The second principle for succesful revolution planning is,
If [there is] more than one party, form a coalition.
Our grade: “F.”
To fully understand how the above statement bears out in Zimbabwe, one must first understand the country’s political heritage. To do this it is imperative to reach back into the nation’s liberation history. There we find that mutual distrust and turgid collegiality were the order of the day. Uninformed peasants had little trust for the leaders of Zimbabwe’s liberation movement; liberation cadres didn’t fully trust the people because they endured immense pressure from the imperialist forces; and there was little trust shared between the different leaders themselves. There really was never such a thing as a coalition in independence attaining process for Zimbabwe. What Zimbabweans came to know and understand as the modus operandi during the days of the armed struggled can best be described as the politics of fear.
During the days of the armed struggle strongmen cowered the people into loyalty through frequent displays of brutality and playing on the ignorance of the people to trump up fear. Likewise, imperialists employed the same predatory tactitics to keep the people from feeding and abetting liberation soldiers. You either supported vanamukoma the liberation war cadres, or where a traitor selling them out to the Rhodesian Armed Forces. People’s actions where for the most part, dictated by their perception of how best to avoid being considered a traitor by either side.
As you can imagine this precipitated unmitigated fear in the people when it came to all things political during the struggle and beyond. What is worse is that Mugabe & Co. did little to mollify said fear in the people when they finally liberated the nation. On the contrary, they ritualized the process of drumming up unwarranted tensions and manufactured volatility particularly through ZANU-PF’s youth wing.
So high was the mass hysteria generated by these scare gimmicks, many Zimbabweans essentially divorced themselves from political involvement. While many across the nation reposed in the paralysis of fear, ZANU-PF’s henchmen rolled their familiar tactics and consolidated their party’s gruff outlook.
Many politically motivated murders, rapes and assaults have been recorded in the last seven years. Truth be told, such violence and brutality has accompanied all of Zimbabwe’s plebiscites in the past. The tension and drama have always manufactured, and only last a few days. In some areas the manufactured tension lasted the duration of the voting period only. But it was always there. Every election carried with it an element of fear. Thus the legacy of the politics of fear was extended beyond the days of liberation struggle.
The Gukurahunde massacres shortly after independence are another manifestation of this culture of fear in Zimbabwean politics are probably the bloodiest remind of this notion in Zimbabwe’s short history. In the first years after independence, the distrust took a turn for the worse as tens of thousands of Ndebele’s were brutally massacred out of ZANU-PF’s fear of a revolt in the country’s southern half.
I mention all this for this one reason and that alone, to establish that politics in Zimbabwe’s has always been a game of power and influence than a competition of political idealogies. Cooperation has never been given a chance to thrive in Zimbabwean politics.Zimbabwe’s political heritage is dominated by the politics of fear, not cooperation because all of the protagonists up till now see content with own success over that of the nation.
In my opinion, the idea of political coalition assumes the vibrant existence of several opposition parties, which ironically is the goal of the democratization process. There is no such thing in Zimbabwe. Owing mainly to the one virtual one party state imposed by Mugabe & Co., opposition politics is dead, except for the MDC. This is where things get really tricky; there are really two MDC’s.
Fraught by the perpetuation of the legacy of malicous distrust, Zimbabwe’s opposition is splintered and it appears hopelessly so for now. See this and this for earlier discussions of why the MDC split. So the legacy of distrust and power mongering continues to stunt Zimbabwe’s political evolution in the 21st century.
Ours is really a quest for the harmonization within (and not between) the opposition.
But it would both be foolish and reckless to pretend that there is no room for coalition politics in Zimbabwe. There is space for coalitions to be built and grow strong, it’s just not found in the country’s current political makeup. The best opportunity for this is found among Zimbabwe’s civic organizations. Groups like Zvakwana, ZCTU, WOZA, PTUZ, Padare and the like retain the greatest hope of transforming Zimbabwe’s politics in this regard; they can bring the people back into the politics.
Through their highly specific and ingenious issue advocacy efforts, Zimbabwe’s civic society has already made leaps and bounds in national politics. Remember, the MDC was born mainly out of the coalition of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and the Zimbabwe National Student Union. What makes these civic groups great is their ability to catalyze the people’s involvement in the issues that concern them.
In 1998, after the government had hiked prices of basic goods, the ZCTU called for and led public protest that ground the nation to a halt. Before his dabbling in national politics, Arthur Mutambara led the first inserruction at the University of Zimbabwe that rattled Mugabe’s cage under the auspices of the student body there. I think David Chimhini who shot to noteriety for his abject defiance of Mugabe’s oppressive tendencies through Zimrights another civic organization.
It is clear to me that coalition politics is by necessity, the only the only way forward for Zimbabwean politics. It is also patently obvious that political party’s in Zimbabwe that pride themselves keeping the public at bay are not going to be able to transform themselves quickly enough to be able handle the outpouring of solidarity that will accompanty the final revolt that will crush Mugabe. The only structures that are ready for this civic structures because of their ability to empower the people.
Until the opposition politicians realize that they need to embrace and involve the people, the best coalition possible will be that of the civic organizations.