Political leaders must make room for young minds


Dec 15, 2011

Tanonoka Joseph Whande

I do not know how many people eagerly awaited the ZANU-PF congress, an annual non-event that costs the taxpayer millions.
ZANU-PF congresses are nothing but a gathering of shameless men and women who assemble to eat, drink and praise Robert Mugabe in the hope of being drafted into the embarrassing but highly paid group of bootlickers.
I was flabbergasted to hear that this group of men and women had once again endorsed Mugabe to be their torchbearer for another five years.
I mean, what kind of people are ZANU-PF people? Do they live in Zimbabwe?
Don’t they know what has happened in Zimbabwe and who caused the misery?
Who among them stood up and put forward Mugabe’s name to be a candidate in the as-yet-to-be-scheduled elections next year?
And after nominating Mugabe, did the congress erupt into cheers of excitement and satisfaction, singing “Happy days are here again’?”
Are ZANU-PF people nuts like their leader?
Did they really discuss the issue at all or, maybe, the issue was not negotiable?
In a speech to his ZANU-PF congress delegates, Mugabe chided his party for forcing candidates on the people in various constituencies.
He said imposing candidates is the reason the party did not do as well as it should have in past elections.
What a hypocritical old goat!
Is he himself not imposing himself on the people? How many people stood against him? Why was he the sole candidate?
ZANU-PF, just like Zimbabwe, is suffering because of this man’s greed for power and fear of being challenged.
Ever since he became party leader, Mugabe never wanted to hear anything about who would succeed him, dead or alive.
He picked weak old man as Vice Presidents because he did not want anyone with their own power base so that his own position remained safe.
Mugabe made sure that the issue of succession was never up for discussion. He went further and kept the lid on brilliant challengers and made sure that bright, young minds within ZANU-PF are never put into positions where they could, by their mere existence, expose Mugabe’s lack of depth.
In the end, because of the absence of an alternative, people in ZANU-PF started saying that no one but Mugabe could rule Zimbabwe. They wondered who would keep the party together other than Mugabe and that is what Mugabe precisely wanted. He made himself the only one and the only alternative.
That void, that absence of a meaningful understudy, has cost both ZANU-PF and the nation a lot, as can be seen in what is happening within ZANU-PF itself.
As Mugabe was creating the false myth that he was the one and only able leader, people around him worked quietly to put themselves in positions of advantage.
Subdued jostling for power increased and factions were born.
Factions within ZANU-PF are a danger to the survival of this outdated party, which continues to think of itself as a revolutionary party.
How delegates from all over Zimbabwe could assemble and nominate Mugabe as a future candidate goes to show the kind of idiotic politicians we are dealing with.
Mugabe is at least 87 years old. It seems he has been in his eighties for more than ten years.
He can no longer balance himself properly when he walks. He is extremely frail because of not only age but also of poor health – a terrible combination.
Remember the late Tunisian president Habib Bourguiba who held on to power into old age.
Bourguiba became president of Tunisia on 25 July 1957 and remained as President of Tunisia until November 7, 1987, “when his newly-appointed Prime Minister and constitutional successor Zine El Abidine Ben Ali impeached him, claiming his old age and health reasons as certified by his own doctors made Bourguiba unfit to govern”.
You do remember Ben Ali, don’t you? He is the dude who was the first victim of the so-called Arab Spring uprisings and was overthrown by people who used nothing but stones and anger in Tunisia.
ZANU-PF people know that because of age and ill health, like Bourguiba, it is only a matter of time before Mugabe goes to the office in an ambulance, complete with oxygen tanks.
Loyalty to the nation comes before loyalty to the party.
When this collective group of bootlickers endorsed Mugabe in Bulawayo this week, did anyone of them ever think about Zimbabwe or they were thinking of themselves?
But yet again, of all the men and women who are prancing around on the political stage, which one among them is a worthy successor?
Because ZANU-PF is a player on the national stage, we need someone who can bring new ideas to a new generation of voters.
Those born at independence are voters now; they are in their early 30s and they, along with their siblings, are in the majority. They do not owe any allegiance to the ancient mantra about wars of independence and revolutions.
At 87+, Mugabe cannot preside over a nation of under 30s and be relevant.
ZANU-PF delegates should be ashamed of themselves for burdening the nation with this old man who is already costing the nation so much. ZANU-PF should have retired him.
Was this not an opportunity for Mugabe to make a dignified exit and gracefully hand over the party leadership to someone else?
Was this not an opportunity for ZANU-PF followers to show their allegiance to the nation by looking for a young person to guide their party forward?
After 30 years, what does Mugabe still have to offer his party, let alone the nation?
Yes, there is, indeed, a leadership crisis in ZANU-PF and that is exactly what Mugabe wanted.
None of the contenders are plausible enough to succeed him. The best successors to Mugabe were not on the stage with him; they were not at the congress; they were in their offices around Zimbabwe working for a living while spent forces were jostling for an opportunity to catch Mugabe’s eye and put themselves in positions of advantage to rape the country.
The heart of the matter is that every citizen, regardless of their political affiliation, is responsible for the kind of leader we put in State House. To that extent, ZANU-PF followers showed a great deal of irresponsibility by allowing themselves to be coaxed into keeping Mugabe as leader.
Party congresses are important undertakings because the nation’s leaders come from such national meetings.
Party leaders may end up being presidents or prime ministers so it is extremely important that each party remembers where their candidate may end up.
ZANU-PF supporters are trying to sentence Zimbabwe to more years of hard labour.
I do not believe for one moment that all those ZANU-PF people honestly believe that there is still something good that Mugabe could surprise his party, let alone the nation, with.
Mugabe cannot be a presidential candidate in the forth-coming elections because he has nothing to offer his party, let alone the nation.
There comes a time when we have to say our goodbyes. And Mugabe’s time to say goodbye and to move away from the stage long passed.
I would have hoped to see a little bit of democracy when a few people at least gave Mugabe token challenges.
But nothing like that happened; they were all scared sissies who did not veto Mugabe’s appointment and went back home to their wives to tell them that, “Honey, guess what? We elected Mugabe to be our candidate next year!”
How a congress can bring together hundreds of people from across the nation, among them lawyers, doctors, engineers, educationists and other professionals, to actually elect Robert Mugabe as their leader and presidential candidate, is satanic, to put it mildly.
Are ZANU-PF people masochists, I wonder? Do they love pain that much?
They know, just as we do, that Mugabe is as useful as a used tissue. In electing to keep him, if there were any such elections, ZANU-PF adherents did not vote for the well being of the nation or party, they voted for an opportunity to continue with all the bad things that ZANU-PF has been doing with Mugabe’s blessing. A change in the status quo would see some ZANU-PF stalwarts becoming destitute because they are where they are through dubious and, in most cases, praise singing and bootlicking.
It is my hope that other political parties watch what is happening in ZANU-PF very carefully because no political party should ever emulate ZANU-PF.
I am concerned about the MDC because the same scenario appears to be slowly unfolding within its leadership enclave.
Young firebrands are being softly pushed to the side as some people try to strengthen their positions in the party.
It should not be the case; we are watching.
Young minds must be encouraged.
I am Tanonoka Joseph Whande and that, my fellow Zimbabweans, is the way it is today, Thursday December 15, 2011.

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