ZANU PF Conference 2019…a time to introspect

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By Tafadzwa Masango and 

Dambudzo Mapuranga

As ZANU PF meets in Goromonzi this week, what message is it conveying not just to its supporters, but to the world at large? 

What songs are they singing, how do these songs explain, shape and drive the national discourse? 

How will these songs resonate with a population which is looking at the Party leadership for answers in light of challenges it faces? 

Will the Conference be just another occasion to see and be seen, a time to unwind and close the year? 

Will ZANU PF come out of this stronger, reinvigorated to tackle 2020 or will the opposite be true?

Since time immemorial, the story of Zimbabwe has always been best told through song. 

To this day one cannot escape the chills that run down one’s body as one listens to the Chimurenga songs; songs which chronicle where we have been as a nation, our aspirations, our battles, our victories, our challenges and where we want to go. 

Our ethos, the spirit of Zimbabwe, dwells in the hearts and minds of her people because as young children, they have been taught through song that Zimbabwe is the embodiment of sacrifice, where one puts the interests of the collective above that of the individual. 

Adaptation 

If there is one thing that it constant in life it is the concept of change, sooner or later, the environment changes and organisms have to adapt to these changes in order to survive. 

The world has certainly changed from the days when ZANU was formed, and like any institution, ZANU PF must adapt to these changes while remaining relevant and true to the reason of its being. 

ZANU PF is a living institution where many with varying interests have come and gone but the institution has remained standing, albeit at times weaker and more often than not a force worth reckoning. 

The recalling of the founding father, the late former President Robert Mugabe in November 2017 is best interpreted as part of the processes ZANU PF has been undergoing in order to adapt to the changing global environment. 

The coming in of the New Dispensation, which is preaching the gospel of reforms; economic revival before politics; engagement and re-engagement; servant leadership; industrialisation; modernisation; and the opening up the democratic space are all efforts by the Party to remain relevant and viable in today’s world. 

It is important to note that change does not happen overnight, but it is a gradual process which has to be managed at every stage in order for the institution to avoid seismic shocks, thereby rendering a process at failure. 

Change was necessary, and testimony of this are the numerous Zimbabweans from across the political, social and economic divide who came out in support of Operation Restore Legacy (ORL). 

In the post ORL era, ZANU PF has presented a team led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa which is now responsible for bringing about the very change that made people take to the streets in November 2017. 

President Mnangagwa has pronounced that the goal of this change is making Zimbabwe an upper middle income economy by 2030 (Vision 2030). 

Has the Party adapted to Vision 2030?

This is a key question that each position holder in ZANU PF should be asking and introspecting. 

At each platform, President Emmerson Mnangagwa takes his time explaining Vision 2030, what it is, how the country will achieve it, and the progress thus far. 

However, the President cannot meet each and every Zimbabwean to expound on Vision 2030. It is the duty of the Party to educate its structures on Vision 2030, to explain to the masses what Austerity for Prosperity is (this has ended), and what the purpose of the Transitional Stabilisation Programme. 

The need to educate and inform supporters is best exemplified by the embarrassing video clips that some private media houses posted on social media a few years ago during a ZANU PF march in Harare, where Party supporters came from all parts of the country, but failed to fully articulate why they had left their homes and come to Harare to take part in a Party programme. 

The so-called march against Afriforum exposed the Party in that supporters were recorded confessing that they had been bused to Harare and had no idea what Afriforum is. 

In one clip, one Party supporter claimed that Afriforum was a party which had been recently formed in Norton, and another supporter said that only the Party leadership knows what it is exactly. 

At the same programme, then Minister of State for Manicaland Province, Mandi Chimene, failed to identify what exactly Afriforum was and what the purpose of the solidarity march was. 

It became clear that the grassroots who are the building blocks of the Party were clueless and were being used for an agenda they did not comprehend. 

It was equally embarrassing that those responsible for the so-called solidarity march had equally no clue what was going on. It was literally the blind leading the blind. 

It is such incidents that highlighted the need for a rethink in ZANU PF, a need to change how operations are done in order to save the Party from dying an embarrassing death at the hands of opportunists and counter-revolutionaries. 

