Our ancestors were wise enough to know that after a terrible misfortune in the family they had to consult spiritual diviners and get answers to the many questions they had. It still remains a mystery why leaders in the opposition want to go into the 2018 election without a post mortem of the last election.
Four years later, the 2013 election is still a subject for speculation and contestations. Apart from coercion and manipulation, no other explanation has been offered. Whilst this narrative is true and convincing to most of us, it is not comprehensive and wide enough.
New literature is emerging, widening the narrative and discourse. If you ask me, this is a much needed conversation. Unfortunately, a much needed conversation that has come four years late. But all the same, it’s better late than never.
Taking from this ongoing conversation on the 2018 elections and the poll done by Afro Barometer, I strongly believe there are four areas that the progressive forces must seriously look into.
1. LEADERSHIP GAP
We are informed by a survey done by Afro Barometer in May this year, that about 32% of Zimbabweans have trust in the opposition leadership. This reality is problematic for a government in waiting. Unfortunately, it will not be changed by shouting and screaming at Afro Barometer but by tackling the problem head on.
I posit a three part solution to this problem. First, we need to replace a majority of the old guard with young new faces. They have given us what they had and we appreciate their bravery and dedication. But now is the time to oil the machinery for change with young blood. We need an injection of young leaders who have the ability to revitalize and re-energize the youth base.
Secondly, all political big names in the opposition must contest in their respective rural constituencies. Tsvangirai did this in the year 2000 when he contested the parliamentary election in Buhera, his rural home. They initially said he lost the election but he successfully challenged the results in the High Court together with 37 other candidates. The court later nullified the results after finding evidence that the poll was not held in a free and peaceful environment.
This in part helps to bring to light many of the challenges our people fighting for change in rural communities face. It will also help to channel adequate material and financial resources to fight Zanu PF in rural constituencies.
Thirdly, there must be a prescribed vetting process for future office bearers. Paying particular attention to those who will run for local government, which is responsible for service delivery. We must make a conscious effort to put local government in the most capable of hands. In the hands of leaders who are able to articulate a vision and deliver tangible results.
1. POLITICAL MESSAGING AND THE POLITICAL ECONOMY
Tamuka Chirimambowa & Tinashe Chimedza in their article ask a very pertinent question, what is the contemporary ‘national discontent’ and how does the pro-democracy forces intend to address it?
To help answer this question the recent survey by Afrobarometer and Dr Toendepi Shonhe’s article provide important clues. According to the survey two-thirds of Zimbabweans view the economy as either fairly bad or very bad. This means that the pro-democracy forces’ must focus their campaign on the economy. As Bill Clinton once said ‘it’s the economy stupid’.
I am sorry honorable Tendai Biti but the people of Zimbabwe are more interested in the economy than in democracy. To them economic rights supersede political rights in terms of priority.
I know, some will argue that political rights are the avenue to achieving economic rights but that debate is mute. The people are more concerned by how they are going to put food on the table? Where they are going to get money to send their kids to school? If unemployed, where there are going to find a job? This is what preoccupies their minds not democracy. We must never forget that democracy is a means to an end, not an end unto itself.
If we miss that then we miss the big picture. The struggle must always focus on answering bread and butter issues affecting the ordinary people. We must articulate how we will improve their economic fortunes and their lives in general. The people desperately need something tangible to fight for but not democracy for the sake of democracy.
Dr Shonhe asserts that the economy has been reconfigured. Therefore we must tailor our campaign message to speak about the economy to each of these sections in our society. Craft specific economic policies that speak; to the student, the unemployed youth and to the underpaid worker, to the peasant and the new farmer, to the new small scale miner and the small business owner.
Corruption must be at the forefront of our campaign. We must explain to the masses, how Mugabe the godfather of corruption has allowed this evil vice to flourish unchecked. Showing people, how Mugabe and his immediate family have been involved in every big corruption scandal in this our country. From the Willowgate scandal right through to the missing $15 billion.
2. VOTE RIGGING AND ELECTORAL MANIPULATION
In my humble view, it is folly to boycott 2018 elections on account of an uneven playing field. The opposition has done so much work, levelling the playing field and widening the safeguards against rigging since the year 2000. They have forced Zanu PF against its will to adopt a host of electoral reforms. From basic things such as the use of translucent ballot boxes to the adoption of the biometric voting system.
Now is not the time to boycott or even talk about boycotting the 2018 elections. But a time to continue fighting, entrenching and deepening the democratic values in our electoral system. The struggle is about incremental gains, boycotting is a step in the wrong direction. We must not get ahead of ourselves, we boycott and then what? At the present moment our leaders and our people have neither the capacity nor the zeal to fight Zanu PF in the streets.
3. DEALING WITH ZANU PF COERCION AND INTIMIDATION
In football parlance, everyone knows that it is foolish to change a winning formula. Thus, going into 2018 elections, we must expect Zanu PF to stick to coercion, intimidation and violence when need arises. It’s a formula that put, and has kept them in power for the last three and a half decades.
Therefore, it is not just the opposition’s responsibility to counter Zanu PF’s coercion, intimidation and possibly violence but our collective responsibility as citizens wanting change. Each and every one must engage their own relatives in the rural areas. Encouraging them to participate in Zanu PF activities but emphasizing the secrecy of their vote. Teaching them how Zanu PF has destroyed the country and how it can be rebuilt.
Where it permits, the opposition must organize self-defense teams that are able to respond and help opposition members in need. Chiefs who distribute food on a partisan basis must be taken to court. NGOs whose food or goods are distributed in a partisan manner must be confronted and challenged. Collectively as a citizenry we must be able to organize and help disenfranchised members of the opposition in the rural areas.
FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION IN THE 2018 ELECTION
Failure is not an option in the 2018 election but rhetoric without adequate preparation is a recipe for disaster. Wisdom teaches us, if you fail to prepare then prepare to fail. I am not promising any easy victories but encouraging everyone to roll up their sleeves and get on with the job at hand
As comrade Lenin once pointed out to his fellow comrades in the communist international, ‘when fighting a stronger opponent, it is not a matter of either or’. For the opposition, the 2018 election is not a matter of either or, street protests or participation. The opposition must adopt all the instruments at their disposal. Cultivating the revolutionary mood, organising protests centred on bread and butter issues and embarking on a serious voter education and registration exercise. Focussing the campaign message on corruption and the economy. Not only pointing to Zanu PF’s faults and weaknesses but to their vision and well articulated policies.