No, Mandela did not sell out, each generation must fight its own demons.

Growing up in Zimbabwe, politics was a pastime activity for the mature and the old. A dangerous pastime so to speak. In those days, people with divergent views from the party and government did not discuss politics in the public, if they did, at least they did not dare express their honest opinions.

Even in the privacy of one’s home, politics was discussed in hushed voices. Maybe not true for all Zimbabweans but in our cramped ghettoes people could not risk being overheard by some overzealous Zanu PF party members, as back then they seemed to be everywhere.

But even during that time when most people were afraid to speak their minds in the public, the civil society led by a militant workers’ union and the vociferous student movement, successfully fought against the introduction of a one-party state. Then, workers and students were a true van guard of our democracy, as they stood for much more than their selfish concerns. A generation that heard a calling and responded accordingly.

A decade later, Zimbabweans from all walks of life responded to yet another call. We came together once again and through the Movement for Democratic Change almost brought an end to Zanu PF’s hegemony. Unfortunately, we have so far failed to realise this change we so desperately yearn for. Now, like a broken record we are stuck, we keep chanting change but are unable to move the country towards it.

Pointing to mistakes by our leaders in the opposition is quite easy, blaming them for our failure even easier. Instead, we must accept our responsibility, it is this present generation’s collective duty to rid our country of this thieving, corrupt and murderous Zanu PF regime.

Building on from last year’s momentum, which saw a rise in prominent and youthful activists such as Mawarire, Mkwananzi, Dzamara, Zvorwadza and Masarira among many others raising their voices, echoing our cries. They showed a glimpse of their potential, our collective potential at a time when the main stream opposition parties when consumed by internal squabbles.

But to be honest young people rising and stepping up to the plate is a two-way street. They are already  speaking up but what is now required from the seasoned opposition politicians is to give them room and allow them to blossom into their full potential. I know politics is a selfish game, no one is truly expected to create room for others but this is where we need our ingenuity, we must create an environment that enables renewal and the injection of new blood into the mainstream body politic.

The Chinese learned from Mao’s reluctance to step down

The Chinese leadership under Deng Xiaoping learned a vital lesson from chairman Mao’s reluctance to step down. They came to understand that if the communist party was to stay in power for a very long time and if their country was to develop and be able to compete in the fast-changing world they needed to constantly renew their leadership. Thus, they introduced reforms, no new member could be elected into either the central committee or the politburo after the age of 70 anymore and a president could no longer serve more than a maximum of 10 years.

Mandela did not sell out

The ANC has been able to survive for over a century because it understood the need for leadership renewal early. Mandela not only did he continue with that ANC tradition of leadership renewal but he extended it to the state too, avoiding a crisis that confronts most of Africa.

It is unfortunate that there is a section of the population that accuse him of selling out. I content that it can only be this lazy generation that accuses Mandela of selling out because it expects to be handed down everything on a silver platter. Where else could it get the temerity to accuse Mandela of selling out? How did these people expect Mandela to reverse 4 centuries of colonialism and white domination in only five years that he ruled South Africa? He was not a super human being, he was flesh and blood like all of us.

Comrades, that is not selling out, it is called sharing responsibility with the next generation. Theirs fought the liberation struggle, got political power and handed it to the next generation. Now that political power is in the hands of the people, it is this generation’s duty and privilege to push the decolonisation agenda forward. Knowing that freedom is a struggle and that a struggle is a never-ending process as noted by Rousseau in his social contract when he said ‘a man is born free and everywhere he is in chains’. Each generation has to keep breaking those chains and pushing further the frontiers of freedom.

In Zimbabwe there is no succession planning.

Unfortunately for Zimbabwe, be it in the ruling party, opposition or civic society, the tradition is ‘abaiwa ngabude’ loosely translated to mean that if you harbour leadership ambitions, just break away and form your own party or organisation.

The concept of leadership renewal is alien. Robert Mugabe as frail and old as he is, he still wants to go on for another term. If he was doing a sterling job, we could easily find it in our hearts of hearts to forgive him but the economy has been in tatters for the past two and half decades and there is no respite in sight.

In 2013, Tsvangirai pledged to step down, if he lost the previous elections, but all we ever got were excuses on why honouring his pledge would be a betrayal of the people. Forgotten is the fact that he had already served 13 years as the leader of the MDC. In 2006, Lovemore Madhuku had to change the National Constitutional Assembly’s constitution in order to quench his insatiable thirst for power. Fast forward to 2011, another Lovemore surnamed Matombo caused a split in the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) by attempting to cling on to power after the expiry of his two five-year terms.

