ZANU and ANC: When dominant parties beget virulent internal opposition

09Aug 2019
Ani Jozen
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
ZANU and ANC: When dominant parties beget virulent internal opposition

WHEN countries are forged out at independence by dominant nationalist parties that at once take up the majority of the population in one or other expression like ethnicity or language, -

Zimbabwe President Mnangagwa chats with his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa when the latter paid an official visit to Zimbabwe from March 11-12, 2019, File photo

-religious persuasion and loyalty to a nationalist leader, chances of such parties being removed from office are minimal. 

At the same time it isn’t necessarily a condition for expression of democracy or authoritarianism, as often what takes place during such moments depends on the vision and ethical orientation of the leader. Depending on circumstances the leader can have his way and government fashioned for decades after such a vision.

Still in the same kind of environment what becomes of a political regime even when there are kindred characteristics of the sort does not depend on the leader alone, as in the final analysis a leader’s vision only mitigates crying, hidden and potential contradictions among the people.

How the policy vision takes up the bread and butter questions is primary in how these loyalties fold out, but in the final analysis it is crude survival that determines loyalty to regimes. Even in the case of nearly total economic failure as it was the case in Zimbabwe, the nationalist movement did not have an alternative of who should be ruling.

What sort of surprised observers was how farm seizures led to economic failure, and recent reports talk of hyper inflation of more than 100 per cent annual rate of inflation, which most pundits here may not be able to grasp.

Tanzania had acute shortages of commodities in the early1980s and a rapidly weakening currency until proper liberalization set in, which saw prices stabilizing and the currency depreciating gradually, a permanent state of affairs.

Again, despite its hyper inflation, Zimbabwe is ranked well above Tanzania in some unclear index that measures happiness, where Tanzania is regularly near the bottom.

A similar disconcerting facet is the manner in which ethical parameters of politics influence one another, as global political correctness would have it that Zimbabwe ought to learn from the rainbow thinking of the late South African iconic nationalist leader Nelson Mandela, but the reality is different.

Mandela’s thinking is part of global left liberalism, the era of global peace and harmony without a shred of radical nationalism remaining in language or symbolic reference, like ‘Make America Great Again.’

But this outlook is being eclipsed as nationalism is being restored not just in the US or European Union but even in South Africa, as the ANC openly contemplates farm seizures, following Robert Mugabe, not Mandela.

At the same time, dominant political parties face a challenge of sustainability of what people and their leaders, elites or institutions, actually agree upon.

South Africa and Zimbabwe reached majority rule from self-governing settler states where South Africa was an established colonial state while Zimbabwe, then known as Southern Rhodesia, was fledgling as its UDI (unilateral declaration of independence) was still-born and never accepted by the global community.

It remained a distant province of South Africa, where Britain still exercised ultimate powers of legality, on whom to confer the hallowed status of nationhood.

Zimbabwe had a 10 year start into majority rule before South Africa took the first steps to arrive there, because the US had lost ability to defend an openly racist state in Congress, and slapped sanctions in bank guarantees in 1986.

Shaken in its commerce and facing revolts all over the country it had excessive waste of resources trying to police the whole of southern Africa to be safe for apartheid. South Africa suffered a key defeat in guerrilla warfare in Angola at Cuito Cuanavale after a long campaign from 1987 to 1988.

By the time the Berlin Wall was coming down late 1989, it just signaled to white South Africans that the cherished illusion that they held for so long, that the apartheid state was a bastion against communism, was no longer tradable currency.

Meanwhile, Mandela as ANC paramount leader had spent years in prison thinking about how to get out of the situation, not for himself but all South Africans, and was finally convinced to follow not Mahatma Gandhi whom he knew and had largely rejected, creating the ANC armed wing Umkhonto we Sizwe, but Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Non racial love works, not hate.

While Mandela was putting together his political philosophy in the years of incarceration, and it came as sweet cold water from a refrigerator to enable the South African population mix to move forwards from the violence of apartheid, militants were gnashing their teeth and counting their mantra.

Zimbabwe held itself from acting on the land issue to enable the newly freed Mandela to succeed in taking the country to majority rule, then held itself again for the four years of his rule.

After that period, and with Britain totally adamant that the farms are a Zimbabwean issue, meaning it should be solved democratically through the various communities’ elected representatives, Mugabe had another solution: ‘Africa for the Africans.’

While this created mayhem, and even an intense level of violence against militants coming up in the wake of economic morass, it did not destroy the fabric of democracy in that country.

Similarly, contesting ANC hegemony on account of state capture and its result, seeking to seize farms to raise popularity tests the Mandela edifice strongly. But if democracy came out vibrant, shaking off Mugabe, harmony shall prevail.