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struggle for a social democratic Zimbabwe continues. It has to and
August 22, 2013
When the inclusive
government came into existence, discourse over and about the
‘struggle’ shifted significantly. Whether this discourse
was about narratives of ‘arrival’, or alternatively,
‘continuity’, the conversations that were had were always
inconclusive. In the aftermath of the July
31 2013 harmonised elections, questions that are now coming
back to haunt or even re-focus many comrades relate to fundamentals.
What is the struggle? Where is it placed? Has it come full circle?
How does it continue (if it still exists)? All of these questions
can only be answered on the basis of self-knowledge, organic values,
and democratic principles.
In saying the
above, I am aware of the ‘judgment calls’ that will
be made on any assumed self-righteous assessment of the state of
affairs in the mainstream national political opposition. This is
because the answers are in and of themselves judgment calls on those
that were leading the struggle. A struggle which I remain persuaded
exists and does not end with the 2013 electoral defeat of the MDCs
(and components of civil society) by Zanu-PF. This is because the
struggle for a social democratic Zimbabwe has always been much more
holistic and more important than all of the parties that were part
of the July 31 2013 electoral contest.
At this juncture,
it becomes important that I define the ‘struggle’. Our
post independence struggle has been a struggle for social democracy
in Zimbabwe. It is a struggle that has its roots in the values of
the liberation struggle wherein, social and economic justice was
the key deliverable for a majority of the people of Zimbabwe (even
if by default).
It is a struggle
that celebrated the achievement of national independence and a joyous
desire to participate in the return of our people to the making
of Zimbabwean democratic, people centered and self-determining history.
Where we welcomed our first majority rule government we remained
cognizant of not only its challenges but also its primary mandate
which was to fulfill the aspirations of the liberation struggle.
This was and remains a mandate of all subsequent post independence
In our collective
understanding of these matters, we measured Zanu-PF (as the ruling
party) on the basis of its ability to address and achieve the aspirations
of our nation’s founding values and principles.
A decade after
independence we were to find it necessary to challenge the political
narrative of Zanu-PF and the fundamentals of the manner in which
it was governing the country. We were there both in spirit and form
at the formation of the Zimbabwe Unity Movement (ZUM) and sought
to challenge the ruling party’s hegemony. We sought to initiate
a narrative that the country did not belong to one party or specifically
that the collective understanding of our national liberation was
of the values of the liberations struggle were always going to be
varied but without undermining the revolutionary historicity of
the same. Similarly, the fact of participation in the liberation
struggle was not the singular prerogative of the right to govern
as regularly argued by our former liberation movements. Contrary
to this view we recognized the posterity component of the struggle.
One in which we knew and felt that the progenitors of the same said
struggle knew and know that the ‘baton stick’ will be
carried forward by subsequent generations.
this latter understanding of our national politics let alone of
the significance of the liberation struggle did not find resonance
in the ruling Zanu-PF party. This was where and when it had disembarked
from the revolutionary path and undertook elitist policies that
negated the values of the liberation struggle.
Key among these
elitist policies was the implementation of the World Bank initiated
and sponsored Economic Structural Adjustment Programmes (ESAPs),
which were to come to affect those of us born in the years preceding
independence and those of us who are now collectively referred to
as the ‘born free’ generation. Particularly in relation
to employment, education, health, public transport and a democratic
The issues that
emerged in the decade after our independence were no longer about
towing any specific ‘party line’ but leading the country
to social democratic prosperity. A challenge which the ruling Zanu-PF
party was to prove incapable in tackling.
and correctly so, took to exercising our liberation struggle won
rights of assembly, association and expression, to oppose the hegemony
of Zanu-PF. This was done through not only opposing ESAP via the
Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), but also challenging the systematic
narrative of political and human rights abuses stemming not only
from our new found knowledge of the tragic events and state brutality
that occurred in the Matebeleland regions in the early 1980s but
also the failure of the state to meet socio-economic performance
began to question the meaning of the liberation struggle for the
majority. We remained aware of the ineptitude of government but
were even more significantly aware of the challenges and responsibilities
of alternative national leadership.
