THIS country has been grappling with a number of challenges since the attainment of political independence in 1980.
Celebrations of independence did not last long before we started to attack each other as witnessed in the political disturbances of the 1980s which affected most of the communities in the southern parts of Zimbabwe.
Challenges ranged from conflict which escalated into serious atrocities, droughts, hunger, poverty and disease. All these challenges have been levelled against the ruling Zanu PF party to the extent that it became fashionable and desirable at some point to attack and criticise President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF at every fora.
As long as you were criticising Zanu PF and Mugabe, you were considered intelligent, sensible, brilliant, democratic, reasonable, and such other positives.
It would feel like everyone else is normal apart from the political organisation called Zanu PF and its leader and one wonders why one political organisation can make the whole country fail to this extent.
Those that tried to fight Zanu PF, have lost by failing to remove it from power. Many of us have been reproducing it either in approach or culture.
As we continue to focus on a physical structure of a political party, in a cancerous manner, the party is now found in each and everyone either as an individually or collectively. The behaviour and approach has become a Zimbabwean culture which many perpetuate subconsciously.
This culture called zanuism is propagated and promoted by our various agents of socialisation partly because of structural set ups which the physical organisation has deliberately established, but also because concerned individuals and institutions copy it since it’s the only way of doing things that is known to Zimbabweans.
These agents of socialisation include families, schools, churches, work places, and even villages. It is for this reason that Zanu PF tries to have a say in structures by infusing its own people in the system.
The idea for instance of national service or the new subject in the curricula called national strategic services is meant to abuse institutions so that they assist in the reproduction of zanuism.
The reason why even the leadership of certain parastatals is in the interest of Zanu PF is again to reproduce the party in the manner already referred to.
All political parties which adopt this culture are only different from Zanu PF in terms of name and nothing else. We have all been zanunised without realising it.
This is evident in everyone who finds themselves in any position of authority or power who then tries by all means to ring-fence their perceived territory using some means and strategies ranging from dirty, undemocratic and even evil.
The mistaken belief by these people is that leadership is just about control and telling people what to do. They don’t appreciate that there is more to it than just being in control.
The zanuism culture of refusing to be challenged as a leader or to accept divergent views is now prevalent everywhere, where Zimbabweans are found.
Examples are Bishop Nolbert Kunonga and the Anglican church, Morgan Tsvangirai and MDC, football clubs, many civil society organisations leaders and families including respected ones like Nelson Mandela’s.
It applies even to small community-based organisations where those who lead them don’t take kindly to criticism or any divergent views.
All this is a clear manifestation of zanuism. We witness everyday a tendency by even heads of parastatals who try to reduce parastatals to their own empires at the expense of the generality of the people of Zimbabwe.
The zanuism culture is like a cancer which we cannot just remove without losing something very important. This is because as we engage in this struggle, the tendency is to become a shadow of those we criticise thereby reproducing them.
By and large, what we have then is not a small issue which can be addressed by an election, even a democratic one if it’s possible, but a seriously and deeply embedded culture of intolerance, greed, corruption, disrespect of rule of law and other simple agreements, and general negative attitude towards the idea of a more inclusive participatory society.
In fact, in the circumstances, it’s impossible to have a free and fair election. Zimbabwean who gets State power and machinery will corrupt the system in their favour. It includes even those that sound as paragons of democracy today.
This is found in all sectors and it is a generational problem which is affecting Zimbabwe. For those fighting Zanu PF institution, the more we fight it the more they reproduce it, it would seem.
As the broader community of Zimbabwe, we are caught up as accomplices as we get used to breaking the normal rules and codes of democratic practice in other spheres in life.
The solution lies in cleansing the whole society through a re-engineering process which will realign our thinking and practice to democratic dispensation.
This will involve targeting the referred agents of socialisation for purposes of reorientation of our communities. This is generational and it will not be an overnight intervention, but a long process which calls for political will and patience.
When one listens to most of our leadership, be it religious, political, family, civil society organisations, what you hear is people who seem to believe that what they are saying is all there is to say. There is nothing else.
You hear someone who says the way they think is the only way any other way is wrong. You are either about me or against me. Such is the kind of zanuism which we reproduce and this Zimbabwean society needs to be cleaned because this is the real conceptual “weevil” we are suffering as a society requiring proper “gamatox”.
Our big problem is no longer resident in a political grouping though it can be identified and traced to a political grouping. It is now in all of us regardless of political affiliation, sex, religion, or creed.
Even when our children are playing, you see the manifestation of this zanuism in them by the desire to manipulate rules of the game.
You see it in traditional leadership, in church, in burial societies, in clubs, in families and wherever people are brought together, the culture shows.
So it doesn’t matter how many or how big press conferences we organise or how many “united” or “democratic” words we put in the names of our groupings, as long as this culture is alive, there will be no space for democracy but only zanuism in Zimbabwe.
Kudzai Kwangwari is a development practitioner and community media activist. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org. Cell 0775 093 384.