A CANDID DATE: Political parties can start partying

DISCERNING Zimbabwean voters, the long-awaited landmark general elections are now hovering in the vicinity!

A CANDID DATE WITH MASOLA WA DABU DABU

The call for a united approach against Comrade 89’s party should not fall on deaf ears. Only the selfish and the politically naïve may ignore this rallying call.

Sadly for the tired people of Zimbabwe, the situation on the ground suggests that any allusions to a united political front are just illusions conjured up during a dreamer’s nightmare. This pessimistic assertion is purely based on Zimbabwe’s colourful history in the art of political disunity.

Somewhere along the arduous route of the making of a free Zimbabwe, the majority had to be galvanised against the minority regime. Political parties and pressure groups were formed and they brought political pressure to bear upon the white minority and their dark-skinned surrogates. The pre-independence crop of politicians initially enjoyed the luxury of a united front against the common enemy. In the beginning there was unity and solidarity as most people rallied behind Zapu.

The signs of political disunity surfaced when some elements within Zapu left in disgruntlement and formed Zanu. This historic split assumed the proverbial role of first sin; a mother of all sins that transformed the struggle into an ethnic affair. The split in 1963 merely highlighted the role of ethnic groups as important building blocks of a nation. So, Zanu — a predominantly Shona party — was formed while Zapu was deformed by default into a predominantly Ndebele party.

Over the years, Zanu and Zapu existed as parallel entities in the struggle for majority rule. From time to time they forged uneasy alliances, although in principle they remained diametrically opposed to any full-blown reunion. The ugly face of ethnicism fuelled the feud of disunity and provided the respective leaders the ammunition they required to have a go for each other’s throats.

At independence, the country’s political map looked like some handiwork of cartographers who were laden with ethnic ink. Zanu became stronger and more daring in predominantly Shona speaking areas while Zapu became the dominating force in Ndebele speaking areas. Naturally, political fallouts with ethnic overtones occurred and Zapu supporters bore the worst brunt. Those who had been subjected to untold persecution for backing Zapu got a momentary reprieve from their nemesis when the Unity Accord of 1987 was brokered.

The marriage between Zanu and Zapu after the 1987 Unity Accord survived for as long as it served the convenience. It quickly fizzled out when former Zapu supporters were seduced, mesmerised and wooed en masse by Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC. For a while, the people of Zimbabwe enjoyed a truly nationalistic opposition to the hegemony. The MDC seemed to have managed to offer the people of Zimbabwe what Zapu had pretended to offer before the formation of Zanu.

From 2000 onwards, the voting patterns depicted Zanu PF as a party that was predominantly supported by the Shona people from rural areas while the MDC posted results that portrayed it as a truly universal party that appealed to all of Zimbabwe’s ethnic groups. Unfortunately the MDC dominance of the political landscape across ethnic groups was ephemeral. Zapu’s experiences of 1963 were relived as the MDC fragmented into two mutually disagreeing entities.

There are no prizes for guessing that ethnicism had reared its ugly head once more. Agreeably, some self-righteous souls may feel offended by the uncomfortable truth.

So, when the two parties needed each other most during the harmonised elections of 2008, the principals chose to massage their huge ethnic egos and ignored their obligations to the people. The people’s dreams were shattered and up to now they still yearn for regime readjustment or regime sanitisation.

Ethnicism remains the most domineering force afflicting Zimbabwean politics. People might see a Mr Nice guy in Welshman Ncube, but, if the truth be told, he will never realise his dream of being voted President of Zimbabwe. Sometimes reality stinks! Ncube may nurse hopes of being a king, but the closest he might be to the throne is being a kingmaker. This is why Joshua Nkomo ended up settling for a miserly post of Vice-President. In his prudence, he had calculated that he would never be the President given the country’s ethnic complexity.

Yes, Zimbabwe’s political landscape is awash with ethnic landmines and yes, such diversity is normal. It is up to political parties to form alliances that exploit ethnic diversities for better political outcomes. Small parties such as the MDC can be brokers of peace and power. The time for all non-Zanu PF parties to forget their differences and concentrate on their similarities is now. A split vote will not be healthy at this juncture.

The people need to wake up and smell the aroma of freedom. They need stage a mass walk-out from this nightmare that has been vexing them for the past 33 years. It is now time for all good men to come to the aid of the party against hegemony, perfidy and tyranny.

Masola wa Dabudabu is a social commentator

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