This very same phenomenon has also occurred in organisations such as Zimrights, Zimbabwe Union of Journalists and many others. This failure at handing over power or rather the failure to handle succession is the chief reason that has led to the multiplication of political parties and civil society organisations in the country. The sooner, we all understand that no matter how charismatic leaders are, they come and at some point, they must go, the better for our country and organisations respectively.

It is one thing for these individuals to not want to handover the power but is another thing for us not to take corrective action. Zimbabwe, handing over power to your successor is not an act of cowardice and neither does that bring one’s masculinity into question. Instead, it is a brave act and a mark of true leadership. As they say the primary role of true leaders is to produce more leaders not followers.

Zimbabweans, young people in particular, the time is now, for you to amplify your voices and reclaim your destiny. For how long should Zimbabweans be constantly reminded by Zanu PF to cherish peace they brought through the barrel of the gun? Peace and tranquillity that we enjoy in our own misery.

Rousseau says its force that is used to make someone a slave but it can only be their cowardice that perpetuates their condition. Yes, Zanu PF has used violence in the past to intimidate and cow us into submission but we must throw away that fear and face Zanu PF head own.

What else have we got to lose but our chains? Have we lost our desire for a New Zimbabwe, where dreams and aspirations are fulfilled?

Young people, now is the time, 2017 is the year, change must come in Mugabe’s lifetime.

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Masarira was right, we are a nation of cowards

I would like to take this opportunity to wish you a Merry Christmas and a prosperous 2017. This is a line I have recited year in year out. However, this year I have found it difficult to recite this common but beautiful line. How could I not feel the emptiness in those words when I know fully well that a big part of our Zimbabwean family is going to go to Christmas unpaid?

Our wise government decided to pay nurses and the security sector on the 21st of December, teachers on the 28th of December and the rest of the civil service on the 3rd of January next year. I am just trying to imagine a married couple, both civil servants. What kind of festive season are they going to have? A bleak Christmas, that I can tell you without reserve.

However, this mistreatment of civil servants is nothing new, their salaries have been below the poverty datum line for the past two decades now. Basically, they are national servants, like literally servants, unfortunately unappreciated servants. Trust me I know what I am talking about, I am a son of two retired civil servants, both educators by profession. Guess what, even after retirement, these senior citizens still get a raw deal.

But let’s rewind a little bit, help me understand, why did the government chose to pay nurses and the security sector earlier than others? I am sure you can agree with me, paying everyone a fraction of their salary before Christmas and the rest later sounds more sensible, right? At least this would have been fair to all civil servants and more importantly it would have ensured that all civil servants were going to have a decent Christmas with their families.

I am pretty sure that this is what a government that pretends to care for its citizens would have done. But of course, that does not make political sense. It’s called divide and rule fellow Zimbabweans. This is what a regime that is only concerned by power retention does, especially when elections are less than one and half years away. It’s not like we did not know that the Zanu PF regime regards certain civil servants more equal than others. In this current climate, were public dissent is fashionable, a strike or disgruntlement from the security sector can have far reaching consequences. This is why the regime had to send a clear and unambiguous message to the security sector, saying that even though we pay you peanuts we still have your back.

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Yes, it is official the president’s spokesperson told us that the president was off to the far East, on his annual leave together with his family. It’s probably too much to ask for, but one would have thought that a caring president would forgo a holiday with his family in solidarity with the unpaid civil servants. But forget that, Mugabe is way past pretence, he does not care what we all think anymore. Besides it would be unfair to his family, they have diamond loot to spend and very limited time with Mugabe considering his age.

This brings me to a post I saw on Kudzayi Kadzere’s Facebook wall a couple of days ago, he was asking how we Zimbabweans have allowed ourselves to normalise the abnormal, how we have come to accept the unacceptable. Is it not amazing how the country is relatively quiet, we are only hearing whimpers and growls in beer drinking places and on social media when a majority of civil servants are going for the festive season unpaid? Oh, cry beloved Zimbabwe, how have we allowed ourselves to accept the unacceptable? Men and women spend sleepless nights in bank queues and are only allowed to withdraw measly amounts from their accounts, normalising the abnormal, haven’t we?

