Lovemore Ranga Mataire Senior Writer
At any critical juncture of a country’s trajectory, the truth is always the first casualty. Out of uncertainty and genuine fear, many journalists fail to objectively assess the impact of certain developments on ordinary people especially if such issues involve the military. The dream that the information age would provide greater space for critical discourse is rendered a mirage as journalists stampede to be the first to get to know the first turn of events, but remain lethargic in giving a balanced analysis based on the country’s national interests.
Yet the role of the Fourth Estate is not just to inform, educate and entertain, but also to put everything in perspective and proffer alternative realities of existence. Reporting on what has happened or is happening is the basic task of the Press, but there is also a need for a more incisive, impartial analysis of what is at stake.
The dramatic intervention of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces led by General Constantino Guveya Chiwenga into the political spectrum must be viewed and interpreted in the context of serious disharmonious developments in the governing party which, if they had been allowed to fester, had the effect of degenerating into open conflict.
What is conveniently ignored by most journalists and pseudo-political analysts is the incontestable fact that the bulk of the current top leadership in the defence forces are products of the country’s protracted liberation struggle. In essence, before they were professional soldiers or even trained guerilla fighters, they were first and foremost political players, schooled and oriented by ZANU and ZAPU — the two liberation movements that fought in the country’s war of independence.
It is this historical fact that makes Zimbabwe a uniquely structured country inasfar as its defence forces are concerned. When General Chiwenga stated that the army is a major stockholder in respect to the gains of the liberation, he is not bluffing. What he simply means is that the governing party is the custodian of the revolutionary ethos and values that sustained and liberated Zimbabwe from colonial oppression. It logically follows that any threat to those values and ethos is a direct threat to what defines Zimbabwe as enshrined in the country’s Constitution.
It is for that reason that on Monday, November 13, 2017, in a Press briefing, General Chiwenga began by quoting the country’s Constitution which speaks of: “Exalting and extolling the brave men and women who sacrificed their lives during the Chimurenga/Umvukela and national liberation struggles and honouring our forebears and compatriots who toiled for the progress of our country.”
What the military and all those who participated in the liberation war found repugnant was the attempt by some within the revolutionary party to denigrate, ostracise, isolate and marginalise the same liberation struggle that resulted in the loss of more than 50 000 lives. How on earth can someone in his sane mind embark on a crusade to denigrate the liberation struggle when its main architects are still alive and some still serving in the defence forces? This attempt to besmirch the struggle is viewed by many who participated in it as an attempt to rewrite the country’s historical trajectory and render the struggle as an irrelevant archival incident.
It is for that reason that General Chiwenga and his compatriots viewed such machinations as attempts to whitewash the history of the revolution that gave birth to present-day Zimbabwe. It is for that reason that General Chiwenga urged the party to stop purging party cadres with liberation backgrounds. So the intervention by the defence forces to halt the continuous haemorrhaging of the party was meant to protect the revolution’s legacy for the present and future generations.
At the heart of the disharmonious state of affairs in the revolutionary Zanu-PF party was the apparent widening disconnect between war veterans (those who participated in the war and nationalists) and the newer post-independence membership. Ahead of the 2018 harmonised elections, mechanisms must be put in place to ensure that war veterans are re-aligned into the party not just by providing the ideological grounding, but to become an integral part of the party like the youth and women’s leagues.
Of course, the demographic reality demands the party to acknowledge that the youths constitute the bulk of its general membership and as such must remodel itself to cater for their aspirations.
However, while it must be understood that the youth’s numerical advantage can never be a licence to denigrate those who sacrificed their lives for the freedom of the majority. More than any other time in its history, Zanu-PF is in dire need of an inter-generational conversation that seeks to establish a common ground that glues together the multifarious stakeholders.
Following General Chiwenga’s intervention, Zanu-PF needs to introspect on a number of issues. One of the issues needing serious introspection is the matter of orientation. The rigorous orientation that was the hallmark of its survival during the struggle seems to have slackened. Although military approaches of recruiting membership need re-engineering to suit post-war dynamics; its foundational ethos must at all times remain the guiding signposts for all.
New members must not only be familiar with the party’s constitution, but also have a full appreciation of its ideological thrust, a culture of absolute respect and allegiance to the hierarchical order. New members, particularly those aspiring for leadership positions at whatever level, need to have a deep understanding of ZANU-PF’s ideological principles before they can be cleared to contest in any election. The absence of a rigorous foundational induction or orientation strategy has over the years resulted in members failing to entrench themselves in the party’s belief system and, therefore, becoming easy instruments for manipulation and destabilisation.
ZANU-PF risks blighting its stupendous electoral record by accepting within its ranks people who are not only contemptuous of the party’s culture and hierarchical order, but also seek to introduce a new brand of politics alien to the tried and tested way of doing things. Other issues that need urgent address concern members, some in senior positions, whose main motivation in joining the revolutionary party are narrow and selfish ends as reflected in their venality. This brand of materialist politics being championed by some members is a departure from Zanu-PF’s tried and tested pro-majority and pro-poor policies.
The Commissariat Department must never allow politics of personality to get the better of politics of principle and ideology. Elections are won through focused mobilisation programmes that seek to sustainably win the hearts and minds of the people to your cause. The revival of the Chitepo Ideological College is one way of dealing with the disconnect that has occurred between the old and young membership.