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a high-sounding nothing
THE other day,
a colleague was explaining to me how he had not come across a single
Zimbabwean who had evinced any interest to vote for the contested
seats of the senate election scheduled for November 26.
My own conversations
with friends and family members both in Harare and in rural Guruve
where I hail from, have led me to feel that many Zimbabweans neither
understand what this animal called the senate is all about, nor
will they waste their time and energy voting for the remaining contested
constituencies come election day.
For my own part,
it was very heartening to be reassured once again that the electorate
is a very discerning and questioning one which knows a useless thing
when it sees it. Zimbabweans are fully aware that the senate which
is almost akin to the House of Lords in Britain is a futile and
idle exercise, a mere talk shop for the failed Zanu PF old guard
which will not bring any benefit whatsoever to them. At least in
Britain, members of the House of Lords are not failed politicians
by any yardstick you care to think of.
candidates have filed their nomination papers on MDC tickets or
as independents is neither here nor there. The point is that they
are contesting the seats to promote their personal interests. And
in the unlikely event that they are elected by the few who will
bother to vote, they will nevertheless remain impotent.
man from Mufakose high-density suburb asked me: "This senate which
is being paraded before us every day in the media, what is it? Will
it put food on my table or a roof over my head?"
When I responded
by saying that the senate as the upper house will be charged with
the responsibility of reviewing legislation and scrutinising bills
emanating from the lower house, the House of Assembly, the elderly
man retorted: "What is that? Does it mean that the people we voted
into parliament last March are now impotent? If that is the case,
let us do away with this damn thing called parliament!"
by what the Mufakose man said and the people I have been talking
to over the past two months, it does indeed appear that the Zimbabwean
electorate is an anxious one, worried much more about their living
conditions than obsession with trivialities and irrelevant netas
such as the costly senate which will serve as the primary source
of individual enrichment of pseudo-politicians and nothing more.
In an economy like ours that is in a critical condition, accumulation
is often dependent on a system of patronage and state resources
and favours. The struggle for spoils in the form of senate seats
must be understood in this context.
Zanu PF, as
the mover of this useless project, is thus completely out of touch
with reality. Of course, from the deluded and brainwashed and lowly
placed Zanu PF supporters, there will be song and dance but this
does not take away the fact that for the vast majority of Zimbabweans,
the senate elections are a non-event. The behaviour of such Zanu
PF supporters need not surprise anyone. For the only time when the
lowly-placed in society become "politically active" is at the time
of voting and during rent-a-crowd meetings of the party where they
perform the functions of hands-clapping and ululating to accompany
every speech by the president of the party and his lieutenants.
Apparently, the deluded supporters think that these mystical gatherings
will bring about the disappearance of starvation only for reality
to dawn on them when after the speeches they trek back to their
homes to face the continuing misery and poverty alone and out of
the sight of the so-called chefs.
In other words,
we can safely talk about two societies in Zimbabwe. One for the
ordinary masses, and the other for the political elites. The former
struggles for existence daily and in their deluded state makes it
possible for the latter to earn a senate salary and a new vehicle.
The re-introduction of the senate after it was wisely abolished
18 years ago in the wake of the establishment of the all-powerful
executive presidency has nothing to do with any lofty ideals such
as the further scrutiny of bills from the lower house but rather
with individual self-interest in a situation in which opportunities
for personal accumulation are closely tied to membership of the
that since 1980, positions of leadership in Zanu PF and its government
have been dominated, to a considerable extent, by the same people
or their close confidants. Let us therefore be spared all this verbiage
about review of legislation by the senate or its delaying tactics
on the passing of bills. Amendments or no amendments, inputs or
no inputs from the senate, the lower house will pass the bills anyway.
This is the bottom line, which to me reads very well and that is
why for the vast majority of Zimbabweans, the re-introduction of
the senate is particularly painful.
the whole senate thing boils down to plundering the little resources
we have. That is also the reason why Morgan Tsvangirai - with whatever
shortcomings you ascribe to him - is the man who has come to represent
the conscience of Zimbabwe on this particular issue of the senate.
In fact, almost
every Zimbabwean is asking why the senate is suddenly necessary
after an 18-year absence. Personal interests that include providing
"jobs for the boys" who will be needed for a smooth presidential
succession in the same way the senate closed ranks with the lower
house in 1987 when the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No 7)
1987 ushered in the executive presidency which with its centralisation
of power in one man, provides answers why the senate has been revived.
the context within which the re-introduction of the senate must
be understood and sub-sequently condemned. When it comes to things
like the re-establishment of the senate for example, the more important
point is conceptual. It lies in the argument that events and happenings
should not be seen as isolated, accidental or superficial occurrences
but as grounded in a deeper political and social process.
in dire straits. Ordinarily, why should anyone want to come up with
a senate project that by any stretch of imagination does not make
sense at all? The question is being asked: How on earth can anybody
do this? The senate is not going to have any powers of setting aside
any bill or legislation even it is against right and reason or repugnant
to the Constitution or anything. The bill can only be delayed but
it will eventually pass. So why have the senate given such a scenario
In any event,
given the semi-literate nature of many of would-be senators, their
partisan stances and lack of understanding of the seriousness of
the current crisis and challenges, I guarantee you that you will
never see a worse circus like this in your lifetime.
For this and
many other reasons, I will not, for the first time since 1980, be
voting in an election. Even if there was going to be competition
in my constituency, I was not going to waste my time and effort.
No useful purpose would be served by taking part in this charade.
I am cocksure that the vast majority of Zimbabweans share this position
Chakaodza is a former editor of the Herald and Standard newspapers.
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