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Last week Linda Masarira sparked a storm in a tea cup online, the entire week was spend discussing tribalism and how unfit Linda was to lead a protest movement in Zimbabwe. That very same week Mugabe gave a state of the nation address and Chinamasa presented the budget for 2017 and all we could do was talk about Linda. How did we become so good at majoring on minors? We are so easily distracted maybe we need blinkers as a people. If we are not careful, we will end up fighting each other instead of Zanu PF the real enemy of progress. As the optimists say, there is a silver lining to every dark cloud, at least we now know that we still have tribal tensions that need addressing, I presume a job for all of us in the new Zimbabwe.

However, Linda’s message in politically correct language is that we are all cowards. In fact, we are a country of cowards, too timid and docile, incapable of standing up for ourselves. Forgive me for saying that, I stand to be corrected if I am proven wrong but can someone tell me, how did we (Zimbabweans) fail to fight back when our homes, makeshift industries and livelihoods were destroyed during operation Murambatsvina? I would like to think that if another man is able to destroy my home and I am not able to put up a fight against such provocation, then no amount of further provocation will ever force me to fight. No, not even sleeping at a bank queue or only being allowed to withdraw $50 a day or having one’s payday postponed, will make me stand up for myself.

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Is it not funny then to hear my generation, the born frees and those born during the height of the liberation war saying to the war vets, ‘you can take the country back to where you found it, we will liberate it ourselves.They believe that the only reason they did not fight in the liberation struggle was because they were either not yet born or old enough.

I am sorry but even if this generation was old enough it would not have fought in that liberation struggle. How could it? When it cannot fight this current oppressive system. I am not even talking about campaigning for the opposition in Uzumba-Maramba-Pfungwe or in the heart of Mashonaland central, where one’s life would be at risk. I am talking about simple things such as participating in a demonstration that has been organised by other people. If you cannot spare a few hours to the national cause doing simple things such as walking, singing and perhaps running away from the police then please forgive me, your words are hollow when tell me, you could have fought in the liberation struggle.

We must admit, we are a generation of cowards. For we have been successfully intimidated by the police baton stick, we are afraid to be choked by teargas and are traumatised by the mere thought of spending a few nights in the jail cells. Let’s admit we are cowards and the least this generation of cowards can do is to mobilise each other to register and eventually vote the regime out, at least in the voting booth there is no need to fear because your vote is your secret.

 

Tsvangirai must listen to the unspoken words and read between the lines: Coalition Talks

There can be no doubt that Robert Mugabe’s grip on power is slipping. The so called one centre of power can longer hold Zanu PF together. Even after expelling a whole faction led by Joyce Mujuru, factionalism remains rife in the party.

Not only is Zanu PF riddled with factionalism but 2016 has also seen a rise in public discontent marked by public sector strikes and street protests. Bond notes have come, they might be able to cure symptoms like cash shortages and bank queues in the short run but rest assured they will not be able to resolve Zimbabwe’s underlying economic problem. At some point in the near future the country will not be able to finance its ever-growing import bill. Which will in turn cause high inflation, shortages of basic goods and the re-emergence of the black-market.

Not so good news for the ordinary person but in all intents and purposes a conducive environment for the opposition to thrive going into the 2018 elections. In spite of this promising prospect, the opposition in its foolishness has turned its knives towards one another.

No, we will not allow them to kick the ball into the woods (kurovera bhora musango) when the goal is gaping. Their minor squabbles will not detract us from the task at hand, change is too an important objective to forgo on account of a few inflated egos.

Whether or not to participate in 2018 elections without reforms.
As we all engross ourselves with preparations for 2018, the opposition must make its position on 2018 clear. We need to know if they will participate in the next general elections or not. What we know is that Zanu PF is most unlikely to institute further reforms. Common sense tells us, they will not reform themselves out of power.

I hope no one thinks that the opposition is capable of forcing these reforms through Zanu PF’s throat. Remember, all it took to stop the NERA demonstrations was a single police order issued by a little known Chief Superintend Newbert Saunyama who commands the Harare district.

We therefore, must expect a flawed electoral playing field going into 2018. Never the less, an election boycott is still unacceptable, a no brainer at least in my humble opinion. Timing is everything in politics. In 2013, boycotting the election made sense. Then, the opposition had leverage, even the SADC mediation team advised the opposition to boycott the election. Not only that, the world’s eyes were on Zimbabwe and more importantly, Zanu PF was in desperate need for legitimacy after the sham 2008 election. Unfortunately, boycotting the next general election is not different to closing the stables when the horse has already bolted. The boycott will certainly make headlines for a couple of months but will be soon forgotten, just like how we have forgotten crises in Burundi and Ethiopia.

