21 June 2018

Zimbabwe: Elections 2018 - a Complicit Attempt At Ending Opposition Politics

opinion

Zimbabwe's ruling establishment or military political complex are consistently referring to how they intend to stop focusing on 'politics'. Instead, as claimed by President Mnangagwa, they want to put all their energy into what they have called 'the economy'.

Some ruling party pundits have gone so far as to equate that the ruling establishment's slogan of 'Zimbabwe is open for business' also applies to politics.

And here they essentially are arguing that there is no longer any need to make politics as polarised as before, but more significantly, to remove any assumptions of high stakes end games as was the case with their predecessor leader Robert Mugabe (arguments which can only be made by those that anticipate an electoral victory.)

The more significant intention however appears to make the opposition appear somewhat agenda-less or even in some instances, irrelevant.

This is one of the arguments that Herald columnist Igomombe recently put into the public domain. Referring to the 'death of party politics' he writes, 'Looking in the crystal ball, Zimbabwe after July 30 will pass for a highly de-politicized Nation. There is likely to be a net swing to wealth-creation and the founding of a technocratic ethos which it needs to underpin that swing.'

The fortification of the 'ease of doing business' mantra, together with the ruling military political complex anticipation of a July 2018 electoral victory means that they do not want an opposition. Or that they will work effectively to undermine it by giving it a rope long enough to hang itself. This in the form of speaking the language of global capital, neoliberalism accompanied with strands of state capitalism.

The assumption is that once they take away the economic agenda from the opposition by courting global capital on the basis of incumbency before and after the 2018 election, it will cease to be taken as seriously as it was at its peak. Add to this the internal structural weaknesses of the opposition would also make the intention/task easier.

And all under the guise of a 'new dispensation'.

The ruling establishment's functionaries are therefore keen on constructing a new domestic 'hegemony' that is in tandem with the hegemony of neoliberalism. And to reduce opposition politics to nothing but a mere aberration that would never get into power. Or having the political arrogance to assist what remains of it to 'democratically' exist.

Regrettably these evident political intentions of the ruling military political complex for the 2018 elections will only be popularly realised after the event. The opposition may have an idea of these ruling establishment intentions, but has become to enamoured to electoral movement squabbling and campaigning as to be unable to think beyond their individual political careers.

To create an initial form of counter-hegemony Zimbabweans need to challenge the ruling establishment's neoliberal narrative on the basis of clear alternative social democratic values that embrace more the people than they do capital. The opposition political parties need to learn to seek to distinguish themselves from the ruling party on the basis of values as opposed to personalities and age.

Once the ruling military political complex's narrative is challenged, it is important that there be the use of relevant public platforms (online and offline) to increase the public debate on a different understanding of what would be a more people-centered national political economy.

This would also mean that the value proposition of elections should also change. That is, we would still need to change the political culture that considers elections, electoral processes only as national events. I know that this is a hard ask, but it is entirely possible.

While I cannot suggest who should do this, I know that the primary responsibility to do so is with those that would want to be elected, the political parties. And in particular, those that are in the opposition, who the ruling establishment is only too happy to see in their weak state.

But even more so, for pro-democracy activists, who while not co-opted into 'incremental change' frameworks, understand the undemocratic intentions of the ruling establishment. Knowing full well that incremental change leads to an political elite permanence in power, pro-democracy activists need to be ideologically clear in how they intend to put out counter-narratives as well as how they raise the democratic accountability of political parties. Internally and externally.

*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity

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