Saturday, June 11, 2016

Time for young people to redefine and claim leadership

‘You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness. In this case, it comes from nonconformity, the courage to turn your back on the old formulas, the courage to invent the future. Besides, it took the madmen of yesterday for us to be able to act with extreme clarity today. I want to be one of those madmen.’ Thomas Sankara.

Demographics have shown that Africa’s population is fast growing and relatively young with approximately 200 million people falling in the youth bracket ages of between 15 and 35 years (United Nations Population Fund, 2014). Unfortunately, this age group is the most affected on the continent as it bears the brunt of political, social and economic injustice at the hands of misgovernance, corruption, unemployment, HIV/AIDS, autocratic rule, human trafficking, terrorism among other ills. Sadly, this generation’s voice, no matter how amplified it has been, and still is, has never been heard.

The participation of young Africans, especially in the southern region, in the socio-economic and political development of their countries and the continent at large is overshadowed and discarded by the prolonged stay in power of liberation movements that have long diverted from the ideals, values and principles of the liberation struggle to pursue self- aggrandized interest at the expense of the starving masses. Corruption, misappropriation of state funds, misgovernance, violations of constitutional principles, election irregularities, state repression and not service delivery has become the order of the day as the political elites feast on the national cake whilst the poor masses salivates from the sweet smell of it.  

Various tools and mechanism have been used to silence those who dare raise their voices against such injustices and, sadly the young people are caught up in this jinx, as enforcers of the old order. They are victims of a system that deprives them of fundamental rights such as the right to employment in this growling poverty, making them more susceptible to all forms of abuse. Today, Africa is bleeding from terrorism, human-trafficking, civil war and state sponsored violence, all designed to further the interests of failed generations, regimes and systems. In all this, young people are the victims and perpetrators. Their needs are not properly addressed and their welfare and destiny is being decided upon by a chronically corrupt political elite that see in politics its opportunities for power and riches.

Today’s generation should wake up to the call that no freedom from any form of bondage comes on a silver platter, it has to be fought for. And it is high time young people in Africa come to realize that they have a common problem and enemy at the sometime, i.e. an old and self-destructing league of politicians that do not want to adapt to new changes and still think that it is entitled to rule Africa forever. It is time for young people to redefine and claim leadership.

How do we redefine and claim leadership?

Africa now needs a new crop of leadership, a leadership that is sensitive and respectful to the people’s needs. In that respect, young people need take stock of their current leadership, ‘infiltrate’ it and ‘bulldoze’ themselves to leadership positions.  History has taught us that across Africa, decision making of all sorts is the preserve of the ‘elders’ and any attempt by the young ones to be involved are considered acts of disobedience. A mentality which pervades most political parties and organisations in Africa where young people look forward to the ‘elders’ or old generation for leadership, even in matters that involve their future. Young people in Africa are still victims of the old cliché that says “youth are the leaders of tomorrow.” But the question is, where is tomorrow when our economies are in a comatose, when democracy is in the ‘toilet’ and poverty is our last name?

Tomorrow Is Now

Young people should combine their efforts and fight the colonial legacy of violence which is perennial in African politics, a tool that has been continuously used by the different regimes and political establishments to ‘decapitate’ change. In the same spirit, there is need to raise political consciousness (which died long back) of young people on the bloc. Young people must be made aware of the problems confronting them and the cause of those problems. Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) especially new media should be used to widen their democratic space and promote fundamental freedoms which undemocratic governments always deny its citizens. Through new media, young people should have their voice on issues that are important to them heard, defend and safeguard their rights, have their views and wishes genuinely considered when decisions are being made about their lives as they thrive on mobilizing and coordinating their efforts towards a brighter ‘today’. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Tsvangirai- Mujuru coalition: A pie in the air

A fortnight ago, former vice president Joyce Mujuru braved up and announced that she has joined the political arena, this time in the opposition, as the leader of the Peoples First, and is more determined to square off with Robert Mugabe in the 2018 general elections. This, she said while unveiling her party policy document, Blueprint to Unlock Investment and Leverage for Development, popularly known as (BUILD).