A case for a coalition
If we are to participate in the next general elections, then we must draw lessons from the opposition in Seychelles and Gambia who recently won elections against authoritarian regimes in their respective countries.

Seychelles’ opposition having boycotted the 2011 elections, demanding electoral reforms, came together and formed a coalition which contested parliamentary elections this year. The coalition won a majority in the parliament for the first time since the country returned to multiparty democracy in 1993.

In Gambian for the first time in two decades, the opposition came together and formed a coalition, rallying behind a single candidate who ran against president Jammeh. They were able to bring president Jammeh’s 22-year rule to an end by re-energising their support base in the face of intimidation and other underhand tactics employed by the former president.

With this positive message coming from across Africa, that it is possible to defeat these tyrants, it is sad to hear all this bickering in the opposition camp. More so, when they all believe that a united opposition stands a much better chance of unseating a weakened Zanu PF from power. Only through a coalition can the demoralised voter be re-energised. Joining hands shows a serious intend of purpose and has the potential of exciting the new voter, creating a momentum that has been lacking ever since that election in 2013.

As I have highlighted above, I am no fan of boycotting the 2018 elections. But assuming there were no reforms and the opposition were to boycott the election, would it not be better to do so collectively under the banner of a coalition?

An indictment on Tsvangirai’s leadership
In the midst of verbal insults and bickering, great leaders have the ability to read between the lines, to listen to the words unspoken. If only Tsvangirai could listen, listen not only to his kitchen cabinet, I am sure he would hear the smaller opposition parties begging for his leadership.

The only reason why smaller parties and outsiders took the initiative to set the Cape Town talks is because Tsvangirai has failed to provide that much required leadership. If 2018 is going to mean something then he must step up and take responsibility, time is not on our side. After all the objective of the coalition is to try and rally behind his candidature against Robert Mugabe in 2018.

There are those who do not want Tsvangirai to join hands with anyone, saying the MDCT is big. Of course, it is true that Tsvangirai leads the biggest opposition party in the country but what honour is there in leading an opposition party that never gets power? History is awash with so many forgotten opposition leaders. He must be reminded that he stands to personally benefit from working with his former colleagues. Even in elementary politicking one is taught to work with their enemies to achieve their objectives. We cannot afford to miss another opportunity in 2018, its totally unacceptable considering how vulnerable Zanu PF is at the moment.

Decision time
Politics is always a game of imperfect choices, decisions are never completely right or wrong but never the less they must be made. All we demand from the opposition is clarity. They must come clean with the people of Zimbabwe who have placed their hope for a new Zimbabwe in them. They must tell the people whether they want to form a coalition or not and whether they will participate in 2018 elections or not.

The people have a right to know the options on the table, 2018 is too important an election to walk blindly into.

Why Mugabe and Malema are heroes to some

The death of Fidel Castro, one of the world’s most iconic leaders of 21st century last week was received with mixed feelings. And rightly so, he was a man of contrasting contradictions as one Chofamba Sithole put it. A polarising figure, even in his death. Regarded as a champion for the poor by some and a ruthless dictator by others.

For us socialists, Cuba is a living testimony on the virtues of socialism. Despite harsh and spiteful sanctions by the almighty powerful United States and her allies Cuba managed to provide quality health care, education and public transport free of charge to all its citizens.

Lest we forget, Cuba is only but a tiny island of about 11 million citizens but its contribution to Africa’s liberation struggles is solid and impeccable. Even during this post-colonial era Cuba has remained our friend, with some African countries benefiting from the health services provided by Cuban doctors visiting on a rotational basis.

The Paradox

However, being a social democrat, my love for Fidel Castro who was an autocrat by any definition is by itself a paradox or rather an oxymoron. I am sure many other social democrats are at pains trying to explain away this contradiction. For fear of being too simplistic, I will not join in this Castro bashing bandwagon. That would tantamount to throwing the baby out together with the bathwater. Fidel Castro had his flaws, he was human after all but to look at his flaws and ignore what he achieved for his country is nothing but reactionary.

For all his flaws, he cannot be faulted for not having a genuine concern for the poor, the underprivileged and the oppressed unlike some thieves, we erroneously address by some fancy titles such as presidents and prime ministers here in Africa. All they are good at is just talk, they preach the virtues of socialism by the day and practice their crony capitalism by the night.

