In 1997, a local political fundi, the late Professor Masipula Sithole, made the bold claim that authoritarianism was eroding in Zimbabwe, paving way for democratisation under a new political party or a reformed Zanu-PF.
“This erosion began to be visible in 1991, ironically quite soon after authoritarianism had reached a peak of sorts in the general and presidential elections of 1990. The process of redemocratisation is now under way and is basically irreversible, though it may suffer some passing setbacks. President Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) has lost its hegemonic claim on the electorate.
Although opposition parties are still weak, a strong civil society is emerging and should eventually be able to provide a basis for viable and democratic political parties. Such parties may be the agents of democratisation, although it is just as likely that a reformed or transformed ZANU could lead the way,” Prof Sithole wrote in a paper published by the John Hopkins University Press.
Major questions arose following this bold position taken by one of Africa’s most respected academics. Who will lead the new party? Who will lead the reformed Zanu-PF? What will happen to Robert Mugabe?
Well, 24 years later we now know which party is leading, and who its leader is.
The neo-liberal turn the country took in 2017 under the leadership of President Mnangagwa has forged a new social contract with the people at the centre and the Government functioning in the interests of its makers, as political philosopher Thomas Paine would put it.
President Mnangagwa, who turns 79 today, made a promise to uphold this social contract on November 24, 2017 when he delivered his inauguration speech.
Putting the people at the centre means the legitimacy of the Government is based on popular sovereignty – the people are the real bosses.
This is why the President made it clear that he held no special qualifications and would be a “listening president”.
“I admit that I hold no particularly unique qualifications that sets apart from the deep pool of able citizens of our party and land, who otherwise could have been chosen to occupy this onerous office. But even as I make constant reference to my party, Zanu-PF, I am not oblivious of the many Zimbabweans from across the political, ethnic and racial divide who have helped make this day and who thus have legitimate expectations from the office I now occupy.
The decision of my party is merely for purposes of political identification, as I intend, nay am required to serve our country as the President of all citizens regardless of colour, creed, religion, tribe, totem or political affiliation,” President Mnangagwa said.
He also made a promise that Zimbabwe would never go back to the dark days that turned the country from a breadbasket to a basket case.
“I implore you all to declare that never again should the circumstances that have put Zimbabwe in an unfavourable position be allowed to recur or overshadow its prospects. We must work together, you, me, all of us who make up this nation,” he said.
No man/woman is perfect. And when it comes to leadership, no man/woman holds “unique” qualifications.
True leaders are tried and tested so that they can be trusted. Rebuilding Zimbabwe along a democratic path to success is only possible in an environment of trust. This is all President Mnangagwa has asked for – trust.
It is also the best birthday present we can all give to a man who has dedicated his life to making Zimbabwe great. A man who was sentenced to death as a teenager already fighting for political freedom, a man that was almost killed in independent Zimbabwe because the transformation he sought threatened the interests of others.
Let’s give this birthday boy our trust. Together, we can build the Zimbabwe we all want.
Happy birthday ED! Khula uze ukhokhobe!