Zanu PF: Can the leopard change its spots?

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Last year, I wrote about the conundrum that faced Zimbabweans ahead of this year’s election; whether they wanted a reformed Zanu PF or the opposition in power.

My concern then was that some opposition members and civil society actors seemed to be taking sides in what were Zanu PF factional battles instead of concentrating on their mandate, holding the government to account and plotting the ruling party’s demise

A lot has happened between when I wrote that article and today, Zanu PF has a new leader and the official opposition, MDC-T has a new president.

Many have said the change in leadership in Zanu PF is tantamount to the party having been reformed, but is that the case and is the ruling party really capable of reforming itself?

Zanu PF as a party has been intact for about 55 years and there are certain things that run in their DNA and it is almost impossible to believe that they could have changed literally overnight.

I refuse to believe that Zanu PF’s problem was only former President Robert Mugabe, but the whole party has issues.

Things like violence, intimidation and voter manipulation were the hallmarks of the party and it will take serious suspension of belief to believe that Zanu PF has reformed.

Notably, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has declared that Zimbabwe is open for business and this has excited many of his supporters that believe this indeed is a new dispensation.

The jingoistic fervour that has greeted that mantra is not too dissimilar from the one that met ZimAsset or the 10-point plan, very ineffective policies that were shoved down our throats.

Questioning these policies was the equivalent of being unpatriotic.

A characteristic that follows these pronouncements from Zanu PF is that they are celebrated in cultish fashion with very little questioning of their efficacy.

Mnangagwa has been gallivanting all over the place signing one “mega deal” after the other and I question how different this is from his predecessor, who signed several such deals and even brought in Chinese leader, Xi Jinping into the country, as a sign of the confidence China had in Zimbabwe.

The script is largely the same, the only difference being that a handful of the actors are no longer in the picture, and have been replaced by new ones.

The arrogance and the entitlement that have been a distinctive mark for Zanu PF are still there for all to see.

There is still this belief that because they fought the liberation struggle, then they are god-ordained to rule the country till kingdom come.

Just recently, doctors went on strike and instead of ensuring that the issues raised by the health workers were addressed, what we saw was an elaborate display of aloofness and a condescending attitude from the government.

Mnangagwa had to step in and like a knight in shining armour, he is said to have ended the strike.

But the question is: If he could end the strike so swiftly, why did he have to wait for a whole month before intervening?

I have no way of knowing how many people died because of the strike or how many were turned away from hospitals because of the absence of doctors, but all this could have been avoided had Mnangagwa stepped in earlier than he did.

Instead what we saw was Health minister, David Parirenyatwa, issuing threats, while he was reported saying the strike was over, something the doctors denied at the time.
Teachers are threatening to go on strike and the government does not seem to have a handle on this and this has infuriated the educators.

Mnangagwa may have earned a few more friends on the world stage than his predecessor, but his absence or lack of articulation of a domestic policy could be his undoing.

He seems impervious to acknowledging or apologising for past wrongs in the forlorn hope that declaring that the “past is past” will atone for past misdeeds.

His idea of building the country seems to be based on airbrushing the past and pretending it never happened, but good old wisdom suggests that the axe may forget, but the tree remembers.

This suggests that he may believe that the past belongs to a bygone era, but those that have suffered at the hands of Zanu PF still carry the scars.

Mnangagwa, like his predecessor, seems not to have a clue on how to solve the cash crisis and at one point suggested that he did not want to receive his salary in cash, but would instead join Zimbabweans in bank queues.

Quite a populistic declaration, but as others have pointed out in the past, Zimbabweans do no need to see their President in a bank queue, as he should be working towards ending those queues instead of adding one more body to those that line up at banks.

If there was ever any pointer to that things would not change that much, then Mnangagwa’s Cabinet illustrates this point more than ever.

Most of his ministers are the same ones that were recycled over and over by Mugabe and they all failed dismally.

There are a few new faces, but by and large, these are the same people that have dominated Zimbabwe’s political landscape for the better part of the last four decades.

I would love to believe that things will improve in Zimbabwe and I am desperate that they do, but I am still to be convinced that Zanu PF is capable of reforming itself.

There have been some pockets of optimism with the new government, but I think its testament to how far gone we were with Mugabe rather than any tangibles that this government has promised or offered.

The sceptic in me believes we will see Zanu PF’s true colours once its hold on power is tested and at that point we can decide whether the party is truly capable of reforming itself.

Feedback: nmatshazi@southerneye.co.zw Twitter @nqabamatshazi

– NewsDay/NQABA MATSHAZI


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