Mujuru and several other senior party members, most of them Ministers and provincial chairperson, were fired  from ZANU PF and government for plotting to remove Robert Mugabe from office through ‘unconstitutional means’, a move many believe was meant to frustrate her from succeeding the nonagenarian as succession battle rages on in ZANU PF.  Since their expulsion, the ‘Gamatox faction as affectionately known in Zanu PF circles found political sanctuary in an idea, which later translated into a ‘project’, Peoples First, and is yet to be transformed into a political party, which I think will soon.

And despite the fact that the Peoples First is not yet to be a political party, some opposition political parties applauded those behind it and are already jostling for a coalition with the Tsvangirai-led Movement for Democratic Change being the first to approach the ‘project’.

Morgan Tsvangirai and Joyce Mujuru 
There is nothing wrong with that anyway, coalitions are good especially in times like these where removing Zanu PF from state power should be the top priority issue for any serious, and people centred political party.  Political coalitions, if there are going to be any in Zimbabwe, should be ‘agenda defined’ and aimed at promoting issue-based politics more than inflated individual egos.

In light with the above, it is imperative to note that there are slim chances of the Mujuru (People First) and Tsvangirai (MDC-T) to forge a meaningful coalition because of different intentions and agendas. For Joice Mujuru and the People’s First project a coalition with the MDC-T will be a redemption of the crimes committed against Zimbabweans whilst in Zanu PF and government, they will come out clean and attract public sympathy, use that as a mobilizing and campaigning gimmick and come 2018 elections, they will have better stakes than Tsvangirai’s dilapidating MDC. On the other hand Tsvangirai wants this coalition mainly to save his fortunes especially in the face of rebellion in the party, dwindling support and bankruptcy. And remember it is Tsvangirai who needs this coalition so badly than the ‘non-existent’ People First party.

All then points to the fact that this much talked coalition is not in any way going to benefit party supporters, sympathizers, activists, members and the ordinary Zimbabweans at large, but Tsvangirai and expelled former Zanu PF stalwarts.  Even if it is going to happen, though doubtful, it will never work because the two formations have different characters and history, which history will erode MDC support, further exposing it to its nemesis, Zanu PF.
Arrogance and pride

There have been several attempts by the MDC-T during the run-up to 2013 general elections to court MDC-Ncube, Zimbabwe African Peoples Party (ZAPU), ZANU NDONGA and Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn into a grand coalition, but due to lack of political will and reluctance by these party leaders to swallow their pride and arrogance and agree to the terms and conditions, the coalition was never born.  This is what confronts the Peoples First- MDC-T purported coalition because there is no way Morgan Tsvangirai ‘christened the face of democracy’ is going to reduce himself to Mujuru’s second in command. 

Be that as it may, Mujuru on the other might also not be so comfortable to serve under Tsvangirai in whatever capacity. Having been kept under Mugabe’s armpit for a long time, the woman believes it’s high time for her to lead and will stop at nothing to make that happen. What then it means is that the two parties can have a deal not to contest each other in their strongholds but rather support like what happened in 2008 Jonathan Moyo in Tsholotsho constituency. However, this is tricky because both Mujuru and Tsvangirai want at the top and form the government.

 Nasty history and public apology

Well, a coalition can be successfully forged in the boardroom, but not at grassroots. The party members are still grieving and such a coalition will be a total betrayal by the leaders to the families who lost their loved, livestock and homes to electoral violence orchestrated by Zanu PF, which Mujuru and team where part of.  It will be a grave mistake for the MDC-T to mate with this outfit, because there is no guarantee they have changed.

Some political victims of political violence who had their hands chopped
Public apology yes, but it’s not good enough to heal the grieving mother in Dotito, or a brother who had both his hands chopped off in Headlands. Rather the coalition will cause more harm than good, People First team prescribed over the same government which have rendered Zimbabweans a laughing stock 35 years after independence. They have contributed to the crafting of nasty policies and legislation that haunting ordinary Zimbabweans day and night. These people have been looting since the very day they tasted public office and it fallacious and sardonic to pretend to have changed.

It’s the same Zanu PF with a different face and robe, so instead of jostling for a coalition with them, MDC-T should be busy engaging its traditional strategic partners, the workers, students’ movement, social movements, churches, and the ordinary Zimbabweans at large. 

