19 April 2017

Zimbabwe: Zanu-PF Needs a Candid Generational Conversation


On Wednesday April 12, 2017, Zimbabwe laid to rest one of its illustrious sons, Brigadier-General James Jotham Murozvi at the National Heroes Acre.

Leading the thousands of mourners at the national shrine was President Mugabe who in his eulogy reminded ZANU PF party cadres particularly war veterans of the need for discipline and that its always politics that must lead the gun.

"Tiri mawar veterans hongu. Tadzoka tairwira mhuri yeZimbabwe. Tine musangano unotungamirira, kwete watinosungirwa kutungamira. Mumusangano imomo hongu tinovimbawo sema war veterans kuti tionekwe basa ratakaita, kana tichipiwa zvigaro tipihwe, tibvume. Takangogara tichibvuma kuti politics leads the gun," President Mugabe said.

The President further hailed the late Brigadier-General Murozvi as a disciplined cadre who remained focused in protecting the revolutionary ideals without any sense of entitlement.

A casual interpretation of President Mugabe's off the cuff remarks would imply that the Head of State may have been responding to earlier remarks by General Chiwenga who in his address at a funeral parade at One Commando Barracks had categorically said that war veterans are the ideological school of the nation and the bedrock upon which ZANU PF shall continue relying on.

The private press sought to hype the seemingly divergent praxis yet a closer inspection of the two eulogies reveal no contraries but convergence on the role of exemplary war veterans like the late Brig-General Murozvi.

The mere fact that Brig-General Murozvi, who was virtually unknown among the majority of post-liberation civilians found his way to the national shrine is indicative of the extolled space that former freedom fighters enjoy in the historiography of Zimbabwe's struggle for nationhood.

In fact, the remarks by President Mugabe were clearly targeted at a clique of war veterans who out of failure to observe and adhere to the "leadership" code had rendered themselves renegades.

In military, and indeed as per the natural dictates of any revolutionary movement, cadres are expected to subordinate not just to the military hierarchy but also to the political leadership. It is the leadership which gives the command, policy and ideological direction of the party and government. Any failure to adhere to this basic principle is naturally perceived as not just insubordination but an act of rebellion.

It is these renegade war veterans that President Mugabe was referring to when he called for discipline and the need to recognise the sacrosanct principle of politics leading the gun.

The fact that war veterans are the ideological school of the nation can never be a contested fact. What is contestable is the idea of former freedom fighters wanting to hold the party at ransom including dictating who should and should not hold certain positions. So in essence President Mugabe and General Chiwenga were speaking the same language and the input of their statements can be understood within the context of individuals strongly concerned of the current disharmonious state of affairs seemingly taking root within the revolutionary party.

What is at the crux of the current disharmonious state of affairs within the revolutionary ZANU-PF party is the apparent disconnect between the old (war veterans) and the newer post-independence membership.

Ahead of the 2018 harmonised elections, mechanism must be put in place to ensure that war veterans dynamically re-align themselves in providing the ideological dictum alluded to by General Chiwenga to the new post-liberation membership.

The apparent disconnect between the new membership and the ex-fighters must be re-aligned to a non-antagonistic state. A demographic truism of our time mandates the party to acknowledge the fact that it is the younger general that now constitute the bulk of the general membership and as such the party must remodel itself to cater for their aspirations.

While it is understood that the younger generation has a lot to learn from the memory of the surviving freedom fighters particularly on issues to do with foundational ethos, the ex-fighters are also need to appreciate the need for continuity and that it is the younger membership that now carries the responsibility of ensuring the continued hegemony of the revolutionary spirit.

More than any other time in its history, ZANU-PF is in dire need of a generational conversation that seeks to establish a common ground that glues together multifarious stakeholders who seem to be growing apart.

ZANU-PF needs to introspect about orientation or re-orientation of its membership. The rigorous orientation that was the hallmark of its survival during the liberation struggle has slackened. Although military approaches to recruitment of membership need to be re-engineered to suit post-war dynamics, its foundational ethos must at all times remain the guiding signposts for all.

New members must not only be familiar with the party's constitution, but also have a full appreciation of its ideological thrust, culture and have absolute respect and allegiance to the hierarchical order.

It goes without saying that despite its current massive support base, ZANU-PF risks blighting its stupendous electoral record by accepting within its ranks people who are not only contemptuous of the party's culture and hierarchical order, but also seek to introduce a new brand of politics alien to the tried and tested way of doing things.

As a result, the party faces four critical challenges.

The first, as already touched on, concerns absorption of new members into the ZANU-PF rank and file in the post-liberation period.

New members, particularly those aspiring for leadership positions at whatever level, need to have a deep understanding of ZANU-PF's ideological principles before they can be cleared to contest in any election.

The absence of a rigorous foundational induction or orientation strategy has over the years resulted in some members failing to entrench themselves within the party's belief system and, therefore, becoming easy instruments for manipulation and destabilisation.

The majority of such comrades exhibit serious hedonistic tendencies driven by lack of understanding and appreciation of the party's ideology.

The second issue is that it has become apparent that over the years that some within the revolutionary party are primarily motivated to support or pretend to support ZANU-PF to fulfil selfish ends as reflected in manifestation of a patronage system that marginalises ordinary, genuine cadres.

The patronage system has created the idea that you are either with or against us and has had serious destabilising effects, manifesting in the so-called Lacoste and G40 factions.

The third issue needing urgent address concerns some senior party members who over the years have misconstrued President Mugabe's magnanimous nature as weakness, thus creating their own fiefdoms to a point of being too cosy with delegated power.

It is regrettable that such leaders lack the basic understanding that real power resides in the one who appoints.

The fourth issue that calls for urgent redress concerns the contagion effects of that the tussle for power and control has on critical institutions of State governance; with some public officials and civil servants replicating the politicians hedonistic tendencies by executing duties along factional lines.

In general, the fault lines manifest in the disconnect between the party's commissariat department and other critical stakeholders, who include sections of the war veterans some still serving in the military and others retired.

I hope that the commissariat department is alive to the reality that imposition of election candidates is an affront not just to the practice of internal democracy, but to the electorate as well.

The department needs to address this issue with sincerity given allegations that the defeated ZANU-PF Norton by-election candidate was brazenly imposed.

The brand of materialist politics being championed by some members marks the unsavoury departure from ZANU-PF's tried and tested winning ideology.

The commissariat department must never allow politics of personality to get the better of politics of principle and ideology.

Elections are won foremost through focused mobilisation programmes that seek to sustainably win the hearts and minds of the people to your cause.

Thus, the revival of the Chitepo Ideological College is one way of dealing with the disconnection that appears to have festered between the old and young membership.

However, attending the Chitepo Ideological College must not be a mere rite of passage into leadership.

ZANU-PF needs to confront head-on fundamental issues of governance and undertake serious introspection.


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