That is why
toward the 20th anniversary of our national independence the Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC) was formed.
mission of the MDC was to embark on the historical path of fulfilling
the remaining social democratic aspirations of the liberation struggle.
Formed against the backdrop of a National Working People’s
Convention, the MDC sought to re-engage Zimbabweans on the outstanding
liberation struggle aims and objectives (including the outstanding
matter of the land question).
True to its
founding intentions, the MDC went to the people and began the process
of reclaiming the country from the elite and back to the masses.
This is why, in the elections of the new millennium, the MDC was
to gain ground in both Parliament as well as eventually end up as
part of the Executive branch of government with the assistance of
the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in 2009, only
ten years after its formation. This ascension to national government
office, controversial as it was, became evidence of how and why
the MDC had gained national legitimacy in relation to being viewed
by a majority of Zimbabweans as the movement to fulfill the remaining
intentions of the liberation struggle.
In this, the
MDC was not a creation of the West as Zanu-PF would want to allege.
Instead, it was an evident demonstration of the people’s sentiment,
one which was seeking political alternatives, hence the rise of
the MDC to executive national office in a short space of ten years.
It was however,
not an easy road to effective and power acquiring counter-hegemony
for the MDC. Mistakes were made, and most of these relate to the
departure by the mainstream MDC leadership from a social democratic
historical path and narrative of the people centered pursuit of
political power and office. Both in terms of their internal genesis
as well as the national understanding of the initial intention to
fulfill the aspirations of the liberation struggle. The lack of
historicity to their presence on the national political stage has
been in part their undoing. And this against better advice.
about their agreeing to the SADC mediated Global
Political Agreement (GPA) have tended to justify their electoral
defeat, these can only be described as exercises in political dishonesty.
The reality of the matter is that the latitude that the MDCs had
during their tenure in the inclusive government was intended to
allow them to demonstrate their ability to not only govern but to
demonstrate greater commitment to the holistic aspirations of the
liberation struggle. Both as envisioned in the past as well as in
The above is
a key point to explain, because, whereas it was and has been claimed
that the mainstream opposition did not have any ideology, the truth
is that its genesis was premised on the basis of social democracy.
Both in relation to its articles of constitution as well as in its
political origins via the labour, women’s’ and student
movements. That the leaders of this counter-hegemonic project failed
its own aspirations is an indictment of their ahistorical approach
This point brings
me to the particular issue of the struggle as I have defined above.
It continues. It has to. Not because of individual egos or particular
party aspirations. But more because this struggle for social democracy
has and still belongs to the people of Zimbabwe. Therefore whether
this generation of leaders genuinely and organically takes it up
or not, it shall certainly be taken up by subsequent ones. Its new
path however, must be one that acknowledges past successes and failures,
and one that specifically departs from celebrating cults and individuals
instead of principles, values and objectives.
The struggle therefore continues but only in the sense that it must
renew itself both in relation to its recommitment to its founding
values and principles as well as in relation to its leadership.
And this should be taken to mean that no one, no matter how many
scars or wounds they bear, is above the struggle. Even founders
of the post independence struggle for social democracy cannot claim
to be beyond criticism. This is why, in the aftermath of July 31
2013, those that were tasked to lead the social democratic movement(s)
must demonstrate the necessary national contrition and step aside.
Those who take
up the mantle of leadership of the renewed and organic social democratic
movement must now think more in the long term and holistically about
both the prospects of the struggle as well as those of the country.
This entails taking into account the fact that the setback of 2013
is less about elections and more about the lack of articulation
of an organic democratic alternative for the people of Zimbabwe.
They must go back to the masses, engage them on the most basic of
issues and restructure the struggle, less in the pursuit of international
recognition, but in the interests of the majority who are the ultimate
judges of what national and local changes they both need and want.
In leading this
necessary next phase of the struggle for social democracy, the new
leadership must pursue organic intellectualism and outright respect
for the everyday citizen as opposed to the arrogant and inorganic
leadership that was demonstrated before and particularly during
the tenure of the inclusive government.
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