Home » Governance » De-Constructing Magaisa’s Pedestrian Analysis of Zanu-PF

DR Alex Magaisa’s article titled: “Why ZANU PF takes by-elections seriously”, published on June 11, 2015 in this paper made an interesting read. Not in terms of information but in terms of how shocking it can be for a presumed learned fellow to peddle pedestrian narratives and pass them off as critical “cutting edge” analysis worth of note.

My major gripe with the learned fellow is the gist of his argument which seems to suggest that ZANU-PF deliberately “manufactures” by-elections to gauge its popularity and as a barometer to weigh its strength ahead of 2018. The other fallacious argument presented by Dr Magaisa is his “hallelujah” revelation that youths in Zimbabwe are attracted to ZANU-PF because it is the biggest bully in town and not its policies.

It must be noted that the hallmark of any critical analysis must as a matter of necessity encompass background information, context and the due process of events as they unfold and attempt to use precedence to shed light on possible outcomes. Save for a cursory reference in the first paragraph, in which he states that “vacancies arose when Parliament accepted that the MDC-T had expelled a group of MPS who had defected and formed a new political party”, Dr Magaisa’s article is de-contextualised from the dynamics that played out on the ground, leading to the holding of the by-elections. If he dared further examine this background information, he would have inevitably come to the conclusion that the by-elections were not in any fundamental way meant to gauge ZANU-PF’s hold on power.

What is incontestable is the fact that the by-elections were born out of seismic developments that took place in the ruling ZANU-PF party and MDC-T in the run-up to their congresses, whose main mandate was to elect a new leadership.

In the case of ZANU-PF, the revelations that some within its high echelons were “supping with the devil” rendered such individuals’ continued existence in the party maladjusted. The purging that unfolded was unprecedented and unselective in terms of one being a sitting MP or not. In other words, the eventual recalling, suspensions and expulsions of sitting MPs was not a “manufactured” political gymnastic but a result of the natural growth of the revolutionary movement which from time to time needs to “shed its skin” and refocus its energy by cleansing itself of rotten elements.

Similarly, when Tendai Biti and company converged at Mandel Training Centre to pass a vote of no confidence on MDC-T leader, they could not have anticipated the fate that was to come. At that moment the Biti faction seemed to be in ascendency and “the system” warmed up to them as the more rational of the two. But in the words of MDC-T secretary general, the Biti group miscalculated when they failed to challenge the congress that endorsed Tsvangirai as the leader of the opposition party, thereby setting in motion moves to have them recalled from Parliament as they had turned renegades. It thus boggles the mind why Dr Magaisa chose to ignore such a glaring historical fact, which is part of the narrative leading to the holding of by-elections.

It is weird and incongruous to suggest that ZANU-PF is obsessed with elections, for such an assumption gives the impression that the party is heartless, pursues and assumes power for power’s sake without any regard to the aspirations of the electorate.

The other important point that cannot escape any student of politics is that the recalling of MPs from Parliament was initiated by the MDC-T. The decision to recall the MDC-T MPs by Tsvangirai was primarily motivated by nothing but personal vendetta and the need to simply assert or prove one’s power by rendering the others powerless and baseless. Strategically, it would have made sense for Tsvangirai to let Biti and company keep the seats. In their wisdom, the MDC-T entered into a murky trade off with ZANU-PF in the stupid hope that they would reclaim the seats previously held by Biti and company since the latter already had a two-thirds majority. But that decision proved costly for them because ZANU-PF simply trashed whatever secret deals that the MDC-T imagined would materialise. It was only after realising that they had been sold a dummy that the MDC-T shamelessly resorted to the “no reforms, no election” mantra. The honest truth is MDC-T is currently structurally weak, so weak that it can’t mobilise a morsel of its support base for any election either municipal or national. Besides being structurally weak and strategically clueless, the MDC-T is financially bankrupt after the flight of most Western donors frustrated by Tsvangirai’s failure to dislodge Mugabe and ZANU-PF from power.

The problem with analysts like Dr Magaisa is that their analyses are devoid of the dynamics currently playing out on the ground. For how else does one explain the learned Doctor’s failure to acknowledge that Mwonzora said his party was better off “donating” seats to ZANU-PF, a decision which was endorsed by the MDC-T national executive council well before President Mugabe gazetted the by-elections dates?

