Understanding ANC’s stance against local opposition: Unless they reinvent, local opposition will remain political renegades
Ranga Mataire, Group Political Editor
IN one profound statement, ANC’s secretary general, Mr Fikile Mbalula, last week relegated the opposition CCC to the dustbin of political renegades, when he branded them imperialist puppets.
Speaking soon after meeting Zanu-PF counterparts in Harare, just after the harmonised elections, Mr Mbalula, in his typical blunt, bold and straight to the point mode, said: “We are very happy that Zanu-PF emerged victorious here in Zimbabwe, because the victory of Zanu-PF signals one thing, the defeat of imperialist puppets.”
There is no point in guessing who the imperialist puppets are between Zanu-PF and the opposition CCC. This statement cut to the bone marrow of the opposition CCC, who up to now have failed to comprehensively respond and disentangle themselves from the label of imperialist lackeys.
But Mr Mbalula was not done yet. He had to explain further in simple terms to avoid any misinterpretation: “We the ANC, Frelimo, Zanu-PF, Chama Cha Mapinduzi, Swapo, we are allies for life. We came together in the struggle to fight apartheid, to fight colonialism and the hallmarks of colonialism are still with us and we are still engaged in that struggle and it’s not over yet.”
It’s clear that Mr Mbalula’s message was not directed at the local audience but the powers behind the opposition’s bid to dislodge a former liberation movement in Zimbabwe. What is critical to note is that this was not just Mr Mbalula’s position but the position of the ruling ANC party, one the oldest political organisation in Africa.
The reality that most opposition supporters in Zimbabwe would want to deny is that the supremacy of liberation political parties in the southern African region makes it difficult for any political entity that fashions itself as anti-liberation to assume power.
The legitimacy enjoyed by former liberation movements now ruling parties in the southern African region causes serious ideological dilemmas for post-independence opposition political parties.
Even past political parties whose leadership had historical links with the liberation struggle, also failed to have any meaningful impact among the electorate because of two reasons. The first one was that individual popularity without institutional national appeal is always a political nullity in the Zimbabwean context.
The second reason was that Zimbabweans generally have a strong affinity with Zanu-PF as party of liberation and always identify themselves with the party because of its history and their existential experience with it.
The late Enoch Dumbutshena, Edgar Tekere and Joice Mujuru and Simba Makoni all failed to dislodge the political behemoth called Zanu-PF because they lacked strong institutional support and national appeal.
It’s worse for post-liberation political entities like the CCC, whose adversarial ideological position against liberation politics have not been a secret. Since the days of the MDC under the late Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe opposition has not made it a secret that they enjoy an affinity and support from erstwhile colonisers or Rhodies, now scattered in different parts of the world especially in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Britain. The network of disgruntled Rhodies is still very strong and still aspire to have a retain of the bygone era of ill-gotten privileges.
Many will recall a very infamous CNN video clip of Tsvangirai being pampered with money by then white commercial farmers who were pledging their unequivocal support to the just formed MDC. It was that video that sealed the fate and identity of the opposition political party as a lackey of white colonial interests whose main purpose was to roll-back the liberation map in southern Africa.
Fast forward to 2023, the CCC led by Nelson Chamisa has done very little to re-invent itself as a home-grown entity and remove the tag of being a Western lackey. In fact, the party’s leader has made several statements that confirm their aspiration colonial existence.
Besides the “Smith was better” statement, Chamisa shockingly told his supporters during campaign that his government would return land to those who lost it.
The mistake most opposition figures make is to think that most Zimbabweans have outlived their affinity with the liberation struggle. The confusion comes through observing the urban vote patterns.
What is often missed by this misdiagnosis is that the majority of urbanites are not necessarily opposition members but rather protest voters. They bear ephemeral grievances and don’t vote for the opposition because of their alternative good policies but simply as a protest against the ruling party. They are motivated more by immediate stomach demands and not any ideological affirmation. The former is ephemeral while the latter is enduring and it’s the one that delivers victory to Zanu-PF in rural communities.
As alluded to by several analysts, the truism of Zimbabwe politics is that the road to state houses always passes through the village. The truism is not just a product of demographics but is a result of the historical bond that the rural folk has with Zanu-PF, a former liberation movement.
Rural folk’s affinity with Zanu-PF is not just transactional but a bond sealed in blood. Most rural communities were the recruitment reservoir for the two liberation movements (ZANLA and ZAPU). Most families lost sons and daughters in the war. After the war, Zanu-PF managed to fulfil one of the major grievance of that war — the land, which saw more than 300 000 households being empowered. This is the reality that opposition political parties want to wish away.
The opposition CCC had hoped to have a repeat of what happened in Zambia when a pro-liberation party PFF was defeated at the polls by a pro-West political entity- the UPND led by incumbent Hakainde Hichilema.
The CCC forgot that the political dynamics of Zambia and Zimbabwe are different. While the former was the first to get its independence through civil disobedience, the latter waged an armed struggle because the West wanted to make Zimbabwe a white enclave in the southern Africa region. That fundamental difference will always determine the two countries political trajectories. The armed struggle was and is a formidable bulwark against neo-colonial interest and will likely remain so for a thousand years.
Many would have noticed that Chamisa tried but failed to lure the rural voters by focusing his campaign in the rural areas. His campaign barely got the traction he hoped because his message could not resonate with their basic aspirations. His message was vague and there were always questions about his standpoint on the land issue.
In comparison, Zanu-PF’s message of economic recovery through impactful infrastructural projects resonated well with the electorate. Dam construction, road rehabilitation, mining investment and several agricultural support schemes had major impact on the rural voter and not some phantasmagorical declarations occasionally made by Chamisa.
CCC’s woes were compounded by their apparent public association with regional opposition political parties such as the Democratic Alliance of South Africa, Musi Maimane of Build One South Africa (Bosa), and Bobi Wine of National Unity Platform (NUP). All the parties are bankrolled by the Brenthurst Foundation run by the Oppenheimers. Everyone who cares to know, is aware of how the Oppenheimers got their wealth after selling their stake in the De Beers to the Anglo-American.
In short, they are the inheritors of Cecil John Rhodes’s ill-gotten colonial wealth. These are the people who are bankrolling Maimane, Bobi Wine, Chamisa and Hichilema. The common denominator among these politicians is that they project themselves as “clever” Africans without contagion effect with politics of liberation. This also explains why they are the darlings of the West.
Mr Mbalula’s labelling of CCC as Western puppets must be understood within the context of the post-independence era that has seen the birth of political parties with clear affinity to erstwhile colonial rulers. This is not propaganda but reality. This is the reason behind Mr Mbalula made a clarion call to former liberation movements to collaborate in building strong bonds that address pertinent issues facing their respect countries and insulate themselves from the risk of having Western poodles taking over the governance of the region.