Friday, 25 March 2022


ZANU-PF’s Wednesday St Mary’s rally was a turning point in several ways. Of course, the most obvious marker were the numbers that attended, something even the blind could see and feel.

I cannot dwell on what is available to all; it’s no matter for the political inner eye.

Enter Mugabe Junior

Robert Mugabe (Jnr) made a dramatic appearance at that rally, to very warm reception from the Party of his late father and his family. He did not disappoint, reminding all who cared to listen that politically, Zanu-PF is all he has known from birth. Ordinarily, this is a banal remark to make, given whose son he is. But read against November 2017, and of course the aftermath, this was a profound statement of position, of endorsement. And our snappers did not disappoint; they showed Robert hugging the President, now his political father. They showed young Emmerson and young Robert, both true chips off the old ruling blokes, together. The message was clear: an alliance that transcends generations, adversity even. Those of us who see things from the inside are not surprised. So much has happened and, like water, has slipped under the bridge since the passing on of our founder President. Like I keep reminding all who care to listen, kune hushamwari hweropa, bonds sealed in blood.

Hukama hweropa

Robert is the late President Robert Gabriel Mugabe’s first living son, the elder one. He carries his father’s name and, God knows what else politically. Alongside Bona, he is the sober one, quite suave and of thoughtful temperament. Alongside the mother, former First Lady of Zimbabwe, Amai Grace Mugabe, he tended to his father’s inexorably failing health, right to the very end. He lived true to his mission as the elder son, and would have got his father’s last words. Amidst a turbulent relationship between the former First Lady and the new Zanu-PF, Robert retained his cool. As did Bona and his hubby who often frequented Munhumutapa long after the demise of our first President. Both called for calmness and reconnection, often forcing it through foreboding silence in a season of loud, intemperate acrimony. Not many knew or know of this subterranean knot that binds the two iconic families in Zimbabwean’s Struggle and turbulent post-independence politics. As if to solidify this inter-generationally, Robert (Jnr) and Emmerson (Jnr) are friends, have been for a long time.

A web of relations

It is inconceivable Robert (Jnr) would have made this unexpected and unprecedented journey to St Mary’s without the family’s say-so, the widow of the late President especially. Whatever happened behind the scenes, the symbolism was loaded, both for the Mugabes and for Zanu-PF. Not to mention the Mnangagwas. Or, as I even daresay, for the Chiwengas who share the same totem with Amai Grace Mugabe. The ruling Party’s Political Commissar is brother to Amai Mugabe. You couldn’t have missed the significance.

A plebiscite which is foreign policy

Last week I said the by-elections we have today are both superfluous and yet significant. Superfluous by their spurious origins; significant by augury in relation to the watershed 2023 harmonised elections by which the quality of the Zanu-PF win will determine the fate of illegal sanctions that have been an albatross since 1998. I vehemently maintain that the 2023 elections, while playing out domestically, bear down heavily on ZANU-PF and Zimbabwe’s desire to engage and re-engage the world. That plebiscite is a foreign policy;  should and will be fought and won as such.

So many haggard, shattered faces

Robert (Jnr) chose his moment carefully, and the intended message rammed home like Putin’s hypersonic missile. The resultant rabble still reveals many haggard and shattered faces, foremost that of Nelson Chamisa who now stands denied of any opportunities for pilfering liberation wartime human symbolism for use in today’s by-elections, and again for use later in the 2023 Harmonised Elections. Jesu akati, Zvapera! It’s finished and Chamisa has to look elsewhere for electoral symbolic capital. I hope he reads, listens, and that if he does both, he comprehends and has a creative team to evolve new strategies that redeem him, now and in future. His record so far makes this a forlorn hope though. He is surrounded by sharp lawyers who are politically daft, and by parasitic academics who know no ABC of basic politics, their loudness notwithstanding. And he knows it, which is why he has chosen to outsource advice, and to pursue the path of schizophrenia: appearing to battle Zanu-PF electorally, while courting the same through a multitude of emissaries, in the hope of post by-electoral and pre-2023 election accommodation that would suspend harmonised elections. Both can’t. Some day names of his go-betweens will be revealed, to great shock of several Western embassies here. About that, let little be said for now.

The she-goat with a dry udder

Saviour Kasukuwere, too, has his haggard face in shards. Wedded to, and milking the late President’s dunzvi (she-goat) — one Patrick Zhuwawo — and milking it to dryness, he cannot do that anymore. Patrick is only a nephew, a bad one too; Robert is the son, the cool one at that. Patrick’s udder is shrunk, it’s teats broken and dry. And much stress already shows in Kasukuwere’s camp, which was already in disarray anyway. South Africa no longer provides succour, beyond remaining a place of refuge. Tellingly, both Professor Jonathan Moyo and Walter Mzembi have turned elsewhere towards Chamisa, the former, paring down his association with Kasukuwere to perfunctory contacts.