David Chidende is a blogger who writes in his personal capacity. He can be contacted on, or Twitter @davidchidende

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Zimbabwe@34: The “Nervous Condition” of the Youth

18 April is a memorable day in Zimbabwe’s history as the country celebrates its independence from white colonial rule. The day represents the beginning of a new nation born from the womb of oppression and race-based politics of exclusion.  

The journey to Uhuru wasn't an easy walk as it was characterized by a protracted armed struggle in which sons and daughters fell, homes were destroyed and livestock stolen in the quest to address the wide inequalities in national wealth distribution, address the land question and attain majority rule.

And so the dawn of independence in 1980, after almost a century of oppression and exploitation, was greeted with an electrifying atmosphere of hope from the black majority who vested trust in the new black political leadership to fulfill the aspirations of the liberation struggle.
Jubilant Zanla cdes on independence eve 1980

However, it is sad to note that after 34 years of independence the Zimbabwean citizens have not yet progressed on the independence value chain. The people are still facing the same problems they faced under the Rhodesia Front as the Zanu PF government and leadership diverted from the original agenda of the liberation struggle. Politics of greed takes toll with those in the echelons of power feasting on the national cake, distributing wealth amongst themselves whilst the masses starve.

In this entire ‘jinx’ young people and women struggle to understand the importance of independence especially when a small clique hijacked state power and controls the means of production. The government has turned a blind eye on its citizens as it failed to address the issue of unemployment, which has seen many youths flooding the streets due to the shrinking job market as industries close down almost every day.

This, coupled with poor infrastructure development, high cases of corruption (especially in government’s parastatals) poor health services in almost all government hospitals, deteriorating educational standards and poor sanitation (lack of clean water) resulted in rampant outbreaks of waterborne diseases such as cholera and typhoid which further darkens the gloomy picture of an independent  Zimbabwe. 

Young people bleeds as the country celebrates 34 years of independence. They are not given the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of their fathers’ sweat and blood that brought about this independence.  Fundamentally, the youths have not been guaranteed the right to education as the State fails to fulfill its promises on providing free basic education from primary to tertiary level. 

The government has failed to release the cadet-ship fund through the Ministry of Finance to help university students resulting in approximately 45% of students dropping out of tertiary institutions while a further more than 50% fail to enroll at any college.
Youths relax after a day long job hunt

The same extends to primary and secondary levels where many children are failing to go to school because the State has failed to build more schools while the few that are available are charging fees which are far beyond the affordability of many parents.  This is in total violation of Article 7(i) of The Zimbabwe People’s Charter which states that the youth shall be guaranteed the right to education at all levels until they acquire their first tertiary qualification.  

After thirty four years of independence, the state of youths still remains a “nervous condition” even in decision making processes where they are barricaded outside and denied space to make decisions especially in political parties due to the current leadership’s quest to stay in power forever.

This is done through denying the youth political independence in any political setup despite their political consciousness and to this end; main wings of political parties in across Africa have created ‘dumb and mute’ Youth Leagues and Assemblies to subjugate the youth voice the idea being to cripple  the political consciousness of youths making the League/Assemblies more or less of political robots, rubber stamping and embracing bad leadership at all levels as decision are always made by the main wing.

Politicians have a tendency of undermining the value of young people in national development and they don’t see them as leadership material but tools for counter-productive activities such as violence in which they feature most as both perpetrators and victims.  

Unemployment, poverty and other social stresses have dis-empowered the youths, making them more susceptible to manipulation by the political leadership who for 34 years gobbled the wealth of this country. And as we celebrate independence, young people across all political divides must start being proactive and take charge in their communities, political parties and even churches. 

They must regroup and strategise to form a formidable social movement, try to engage people in their small groupings about the social ills bedeviling our country as a way of fighting against the personalization of the country, and resources by a few individuals. They must tell the political leadership that they deserve much better not scrambling for a few crumbs that fall from their tables.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Where Tsvangirai could have gone wrong

Zimbabwe’s harmonised elections have come and gone, the people have elected leaders of their choice in the local authorities, House of Assembly and the President.

The playing field was very free and fair as all the contesting political parties had adequate and equal opportunities to sell their election manifestos to the electorate through rallies, public debates, state, private and numerous social media platforms.

