Wearing same socks for 31 years!
We have read in recent weeks, reports in the independent media uniformly pointing at President Robert Mugabe’s age, his health, explosive squabbles in his party, the securocrats’ tightening leash around his neck and pressures from all over for him to step down.
There seems to be concurrence on the school of thought that the President will not contest the next election, which could be as late as 2013, and that by then the former ruling Zanu PF party would have self-destructed.
So, the headlines scream, “Mugabe in a fix”, “Mugabe in a pickle”, “Mugabe will go” etc – all excitedly declaring Mugabe, at 87, is unable to take anymore.
All that may indeed be worthy argument, but can we really believe he will go home and rest, sit and do nothing while his party falls apart?
Yes, he is old and under all sorts of pressure, but it would be a mistake to under-estimate his shrewdness and take him for granted just because he is an old man fighting debilitating health and political problems.
President Mugabe has puzzled many political analysts and lay people by successively “winning” elections under the crudest of odds.
The popular explanation of why Zanu PF and Robert Mugabe have continued to win elections is that they have long experience in rigging them.
This argument is popular within opponent circles, but you can’t deny the fact that the President remains so popular, especially outside urban centres that he could, on the strength of his person, put up quite a fight even in 2013.
Zanu PF, if it survives the implosion to be able to stand as one party in the next election, will most certainly want to capitalise on the feebleness of the opposition politics, its lack of political maturity, the vacillation of its leaders and, worse still, its capitulation to the old disease of factionalism and violence.
The MDC has failed to match Zanu PF propaganda and mass mobilisation strategies, whatever form they took, and appears to continue banking on popular anger rather than on its mobilisation prowess.
Zanu PF has maintained a stronghold in the rural areas and whether through fair or foul means, has even made some inroads into the MDC urban strongholds.
There is a variety of reasons for this. Throughout the liberation struggle, Zanu PF drew its support base from rural areas.
The party imbibed Maoist mobilisation strategies of the “fish and water” type. The rural peasants became the sea in which Zanla forces played their politics. They used night vigils, called pungwe in Shona, to politicise the peasantry and to win them over.
The legacy of the liberation struggle has left a deeper memory in rural areas than in urban areas. The memory of the rural guerilla is in fact a memory of Zanu PF as an emancipatory force.
This memory will take time to pass from peasant consciousness.
Zanu PF is reaping dividends from this consciousness. The MDC is a product of urban civil society rather than rural mobilisation and this makes it hard for them to break into Zanu PF’s rural base.
The fact that the former opposition party is not making visible effort to penetrate Zanu PF’s rural domain makes it less certain that 2013 will have an obvious winner.
While Zimbabweans are no doubt eager to have a change from the 31-year-old government that has taxed its subjects to their knees, wrecked the economy and driven hundreds of thousands into unemployment misery, the MDC-T, widely billed to form the next government, must do more than just criticising Zanu PF to prove they are ready to rule.
It cannot be absolutely true that Zanu PF has the best political brains in the country, even including their shrewd outgoing leader, but the fact of the matter is that the MDC-T needs to quickly find and take in those sharp brains in Zimbabwe that have chosen to fold their hands and watch while the country cries out for leadership.
There are indeed many such people around that are scared to soil their hands in the arduous job of nation-building.
The MDC-T needs to take them on board instead of expending energy on criticising Zanu PF or celebrating the former giant’s internal problems.
Rejoicing over Zanu PF’s perceived demise may be an amusing pastime, but petty.
We are still grappling with an ailing economy and ostracised by the financially meaningful Western world and what Zimbabweans are looking for are people with the brains to take us out of this mess.
We are looking for people who will go to Parliament to address crucial bread and sadza issues in a practical way and, for heaven’s sake, to sleep less in the House!
Again as I have said before, if the mood of the common people is anything to go by, we should have had a new government way back.
We have been wearing the same socks for a whole 31 years!
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