Reckless Walter

Walter Mzembi remains connected to Kasukuwere, principally at human and financial levels. Politically he has gone elsewhere, even with astounding, impolitic recklessness inspired by panic. Ahead of today’s by-election, he cheered and mobilised for Chamisa’s Masvingo rally, and did so overtly, but impotently. Alongside Dzikamai Mavhaire, another in his league. But the net never forgets, or even forgive. Whatever he saw from afar, those of us in situ do not see it. Let the by-election result chastise him suitably, hopefully teaching him to walk the political terrain more gingerly, and with a dignified step.

Harnessing the Mugabe legacy

The Second Republic’s attitude and handling of the Mugabes was always bound to levy fairly significant political repercussions for Zanu-PF. Right down to communities, should a perception have been allowed suggesting the Mugabes were being handled vindictively, vengefully. There is no denying the late Robert Mugabe was a deep, grassroots politician and a long-time leader. His legacy cannot be evanescent; it lingers on, well beyond his grave. President Mnangagwa has handled this legacy issue with utmost sensitivity, and largeness of heart, which is why Robert (Jnr) materialised in St Mary’s which the rumbustious Job Sikhala pretended was a no-go constituency for Zanu-PF.

Taking the war to the enemy

In St Mary’s it was that Sikhala met his American embassy friends, a few years back, boosting Zanu-PF’s propaganda chest. In St Mary’s, President ED chose to make a forthright statement about his capacity and determination to break the jinx of low urban support for him and Zanu-PF. The message hit home. Today Sikhala, alongside his American Embassy wardens, watch in horror as President ED and ZANU-PF collected mammoth multitudes so close to the by-election. The multitudes mobilised by CCC for Zanu-PF, thanks to CCC’s abysmal and rotten show as governor of municipal councils. President ED chose to use St Mary’s as the best setting for his urban electoral comeback, and for the Mugabes’ message of support to him and Zanu-PF, ahead of the impending by-election and, in fullness of time towards his bid for re-election. St Mary’s is thus a microcosm of things to come electorally.

The future is urban

St Mary’s was significant in more profound, concrete ways. Going forward, the present century and all centuries to come, are inexorably urban centuries. The world, Zimbabwe included, hurtles headlong towards its urban futures. The pastoral, the rustic, is dead. The noble savage, that personality of pristine countryside innocence, is long dead. His vote won’t count for much, going forward. Rural Chiredzi makes way for urban Chitungwiza; Harava for Harare, both demographically and politically. There is no third way to this overbearing drift towards global urbanisation. What may vary is the pace and degree of verticalisation and densification of towns and cities in their inexorable swell to mega-ness. As they do, they continue to attract and agglomerate huge mass of humans, much like moths to a naked flame.

Go the City, my dear Zanu-PF

Which means what? Simply that ZANU-PF must learn to politically minister to a totally new persona electorally. The future of politics, here as elsewhere in the wider world, is the city, and with it, the young urban man/woman. I tried to get this point appreciated by ZANU-PF leaders during the First Republic. I wasn’t very successful as the leadership then clung to a false 60/40 rural-urban spatial settlement statistic. That amounted to wilful denialism. Even then as MDC rose and grew tremendously in urban areas, grabbing the urban, but with no plan thankfully. As Zanu-PF’s urban support shrank, MDC’s protest support swelled exceedingly, but helpfully without growing its politics.

Repurposing Zanu-PF

Soon after November 2017, I picked up the same sermon, advising the new leadership the late Robert Mugabe had wrung dry the aura of Liberation Struggle, rendering it virtually negatory as a galvanising theme or governing myth, post-November 2017. The new leaders, I opined, have to reinvent Zanu-PF, principally its message, its vision, its demographic focus. The ruling party badly needed repurposing, lest like Zambia’s UNIP, it would soon wither and die. Happily that happened, which is why the Second Republic now has a message second to none comparatively. And why Chamisa is in such a mess politically. But the message still needs refining, targeting, before the urban voter is won once more and returns to Zanu-PF, his original political home.

Forcing house of history

ZANU-PF must learn to govern from cities, with the youths and in a digital age. As we say in development studies, towns and cities are “humankind’s laboratories, the forcing houses of history”, to quote from Ben Wilson’s Metropolis: A history of the City, Humankind’s Greatest Invention. Rural Zimbabwe and it’s loyal denizens, is quickly dying, vanishing physically and electorally. Whether in Nzvimbo or at Murambinda, rural Zimbabwe is retreating before emerging, virile nodes of nascent metropolises. And with that is emerging new political sensibilities, attitudes and outlooks. Alongside digital technologies, towns and cities connect diverse, teeming humanity through a countless myriad of networks. The young dominate, themselves a very volatile constituency.

