Will liberation parties wither reactionary storm across the region?

By Lovemore Ranga Mataire

Factionalism, personality clashes, succession battles. All these matters not when it comes to the election season.

Zimbabwe’s revolutionary Zanu-PF party always comes top while other former liberation movements with fewer challenges than Zanu-PF have either gone out of power or are stuttering to establish a solid hegemony.

Despite being under Western economic siege for close to two decades and an orchestrated regime change plot, Zanu-PF has remained solid and is set to have another five-term mandate come 2018 elections.

Only this week, Zanu-PF leader President Mugabe called his feuding lieutenants to order when it appeared the situation was getting out of control as some members took to the street demonstrating against the party’s national political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere.

Kasukuwere came under fire from members of the Women’s League and his own Mashonaland Central Province for attempting to create his own parallel structures with a view to toppling Mugabe.

The demonstrations have claimed the scalps of two top Women’s League members Eunice Sandi-Moyo (deputy secretary) and Sarah Mahoka (finance) and Kasukuwere was accused of blocking the ouster of the two.

However, as the momentum to oust Kasukuwere was gathering momentum through planned demonstrations, Mugabe stepped in and called party members to respect the party’s constitutional dictates in settling internal contradictions.

“I read in the papers, aah hanzi (it’s said) Kasukuwere is what and what, I don’t even know, there being articles, Kasukuwere, Kasukuwere….

“That being a member of Cabinet. If there are wrongs he has done, we have a dignified way of looking at ills and wrong doings of all of us. That’s why we have organs of the party and I was saying to the Vice President the other day that let’s remind people that we have organs starting right down from the cell, branch, district and province,” Mugabe said.

In a show of authority, power and that the centre is holding, the situation immediately returned to normalcy soon after Mugabe spoke.

Analysts agree that the major challenge confronting most liberation movements in the SADC region is absence of a binding enduring ideological foundation that binds members to one centre of power.

Perhaps Zanu-PF took to heart the early lesson threatening former liberation movements when Zambia’s United National Independence Party (Unip) was uncharacteristically booted out of power.

In South Africa, the ANC party is facing serious rifts with President Jacob Zuma’s deputy Cyril Ramaphosa breaking all protocol by publicly condemning the cabinet reshuffle that resulted in Pravin Ghordhan, the former finance minister, being fired.

Other alliance partners like the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Confederation of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) also weighed in condemning the reshuffle and urging Zuma to resign.

When the Democratic Alliance, the largest opposition party took to the streets to protest against Zuma, it became apparent that there was more at stake than just the cabinet reshuffle. Some demonstrators brandished bananas and placards depicting the president as a monkey.

While Zuma moved in to denounce the demonstrations as racist during the commemoration of slain struggle icon Chris Hani, there is no doubt that the odds against his party are insurmountable probably due to the socio-economic dynamics prevailing in his country where whites still control the bulk of the means of production.

South Africa is not alone. Frelimo in Mozambique has for years been battling against Renamo insurgents in a conflict that has claimed thousands of people. The recent discovery of gas and other minerals in the country’s northern states poses a serious security threat as other external forces are angling to access the precious resources.

It is also not looking good for Angola, where the MPLA has struggled to establish hegemony over the whole country. Unita under Jonas Savimbi wrecked havoc in that country rendering efforts by the ruling party to build a nation-state futile.

Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) in Tanzania has shown similar survival resilience like that of Zanu-PF while the rest of the former liberation movements are faced with a myriad of challenges keen to replace their rule with more malleable post-liberation regimes.

Swapo Party in Namibia has also shown resilience and is introducing various policy measures to correct colonial historical injustices.

Political analyst Godwin Mureriwa said he is not surprised that Zanu-PF has continued being popular despite the challenges it has faced since the turn of the millennium.  “Zanu-PF has stuck to the ideals of the liberation struggle compared to other parties in the region particularly through the land reclamation programme. The attack that ensued after the land reform programme was an attack on all former liberation movements in the region. I am sure you remember former South African President Thabo Mbeki saying the same thing,” said Mureriwa.

He said the Chitepo Ideological College that the Zanu-PF party is reviving was a critical strategy in ensuring that members were conscientised of the revolutionary party’s foundational thrust as a pro-poor and pro-majority party.

Another analyst Dr Pedzisai Ruhanya said Zanu-PF has maintained its hegemony through party/state conflation.

“The party and the state are not separate. It deploys its cadres in critical institutions of governance. Through scholarships, Zanu-PF sends its cadres to study law, public management at universities and they come back to work for the state. They are trained to work for the state and it is one in which it has maintained its hold on power,” Dr Ruhanya.

Dr Ruhanya said Zimbabwe’s army is predominantly made up of former Zimbabwe National Liberation Army (Zanla) and Zimbabwe Peoples Revolutionary Army (Zipra) commanders who were and are still part of the party born out the struggle.  Zanla and Zipra were the fighting forces for Zanu and Zapu respectively.

“When things are so bad don’t expect the Zanla and Zipra cadres to run away. The security apparatus in this country is very technical and understands the party ideology. The other thing is about the personality of the leader. He is a sophisticated man managing a sophisticated political system that uses persuasion and cohesion through its structures to obtain public consent of its policies,” Dr Ruhanya said. Former Zimbabwe ambassador to the US, Dr Simbi Mubako, believes that ANC, MPLA, Frelimo and Swapo are not so different from Zanu-PF.

“I don’t think you should write off the ANC. I think despite the problems bedeviling its president, the party is still intact, they are still the majority in parliament and I don’t think the opposition is anywhere near the feet of ANC,” said Dr Mubako.

He said Zimbabwe only started addressing the land issue after 20 years and that South Africa and Namibia were still young nations with a myriad of challenges.

Dr Mubako said Zanu-PF was likely to win the 2018 elections because of its solid organisation structure and its articulation of pragmatic policies that have empowered majority Zimbabweans.

Founded on socialist ideological principles, which among other things emphasised the need for equality among all races, tribes or classes in a typical egalitarian set up, Zanu-PF has managed to remain relevant in that it has adapted to the dynamics within the social, political and economic frontiers through enunciation of policies that favour the previously marginalised black majority.

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April 2017
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