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On Zim’s wounded political beasts

Addressing the recent ZANU-PF annual congress, party leader and Zimbabwe president, Robert Mugabe likened the (mis)fortunes of his party to those of a wounded beast. “We are now like a wounded beast,” Mugabe said, adding emphatically, “You know how a wounded beast fights. Let’s fight back and restore our own pride.”

Mugabe’s unhappiness with the current government of national unity, the brainchild of former South African president, Thabo Mbeki, is well documented. He has continuously insisted that his party gets out of the marriage of inconvenience it got itself into with the two factions of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

ZANU-PF has never been shy about bringing animal imagery into politics. The most famous image, perhaps, is the once-upon-a-time statement made by a certain senior leader of the party who declared that if they were to put a baboon on the ballot paper, Zimbabweans would still vote for that baboon because, well, it was a ZANU-PF baboon.

The wounded-beast image, coming as it did during the congress, is quite revealing – the party is simply not prepared to lose the next election. The question, then, is this: what is ZANU-PF prepared to do in order to win the next election? Given Zimbabwe’s recent electoral history, its harrowing facts on intimidation, torture, murder and a litany of fraud allegations, it is almost impossible to see how this cocktail of deadly elements can be avoided.

Civic groupings in Zimbabwe have repeatedly stated that the country is not ready for an election, not when key preconditions such as key electoral, security and media reforms have not been instituted. That there is gross uncertainty over a proposed new constitution doesn’t help matters either. Still, SADC, through the appointed facilitator, South African president, Jacob Zuma, is yet to speak authoritatively and with deep conviction about the kind of election the regional body wants to see in the erstwhile breadbasket of Africa.

Hence, outside any framework that is likely to deter wounded and raging political beasts from inflicting pain on the people alleged to have caused the wounds, should Mugabe’s sincerity in denouncing political violence be questioned? Or this is the return of sanity in the zany party?

In the same speech to the congress, the octogenarian had this to say: “We [ZANU-PF] do not have to take up spears in order to win,” adding also, “No violence. Let’s have a peaceful election. Let our policies be the spear. We are now mature people and proud of our enlightenment and education.”

Spearheading policy has been one of ZANU-PF’s strategies to win over Zimbabweans who have lost faith in the party. As I have written elsewhere, ZANU-PF was a party that was done and dusted after the 2008 poll but the unity government and the latter fortunes in the discovery of diamonds in Eastern Zimbabwe gave it a surprising comeback.

Of course, ZANU-PF policies are both morally and intellectually conflicting for most Zimbabweans. For instance, how does a youthful and predominantly black majority speak in favour of the discourse on economic empowerment, popularly known as Indigenisation in Zimbabwe, without appearing to condone the national destruction that has accompanied the party’s efforts at holding on to power?

Yes, there are apparent flaws in the whole beneficiation structure but if there is anything to seriously consider in this, it is that the historical necessity of black economic empowerment cannot be delayed any further. And Zimbabweans know that all too well, albeit disagreeing on the methodology of empowerment.

Interestingly, the larger MDC faction of Morgan Tsvangirai has come up with what its calling an alternative economic plan – Jobs, Upliftment, Investment, Capital, Ecology (JUICE) – but this has either received a lukewarm reception or has not been sold to the wider public effectively. But it too, has not been short of animal imagery.

This is how MDC Secretary-General and Zimbabwe Finance Minister, Tendai Biti, described the JUICE and its intentions: “ZANU-PF starts from the point of view that we should distribute the small economy, which is a rat, to over 14 million people, while the MDC wants to expand the economy…so that the rat my become an elephant and have more economic players than when you have a small population participation.”

It may take a lifetime, transforming a rat into an elephant but, supposing – as many people do – that the MDC is the party that has wounded and cornered the ZANU-PF beast, will untested blueprints such as these appear juicy enough for Zimbabweans to want to taste them and therefore guarantee an MDC electoral victory that will, in turn, translate into a democratic transfer of power?

Beyond the usual politicking and use of animal imagery to, perhaps, mystify political strategies, one would have hoped that there would be some kind of critical public discourse engagement and analysis that gives the talk of Zimbabwe’s future – the long-awaited rebirth – a more honest and objective focus.

Quite clearly, the systematic subversion of the country’s public discourse has meant that polarisation and paralysis in thinking and acting continues to overshadow important discussion and debate. It’s a dangerous trend that needs to be reversed, although this may not seem to be the most pressing thing for Zimbabweans to do at the moment.

