Today: April 24, 2024

Zimbabwe’s ruling elite and their quest for one party rule

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Since 1980, the ZANU black government has replicated the colonial white minority government tactics of suppressing opposition and alternative views.
This is a special note to assist friends in the SADC region to understand the political landscape in Zimbabwe. In particular, it explains that what is happening to the Zimbabwe opposition is nothing new, but a replication of colonial authoritarian tactics used to slow down the democratic transition. Most importantly, that, whatever is happening has failed before and will never successfully kill opposition to authoritarian rule.
The banning of political organizations that an oppressive Zimbabwean government does not like is not new.
In August 1955 James Chikerema, Dunduzu Chisiza, George Nyandoro, and Edson Sithole founded the City Youth League, later known as the African Youth League, an organization that participated in nonviolent resistance against the colonial government and later merged with the old SRANC on September 12, 1957, becoming the new Southern Rhodesia African National Congress.

The SRANC, which demanded African majority rule, gained substantial support across the country, but was banned by the colonial government in February 1959. It was not allowed to see its second anniversary.
Following the banning of the SRANC, on 1 January 1960, the National Democratic Party (NDP) was formed. The colonial government was similarly banned in December 1961 before its second anniversary.
After the banning of the NDP, in the same month, Joshua Nkomo formed the Zimbabwe African People’s Union, which shared the same aims and tactics of its predecessor organisations. ZAPU was banned in September 1962, less than a year after its formation.
On 8 August 1963, Sithole, Herbert Chitepo, Leopold Takawira, Edgar Tekere, Henry Hamadziripi, and Mukudzei Midzi gathered at the Highfield home of Enos Nkala to form the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) breaking away from ZAPU after infighting.
In response to ZANU’s formation, Nkomo called a mass meeting on 10 August 1963 at Cold Comfort Farm, where he formed a new organisation, the People’s Caretaker Council (PCP), to replace ZAPU, which was still banned.
The bottom line is that the genuine and true liberators of our people went through the difficulties facing the current opposition in Zimbabwe. The state actors who are leading the country today never experienced the pain of the oppressive machinations of the colonial dictator. It is apparent that the liberation agenda has been hijacked.
What our liberators fought to remove is exactly what the current generation of sellouts that came after them has perfected to oppress their fellow black Zimbabweans.
Just as we witness today, the colonial government always made sure that the opposition did not survive.
However, as soon as a new party was forced, the colonial government would ban it. Soon after the ban, the leaders at the time would congregate under a new banner but essentially with the same faces.
Although the bans then sounded futile the reality is that this tactic was disruptive. It meant that there would never be real focus on issues and accountability. The same way ZANU-PF government creates sideshows and confusion to mask its failures and criminality.
History shows that the benefit of banning is that, when you are banned, some will still want to contest the ban and others will insist on moving on to a new name. On the other hand, some will just get tired and lose hope. Those who move on will fight again for the leadership of the new entities leading to endless squabbles and infighting. In this chaos, the colonial government managed to ward off any real opposition and alternative voices.
When ZANU took over from white minority rule in 1980, it was bothered by possible challenge to its power by the alternative ZAPU. Immediately upon taking up the reigns it sought to destroy ZAPU. This went on until 1987 when the Unity accord was signed to form ZANU-PF.
The unity accord gave ZANU some respite for a short period until the MDC was formed in 1999. The MDC was not like any other party that was in the political arena, post-independence. It came with instinctive vibrancy and instant impact which posed a real threat to ZANU-PF rule because it had massive support and managed to thoroughly beat ZANU-PF in 2000 parliamentary election.
What followed was a spirited agenda to eliminate any opposition using the State and its apparatus.
People continue to refer to the MDC of 1999, but the reality is that, formally, the MDC died in 2005. When ZANU-PF realized how strong the MDC was, it targeted both the party and its leader Morgan Tsvangirai. The party was heavily infiltrated, and Morgan Tsvangirai was charged with treason on the grounds of attempting to kill former President Mugabe.
The MDC was destroyed in 2005 when the party was handed over to a small splinter group. In essence, owning a party in Zimbabwe means having control over your deployees and government funding. Morgan Tsvangirai was left with nothing. In a normal environment he would have just died, politically.
The oppressive government did not recognize his outfit. He was harassed, physically attacked and left for dead – just in order to silence him.
