By Whitlaw Mugwiji
When we were growing up, politics was a pastime activity for the mature and the old. A dangerous pastime so to speak. In those days, people with divergent views from the party and government did not discuss politics in the public, if they did, at least they did not dare express their honest opinions.
Even in the privacy of one’s home, politics was discussed in hushed voices. Maybe not true for all Zimbabweans but in our cramped ghettoes people could not risk being overheard by some overzealous Zanu PF party member, as back then they seemed to be everywhere.
But even during that time when most people were afraid to speak their minds in the public, the civil society led by a militant workers’ union and the vociferous student movement, successfully fought against the introduction of a one-party state. Then, workers and students were a true van guard of our democracy, as they stood for much more than their selfish concerns. A generation that heard a calling and responded accordingly.
A decade later, Zimbabweans from all walks of life responded to yet another call. We came together once again and through the Movement for Democratic Change we almost brought an end to Zanu PF’s hegemony. Unfortunately, we have so far failed to realise this change we so desperately yearn for. Now, like a broken record we are stuck, we keep chanting change but are unable to move the country forward.
Pointing to mistakes by our leaders in the opposition is quite easy, blaming them for our failure even easier. Instead, we must accept our responsibility, it is this present generation’s collective duty to rid our country of this thieving, corrupt and murderous Zanu PF regime.
Building on from last year’s momentum, which saw a rise in prominent and youthful activists such as Mawarire, Mkwananzi, Dzamara, Zvorwadza and Masarira among many others raising their voices, echoing our cries. They showed a glimpse of their potential, our collective potential at a time when the main stream opposition parties when consumed by internal squabbles.
But to be honest young people rising and stepping up to the plate is a two-way street. They have already taken an initiative to rise and speak up but what is now required from the seasoned opposition politicians is to give them room and allow them to blossom into their full potential. I know politics is a selfish game, no one is truly expected to create room for others but this is where we need our ingenuity, we must create an environment that enables renewal and the injection of new blood into the mainstream body politic.
The Chinese leadership under Deng Xiaoping learned a vital lesson from chairman Mao’s reluctance to step down. They came to understand that if the communist party was to stay in power for a very long time and if their country was to develop and be able to compete in the fast-changing world they needed to constantly renew their leadership. Thus, they introduced reforms, no new member could be elected into either the central committee or the politburo after the age of 70 anymore and a president could no longer serve more than a maximum of 10 years.
The ANC has been able to survive for over a century because it understood the need for leadership renewal early. Mandela not only did he continue with that ANC tradition of leadership renewal but he extended it to the state too, avoiding a crisis that confronts most of Africa.
It is unfortunate that there is a section of the population that accuse him of selling out. I content that it can only be this lazy generation that accuses Mandela of selling out because it expects to be handed down everything on a silver platter. Where else could it get the temerity to accuse Mandela of selling out? How did these people expect Mandela to reverse 4 centuries of colonialism and white domination in only five years that he ruled South Africa? He was not a super human being, he was flesh and blood like all of us.
Comrades, that is not selling out, it is called sharing responsibility with the next generation. Theirs fought the liberation struggle, got political power and handed it to the next generation. Now that political power is in the hands of the people, it is this generation’s duty and privilege to push the decolonisation agenda forward. Knowing that freedom is a struggle and that a struggle is a never-ending process as noted by Rousseau in his social contract when he said ‘a man is born free and everywhere he is in chains’. Each generation has to keep breaking those chains and pushing further the frontiers of freedom.
Unfortunately for Zimbabwe, be it in the ruling party, opposition or civic society, the tradition is ‘abaiwa ngabude’ loosely translated to mean that if you harbour leadership ambitions, just break away and form your own party or organisation.
The concept of leadership renewal is alien. Robert Mugabe as frail and old as he is, he still wants to go on for another term. If he was doing a sterling job, we could easily find it in our hearts of hearts to forgive him but the economy has been in tatters for the past two and half decades and there is no respite in sight.
In 2013, Tsvangirai pledged to step down, if he lost the previous elections, but all we ever got were excuses on why honouring his pledge would be a betrayal of the people. In 2006, Lovemore Madhuku had to change the National Constitutional Assembly’s constitution in order to quench his insatiable thirst for power. Fast forward to 2011, another Lovemore surnamed Matombo caused a split in the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) by attempting to cling on to power after the expiry of his two five-year terms.
This very same phenomenon has also occurred in organisations such as Zimrights, Zimbabwe Union of Journalists and many others. This failure at handing over power or rather the failure to handle succession is the chief reason that has led to the multiplication of political parties and civil society organisations in the country. The sooner, we all understand that no matter how charismatic leaders are, they come and at some point, they must go, the better for our country and organisations respectively.
It is one thing for these individuals to not want to handover the power but is another thing for us not to take corrective action. Zimbabwe, handing over power to your successor is not an act of cowardice and neither does that bring one’s masculinity into question. Instead, it is a brave act and a mark of true leadership. As they say the primary role of true leaders is to produce more leaders not followers.
Zimbabwean and young people in particular, the time is now, for the you to amplify your voices and reclaim your destiny. For how long should Zimbabweans be constantly reminded by Zanu PF to cherish peace they brought through the barrel of the gun? Peace and tranquillity that we enjoy in our own misery.
Rousseau says its force that is used to make someone a slave but it can only be their cowardice that perpetuates their condition. Yes, Zanu PF has used violence in the past to intimidate and cow us into submission but we must throw away that fear and face Zanu PF head on.
What else have we got to lose but our chains? Have we lost our desire for a New Zimbabwe, where dreams and aspirations are fulfilled?
Young people, now is the time, 2017 is the year, change must come in Mugabe’s lifetime.
- Whitlaw Mugiwji is a political analyst and social commentator for Khuluma Afrika