Yet, how is the nation supposed to deal with a self-proclaimed and profoundly wounded beast that is not prepared to lick its wounds but rather fight back in the name of defending sovereignty and restoring national pride? Indeed, how is the MDC, long considered to be the government-in-waiting, going to react to a ZANU-PF poll victory under conditions approved by SADC should that happen?

At the risk of sounding pessimistic, it’s not impossible to think that the era of unity governments is not going to be over soon in Zimbabwe. We might just see a renewal of the current arrangement come the next election. Sigh.


  • @LeviKabwato is a social and political commentator. His other areas of interest include media management, journalism, media freedom, freedom of expression in cyberspace, creative writing and radical philosophy.


  1. MrK MrK 27 December 2012

    From: (VOAZIMBABWE) Tsvangirai MDC Launches Zimbabwe Economic Blueprint

    ” Under the policy, companies that create jobs will receive various incentives.

    Like… tax holidays?

    ” “We want to create decent employment opportunities in Zimbabwe. We want to create an enabling environment for entrepreneurship. We want to attract foreign direct investment,” Biti said. ”

    They want neoliberalism – privatisation, deregulation and ‘free trade’ for transnational corporations. And austerity, of course. The market will provide.

    Gee, has that been tried anywhere before? (Chile, Argentina, Greece, UK…) And when did it work?

    This is the problem with the MDC – they are stooges. They have no ideas that are their own. Their ideas are foreign ideas, stamped for approval by the IMF and World Bank, for the benefit of the trillionaire banking dynasties which own the banks which own the extractive industry corporations. The same World Bank that brought Zimbabwe ESAP (Economic Structural Adjustment Programme), that did so much damage to the Zimbabwean economy from 1991 to 1996, that the MDC was formed not long thereafter. To read about the effects on the Zimbabwean economy, on employment and healthcare, google: imf zimbabwe juhasz

  2. PhilaniNcube PhilaniNcube 27 December 2012

    Yah zanu pf want to use force to the people during the upcoming referendum and elections because they can not win a free and fair election in the country,not talking about Matebeleland, the people .of Matebeleland are not interested in Zanu Pf bacause of various reasons

  3. Perry Curling-Hope Perry Curling-Hope 27 December 2012

    “[…] black economic empowerment cannot be delayed any further.”?

    Good grief….’black’ empowerment as opposed to what?

    Calls for “[…] ‘Indigenisation’ in Zimbabwe,”?
    Over 98.5% of Zimbabweans are indigenous and black.

    ‘Whites’ in Zimbabwe constitute less than 0.5% of the populace, and have been stripped of any meaningful property rights anyway, as the country enjoys the dubious approbation of occupying the lowest property rights index on the continent.

    The imaginary issue of ‘black’ empowerment in Zimbabwe is nothing but a worn out old political saw….it is the vested interests of the ruling elite which is maintaining economic disparity and impeding economic development, not racial minorities.

  4. Chris2 Chris2 27 December 2012

    Mugabe and his henchmen have deliberately and intentionally subverted all the institutions necessary for the proper functioning of a democratic state. The MDC has been effectively handcuffed with South African complicity. The outcome of the ANC Mangaung conference does not point to any quick change from that quarter, so the artificial stalemate is bound to continue, possibly to the advantage of Zanu-PF. What a disgrace. Wounded? Hardly a scratch……..

  5. Mpunity Mpunity 27 December 2012

    Let me correct you. Simon Muzenda, bless his thieving soul, told villagers that if ZANU-PF put up a baboon as a candidate, the people MUST vote for that baboon.

  6. Guinness Holic Guinness Holic 28 December 2012

    Just a word to the wise here Levi – and a bit of soft advice – when you write a commentary or blog such as this, you’re supposed to have – what we in the industry call – a ‘point’. In addition to this, you come to your ‘point’ by giving the reader, what we also in the business call, an ‘opinion’.

    We have none of those in this piece.

    But to aid you in this, and to divert attention away from the fiscal train-smash that calls itself an economy North of The Limpopo, I draw some parallels that should cause some resident NuSAns to reach for the Maalox. To wit, to what lengths will The ANC go to, in order to hold onto power if they ever find it slipping? This question never seems to be raised by those of you who are die-hard ANC voters, and never will. But what of those who will become disillusioned? We only have recent ANC chair-chucking history to go by, and unfortunately it tells a rather alarming tale.

