Why a Reformed ZANU(PF) is not the Answer to the Zimbabwean Crisis

By AGO Mutambara

ZANU(PF) Succession in Context

There has been a lot of debate and discussion about the succession issue in ZANU(PF) and its attendant factional activities. In some quarters, the possibility of a ZANU(PF) successor to Mugabe has been lauded as the key to unlocking the Zimbabwean crisis, while others have postulated a reformed ZANU(PF) as the answer to our national challenges. There is speculation that some key players in South Africa would prefer a reformed ZANU(PF) government with or without the opposition as a junior partner.

The international community, particularly Western Governments, have shown a keen interest in the jockeying for positions among ZANU(PF) factions, which seems to imply that if any one of the factions were to successfully replace Mugabe (by whatever method) they would consider normalizing relationships with Zimbabwe. The thinking seems to be that the problem is Robert Mugabe the person, and that anyone else will do just fine.

We seek to destroy this myth and challenge the efficacy of a reformed ZANU(PF) strategy as the panacea to the Zimbabwean crisis.

The Case for a New Value System

First and foremost, the Zimbabwean crisis is bigger than the person of Robert Mugabe. There are institutional, structural and systemic dimensions to the challenges we are facing. Over the past 27 years ZANU(PF) has developed a distinct socio-politico-economic culture and value system rooted in political illegitimacy, poor country governance, economic mismanagement, bad policies, corruption, patronage, incompetence, and disrespect for the rule of law. Whilst Mugabe is the personification and cardinal symbol of this misrule, these traits are now deeply rooted within ZANU(PF) which is rotten to the core. Mugabe is the glue that keeps the rot together.

However, dismantling this oppressive system and creating a peaceful, democratic and prosperous Zimbabwe require more than the demise of Robert Mugabe, the political player. There are many individuals and institutions linked to ZANU(PF) that are benefiting from the status quo. They seek to continue milking this patronage system with or without Mugabe. It is highly unlikely that ZANU(PF) will operate differently when he goes. None of the potential Mugabe successors in any of the factions or sub-factions has articulated a different value system, institutional framework, or strategic vision. They have no transformative agenda. Their value proposition is simply that they are not Robert Mugabe. Beyond that it is business as usual. In fact some of the would-be successors have corruptly and primitively amassed more wealth than Mugabe, have worse democratic credentials, and have been directly involved in heinous crimes against humanity in Zimbabwe. Furthermore, they are younger than Mugabe and appear relatively untainted compared to him. In other words they may seem to be reform minded but in reality they will perpetuate the status quo and thus not provide a solution to the growing Zimbabwean crisis.

How can those in the international community, including South Africans, that claim to cherish values of democracy, freedom and economic prosperity even entertain or fathom such a perverted succession? We hope we are not witnessing those treacherous tendencies towards double standards, hypocrisy, and duplicity. A reformed ZANU(PF) succession strategy must be rejected purely on the grounds of principles and values. The ANC and PAC freedom fighters would not accept a reformed apartheid framework. Jewish freedom fighters would not accept alliances with factions of the Nazi regime. Consequently, Zimbabweans should not sell their souls on the altar of convenience and compromise. We seek a total institutional and structural revolution rooted in radical transformation of our political value system. This is simply impossible under a ZANU(PF) successor.

Doctrine of Collective Responsibility

The second basis for rejecting a ZANU(PF) solution centres around the doctrine of collective responsibility. ZANU(PF) has been in power for 27 years and Mugabe has been running the country through his Central Committee, Politburo and Cabinet. Although he has dominated these institutions, members of these three organs must take collective responsibility for all Zimbabwe’s problems. All those ZANU(PF) leaders involved with Mugabe up to the Unity Accord of 1987 are collectively responsible for Gukurahundi in Matabeleland where 20 000 innocent Zimbabweans were massacred. Of all such leaders only the late Eddison Zvobgo publicly offered an unequivocal apology. How can anyone who had a position of authority during a period of such heinous violation of human rights have the moral authority to lead our country?

Over the years ZANU(PF) has destroyed our economy and violated our human rights with impunity. All the ZANU(PF) leaders are linked and married to their party’s vices. Currently, there is an unprecedented economic crisis, social degradation, and brutal repression; leading towards complete collapse and paralysis of our nation. We cannot place responsibility for this on one man, Robert Mugabe. Those men and women in his organs of power must take collective responsibility for the fate of our nation. No one among them is qualified to replace Robert Mugabe, as a solution to our national tragedy. How can a Cabinet Minister or a Governor of the Central Bank serving under this corrupt, criminal and illegitimate regime even contemplate being a leader of our great country? How can they de-link themselves from criminal and political culpability? Furthermore, on careful scrutiny all the potential ZANU(PF) successors have a disgraceful record of failure in their public careers.
Lack of Moral and Physical Courage

The third argument against the pretenders to Mugabe’s throne is that in addition to being content-free in terms of alternative vision, values, and economic strategy; they lack both moral and physical courage. They are spineless cowards. Assuming that some of them have disagreed with Mugabe on strategy why have they not challenged him? The current crisis is a case of the chickens coming home to roost. Where were these unimaginative cowards, opportunists and morons who now wish to replace Mugabe? Even today where are they? The economy is in free fall, and the population is going through unprecedented suffering and turmoil. They are silent. Political activists and their leaders are being brutalized, tortured and murdered. They don’t say a word. Oh no! If you cannot stand with the people in their bitterest hour of need, how dare you envisage yourself as a potential leader of the Zimbabwean nation? If you cannot stand up for your beliefs or what is just because you do not want to sacrifice your position at the feeding trough or because it will endanger your political ambitions, then you are nothing but a spineless coward. The integrity and true character of a person is judged by where they stand during invidious moments of crisis.

Zimbabweans will not be led by a coward.

Conclusion

In summary, it is not our intension to disqualify ZANU(PF) leaders from the democratic process. We are saying let us make the electoral processes transparent, level the political playing field and create conditions for free and fair elections. The future of Zimbabwe will then be determined by its citizens. Those that govern must do so with the consent of the governed. We want to register our unequivocal opposition to any compromise solution that would anoint a ZANU(PF) successor to Mugabe as the next leader of our nation.

Considering the arguments presented against a reformed ZANU(PF) within the context of a devastated economy, an impoverished majority and dehumanized electorate, while taking cognizance of the level of discontent in the country, it is clear that in a free and fair plebiscite people of Zimbabwe will choose a clean break with the disempowering past authored by the ruling party. Given genuinely free choice at the next election they will not elect ZANU(PF). People the world over routinely reject political parties that have clearly failed them. Why should our circumstances be any different? New leaders are required to build a peaceful, democratic and prosperous Zimbabwe.

The people of Zimbabwe should and will reject a reformed ZANU(PF) in a free and fair election.

The Struggle Continues Unabated

Arthur G.O. Mutambara

MDC President