Photo: ZimFirst President, Dr. Maxwell Zeb Shumba. Murewa September 2015.
Of late we have noted the acts of desperation propelled by Mugabe’s overdue stay in power.
Clearly there are three buckets coming from this. Civil Protests, Civil societies fronting political parties and then the new bucket: The rise of the church movements. The church leaders have decided to also add to the milieu of movements calling for Mugabe to step down or for governmental changes. Obviously we need to redress the current situation. It is like preparing a meal and serving the ingredients without cooking the actual meal and hopping the guests will experience the same joy as eating the actual delicious meal. That’s what happens when you have so many groups purporting to have the interests of people at heart yet cannot work together.
So in this current state of affairs, where do protests fit in? Protests are an excellent catalyst for change. Designed to conscientize the government to take a particular action to redress the situation. An example in the US would be the Black Lives Matter. At home the same movement would be perhaps Tajamuka or #ThisFlag. These movements are necessary to call attention to current crises and their message has been very clear: they want political reform; #ThisFlag is on record saying they want the government to listen and make the changes that give Zimbabweans a fair chance at a better life. There are obviously other “civil” movements which have a more direct political message calling for a regime change and for Mugabe to step down.
Incidentally all these “civil” movements are on record also vehemently saying they do not want to work with any political parties, whether in opposition or not, as theirs are not “political” movements. The irony of this is that by declaring this while still engaging the government they are in effect working with the current ruling party which is Zanu PF. So they have closed the doors to any other political party but are working with Zanu PF. It is very rudimentary that you cannot engage the government but refuse to say you are engaging Zanu. This is an oxymoron which is shooting the foot of these movements.
Protests do not change and can never change policy. If Mugabe steps down today it has to be understood that it is not these protest movements who will rule the country. They neither have the capacity or constitutional leeway to do so. So it is reckless on the side of the protest movements to claim that they want to work alone to bring about regime change when they do not have the end game planned. The demos and beatings can go on for another two years and it still will not change the government. In fact it has to be understood that the only people benefiting from these movements where people end up in jail but without impacting change is the court system which is collecting hefty bail fines. So again the government is being given a neat revenue and may very well continue to get this revenue for the next two years but still change nothing.
A fundamental fact needs to be realized: Only a political party can replace a ruling party. So as much as we continue to watch the windstorm of protests movements, the leaders of these movements must have the integrity to do the right thing for their followers. It would also be a real shame to discover that the so called protest movements that march the streets of the capital cities are in actual fact an arm of some political parties. Furthermore it is fundamentally unscrupulous for leaders to use the suffering of masses to catapult them into international celebrity status. Once abroad to continue to call for people to expose themselves to more danger while the leaders now do the rounds on the political red carpets is not only irresponsible but charlatan by nature.
As we move towards to 2018, we encourage the protests movements to continue their hard work. However, we also want to encourage an authentic agenda and integrity of purpose. Protests movements that demonstrate for the sake of demonstrating are setting themselves for failure. They will run out of steam but they will leave a lot of destruction in their wake. It is not only expedient but responsible for protests movements to seek dialogue with registered opposition political parties who share their vision. Do not paint all political parties with the same brush. It sounds nice on Facebook; it may even get you a little funding here and there but in the end it will not benefit you. Working together will not only give strength to the citizens but will let all the groups concerned play to their strength.
I would like to challenge the children of Zimbabwe to educate themselves beyond what appears on Facebook videos or social media. Do not be satisfied to be a follower who views change as coming from singing and wrapping oneself with a flag. Those days are bygone days. The government we are dealing with is callous and evil. It will pick the leaders at night one by one, torture and beat them but will not change a single iota. Housing scandals will continue. Ministers will continue to buy themselves planes, the upper echelons will continue to receive healthcare in Singapore. Nothing will change until people wise up. The solution is not in being beaten up and looking like a martyr. Any leader who calls for that is a lazy thinker who believes in noise to mask his or her incapacity to work with others in a roundtable to bring change.
Demonizing political parties is a set up where we are all handing the vote to Mugabe. Opposition political parties are working very hard preparing to run for office in 2018. One fundamental point I need to reiterate is that Zimbabwe has a political crisis which can only be solved by going to the polls. We can have as many movements as there are groups of churches but the only way to get rid of the current dictatorship is by voting. This is the only acceptable way under the UN agreement that will bring stability and growth. Any other way is not feasible. For those who think the UN will swoop in to depose the government because people are being beaten on the streets, well that is myopic. If they did not do that for Syria, what would motivate them to come to Zimbabwe where people enjoy a relatively peaceful albeit hard life? That leaves us with the options of elections. Our only chance left. So all opposition political parties have a fair opportunity of working hard to achieve this goal of running for office and heralding true democracy in Zimbabwe.
Hence it is rather self-serving for protests movements to claim that political parties have failed the people and using the same view to denounce opposition the only legal entities that can challenge and remove Zanu PF. There are many opposition parties with leaders that are honest and full of integrity who are working very hard to ensure that they have their manifestos in order, that they are selling cards and holding meetings and rallies. There are those who use people to achieve their dirty work. They would rather amass support by not building proper government in waiting structures but by keeping the masses in a state of panic. In time their colours and weaknesses will come out. This is only 2016 and the elections are two years away. All political parties deserve a fair chance to prepare for the elections without being demonized by the protests movements. All the alliances out there , Tajamuka, #ThisFlag, church alliances, Occupy, need to remember that they are a means to an end. They would have failed their mission when they decide that they are not the means to an end but the end in and of itself. As children of Zimbabwe, let us work together, genuinely.
Dr. Maxwell Zeb Shumba
ZimFirst Party President
Zimbabwe First also known as Zimbabwe People First (ZimPF) is the rightful owner of the name stolen by Joice Mujuru to launch her own party. Efforts are underway to legally resolve the matter. ZimFirst has liability over actions made by Joice Mujuru under the name People First. She does not represent our party.