Consequently, the mantra of “no reforms, no elections” is nothing but a charade from a cabal that finds itself politically marooned and a bystander to a programme that they had initiated. In actual fact, the MDC-T is not sincere in calling for reform when it initially made a decision to donate seats to ZANU-PF.

While on the surface the article by Dr Magaisa appears erudite, logical with simple comprehensible diction, a critical examination reveals that his ideas are muddled, a jamboree of this and that, meant to inflate the egos of perceived aersaries and to deflate imagined potential opposing views.

As a student of literature, I am taught to decipher the point of view of the author and his or her ultimate vision. In short we are taught to read between the lines in order to extract the actual meaning within the text.

In the case of Dr Magaisa’s article, it is apparent that while on surface he appears to be deriding the MDC-T’s decision to boycott the by-elections, in reality he is poking fun at ZANU-PF as a party obsessed with power for power’s sake and is in the habit of manufacturing elections to build and maintain what he calls a “winning mentality”.

The impression constructed by Dr Magaisa’s narrative is that of a ZANU-PF so much obsessed with power to the extent of it being distanced from the daily realities of the electorate. What on earth was ZANU-PF expected to do when seats were donated to it except to fulfil a constitutional mandate in formalising the whole process?

It is also spurious to aance the view that Zimbabwean youths identify with ZANU-PF because of its crude means of winning power. This argument must be challenged because it is couched in a damning innuendo that misrepresents the youths as having lost their souls to the devil. Which planet has this learned gentleman just fallen from to suggest that Zimbabwe has become more like Vincent Naipaul’s Miguel Street where inhabitants suffer from alienated consciousness in degrading environments that celebrate crass corruption and vices of any kind? Furthermore, his claim that he spent a year interviewing “young people who support President Mugabe and ZANU-PF” is on its own problematic in the absence of real empirical data. Where were these young people? How did he organise them? What is the background of the youths? It is all wacky and is meant to simply buttress his own stereotypical depiction of ZANU-PF as revealed by demi-god Sun Tzu. Dr Magaisa would want us to believe that people like Terence Mukupe (Harare East), Psychology Maziwisa (Highfield West), Tinashe Maduza (Kambuzuma) and Betty Nhambu (Kuwadzana) identify with ZANU-PF because of its coercive tactics which have sustained its victories. Why peddle such cantankerous conclusions in light of well-documented admission by Tendai Biti that ZANU-PF has managed to win the hearts and minds of the populace because of its policies that are concrete and enduring while MDC-T has been selling abstract ideas? What is apparent, judging from the scramble by young people to represent ZANU-PF in any election is the incontestable fact that it is the party’s enduring policies rather than coercive tactics that are a draw-card.

Is it not empirically proven that ZANU-PF has managed to remain popular because of its capacity to adapt to the dynamics within the social, political and economic frontiers through the enunciation of policies that favour the previously marginalised majority?

It is utter gibberish to suggest that ZANU-PF has maintained its stranglehold on power through unorthodox coercive means instead of its policies that have remained focused on mass empowerment.

Another indisputable fact which was also reflected in the just-ended by-elections is that ZANU-PF has remained more popular and more visible because it is structurally g given its grassroots support which manifests itself through cells, branches, districts up to provincial levels.

Maybe it’s time Dr Magaisa disabused himself of his over-reliance on Sun Tzu’s Art of War. I have no doubt that this book has made a huge impression on him but its continued use at any given time renders it redundant, narrow and sadly predictable.

In the final analysis, while Dr Magaisa’s article appears on the surface to be well structured, logical and objective, the opposite is in fact true. Dr Magaisa’s reasoning is rudimentary in that it does not illuminate any new thinking and any new realities but a simple regurgitation of long held stereotypes about ruling parties in Africa.

De-contextualisation of issues is at the centre of most narratives coming from people domiciled in some white capitals away from the continent who suffer from a serious divided consciousness which manifest in an illusionary belief of being the luck few to have “escaped”. Maybe the idea of being a self-appointed “intellectual prophet” is getting into the Doctor’s head to the extent that he is under pressure to rush to churn out highly opinionated narratives and pass them off as “cutting edge.” In all earnest, Dr Magaisa’s discourse needs to be challenged, tested and in some cases de-constructed in order to distil its toxic effect.

Source : The Herald