In recent weeks, the #ThisFlag movement initiated by Pastor Evan Mawarire has allowed Zimbabweans to express their concerns about government. Most of the focus was and is on government accountability, corruption and ending poverty. While others saw it as just an awakening of citizen activism, I viewed it as an indication that Zimbabwe is a politically insolvent state.
In law, insolvency is taken to mean a state of affairs where one’s debts or liabilities outweigh assets. This is commonly referred to as bankruptcy. In my books, a politically insolvent state is a state with empty words and rhetoric from politicians that outweighs their ability to constructively think of solutions to problems and deliver. In other words, it is a state of bankrupt politics. Why do I say this?
The ruling party, ZANU (PF), is possibly one of the most misguided political parties. Over the last two years, all it has concentrated on is crushing factions and pseudo-succession talks. In fact that is all it seems to talk about. Rallies held this year and last year show that there is an increased obsession with crushing succession discussions and using the platform to attack rival factions. The two rival factions manage to do all this by vying for the affection and praise of the President whom they have conveniently crowned the ‘centre of power’. The only problem with this in-house circus is that all of this is being done to the detriment of the country. It is a fact that the ruling party cannot separate party issues from national issues.
The government and the ruling party have no understanding of the term accountability and consequently, we have been deprived of an accountable Executive for a long time. One example of this is the State of the Nation Address (SONA) that many countries around the world look forward to and yet in our own country it is either non-existent or replaced with party matters. In fact before last year’s infamous State of the Nation, the last formal SONA was in 2007. In the beginning of this year when I heard of a special broadcast from the President I got excited thinking we would be getting another one. That was sadly not the case and we were instead greeted with a broadcast of the President giving a speech that pertained to ZANU (PF) exclusively and as usual, it was about the in-fighting but with a personal touch of an apology to the War Veterans. Perhaps the address was necessitated by the backlash from war vets and the nation generally following the clash between war vets and the police when they attempted to convene a meeting to, ironically, discuss in-fighting. Whatever the case may be, it was not about the country and its challenges. This is confirmation that the country is no longer a priority to the ruling party – everything is about the ‘centre of power’ and putting out fires caused by infighting.
The ruling party has failed to show leadership at a time when the country is in panic mode and fast approaching breaking point. Nothing new has emerged from the party except the same useless, pseudo-corruption drives and rhetoric of the western powers being responsible for every single problem we face. I wouldn’t be doing justice to the party if I didn’t mention that they have been consistent in dealing with disgruntled members who leave the party. To their credit, the ruling party has as per true form, managed to assassinate the characters of such people and in some cases, use state security agencies to expose sex tapes. Nothing new there.
Opposition parties have unfortunately failed to take advantage of the failures of the ruling party. Instead, parties have been dealing with their own in-fighting and ego trips. Since its formation, the MDC has split into several factions and each national election generally results in two further splits. Zim People First, the “newest” kid on block, albeit with recycled politicians from ZANU (PF), is on the brink of a split as well. I cannot with certainty, say we have a strong opposition in Zimbabwe because the reality is we don’t.
Zimbabwean opposition is generally clueless on policy formulation. Most of them don’t even have policies. The general line they give to sell themselves is that they want to remove the ZANU government and fix the economy because ZANU has failed and it must go. My question to them then is usually “So what. What will you do differently?” and then there’s deafening silence.
It’s the kind of poverty of politics we see in America with Donald Trump: The Trump Philosophy of Politics. Trump is clueless on policy and what needs to be done. All he has are bold statements and people who have had enough of previous administrations failing to deliver buying into the charisma, charm and the blame game. Our opposition does the same – it is good at blaming the government (and rightly so) but they lack substantive counter policies to do this. It is not sufficient to say you will fix the economy. The question is how, in what stages and when. It’s not sufficient to say you will create jobs, everyone wants to know how.
Of course the government is the root of our problems and should not escape liability but after they are removed from power what happens then? Oddly, I feel some parties only exist and thrive because ZANU is in power. Many will die a natural death when the tables turn much in the same way that the National Constitutional Assembly become redundant post the adoption of the 2013 Constitution.
Zimbabwe has over twenty-five parties opposing the ruling party. What I don’t get is why it is not apparent to the opposition parties that they cannot win against the ruling party unless they form a coalition. I suppose ego comes before the citizen yet again. That is how bankrupt our politics is.
Listening to Zimbabwean parliamentary debates is disappointing and depressing to say the least. Everything is a joke and half the MPs don’t find it important to attend parliament. At the same time, a vast majority of MPs (including those from opposition parties) have failed to deliver in their constituencies. I can’t even say it’s just the ruling party that has failed its people – 90% of people occupying elected office have failed to deliver. I have watched Harare Councillors award themselves ridiculously crazy salaries and yet fail to deliver. That is the bankruptcy of our politics.
You see, if we had no bankruptcy of politics, citizen movements and initiatives like #ThisFlag would not be necessary because politicians would be making the noise about corruption and accountability.
Until we become politically solvent again (assuming we ever were), citizens, like you and I, will have to worry about Zimbabwe and get it going again since nobody else will.
Paul is a legal advisor, commentator, analyst and lecturer. He lives by the motto ‘Get it done and offer no excuses‘ and believes that excellence should be the hallmark of every believer. Follow Paul on Twitter