The undefined political spaces in Zim
The political spectrum in Zimbabwe has blurry definitions, hence a state of what seems to be uncertainty, intraparty and interparty variations of views.
A look at the two main political parties in Zimbabwe reveals a ruling party, which appears to lean towards the right and the opposition more towards the left and centre-left. The ruling party upholds what clearly appear to be conservative right-wing values and similarly the main opposition is the opposite. There are a lot of movements occurring at the centre from both parties and hence the switching and the waiting games. Any political party is made up of millions of members and has thousands in its leadership ranks. The party vision is an expression of the sum of all its component parts. Each and every member has a vision; many visions and their visions may run in the opposition direction of the party.
The key though is that when members join the party, they then automatically subscribe to the collective vision of that party. Individual visions may be considered but they do not replace the collective vision.
There is no exception to the rule; there can never be exceptions, for that is when weaknesses are bestowed upon the party.
The decision by the ruling party to back the winning candidate Terence Mukupe in Harare East primary election brings about clarity and consistency.
This is about collective vision, the collective strength of the polity and a true reflection of the voters’ preferences.
Mukupe will represent Zanu-PF in the forthcoming parliamentary by elections.
Ideology plays an important part in any party and that party’s positioning on the country’s political spectrum.
Electoral competition is often based on an ideology that appeals to those voters who float at the centre of the spectrum.
The centre of the political spectrum in Zimbabwe is that space that falls between Zanu-PF and the MDC.
The question is, is there such a space? Which party represents that space?
The ruling party puts its main thrust as valuing tradition, equitable distribution of the national cake, economic freedom and though unsaid, the principle of survival of the fittest.
Worldwide right-wing politics uphold the belief that business should not be regulated and that people should look after themselves. Zanu-PF’s main ideological thrust is economic freedom to enable people to succeed, to be the owners of the means of production and be able to look after themselves as opposed to being permanently dependent.
The right-wing view is, if you have more money, then you should keep it and buy better services for yourself, the belief is that business should not be regulated and that the more money the business earn, then the more benefits to the country as a whole.
The ruling party’s manifesto from the 2013 election was clear on ‘taking back the economy, indigenisation, empowerment, development and creation of employment’, all clear and core right-wing movement.
The essence of Zanu-PF’s ideology is a clear right wing value to ‘economically empower the indigenous people of Zimbabwe by enabling them to fully own their country’s God-given natural resources and the means of production to unlock or create value from those resources’.
The key words to note in this ideological statement are ‘enabling’ and ‘unlocking’. Indigenisation and empowerment are meant to enable and unlock that potential to learn, to earn and create employment. Zanu-PF speaks in terms of ‘collective national aspirations’ and one of the fundamental right-wing values is the belief in the freedom to succeed rather than equality for its own sake.
The ruling party upholds traditional values and condemns such practices as homosexuality and upholds the death penalty.
The opposition’s main message is about jobs and food on the table and the ruling party has always questioned how they are going to create jobs without empowering people to start businesses, which in turn will create more jobs.
Left wing politics puts emphasis on regulating big business so as to save the interests of the majority and that is a commendable value. One could argue that the ruling party’s land reform is regulation but then the counter argument would be that correcting a historical wrong is not regulation but rather a requirement and necessity.
Right wing politics is often associated with elitism or the privileged label and when you look at politics in Zimbabwe you can see some traits of that in both the left and right spectrums.
Politics should not be about earning money, but looking at in Zimbabwe it is those in politics who thrive more hence why the political posts in the country are over-subscribed. It is does not make it right at all, but it is what it is.
The ruling party’s manifesto and party constitution portrays right wing beliefs that seek to promote a brand of assertive nationalism, a distinctive Zimbabwean culture and the need to reassure the people of their traditions and beliefs without sounding too authoritarian or too prescriptive.
A common outcry from the left wing opposition in Zimbabwe is their belief that the rich should not be rich whilst others are poor and that incomes from the rich should be redistributed so that others are well off as well.
The right wing ruling argues that people should be empowered to start businesses, to own businesses and the business owner should enjoy the fruits of their hard work.
If one looks at the developed economies of today, their capitalist systems were developed on the back of the theory of survival of the fittest, on right wing value systems.
Alexander Hamilton in the USA was clear on the need for government protection and promotion of domestic industry against competition.
The centre of the political spectrum in Zimbabwe is uncertain, unstable and woolly to have a permanent space. The balancing act of rewarding those who do well and creating a fair and equal society is what makes the centre way too unpredictable.
The right or left political spaces have more of a chance to turn Zimbabwe’s economic fortunes than the muddled centre of those who claim to be ‘moderates’. I
t is the moderates who preside over the centre who have caused more damage to both sides of the political spectrum. These are individuals who hold no clear values or ideology and they jump from left to right.
These are the same individuals who go wherever the wind blows.
The moderates in a right wing movement like Zanu-PF have a more of a strong ideological affinity to the left because a ‘centre’ space does not exactly exist in Zimbabwean politics and the centre itself is not exactly a coherent ideological space.
The ruling party is under threat owing to such individuals who believe that they have a vision far greater than the vision of the party itself. The fact of the matter is that everyone has a vision but the core of any polity is defined by the central idea as agreed by the whole polity.
Everything else is just a weakness.
The ruling Zanu-PF as enshrined in its manifesto and party constitution is the central vision and there can never be any deviation from that without the go ahead from the polity.
Call me anti-centre, but this crafty preoccupation with the centre by the so-called moderates is nothing but a weakness and is weakening for the party.
Agreed that both parties in Zimbabwe sometimes move to the centre especially during election years and just like anywhere else in the world, this is often driven by fundamental motivation of politicians to attain power.
The demarcation of the left and right in Zimbabwe is based on ideology and voter preferences and it is social justice and economic efficiency, which formulates the broad parameters of the centre politics. The electorate will go with the candidate who will bring them more benefit. The primary motivation of politicians is to attain power and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
The problem comes when the primary motivation becomes solely to attain proceeds, prestige and power, which comes with being in power.
Now this is where both the main political parties in Zimbabwe need to clearly define their spaces on the spectrum.
It is the lack of clarity of party positioning which often leads rational men and women to make systematic errors in politics.
The electorate needs to be provided with the right information to enable them to make rational choices.
Those who make irrational choices do so because they were provided with the wrong information or partly because someone who stands to gain ‘from being in power’ encourages them to make these irrational choices.
People vote for a particular party if they consider that its policies or ideology has potential to bring the greatest gains. The electorate is a rational being and would vote for a party they consider would bring them the greatest benefit.
The electorate desires uninterrupted streams of benefits from government action, voters want roads constructed, potholes repaired, street lights working, they want to feel safe, they want constant and clean water supplies, uninterrupted power supplies, rubbish collected timely, clean streets and so on.
From an electorate point of view the centre is a comfortable zone and gives them options. However from a party point of view, it is important to make it clear to the electorate where you stand because anything else is as good as deceit.
The centre moves from left to right depending on the consistency of the politicians from both spectrums.