However, because of the history of suppression and oppression that our people know very well, they followed Morgan Tsvangirai because he represented the true face of the struggle. Although Morgan Tsvangirai’s group remained MDC, technically, that name had already been expropriated.
The need for a new name to function as a political entity in compliance with national laws meant Morgan Tsvangirai had to resort to using his surname, hence MDC – Tsvangirai. This was not by choice or design but because the oppressive government had confiscated his party.
The problems did not end with the change of name. The MDC-T went on to win the 2008 harmonized elections ending ZANU-PF rule for the first time. The history of what followed this is well-recorded.
Although the Government of National Unity from 2009 -2013 appeared to cool down the political environment and bring some respite to government opposition, the reality is that plans to destroy the opposition and its leader Morgan Tsvangirai were in fact in full swing.
In 2014, the MDC-T had also become infiltrated. An insurrection rose from within and by the time Morgan Tsvangirai died he had already changed from MDC-T to MDC Alliance because that name had for all intents and purposes been given to some state sponsored individuals. Morgan Tsvangirai himself died in February 2018.
The MDC Alliance now under a new vibrant and magnetic leader Adv Nelson Chamisa contested elections a few months after the demise of Morgan Tsvangirai. Nelson Chamisa’s MDC Alliance performed in a manner that shook the establishment that thought it had buried the opposition with Morgan Tsvangirai.
Nelson Chamisa and his party the MDC Alliance became the new target. The party was taken from him in 2019 and handed over, yet again, to state linked individuals who successfully destroyed it and left a shell of the formerly vibrant political organization.
Because the MDC Alliance had already been taken over by state sponsored individuals, Nelson Chamisa, just like our oppressed forefathers of the 1960s whose political parties faced bans and disruption by the white minority colonial government, decided to form yet another political party. This is how the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) was formed.
In 2023, the CCC contested elections having been only about a year old. The MDC Alliance failed to field candidates in many constituencies because no one wanted to be associated with it. Where MDC Alliance contested it lost as if it was cursed. On the other hand, Nelson Chamisa and CCC claim victory for the contested election result recognized by SADC as very flawed.
It has not taken long this time for the oppressive ZANU-PF government to pursue the old tactics of the white minority colonial government. It is clear that a month after elections, the ZANU-PF state was already rolling out its plan to kill the CCC by handing it over to its stooges who will similarly destroy it as happened with the MDC Alliance.
In all this what we learn from history is that the struggle is not fought by names of political parties but by dedicated and committed people with a clear vision. Our forebears faced many challenges and suppression by the white minority colonial government. It was as equally cruel to its people to the same measure of ZANU-PF. Our liberators had to hobnob from one name to another, one base to another. It was never easy,
What is also clear though is that, once it has happened, no one can stop an idea whose time has arrived. No setback can defeat people who are hungry for freedom. What is crucial is that a window for change will open, and the freedom fighters must seize it and remove ZANU-PF.
Like its predecessor and mentor, the white minority colonial government, ZANU-PF looks strong, invincible and unconquerable. However, wise people know that ZANU-PF is at its weakest. Its thirst for violence and use of force shows that it has long lost grassroots support. Villagers know that a drunkard who sings loudly to scare away criminals on his midnight stroll from the shebeen is himself very terrified.
It is only a matter of time. ZANU-PF is dead. The civilian ZANU-PF died a long time ago. It is now a shell in the hands of the authoritarian elements followed by unprincipled “youthies” who follow handouts and freebees knowing fully well that normal service delivery will never come from this lot.
No matter what the ZANU-PF government does or says, its oppressive politics have no traction. They were defeated by our genuine liberators during colonialism and will still be defeated now. That kind of politics alienates the party from the people and is driving it right to extinction with its old generation with no comprehension of modern-day people-oriented politics.
We are getting to a point where it will be easy to push ZANU-PF into the precipice with a finger. ZANU-PF will die with its greedy pre-independence power hungry leaders soon and will never rise again. Those who will walk this land in the next 200 years will never understand what kind of animal ZANU-PF ever was. They will never believe the stories of what we experience today in the hands of ZANU-PF. Again, the hallmark of all oppressive regimes.
I would like to end by saying – The past has ended: The new has begun. Zimbabwe has already entered the era of Nelson Chamisa.

Dr Tapiwa Shumba writes in his personal capacity

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