Now is the time for ZANU PF to introspect. Is the Party moving away from the culture of aimless sloganeering without the service delivery that should be its chief campaign tool for 2023? 

Are Party supporters now better informed on what is going on in the Party and Government or are they left to guess or rely on other sources for such news? 

Should supporters have to rely on the media for information on what the leaders they elected are doing, or should the leaders come down to the people who voted them into office to explain and defend their actions, to educate and inform, to give periodic feedback and updates? 

An institution such as ZANU PF ought to have a communication strategy which ensures that its members, supporters, sympathisers are not left at the mercy of hostile forces such as private newspapers, pirate radio stations and social media whose sole purpose is to misinform and propagate regime change rhetoric.

Party gatherings, much like the pungwes of the liberation struggle, are an opportunity to educate, inform, and also receive feedback. 

Over the years, it had become the norm that such gatherings are used to settle personal vendettas, expose and embarrass other cadres. 

Under the New Dispensation, such platforms should revert to their original purpose, and be used to grow the Party, create cohesion and not to divide members. 

It is now two years since late former President Mugabe was recalled from Government and removed as Party Secretary. What does the Party have to show for these two years? 

With the euphoria of a new beginning now past us, what next, will the Party return to the once default setting of internal friction, factionalism, Vote of No Confidence (VONCs) and other distractions which led to ORL?

ZANU PF the people’s Party

“The Party is bigger than its individual members. It is a mass Party. The people’s Party. ZANU PF ihomwe, tose tinokwana mupocket ye ZANU PF. Asi iwe ukada kutora ZANU PF uchiiisa muhomwe yako inokupisa ugotsva, uchingotsva, kusvika waibudisa muhomwe mako. IZANU PF yisikhwama, sonke siyakwana kuZANU PF, ayikwani esikhwameni somuntu. Let us shun the propensity for bickering, an unfettered sense of entitlement and general indiscipline,” said His Excellency President Emmerson Mnangagwa on May 4 2018 at the launch of the ZANU PF election campaign and manifesto in Harare. 

What distinguishes ZANU PF from other political parties in the country as rightly articulated by President Mnangagwa is that the Party is not about individuals but about the collective. 

This is probably borne out of the fact that the young men and women who gave up their lives and limbs to liberate this country understood that crossing into Mozambique or Zambia was not about the rights and freedoms of their families, but about the rights of all indigenous people. 

This is what ZANU PF is, it is a collective of individuals who understand that there is a tie that binds them and that tie requires them to defend the national cause. 

A cause that was handed to us by our forebears, some who were denied decent burials and are strewn across the borders and some whose remains are kept in museums abroad, their bones taken as punishment for fighting against colonialism. 

Yesteryear tactics cannot work in a world that is changing. 

Only a fool would choose to ignore the dynamic world we are now living in. 

The team that surrounds President Mnangagwa cannot bury its head in the sand, and work under the assumption that by some miracle the Party will continue to grow and revitalise itself while they carry on with a carefree attitude. 

The reform agenda and the opening up of the democratic space in Zimbabwe mean the Party has to think outside the box when it comes to mobilisation and information dissemination. 

It can no longer depend on archaic and one dimensional methods to articulate or communicate its message. 

The threat to the party is not an immature politician in the form of Nelson Chamisa, but the threat is a disenfranchised populace that is daily bombarded by negative messages concerning Government and ZANU PF. It will take more than the national broadcaster to fight this dangerous narrative and it requires all hands on deck. 

Servant leadership

A few weeks back at the National Youth Convention, we noted that as youths from various sectors were making their presentations, one issue stood out, that of access to those in positions of authority. 

One speaker went to mention that some office holders had demanded to be on the programme so as to be seen by the President, and yet these very individuals have made themselves inaccessible to the very people they should be serving. 

Inaccessible office holders and absentee legislators breed resentment and disenfranchise the grassroots. 

We have seen the Party being punished by voters time and again because of individuals who turn their backs on the masses. 

“We are developing a culture of respect, a culture where the leadership should be subservient to the people. Anyone who diverts from that culture we dismiss them,” said President Emmerson Mnangagwa at Mutare Aerodrome on July 20 2018.

With about 67 percent of the country’s population falling under the age of 40, ZANU PF might do well to remember that it is faced with mobilising voters from a demographic which requires more than a few songs and dances to embrace it. 

