July 31 2013: Arguments without the people.
By Takura Zhangazha.
There is a new-found abstract character to our politics in Zimbabwe. The heyday of political fervor for an idea or grand national vision seems to have become a thing of the past. The politics of our times are reserved for actors with specific proximity to power or those that are willing to be herded in one political party direction or the other.
There also seems to be no particular persuasive belief in ideas or organic politics as would have been the case either at independence or in 1999 and in 2000. For all their statements, conferences or rallies, the leaders of political parties (including those that are not in the inclusive government) have failed to raise the national discourse to organically and democratically engaged levels on issues affecting the lives of our country’s citizens. Where there appears in the last two years, to have been a scramble to politics or political activity, it has unfortunately been in order to access privilege and resources. Be these in either accessing indigenization and empowerment funds or seeking political office for the sake of personal aggrandizement.
It is unfortunate that our recent contemporary politics no longer responds or follows the pulse of the nation, both within the context of its current challenges let alone those challenges that will remain or arrive in the near or distant future. Furthermore, our national politics has tragically been short-sighted and highly personalized in its approach to the challenges we face as a country.
Two particular political developments give evidence to this assertion. The first being that of the politics that surrounded and informed the passing of the new constitution by way of a controversial referendum, a muted parliament and an inorganic executive. Whereas it would have been expected that in the aftermath of the passing of the constitution there would have been palpable joy (even if by the supporters of the political parties that wrote the constitution.), That did not in any way occur. Instead what we had initially were highly personalized gloating by some ministers, members of parliament as though they had written the constitution for themselves.
Ironically, some of those leaders that were involved in vainglorious self-praise, are also on record stating that should their respective parties wield executive authority, they are most likely to amend the new constitution. So if anyone was to be asked to sum up this particular constitutional reform process, one can only say it was a process that remains devoid of organic political legitimacy. It is only now, and in the aftermath of the Constitutional Court ruling on elections to be held by July 31 that members of the public are asking what exactly it is that is contained in the new constitution.
And it is this that brings me to the second political development that gives evidence to our highly personalized and inorganic politics. The controversies that have surrounded the Constitutional Courts ruling on the Jealousy Mawarire vs the GPA principals case, are to all intents and purposes now the subject of populist political grandstanding or undemocratic gate-keeping.
In some cases these controversies have been akin to what the late renowned Zimbabwean academic, Professor Masipula Sithole would have termed ‘getting paid to be angry on behalf’ of one principal or the other. The fact of the matter is that the debate over and about elections and their occurrence is primarily about the politicians and not about the right of all Zimbabweans to choose a government of the choice. The level of debates and in some instances unfortunate derision of the judiciary were not witnessed in the run up to the constitutional referendum wherein the matter that was then being placed before the electorate was of even graver concern than elections themselves.
Add to this, the murky political culture that has emerged from the primary elections processes of the politics of aggrandizement over and above the politics of principled democratic representation, then we will realize that the country faces a deadly cocktail of the politics of the belly and unprincipled political leadership.
Invariably there are those that will argue that we have to deal with what we have or alternatively, seek to define all of this within the ambit of ‘incrementalism’. The only problem with the latter is that in seeking incremental change, we have lost the wherewithal to understand that what we may view as ‘work in progress’ is more akin to an undemocratic permanent state of political and economic national affairs.
The end of tenure of the inclusive government is therefore an indictment on its leaders for they have limited little to show by way of performance legitimacy or leadership. What they leave (if they leave) in their wake is a country that no longer believes in the nobility and at a minimal level, the democratic values of leadership. From councilor to member of parliament through to those who would aspire to be president, we are faced with options that exude little more than the tragic culture of the politics of not only the belly but also of the vainglorious moment. This in a highly personalized manner that has more often than not clouded the real issues and challenges facing the entirety and fabric of Zimbabwean society. Perhaps, one day, there shall be leaders who will be able, to paraphrase the African revolutionary Amilcar Cabral, ‘tell no lies, claim no easy victories’. It is most certain that no such leaders will emerge from the current crop who cannot think beyond their immediate survival and aggrandizement needs.
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)