    So, be afraid New unimproved South Africans. You live in a one party totalitarian state. Come to grips with this and you will begin to understand why your country is being run into the ground. You might also pause to reflect on your future under this regime; your water sources Delamatised, industries Affirmatively Actionised, civil society Umtatified and your simple cleanliness and general maintenance Yeovillised.

    Thank goodness I don’t have to deal with this certainty. Saw it coming a mile away in ’96 and promptly left. I feel for you all.

    In a way.

  7. alex weir alex weir 28 December 2012

    Mugabe’s socialism is in fact crony capitalism in disguise and will not benefit the masses. MDC are driven by western neocon discredited policies. zimbabwe badly needs fraud proof voting – – but the west forbids this and britain has even issued a D notice against its mention in the media. Zimbabwe like the entire third world needs 40% mineral royalties but again the west and china will fight tooth and nail. A good outlook for mugabe, his cronies, and the west; a bad poverty-dominated outlook for zimbabweans. Alex weir, gaborone

  8. Levi Levi 30 December 2012

    @MrK – The issues you raise ought to be put forward by the broader civil society and all the people calling for “change” in Zimbabwe. What does “change” mean exactly? This, i feel, has not been properly defined.

    @Philani – Yes, ZANU-PF will not want to get out of power. Neither will they want to legislate themselves out of office. The bitter pill to swallow, perhaps, is that the party also deserves a fair shot at acquiring State power, which is the preoccupation of political parties.

    @Mpunity – We might just have to look for the original quote but i don’t think the intended meaning is diluted here.

    @Guinness – Not really sure what you mean here. But as for you leaving SA, that’s a personal choice. But who will remain to build or re-build, to fight and to hold to account if we all decide to leave? Perhaps you had “another” passport. What about those who have only known South Africa or Zimbabwe?

    @Alex – You’re absolutely correct. I’ll only say, though, that even fraud proof voting will also need certain guarantees – such as the peaceful democratic transfer of power to the winner – to complete the entire exercise. On Mugabe’s policies, perhaps not much has been done to call his bluff.

  9. Political Analyst Political Analyst 30 December 2012

    “To wit, to what lengths will The ANC go to, in order to hold onto power if they ever find it slipping? ” You raise a good point, and a very concerning one. The insiders in the ANC who followed the Mangaung process have confirmed that the ANC has basically become a Mafia, or organised crime syndicate and only the most morally compromised have won. All the good guys, all the honest men and women, have been forced out. Nobody remains who is clean. With such a totally rotten gang left, what hope is there for the people of SA? They no longer have a choice, and they are no longer in a democracy. Voting means nothing. If they keep voting for the ANC, the inner circle of the gang will keep on plundering. If God help them they ever vote against the ANC, you can be sure that the forces of chaos, destruction and intimidation will be turned against them, just as Mugabe used the 5th Brigade in Matabeleland. Thus SA is no longer a real democracy, and in that sense it is no longer a nation with any hope. It is more like an occupied state, or a mafia state. God help the people of SA, as I don’t know who or what else can.

  10. MrK MrK 31 December 2012

    Alex Weir,

    ” Mugabe’s socialism is in fact crony capitalism in disguise and will not benefit the masses. ”

    It already has.

    ZANU-PF’s emphasis on universal education has resulted in the fact that Zimbabwe has the highest literacy rate on the African continent, even higher than Libya’s. Note that Zimbabwe (119) is ranked higher in literacy rate than South Africa (137).

    Land has been redistributed to over 200,000 families since the Fast Track land reform program started in 2000. Tens of thousands of new tobacco farmers have been registered.

    ” The result has been a broad, if painful, shift of wealth in agriculture from white commercial growers on huge farms to black farmers on much smaller plots of land. Last year, these farmers shared $400 million worth of tobacco, according to the African Institute for Agrarian Studies, earning on average $6,000 each, a vast sum to most Zimbabweans. ”

    ” The money that was shared between 1,500 large-scale growers is now shared with 58,000 growers, most of them small scale,” said Andrew Matibiri, the director of Zimbabwe’s Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board. “That is a major change in the country. ”

    Source: In Zimbabwe Land Takeover, a Golden Lining

  11. Peter L Peter L 31 December 2012

    Zanu PF’s “indigenisation” policy currently required 51% of the share capital of all companies operating in Zimbabwe to be in the hands of black Zimbabweans.

    Their latest proposal is to increase this to 100%.

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