A demography born out of the people oriented policies of post independent Zimbabwe, which understands the need for two-way communications, expects accountability, and critical decisions since it has its own ideas on how the country should be governed. 

One cannot expect blind loyalty out of such individuals and neither should the Party expect its supporters to remain subservient to a system which does not acknowledge their importance in the matrix of governance matters. 

Failure to change attitudes and approaches in dealing with the masses will chip at the legacy of those who stood up against a ZANU PF that had become the haven of opportunists, thieves and counter-revolutionaries. 

At times, one is forced to cringe as some office bearers revert to the ill-fated traits of the old ZANU PF. 

A ZANU PF where cadres had perfected the art of praise singing and bootlicking, where patronage trumped meritocracy, where the masses became a tool of manipulating democratic processes, where the people no longer had a voice; to sum it up, gwara remusangano ranga raraswa

It would be a great disservice to all Zimbabweans if ZANU PF digressed back to that old self.  

An educated and informed cadre is a vital requisite for ZANU PF’s survival

The pungwe (conscientisation meetings that were held at night during the Second Chimurenga) captured the courageous spirit of the struggling masses where peasants had an opportunity to express their hopes and fears, ask questions, have concerns and ideas from their own perspective and answers to their questions being provided by the cadres. 

The pungwe was participatory in nature and crucial in complementing the sound of the gun as an appropriate ideological guide for both freedom fighters and the masses.

Information is crucial in today’s world, where the country’s detractors are using every facet available to the masses to denigrate and decampaign the Government and ZANU PF. 

The Party should embrace technology and be able to disseminate its message timely in order to counter the plethora of negative voices and fake news that are daily bombarding the masses. 

It should not wait for election season, or for a senior Party official or the Presidium to address a rally, but should be on the ground educating and informing the masses. By proactively providing the correct information, ZANU PF has a better chance of winning the information war the nation is currently faced with. 

By addressing bread and butter issues in plain simple language, the Party not only shows that it is on top of the situation, but diminishes the likelihood of fake news carrying the day. 

News bites and newspaper articles can only do so much, but a Party with a membership as large as that of ZANU PF can create its own communication mechanisms ensuring that cadres have up-to-the-minute news which is accurate. 

The regime change agenda is funding anyone and everyone who has a platform that can be used to denigrate Government and ZANU PF. 

Campaigns are being run on social media whose ultimate goal is to separate the people of Zimbabwe from ZANU PF. 

The more ZANU PF remains silent or looks to others to communicate its message, the greater the task will be for the Party to put its narrative back. 

ZANU PF has a diverse membership, which should be harnessed to propagate the developmental agenda of the New Dispensation. 

On a lighter note, this will keep cadres busy and away from bickering and political posturing. 

As they say, an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. 

When people have nothing to do, that is when they come up with all sorts of mischief. 

ZANU PF, as the ruling Party, is duty-bound to explain itself to the masses; engagement and re-engagement, economy before politics, land audit and redistribution, youth empowerment and employment creation, reforms, women empowerment and currency issues; these are the many issues that the Party should explain to the masses. 

It is after all the people who make the Party.

So as ZANU PF meets, it is time for the Party to self-introspect. 

Those who hold office today owe it to themselves and future generations to prove that ORL was about breathing new life into the Party, returning it to its original ethos of a nation working for a society that cherishes African values and to create conditions for economic independence, prosperity and equitable distribution of wealth for the nation. 

When delegates return to their respective provinces they should carry a message of hope, a message of a bright future, and most importantly they should be able to articulate where ZANU PF is taking this country and how it will achieve Vision 2030. 

“The days of imposition, chicanery and favouritism in our internal electoral processes are dead and buried — never to be resurrected no matter the person’s status and standing. We have always been and will always be obligated to do everything in the interest of the people and rely on their strength and carry out the principle of from-the-people-to-the-people. 

We must fully respect their wishes, experience, rights and roles. 

We should cherish the power conferred on us by the people and our Party membership and exercise it discreetly and welcome their supervision. 

The voice of the people is the voice of God,” remarked President ED Mnangagwa at his 2018 Inauguration. 

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