There are many worrying signs that ZImbabwe is a sick nation.
The biggest affliction, that each year appears to be a curse, is our politics, that continues to divide and draw a wedge among citizens on many platforms and across all walks of life.
In fact, today, no single issue or subject does not have the potential to draw stark difference of opinion among ZImbabweans, sometimes so violently – from polititics, econimics to social issues.
In the past week, there was a massive uproar over the presentation made by journalist Hopewell Chin’ono as Zimbabweans were divided over his statements, over – inter alia, the shortage of “cancer machines” in ZImbabwe and the parlous state of the health sector in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabweans haggled both on the material facts – whether there is a cancer machine or working maternity theatre at Parirenyatwa Hospital – and the context and platform in which Chin’ono said these things. What a massive, brawling debate that was!
It will be useful to unpack the major premises why the debate was so divisive.
First of all, Zimbabweans were divided over the platform on which Chin’ono made the address. It was in Switzerland at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy.Judging from the composition of the speakers and participants, comprising of opposition leaders, civil society and journalists, the platform was largely construed to be a gathering of interests and forces seeking political influence in different parts of the world, under the cover of human rights and democracy – itself a codeword for a certain kind of politics. That is why Chin’ono rubbed shoulders with the likes of Bobby Wine, a Ugandan musician-turned-opposition leader.
Zimbabweans are divided over the role of the “international comunity” such as the convenors of the Geneva Summit.
Opposition supporters and liberals see them as assiting them to fight against the “regime” in Zimbabwe. They believe that Zimbabwean authoritoes offend human rights and subvert democracy and need to be “exposed” on platforms such as these while enlisting for the services of powerful countries that preach the gospel and ideals of democracy and human rights – namely Western powers such as the US and Britain, along with other cousins in that hemisphere.
This, however, does not go down well with others, mostly supporters of the ruling Zanu-PF, which sees the international community (read the West) as seeking to effect regime change in the country, and continuously fighting the old imperial war.
It is trite to point out that this debate is a rather worn out one.
WIth full of blood and anger, no less.
The Chin’ono address showed us that, among other things.
ZImbabweans do not agree whether the challenges or probles – those terms are not entirely value-free – are caused by corruption (blamed on the ruling party) or sanctions (blamed on the opposition). We may live with that debate for a long time.
What is worrying, though is that Zimbabwe’s politics and public discourses are becoming more toxic and divisive more than ever.
The just-ended by-elections also showed us just how deep and divided the ZImbabwean nation is.
The elections were largely couched as a contest between President Mnangagwa of Zanu-PF and Nelson Chamisa and his CCC party, although in many respect this election was in fact an opposition affair that sought to realign politics within the fractious movement.
That people sought to elevate it as a two horse race – a Presidential race, even – is instructive. There is more conflict, blood and iron in that framing.
Indeedd, we lost one person, all to boiling and lustful political excitement.
We are being conditioned for a bloodier 2023, when Zimbabwe holds the next harmonised elections.
There is no doubt that they will likely be divisive, bloody and violent. All pointers on the ground point to that direction.
Nor is it something new.
Zimbabwe has an unenviable history of electoral and other violence that have mestasized into a real cancer of society.
What is required at this moment is a unifier, or unifiers, whatever shape or form.
The politics requires serious deescalation – and the next elections appear to be a good starting point whether before or after.
With all signs heading the direction of a tightly-contested race, and even a violent one, there should be someone who comes and preach peace and unity. It will take courage to do so. Already, the election is likely to produce a narrow winner, which will likely entrench divisions and politicking for yet another season.
In fact, a couple of scenarios are conceivable:
Scenario A: An outright win for ruling party and its candidate, President Mnangagwa. This is very likely, given the traditional dynamics, whereby the ruling party retains its strongholds and eat into opposition, as confirmed by the just-ended by election. Under this scenario, the opposition remains a huge, powerful bloc, posing a threat to the ruling party and applying pressure post elections.
Scenario B: Stalemate. This will come about through a narrow win by either party at both Parliamentary and Presidential elections, perhaps necessitating a Presidential run-off. Reminiscent of 2008, the power brokers here will be the security forces who will be the focal point in either a transition and transfer or retention of power. This period, predictably will be very violent and unstable, raising the interest of the community (in the real sense).
Scenario C: Outright opposition win. This is still the least likely proposition, given the relative strengths of the main protagoniosts.
Nelson Chamisa has won the battle for the opposition, but he is likely to only manage to take his party back to the MDC-Alliance levels of 2018, or slighty better through denying Zanu-PF a two-thirds majority. He is likely to perform better as the Presidential candidate than his collective MPs. This is where there there is also the possibility of him winning the Presidential election and post a surprising and highly contentious victory over Mnangagwa. By this permutation, he will become the minority leader, dissolve Parliament and order fresh elections.
Many dangerous times will follow.
In whatever these scenarios – best or worst depending on where one stands – there is a real need for a unifier.
Zimbabwe continues to lose time and opportunity because of political bickering.
The past two decades have been a clear testimony.
In fact, in between the Unity Government or Inclusive Government, gave some breathing space. A fillip.
Many people welcome this.
Perhaps it must start with leaders recognising that the bloody, winner-takes-all politics is not working for the greater could.
People need a breathing space, and it should take real commitment to do a number of actions that de-escalate, de-poison and detoxify the national body politic and this should be sustainable for the sake of posterity.