Monday, 17 May 2010
More young Zimbabweans needed to enter mainstream politics –Lloyd Msipa
In a recent radio interview in Tanzania, the Deputy Prime minister Professor Arthur Mutambara decried the mediocrity that characterizes African politics in general and Zimbabwe in particular. His assessment of the African political landscape could not have been far from the truth. In fact this observation, I am convinced came in the back drop of the recently held parliamentary elections in the United Kingdom. These elections ushered in the youngest Prime minister in over two hundred years of British politics David Cameron, the leader of the conservative party aged 43.
The elections as we are all aware were characterized by high levels of polarity amongst the electorate following the expenses scandals that rocked West minister. This scandals did not spare any of the political parties, be it labour the conservatives or the liberal democrats. Of most importance to the subject matter is that the elections resulted in a hang parliament, in which none of the three major political parties managed to garner the 326 parliamentary seats required to form a majority government.
The result was the formation of a coalition government between the conservatives and the liberal Democratic Party with David Cameron, the leader of the conservatives becoming prime minister and Nick Clegg the leader of the liberal democrats taking up the position of the deputy prime minister.
What is important to note from this is that, whilst the politicians were bickering on who should form the next government; the civil service swiftly moved in and facilitated high level negotiations between the three parties. And forty eight hours later the country had a new government in place.
Now, if we drew a parallel with our own situation in Zimbabwe after the March 2008 elections, it seems the Deputy Prime minister has made an interesting observation that requires further interrogation. Our politics are most definitely mediocre. They are characterized by politics of personality and this engenders mediocre. The leader of the political party is central to both government and civil institutions. There is no clear demarcation between state institutions, political parties, civic institutions in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwean civil and political institutions need to be brought to life. And the only way this can become a possibility is if there is a sudden avalanche of new, young political players that enter mainstream politics.
Zimbabwean political parties across the political divide are bottled necked at the top. The reason for this bottle neck is because there is no sufficient movement at the bottom of all these political parties to unsettle those at the top to move on. Politics does not attract many Zimbabweans despite many having gone through programs in political science at the University of Zimbabwe and elsewhere. This has resulted in the political parties being identified with the leaders that have occupied that space for many years. For example it is a truism that one can not imagine a ZANU PF without President Robert Mugabe. And equally true one can not imagine an MDC without Morgan Tsvangirayi. To demonstrate the extent of personality politics the latter is referred to as MDC-T. What does this say about our politics? Can you imagine the labour being called New Labour- G (Gordon Brown) our politics are dominated by personalities instead of the political party as an institutions being stronger than the individual.
Zimbabwe needs a new breed of politicians that will take Zimbabwe beyond the politics of personalities. We need to usher in a new politics that is based on institutions being stronger than the personalities that lead them. For example, if Zimbabwe had strong institutions by way of the civil service, the inconclusive election outcome of March 2008 would not have required SADCC or the AU to settle the differences.
In the United Kingdom for instance power passed within labour, a political party, from Tony Blair to Gordon Brown. And when the labour party got less votes in the recently held parliamentary elections, Gordon Brown, the leader passively resisted to hand over power, the political institutions moved in swiftly to usher him along. This only happened because the mechanisms within the labour party to replace him were already in motion the moment he lost the majority seats in the House of Commons to rival parties as the leader of the party.
Even closer home, the Africa National Congress (ANC) party recalled a sitting president from his position. This is the strength we need to cultivate in the new political culture of Zimbabwe, strong institutions. The need for new young players in Zimbabwean mainstream politics is a prerequisite for this to happen. It is not possible for Zimbabweans to expect the current crop of elderly politicians to do this, MDC, ZANU PF or otherwise.
As young Zimbabweans we need to move beyond the politics of blame, excuses, violence, fear and realizes that we are the masters of our destiny. We need to move and take up the challenge of entering politics in our country. Zimbabwe needs young and brilliant minds that will move swiftly to put in place civil and political institutions that are independent of the various political parties. This will make politics more attractive for future generations to come. There are sufficient young and brilliant Zimbabwean minds sitting both at home and in the Diaspora that need to make a conscious decision to enter politics and become part of the solution.
The question we need to consciously ask ourselves is: How long can we rely on external organizations and governments to help us govern our own country? One can count the number of young politicians in Zimbabwean mainstream politics in one hand as compared to the large number of geriatrics that occupy the rest of mainstream politics. By entering mainstream politics in large numbers we will nudge the old generation to move on. Large numbers of young politicians will make it increasingly more difficult for our leaders from yesterday to hang around longer than is necessary to do so. Power struggles within political parties will fast become a thing of yesterday as leaderships in political parties change hands more frequently.
The entry into mainstream politics by young Zimbabweans in large numbers will transform our politics from mediocrity to excellence. As Hobbes once said, “As in the case of all human dilemmas, the anger, heartache, and despair is for the most part entirely too self-conscious. It is no one man's responsibility to make the world safe for democracy, but everyone's to make it safe for unself-conscious acts of compassion and charity. "Don't be afraid," Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) said,” of doing good."