Fickle urban voter is the future

Cities know no taboos, no static moralities, no permanent, staying loyalties that governed the “noble savage” in his pastoral idyllic. Cities are havens of change and iconoclasm, of strong anti-establishment feelings and sentiments. The human type inhabiting them is fickle and capricious, so wont to changing thinking, sides, friends and allies, as behoves chances, opportunities and sheer expediency. The age of set principles and of set outlooks is dead and gone; the time of expediency, opportunism is come, meaning there are no permanent friends or bedmates. No loyal, stable constituencies. Only shifting alliances. As with urban sexual mores, political fornication thrives in the urban man/woman. Dalliances are forged on dimly lit dance floors; the dance style is all quick step. As darkness gathers, heads lose sobriety, and judgments get blurred, fornication in pursuit of chance, economic gain and sheer survival abide. This is the new normal, more far-reaching than nappies pasted across our faces by Covid-19.

Harnessing DIY towns and cities

And to the name, to the place, to the country, to the continent, to our whole globe, towns and cities are runaway formations. In their rise and growth, they outpace law and order, plan and purpose. Most towns and cities have their beginnings in DIYs, do-it-yourself we fondly call informal settlements. These are overpopulated by lumpens, who are the new voter. Think of Epworth and Harare South as metaphors of the city as a DIY! How you engage or repurpose the DIY town and/or city could very well deliver or deny, add or abridge political tenure. The noble savage hunts for the stomach; the DIY town and city fabricates, cuts corners and feeds from shelves with price tags. The noble savage thinks about the catch, the crop; the lumpens worry about the job, the title deed, efficient amenities.

Changing Milieu for Political Organisation

There are many social texts which help one read this new age, with its vertiginous shifts for humankind and political organisations. One negative way is to look at latest generation in human weaponry, in human destructive power. Warfare is fought through missiles delivered from extra-territorial platforms, to raze tall buildings to the ground. We see it today in Ukraine. Human weaponry responds to human settlement patterns; it’s that simple. A more positive way is to look at how man avails and stores daily food supplies. Zimbabwe is going through an unprecedented expansion phase of marts, wholesales and mega shopping centres, all of them decentralising to small towns and even villages. As I write, Chivhu, previously Enkeldoorn, is now a town. As you approach it from the capital, a new mart has just sprouted in the middle of nowhere. You never put up such huge structures to service small human settlements. Or to the pastoral man who hunts and grows what he eats. You do so in anticipation of a waged society, a human mass divorced from the pastoral, from land and agriculture. Enter the urban man, and Zanu-PF beware!

When winners are unfit to rule

Let me leave the academia and get back to easy-to-grasp political matter, simplified even for the reading of fools. And contentious too, forthright enough to raise your bile! Who cares? Columnists don’t write to please; to be agreeable. Only to ventilate truth, however painful, odious. Zanu-PF is very lucky, maybe because it carries the will and mission of our ancestors. Its gift has always been some foolish, unthinking opposition, one after another in seeming, endless succession. When Tsvangirai’s MDC grabbed all towns and cities, the MDC showed its incapacity to bear the burden of governing. That damned it, which is why I said while its urban support swelled, its politics dwindled. Protest urban vote favoured the opposition; realities of municipal governance severely questioned its fitness to rule. That is the story from all our opposition-controlled municipalities.

Zanu-PF finds idiom for CCC-created favelas

As I write, today the loser from the old protest urban vote could very well emerge the winner. Zanu-PF is beginning to re-invent and repurpose itself as a party for the metropolis, but retaining its deep rural roots. The transformation continues, the pace gathers. CCC proves an alliance of the proletariat and impulsive students ironically benefits Zanu-PF against whom it is intended. The alliance forces the ruling Zanu-PF to introspect and reform, often with a little bit of assistance from the very alliance meant to rival and wrestle power from it. That is why MDC – now CCC – supported November 17, creating something that now bites them well away from State House they aspire to occupy. St Mary’s strongly suggests ZANU-PF now has an idiom for the urban voter. It now can speak and address him in his milieu, in his harsh social conditions created by failing CCC-municipalities. The boreholes which President ED launched in St Mary’s; the massive roads repaired and rehabilitated under an emergency urban renewal programme, while small and symbolic, gave a peek into Zanu-PF’s politics repurposed for denizens of favelas, barrios or townships which the opposition spawned in its twenty-year long reign. And St Mary’s loved it. Sunday Mail


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