Saturday, May 19, 2012

(HERALD) Mr Commissar, Sir!

Mr Commissar, Sir!
Tuesday, 15 May 2012 21:15

Tony Namate is a brilliant cartoonist. While I do not subscribe to his political thinking I can’t begrudge him his talent. From the sketches to the humour, he is good at what he does.

One of his cartoons I liked most depicted the late vice president Dr Simon Muzenda with his trademark jersey and jacket accosting a congress of baboons — an appropriate name I think for our noisy Lower House — soliciting for a parliamentary candidate. The dialogue box above one baboon, which was depicted scratching itself nonchalantly, was ‘‘I am sorry Mzee, but this year I am standing as an independent!’’

Dr Mzee had brought the joke on himself when he announced, in the run-up to the 2000 general elections, that even if Zanu-PF fielded a baboon as a candidate, true party cadres should vote for it.

He made the announcement as he decried the factionalism that had gripped Masvingo province, pitting the then so-called Muzenda and Zvobgo factions.

While Namate saw the humour in Cde Muzenda’s utterances, I doubt the grassroots did or do whenever their wishes are disregarded and a candidate is imposed. The top-down approach to intra-party democracy is a cancer that has afflicted Zanu-PF in recent years.

In fact Zanu-PF played second fiddle to the MDC-T in the House of Assembly elections in the March 2008 harmonised elections even though it led the popular vote coluntrywide precisely because of imposing candidates.

Though the crunching effects of the western economic sanctions regime had a lot to do with voting patterns in 2008, Zanu-PF was in a position to shake off the MDC-T challenge but two issues cost the party outright victory in the March 29 harmonised elections.

The first, and gravest one was the imposition of candidates by the Politburo and other higher echelons of the party at the expense of what the grassroots wanted.
We saw hordes of people camping at the Zanu-PF HQ in Harare, among them chiefs resplendent in their regalia, seeking to drive the point home, but they were either turned away or ignored.

The result was either voter apathy or protest votes. Zanu-PF ended up fielding two candidates; a Politburo candidate and the peoples candidate, in one constituency, splitting the vote in favour of MDC-T in about five constituencies.

The second and equally grave one is the sheer absence of principles among some party members like the two Zanu-PF legislators who secretly voted for Lovemore Moyo during the House of Assembly speaker’s contest and the blind mice who urged party supporters to vote Zanu-PF in the council, House of Assembly and Senate elections, and then Simba Makoni for president in 2008 oblivious to the fact that they were splitting the vote in favour of Tsvangirai.

In times like these, especially after the near miss of 2008, it should be self-evident to any progressive Zimbabwean that votes have to be cast on principle not personalities.

You vote for the party not its representative which is what happens in systems of proportional representation where you would not even know who the party will nominate to be your representative in parliament.

This is what Dr Mzee meant when he said even if Zanu-PF fields a baboon, party cadres must endorse the baboon regardless.

However such cadreship was missing in 2008.

The game in town was the self-defeating practice code-named ‘‘bhora musango” (protest vote), that saw President Mugabe trailing Tsvangirai in the first round of the presidential contest even though Zanu-PF, the party he leads, led the MDC-T in the popular vote nationwide.

Coming back to the Speaker’s contest, I had it on good authority that Zanu-PF Chief Whip Joram Gumbo, and Women’s League boss, Oppah Muchinguri were interested in the Speaker’s post. Gumbo having done extensive groundwork but both were shunted aside as the Politburo wanted Khaya Moyo, the party’s most senior member out of government, to land the post.

This spawned disgruntlement in party ranks prompting VP Mujuru to threaten dissenting legislators with expulsion if they refused to vote for the Zanu-PF national chairman.
Yet a simple, amicable way out would have been primary elections pitting Cdes Khaya Moyo, Oppah Muchinguri and Joram Gumbo with the winner taking on Lovemore Moyo.

This cancer in Zanu-PF that sees some leaders say no self-respecting party cadre should challenge another cadre with a higher rank in party primaries must be nipped in the bud. The grassroots carry the party, not the chefs.

Let the inter-party elections be real polls where one's standing in the party is not an issue but one's ideas and appeal to the electorate so that voters get the candidates they want.

However, judging by what has been going on in DCC elections countrywide, the lessons of 2008 have been forgotten as some ‘‘untouchable’’ party chefs are busy filling party structures with their own choices at the expense of the grassroots. President Mugabe blasted this practice during the burial of national hero Cde Edison Ncube at the beginning of the month.

‘‘They go around and say do not vote for so and so. Ndiwe ani? Kunyora tutsamba kuti ava ndivo vanosungirwa kuvhoterwa muDCC. You are destroying the party for which people like Edson worked so hard. Do your work. Let the people judge you. If they do not like you, they do not like you. We do not want impositions. No!”

I hope the national political commissar, Cde Webster Shamu, took notice and will walk the talk.

Zanu-PF must exorcise the ghost of 2008 by cleansing its ranks of dubious characters and putting an end to the cancer of imposing candidates, otherwise they needlessly concede ground to the hapless MDC-T.



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