Zimbabwe: Dabengwa Speaks On Zapu's Future, Alliances

Despite being swamped by a crippling financial crisis, ZAPU leader Dumiso Dabengwa believes his party still has a chance to make it in the rough and tumble of Zimbabwean politics and will never die as it has gone through tougher challenges before.

Its critics have in the past postulated that ZAPU's only chance of survival lies in forming alliances with other like-minded political parties focused on removing ZANU-PF from power as, on its own, it was fast becoming irrelevant.

As a result, pressure has been mounting for the party to form a pact with other political parties to stay afloat as elections beckon in the next few months.

Recently, there have been reports that the party had entered into a pact with the Welshman Ncube-led Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), but both parties vehemently denied this.

Dabengwa, a former intelligence supremo of the Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA), last week said ZAPU would only enter into an alliance with a party that shares its values of the liberation struggle, fully subscribes to devolution of power, has respect for human rights and subscribes to proportional representation.

"What we are proposing really as ZAPU is on the same basis as the united front, which was proposed by ZAPU when it went into negotiations with ZANU and ZANU projected the case for a united front, but unfortunately, ZANU rejected that document completely and opted for a union of the two parties. So ZAPU is going back to that mandate, where your name remains but you go into some cooperation arrangement with some other party," he said.

Dabengwa, who exited ZANU-PF ahead of the March 2008 elections to join Simba Makoni's Mava-mbo/Kusile/Dawn before parting ways with the former finance minister to lead the revived ZAPU, believes nothing would bring down his party as it has withstood the test of time.

ZAPU was a militant organisation and political party that fought for the national liberation from its founding in December 1961 until it merged with ZANU-PF in December 1987. It was formed 10 days after the Rhodesian government banned the National Democratic Party.

Founded by the late father Zimbabwe, Joshua Nkomo as president, the late Parirenyatwa as vice-president, Ndabaningi Sithole (late) as chairman, Jason Moyo (late), President Robert Mugabe as information and publicity secretary, Leopold Takawira (late) as external secretary, at the request of Joseph Msika (late), ZAPU was banned in 1962 by the Rhodesian white minority government, and was later engaged in a guerilla war against it.

The armed wing of ZAPU, known as ZIPRA, was commanded by General Lookout Masuku (also late).

ZAPU was aligned with the Soviet Union whose ideology was to mobilise the urban workers, whereas ZANU had a pro-People's Republic of China orientation which was to mobilise the rural peasantry.

In 1980 it contested elections in Zimbabwe as the Patriotic Front, but lost to its rival, ZANU. They merged into ZANU-PF in 1987 following the Gukurahundi massacres.

Of late, the party has been plagued by lack of money since its formation. Last year, it suffered the humiliation of being evicted from rented premises where its national headquarters were housed in the second city after it failed to pay monthly rentals. The party had fallen into arrears amounting to about US$14 000.

Responding to talk of possible alliances, Dabengwa said the party would remain steeped in its founding principles.

"We respect the oath that was made in 1963 by ZAPU under the name of the People's Caretaker Council (PCC) after it had been banned by the Smith regime and ZAPU made an oath that ZAPU would never die, but that it would continue as the PCC. And indeed when it opened offices outside the country in Zambia and all other countries it was all under the name ZAPU," he said.

But critics still contend that ZAPU was no longer relevant in the current socio-economic landscape and the only way for it to survive would be to form a coalition with another political party.

Dumisani Nkomo, a political analyst, described most of ZAPU's current members and supporters as a graying population, including pensioners now in the sunset of their political careers.

"Unfortunately, most young people who are the people who really count when it comes to elections do not identify with ZAPU. It has failed to market itself as a party of the future and as a result it's been seen as a party of the past. It should think of alliances with other political parties that are like minded such as Welshman Ncube's MDC. Outside of that, their chances of survival in the rough political terrain range from slim to none," he said.

"And also the absence of resources, they are not funded, they do not have any external funding that we know of, and in modern politics you need resources. These are people that have good intentions, most of them, but their integrity is not good enough. However, they do have a right to exist," added Nkomo.

Another analyst who declined to be named said ZAPU in the main exists in the minds of the older people and in the middle young adults based in the Diaspora as a function of nostalgia and hope against hope.

In the real sense, it has failed to build on the potential it had as a traditional alternative to ZANU-PF.

"However, ZAPU has the distinct advantage of having liberation war credentials, ZIPRA veterans and victim status, but the choice of leadership was bad," said the analyst

"In fact, it can be a good case study for Welshman Ncube's MDC, who are being pressured to unite with the MDC-T in the sense that the one who broke away has a larger following, the breakaway was tribally motivated, the wing that broke away does not have a strong principle and value centre, just like ZAPU was more principled but ZANU-PF simply chased power politics and in the final analysis, the one who broke away intends to swallow the MDC and thus obliterate the competition and the nagging conscience it represents," he added.

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