Tongogara, controversy still rages on around the causes of his death, because there are those who still seek to gain political mileage from his demise.
Similarly, the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo must surely be turning in his grave every time his name is invoked by hypocrites who desperately seek to associate themselves with him in a vain attempt to bolster their wafer-thin political credentials.
What Zimbabwe needs today is a new generation of visionaries who can turn-around the country's battered economy, not clueless geriatrics who hold out their participation in the liberation struggle as a passport to holding power in perpetuity.
Zanu PF should not be allowed to hold this country to ransom any longer because the price already paid as a debt of gratitude for its role in the liberation struggle far exceeds what it is worth. In any case, only mercenaries put a price on their involvement in a war, and Zanu PF has demonstrated beyond any doubt that it holds its participation in the freedom struggle as a mercenary enterprise for which it must exact a fee.
Claims by Zanu PF that Zimbabwe is under neo-colonialist threat are pathetic and baseless in a new world order where democratic forces are becoming ever more bold and assertive.
While Zimbabwe is not Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, Egypt or even Libya, events in the Middle East in the wake of the Arab Spring are a harbinger of the inevitability of change. The late Muammar Gaddafi, former Libyan strongman, probably believed he was invincible when the winds of change swept through his country, crashing him and his regime -- all because he failed to read the signs on the wall.
Lately, Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad has tenaciously clung to power through his country's 21-month uprising, but even he must know by now that the end is nigh.