Morgan Tsvangirai pondering the next move

Throughout the campaigning period Zimbabweans have exuded high levels of political maturity and tolerance, making this previous election the most peaceful the country has ever witnessed since Independence.

July 31 election was the defining moment for ordinary Zimbabweans, Zanu PF and the MDC-T. It sought to end the SADC brokered Global Political Agreement (which subsequently led to the Government of National Unity after a contested election in 2008) and usher in a people driven and democratically elected government. Zanu PF and the MDC-T both desperately wanted to win this plebiscite as evidenced by their vigorous campaigns and endless efforts to cajole people to vote for them.

The results were a shock, a great shock to MDC-T, the European Union and the United States of America who for the past fourteen years have been singing the regime change agenda tune. Robert Mugabe, (at 89) and his Zanu PF managed to defy all the odds against them and romped to victory, ‘usurping’ 160 seats in the National House of Assembly and a 61.9% victory over his long time arch rival Tsvangirai.  

Confronted with such an embarrassing defeat and a simmering guilty conscience for betraying the people of Zimbabwe who for so long had pinned their hopes in MDC-T. Tsvangirai found solace in the rigging rhetoric which has to date saturated the political landscape in Zimbabwe.

To my surprise, many people even those who voted against MDC-T and Tsvangirai seem to agree to the rigging rhetoric, but no one has ever questioned if Tsvangirai really deserved to win given the circumstances surrounding him. Without completely ruling out the rigging factor, there are several factors that contributed to Tsvangirai and the MDC-T’s defeat, these include; poor advice and lack of political strategy and ultimately betrayal by the CSOs.
                                                                              It was evidently clear that during the run up to the harmonised elections Tsvangirai became prone to bad advice from his ‘hired’, highly ‘venerated’ and arrogant political cheer leaders masquerading as advisors, whose understanding of the political situation and reality was rather sketchy. Quite sad that instead of searching for best advice for Tsvangirai and the party from colleagues and the electorate, the so called think tanks spent most of their time fantasying so much on Face book, investing trust in a faceless Face book character, Baba Jukwa, misleading Tsvangirai that he has people. 

Such was the situation, and one wouldn’t know why people were so thrilled that Tsvangirai was going to win, yet the man didn’t campaign. Taking a closer look, since the inception of the Inclusive Government, Tsvangirai’s party never dared to go back to the people who voted them into office, only to make a dramatic appearance just after the proclamation of the election date. They got too comfortable under Mugabe’s “warm armpit” (Inclusive government) giving the octogenarian and Zanu PF a political pivot to restrategise, and come up with clear strategies and policies that enticed the electorate, no wonder the land slide victory.

Pre-occupied with the “we have arrived” or “Dziiii paState House” mentality, the MDC-T failed to clearly articulate its policies to the electorate.  Rather than concentrating on bread and butter issues, Tsvangirai spent most of entire campaign time declaring war on traditional leaders, media houses and journalists, and of course the service chiefs.

Well, that is politics, politicians gain support through a plethora of means, but threats and bullying shouldn't be one of them. But sadly, for the past five years Tsvangirai spent his energies vilifying his long time, critical, strategic and faithful partners in the name of Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU), Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union (ZCTU) and the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) the very organisations that strongly campaigned for him in the 2008 elections. ZINASU was tattered, ZCTU disintegrated and the NCA financially starved all because they didn’t agree with a certain position.

Shame, how ungrateful he is?

That said, Tsvangirai was left with no choice but to rely for support more on a rather compromised civil society.
One of the local artist entertaining revelers in the high density suburbs during Feya Feya campaign meeting
A cabal that betrayed him in trying times, but well, what do you expect from money loving mercenaries whose flamboyant programmes only targeted drunks in bottle stores and taverns.

It’s really pathetic that this cabal failed to extent such programmes to  Dotito, Chendambuya and my rural home Dombwe  in Shurugwi  there to  instill confidence in the electorate, and they still expect Tsvangirai to win.  This cabal trivialised, commercialized and commodified the struggle and their ranting about the  election not being free and fair is just but a way of trying to wipe shame from their sorrow faces.

Instead of holding the nation at ransom, Tsvangirai has to show leadership by accepting defeat and apologize to the people of Zimbabwe for giving them false hope. The country has to move forward.