By Takura Zhangazha*
The ruling Zimbabwe African National Union (Patriotic Front) Zanu PF has regularly made claims that is a ‘revolutionary party’. It has buttressed its arguments on the basis of not only its role in the liberation struggle but also a default land reform exercise that it undertook in the face of a strong labour backed opposition movement in the late 1990s.
Recently its leader and president Robert Mugabe stated, at a commissioning of the colonially planned Tokwe Mukosi dam in the south eastern low-veld of the country that it was only his party that could have thought of such a project. This as it turns out is not true. It was a result of what was then referred to as the Rhodesian Save Limpopo Basin Authority in order to ensure there was enough water for a very ambitious settler state sugar and wheat agricultural irrigation scheme.
This is what instructive to this particular blog.
We need to have a candid national debate as to what Zanu Pf means when it claims to be revolutionary. In the first place leading a liberation war for Independence is a revolutionary act in and of itself. But it is not enough to claim the same after independence or reaching a settlement with a former colonial power for the transition of power to the majority.
In post independent Zimbabwe, Zanu Pf is not revolutionary. Even by a stretch of the imagination of its supporters and leaders.
Upon attainment of national independence, the ruling party became conservative, even if measured by the complexities of international relations and the anti-apartheid struggle.
Andre Astrow wrote a book titled, ‘Zimbabwe, A Revolution that Lost its Way?’ to buttress this point concerning the domestic policies of the first post independence government. While claiming to be of the left they violently repressed workers strikes against capital and sought to perpetuate their political power through the same method of repression (inclusive allegations of ethnic cleansing through what has come to be infamously referred to as Gukurahundi).
What we must contend with is the fact that despite this evidently neo-liberal, conservative and repressive history, Znau Pf still claims some sort of revolutionary intentions with our post independence state.
It’s a false claim. It is not a revolutionary party by any measure and that includes its default fast track land reform programme (FTLRP).
Putting things into perspective is important. Zanu Pf has not sought to change the political economy of the country in a democratically organised and people centered manner. It has remained an opportunistic power colossus over the people of Zimbabwe. It pursues neo-liberal economics with a populist rhetoric that claims redistribution but is instead elitist in intent. Hence we have the emergence of state capitalism in which only those connected to the center of power in the ruling establishment are in control of the greater majority of national wealth. Whether this be in the form of mines, bio-agriculture, state tenders, FTLRP gained swathes of land for individuals and privatization of public services.
And it makes sure that much more serious public debate over its policies is limited through perpetually controlling the editorial content of our most ubiquitous media, radio.
The essential point therefore is to examine the post independence ‘revolution’ that Zanu Pf claims it is leading.
In the first place it is conservative in its approach to leadership by retaining the same single leader since national independence. And fawning over him while the rest of the country, including its own supporters, know full well that such an approach is wrong. This includes having cabinet ministers that have served in government since national independence (1980). A party that cannot reform itself regularly or at least within a generation is in no way revolutionary.
But if we forget the politics and consider the national economy, the template that the ruling party in its long tenure has used is essentially neo-liberal. That is to say to protect private capital before it protects the state and its people’s economic interests.
It perpetually courts new capital from for example the Chinese and the Middle East not in order to improve the lives of the people but to redefine the bourgeoisie in its own favour. Hence state tenders for electricity supply, water privatization, transport, education rand health are such key components of its current political approach to solving straightforward economic problems. And economic reforms are increasingly encumbered by factional ruling party battles over similar ‘state capitalism’ models such as Zimasset and Command Economy.
A further instructive element as to how Zanu Pf is not revolutionary is the extent to which it plays to a populist Pan African gallery that is based on a binary (black and white) understanding of African politics. But very few Africans will agree with the state of Zimbabwe’s national economy let alone its repressive state apparatus as a justification of a so called ‘revolution’. They are more entertained by Zimbabwe than they would directly agree with how we have handled the land question.
The key question then becomes what makes a revolutionary political party? In essence it is a party that is organic, people driven, ideologically grounded and one that accepts changes in leadership after the end of a specific political time cycle, particularly elections.
In contemporary Africa, a revolutionary party is not a party that is at perpetual odds with its people. Or one that seeks to continually deceive them by way of patronage and a crass materialism that limits democratic free expression and public services and goods.
It is a party whose ideas are bigger than the individuals that lead it. And Zanu Pf does not in any way fit into this specific criteria. On this I have to quote the revolutionary Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde revolutionary Amilcar Cabral at length,
“For a man who has an achievement that only he can carry on has not yet done anything. An achievement is worthwhile to the extent that it is an achievement of many and if there are many who can take it up and carry it on even if one pair of hands is taken away” Amilcar Cabral Part 1 The Weapon of Theory. Party principles and political practice’ 19-24 November 1969
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)