The Sunday Mail
OVER the past few months, Zanu-PF had reached a shocking level of paralysis. The revolutionary train huffed and puffed, but it was clear that there was something fundamentally wrong. This was not the Zanu-PF of 1963. This was not the Zanu-PF that gave birth to the country’s independence.
How can one justifiably explain what was happening in Zanu-PF? How could the ruling party’s Politburo and the Central Committee sit for hours and decide to fire former Vice President Mnangagwa, only for the same bodies to turn around within a few days, to not only reinstate him, but to choose him as the party’s president?
How did that happen and what was that? The abnormal had become normal. The bizarre had become ordinary.
One day the country sees the Zanu-PF spokesperson, Cde Simon Khaya Moyo announcing that VP Mnangagwa has been fired from the party. He gives several reasons justifying the decision and there are wild cheers in the party as this decision is announced.
A few days later, the same Cde Khaya Moyo comes back again to announce that Zanu-PF has chosen the former VP as the leader of the party. Again reasons are given to justify this decision amid wild cheers from the same Politburo and Central Committee members. What on earth was that?
Without any shame, Zanu-PF did not see the need to clarify things to the wondering supporters. The people’s party didn’t care about the people anymore. Important decisions that had a bearing on the lives of the supporters and their future were taken without consulting the people. This is one of the biggest problems with representative democracy. The country is sub-divided into constituencies and each constituency is supposed to come up with a representative. These representatives from time to time converge to deliberate on issues supposedly affecting their constituencies. The positions taken by these representatives become binding to all members in the different constituencies.
Critics have argued that representative democracy is a fallacy in the sense that in its original form, democracy, as it was during the Athenian days, was supposed to mean people rule. This meant participation in person in the process of governance. The people had to be directly present. Now, once there is someone to represent a whole constituency, by implication the people are no longer part of the governing system. This is exactly how Zanu-PF was now running the show a few weeks ago. Where were the people, as Zanu-PF took bold decisions that it overturned overnight without any shame and explanation? Maybe developments over the last few weeks should confirm that indeed, life is a performance. Even politics is but just a performance. American writer, Walter Lippman in his 1922 book entitled, “Public Opinion,” puts it aptly when he asserted that all identities are performances.
“But when the stimulus of the pseudo-fact results in action on things or other people, contradiction soon develops. Then comes the sensation of butting one’s head against a stone wall…For certainly, at the level of social life, what is called the adjustment of man to his environment takes place through the medium of fictions.
“By fictions I do not mean lies. I mean a representation of the environment which is in lesser or greater degree made by man himself. The range of fiction extends all the way from hallucination to the scientists’ perfectly self-conscious use of a schematic model, or his decision that for his particular problem, accuracy beyond a certain number of decimal places is not important.”
A little vexing but Lippman really captures the whole idea of identity as a performance. As he stood as the Zanu-PF spokesperson announcing the firing of VP Mnangagwa and as he within a few days came back again to announce the appointment of Cde Mnangagwa as the leader of Zanu-PF, was Cde Khaya Moyo giving the country some performance? It really looked like a performance, because the somersault was too stunning to be real.
But then how had the abnormal become so normal in Zanu-PF? One can easily trace the roots of it all to the new political culture that the ruling party had adopted in recent months.
According to Ruth Lane, in her 1992 article entitled; “Political Culture: Residual Category or General Theory?” political culture consists of widely shared, fundamental beliefs that have political consequences. Political culture shapes how individuals and the society act and react politically. It determines the types of governmental institutions, how much authority is vested in the government, who is given authority and power in society and government, who is allowed to participate in decision-making, and various other elements which relate to the interactions of the people with their leaders.
Deducing from Lane’s explanation, one can argue that political culture sets the framework, the intellectual environment, within which government and politics take place. Now, what political culture had Zanu-PF adopted over the last few months? What is the framework, the intellectual environment within which the ruling party was conducting its business? What were the distinguishing beliefs, values, attitudes, habits and behaviour patterns that were characterizing Zanu-PF’s Politburo and Central Committee meetings?
Disrespect of party leadership? Why was it suddenly so easy for juniors in the party to ridicule their leaders? A whole Vice President Mnangagwa being made to prepare an 85-page dossier defending himself against Professor Moyo’s allegations? Yes, no one is bigger than Zanu-PF and yes, no one is immune from accountability, but knowing the history between the two, why was the party allowing personal issues to become party issues?
Disregard of party principles and the party ideology? Why was it now common for Zanu-PF to chant slogans that praised individuals instead of the party? Why was it now the in-thing for little boys and girls to belittle veterans of the liberation struggle? Yes, Kudzanai Chipanga now says he was made to read a speech that had been prepared by someone, but where did the little boy get the guts to call the Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces Dr Constantino Chiwenga as a rogue commander? What political culture was that?
Whoever had prepared that “dangerous” statement for Chipanga knew that the little boy would read the statement because of this new culture where disrespect for leaders had become the order of the day.
Through the process of political socialisation, Gabriel Almond and Sidney Verba in their book; The Civic Culture: Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Nations, assert that the central values of the political culture are transmitted from one generation to the other. In this regard, the media in the country went to bed with the Zanu-PF politicians because they without asking tough questions transmitted this political culture and made it acceptable as the new normal. Going forward, Zanu-PF has to look at itself in the mirror. Yes, culture is dynamic but this dynamism has to be rooted in the party’s founding principles and ideology.