These thieves and murderers, masquerading as revolutionaries surprise me, they too have a strong following and support base like the iconic late Fidel Castro. I must admit, I have struggled to grasp this paradox for a very long time. I just could not understand how an incompetent, corrupt, murderous thief like Robert Mugabe, could be so popular on the continent more so considering the state of affairs of Zimbabwe and its citizens.

Dear reader, if you are a Zimbabwean I know it is a hard pill to swallow, but yes, Robert Mugabe is actually received to wild cheers at international gatherings across the continent. They sing him praises and even glorify him as the true champion of black people.

These praise singers have no desire to acknowledge Gukurahundi, the murderous military campaign he carried out in the provinces of Matabeleland and Midlands in the early 1980s. Their so-called champion of black people is actually a murderer, but do they care? It does not seem so. Have they not heard about his glaring incompetence and corruption?  Yet they remain unmoved, Robert Mugabe is their champion and their hero doing a sterling job, ruining and transforming our beautiful Zimbabwe into the mess it is today.

During my stay in Europe, I have encountered a lot of Africans who see Robert Mugabe in a positive light. In the beginning, I always tried to offer a counter narrative, pointing them to Gukurahundi and how the country was run down by his incompetence and corruption. But I quickly learnt that no one was buying into my narrative. Thus, I began to speak my mind less and listened more to what they had to say.

During that process, I gained some valuable insight into this paradox. If you will allow me, I want to share them with you. They might not be profound, but they can help explain why these thieves have a solid support base and can be at times very popular.

We are creatures of habit

We are told human beings are by nature creatures of habit. I was reminded of this truism a week ago, when a friend of mine was celebrating Obama’s legacy on his Facebook wall. He was expounding how much he loved and admired Obama. Being the eager pan African I am, I sought to expose Obama’s imperialist credentials and put his legacy into a different perspective. I commented on my friend’s post with a website link to Obama’s drone policy record in Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia, where 90% of the several thousand killed were civilians. Mind you that Amnesty International and several other human rights organisations have even suggested that the US drone strikes could be classified under international war crimes. But no sooner had I shared my link than I received a harsh rebuke, I was told in plain terms that anti Obama sentiments were unwelcome on his wall.

When people fall in love with a political party, a politician or a demagogue, logic becomes secondary to their emotions. Never expect these people to be rational, like a woman in an abusive relationship they will make excuses for their party or leader. Just like my friend who did not want anti-Obama sentiments on his wall or the American people who elected Donald Trump, when people are in love with their party or politician they are unwilling to listen to facts, they are in a ‘post truth’ bubble, the truth does not matter to them.

The same bubble had to burst for the former vice president Joyce Mujuru and her party members to see how Mugabe and their Zanu PF they adored so much had destroyed our beautiful country. If it was not for their expulsion we can only but guess that today they would still be in Zanu PF, glorifying Robert Mugabe.

In the land of the blind the one eyed is a king/queen

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The average African citizen has given up on the leadership on the continent. Poor leadership is ingrained in his/her subconscious, he/she does not expect much anymore. Despite Mugabe’s many faults and shortcomings Africans regard him as their hero. They respect him for standing up against the ever bullying and patronising West. This is because leaders in their home countries share Mugabe’s many faults and weaknesses, but they do not have the spine to stand up to the West. Surely in this land of the blind the one-eyed Mugabe appears as a king.

The same goes for Malema. I do not need to work in the South African public protector’s office to know corruption when I see it. Everyone knows he was a ‘tenderpreneur’ benefiting corruptly from his ANC association. Yet Julius Malema is the most popular politician across the continent under the age of 40. It is because he is bold enough to talk about the difficult questions that South Africa cannot afford to ignore. Another one-eyed king in the land of the blind.

In as much as one might despise Robert Mugabe and Julius Malema for their lack of integrity, one cannot disagree with their views on land and our natural resources. For Africa, cannot begin the serious talk of decolonisation without addressing the land question and the exploitation of our natural resources.

Young people Arise

When ordinary people celebrate mediocrity, it is a clear sign that there is dearth of leadership on the continent. But as long as young men and women of integrity shun away from politics, from speaking about Africa’s natural resources, from standing up to the ever bullying and patronising West, Africa will forever be held at ransom by these fake revolutionaries.

A new generation of leaders must arise, leaders who will speak to these Pan African issues and more importantly visionaries who will fulfil Africa’s full potential.