Zanu-PF: The doyen of regional anti-colonial struggles
Ranga Mataire, Group Political Editor
NOW that the elections are over and President Mnangagwa has set up a Cabinet team to steer the country forward, I think it’s an opportune time to reflect on why despite an orchestrated onslaught to dislodge Zanu-PF from power, the revolutionary party has remained a dominant player on the country’s political landscape.
In southern Africa, Zanu-PF prides itself as one of the political parties that have remained true to the dictates of its founding principles in deed and character.
It is the indefatigable revolutionary spirit within Zanu-PF that was under attack from forces that sought to weaken its standing as the guardian angel of liberation ethos in the region. It was also not a coincidence that ANC of South Africa and SWAPO of Namibia unequivocally had to lend their support to Zanu-PF.
Founded on an ideological thrust of socialist ideals, the party has over the years evolved to become a formidable force that has managed to withstand machinations meant to undermine its hold on power by delivering on most liberation promises.
Against all odds, Zanu-PF is arguably the only former liberation party in the region that has managed to fundamentally empower its citizens by embarking on a land reform programme that resulted in the transfer of the means of production from a minority whites to majority blacks.
But this fundamental exercise has come at a huge cost to its survival as a ruling party as Western nations opposed to this historical righting exercise imposed economic sanctions meant to weaken the revolutionary party.
From directly funding opposition political parties to contemplating an invasion of the country, some Western nations have tried but failed to dislodge Zanu-PF from power.
Recent attempts to instigate doubts in a national institution by sponsoring individuals leading Sadc organs observing elections have also come to naught given Zanu-PF strong linkage with most countries in the region that appreciate the challenges obtaining in Zimbabwe.
More than just a mass party, Zanu-PF’s strength lies in being a party driven by a strong sense of nationalism. It is a party founded on nationalism rooted in the liberation legacy that brought national independence. It is for that reason that it is the only governing party in the region and beyond that dared to correct a historical land ownership iniquity.
A better understanding of Zimbabwe’s land reform exercise needs to be located within a discourse of genuine redress for colonial injustice, a narrative that has resonated on the African continent and within the global south.
Zimbabwe’s message to the world has been anchored around the need for renewed liberation struggle solidarity. This rings well within the southern Africa region, which remains dominated by former liberation movements whose ideological thrust is still profoundly anti-colonial and anti-imperialist.
There is no doubt that since its independence, Zimbabwe has emerged as one of the principal forces in Africa’s international relations.
Harare emerged as a diplomatic centre of repute with many international and regional binding declarations being cemented there.
The country has also served in major leadership positions, both at the United Nations, where only two years after gaining independence, it was unanimously elected into the United Nations’ Security Council and also elected to chair the Non-Aligned Movement in 1986. As a then member of the Commonwealth, Zimbabwe actively participated in the decolonisation of Namibia and campaigned vigorously for the isolation of the apartheid regime in South Africa. In other words, Zimbabwe was not content in it just being independent and yet surrounded by countries still under colonial bondage.
Unlike other newly independent states in Africa, the Zanu-PF led government brought with it a long heritage legacy in international affairs. It made its mark on the international relations scene as a liberation movement that grew out of its pursuit of a protracted mass-based, and internationally supported armed struggle for independence.
In understanding the Zanu-PF led government’s leadership influence in the region, one needs to have an appreciation of the international activities of ZANLA and ZIPRA through their nationalist leaders, prior to independence. Both military movements, which came from Zanu and ZAPU had solid representatives in North America, Europe, the Caribbean and Asia (China and Russia).
These networks were to prove very crucial in the post-independence era with those of China and Russia surviving all manner of challenges.
It is thus not surprising to note ruling parties like the ANC of South Africa find strong affinity with Zanu-PF because both have shared historical and political experiences. The relationship between South Africa and Zimbabwe and their quest to safeguard the nationalist liberation project needs a fair historical context. Both countries have a past characterised by racism and domination of the majority by minority regimes. Both the ANC and Zanu-PF had to resort to armed struggle to free their people.
While Africa was generally subjected to colonialism, the situation was slightly different in Zimbabwe and South Africa in that their struggle was focused chiefly at local white settler minority regimes rather than colonial powers themselves.
However, the two countries’ struggles were still waged within the context of anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism, as the white settler minority regimes were nothing more than political surrogates of their Western masters. White minority regimes in South Africa and Zimbabwe were keen on keeping their hold on power for eternity on a mandate from their colonial masters, while black nationalists wanted to wrest political power from them. White minority regimes in Zimbabwe and South Africa were keen on keeping their hold on political power to preserve economic power and ensure the perpetuation of its privileged status. For the black nationalists, political power was essential to serve the interests of the black majority.
The attainment of political power by the black majority would make it possible to transform oppressive institutions that had been handmade to serve the interest of a white minority into democratic organs of power that would enable the empowerment of the blacks.
Zanu-PF has not changed from its set goals of transforming repressive institutions of power into productive institutions that transform the lives of the people. Despite facing a myriad of challenges, political power for Zanu-PF meant fostering socio-economic development, which in turn safeguarded social justice for the masses. The empowerment thrust goes beyond the right to vote as it encompasses political freedom for the individual. It was Zanu-PF that fought and attained universal suffrage and brought freedom for citizens to take the initiative in matters cogent their well-being.
Through land redistribution and several other economic initiatives, the Zanu-PF government cannot be faulted on its thrust of economic empowerment meant to even the playing field and create equal opportunities for all. It is this economic thrust that is to be the guiding principle of President Mnangagwa’s Cabinet.
It is a herculean task for any political party in Zimbabwe to dislodge such a behemoth of a revolutionary whose influence in terms of thought leadership have made an indelible impact in the Sadc region and beyond.