By Takura Zhangazha*
For a long time now since independence in 1980 our national political leaderships have been judged either by their educational qualifications or their individual contribution to long political struggles. What has tended to hold more sway has been measuring the capacity of someone to lead on the basis of how educated they are or at least their ability to speak the Queens language where and when representing the masses.
Going back to the liberation struggle, it was some of those that were most articulate in the English language, or those that had gone through the experience of working in the fast industrializing South African settler economy or passing through the historic Fort Hare University that came back to lead the struggle for liberation.
Upon acquiring our independence, those that were degreed in the Diaspora of the North (Europe, North America and Eastern Europe) were tasked with leading the technicalities of the political process that was to be referred to politically as ‘scientific socialism’ and economically as ‘transition’(conservatively so).
It is a tradition that did not generally shift through to the years that led to the establishment of a mainstream opposition culture in Zimbabwe. With the occasional sprinkling of learned war veterans, the opposition came to be led by those that were deemed ‘intelligent’. Especially if they had not only a Masters but PhD degree or either higher education qualifications or if they were prominent but informed trade and student unionists.
It is this latter combination, like that of the 1960s, that brought into being a new oppositional consciousness in the people of Zimbabwe as to the possibility of political or even revolutionary change. It is a combination that however decided to run away with the people’s democratic project and forgot the Gramscian phrase and philosophy that ‘every man or woman is an intellectual’.
In both cases however the combination of the learned with unionists and in the case of national liberation, with the military, was to increasingly shift from the organic ideals, values, principles and actions related thereto. What replaced the combination of the popular with the learned was rank opportunism, cronyism and elitist economic policies. All of these based on the politics of the belly and with limited little remaining to be referred to as virtuous politics exercised on the highest plain of social and economic justice for all.
Furthermore it became a combination that was delinked in context from contemporary Zimbabwean reality. This by way of the fact that, unlike in the early years of either the liberation struggle or the early years of the emergence of strong post independence opposition, it came to represent more a culture of entitlement.
Moreso by those that either began or feel they personally own specific political processes.
Be it either Robert Mugabe (a person with more than a handful of degrees who has not once demonstrated an understanding of Franz Fanon) or Morgan Tsvangirai ( a man once claimed as the indisputable opposition political brand aka ‘no Morgan, no opposition’)
What however obtains as a fundamental question for the future of our politics is whether or not they will demonstrate our ability to have ideals, belief, and principle that is combined with meaningful action towards a democratic Zimbabwe.
It is imperative that we return to this framework in understanding the revolutionary tasks of political leadership. At whatever level our country requires’ democratically converged’ political leaders. That is, leaders who do not seek power for its sake but more on the basis of democratic ideals, principles, belief and action for the social democratic good of all our people.
What has tragically become self evident over the last 60 years is that our struggles for social and economic justice cannot be achieved without any of the four ingredients cited above.
Where we quote Karl Marx, ‘philosophers have only interpreted the World, the point however is to change it’, it is our generational task to ensure that the link between our ideals and our actions are organically interlinked. Both as a lesson to ourselves as it is a lesson for those that will come after us.
The primary post independence mistakes of Zanu Pf and the MDCs has been that of opportunistic expediency. Or alternatively treating our politics as though it were an ‘entertainment event ‘ based occurrence merely on the number of fans that turn up, applaud and leave.
Even where we consider electoral matters concerning our politics, these two major parties no longer view elections as mechanisms of democracy. They wrongly think of them as processes of entitlement to state and personal wealth. Hence they will either give out bags of rice or emerge at funerals, all in aide of the politics of the elite occasionally remembering the masses.
What has become apparent but however not peculiar to Zimbabwe is that we are in need of a politics that is based on ideals, principles, values and democratic action. A politics that would be as passionate and committed as that which won us our national independence but with organic, democratic and revolutionary results. This with the full knowledge that populism, like nationalism, in these times, is no longer enough in order to move our country toward people centered social democracy.
*Takura writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)