Zimbabweans perennially suffer from paralysis of electoral analysis. I am the first to understand why, because we are much too educated, yet totally uniformed on the basics of what amounts to be good, effective political leadership. We get engrossed and overwhelmed – even those of us who hang certificates adorned with college seals on the walls– with the misplaced notion on the synonymy of populist charisma and good leadership.
We now know that Robert Mugabe is an educated populist who, for fifty years, has pulverised us and the world with feigned cockney demagoguery. Yet on a leadership scale, he languishes precariously at the bottom rung with the rest of the world’s known, heartless authoritarian scumbags. Empirical evidence is in Zimbabwe’s eco-social desolation.
And so, as we Zimbabweans confront the matter-of-life-and-death question of who, among these names, is worthy to be opposition leader, we must cast away the demons of self-delusion, paranoia, antagonism and naivety. Let us not be bewildered by variety – it is the spice of life – but embrace diversity of current ‘leaders’ because that is what affords us the comfort of choice.
Forget the fifty or so political upstarts and cast your thoughts on these: Barbara Nyagomo, Tendai Biti, Farai Mbira, Gilbert Dzikiti, Dumiso Dabengwa, Simba Makoni, Joyce Mujuru, Morgan Tsvangirai, Elton Mangoma, Welshman Ncube, Jacob Ngarivhume and Maxwell Shumba.
Assuming I ask five million Zimbabweans on the proverbial opposition electoral payroll this simple question: “who among these twelve political disciples is worthy as sole opposition representative on the 2018 presidential ballot paper?” I would probably get a quick, dismissive answer based on emotion, superficial historical reference, partisan hysteria, fallacious analysis and at best ignorance.
Here is my entry point today: good political leadership – particularly coalition leadership – must carry a high cost. Those that feel – by commission or omission – are capable of being coalition leaders must accept the burden that we will put on them for failure to displace Mugabe.
They must know at the outset that five million Zimbabweans on the proverbial opposition electoral payroll, post 2018, will demand explanation why they have failed to assume power. The leader of coalition or opposition for that matter – must be willing to accept emotional, psychological and social retribution if not acerbic castigation and incessant denigration for failed liberation promises.
This time, it is not a matter of sitting at some high table in a well-lit hotel conference room, telling us and the world that ZANU.PF and Mugabe cheated, did not follow universally accepted principles of electoral practice, unfairly used state institutions, stuffed ballot papers or are merely refusing to transfer political power.
That is failed leadership. We will demand nothing less than accountable responsibility. Remember the Jewish story of a prophet named Jesus who assumed the burden of the sinful world and died for it? Nelson Mandela accepted responsibility and spent almost thirty years in prison. Have you forgotten about Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr? That – dear reader – to me is leadership.
Therefore, in responding to the question: “who among these twelve political disciples is worthy to be the sole opposition representative on the 2018 presidential ballot paper?”, I would propose a response viewed through a three-phase prism – the Attributive Process of Selecting Coalition Leadership (APSCL). The first thing we should accept is that good political leadership is value-driven.
We and the rest of the world were not wrong about Mandela being a man of integrity, endowed with great vision for his nation, truthful, honest, reliable, consistent, fair, a good communicator and listener, selfless, sincere, respectful, courageous, immune to rumour mongering, compassionate and empathetic.
To say that this value spectrum can be picked at university, in the street, town halls or bestowed by ‘large crowds’ at political rallies shows profound ignorance in what sustainable leadership is. Question: is one born with these values or they can be learned and earned? I absolutely have no idea.
Once Nyagomo, Biti, Mbira, Dzikiti, Dabengwa, Makoni, Mujuru, Tsvangirai, Mangoma, Ncube, Ngarivhume and Shumba prevail in this first APSCL scan, then we subject them to the twin-test for excitement and novelty.
Since year 2000, the five million Zimbabweans on the proverbial opposition electoral payroll have been inundated with the Mugabe must go mantra, ZANU.PF is corrupt, there are no jobs, Zimbabweans are poor, we want to be part of the global family, land reform does not work and so forth. In all subsequent electoral campaigns, opposition manifestos and reports have screamed hell about the unfairness of elections, Gukurahundi, Murambatsvina, electoral violence, hyperinflation, contaminated voters roll and declining industrial capacity utilisation.
I am sitting here thinking hell no! Is my next opposition or coalition leader going to sing the same old boring lyrics? To make matters worse, between year 2000 and 2013, there was incremental decline in the number of voters, let alone the failure of elections to attract the cyber-crazy three million young people.
What novelty and excitement can Nyagomo, Biti, Mbira, Dzikiti, Dabengwa, Makoni, Mujuru, Tsvangirai, Mangoma, Ncube, Ngarivhume or Shumba bring to the electoral table this time around?
The last phase of APSCL assessment is what I call servant leadership culture – the antidote to authoritarian tendencies. Put in simple terms, Zimbabweans, post Mugabe, do not want another version of Joseph Kabila, John Magufuli, Edgar Lungu or for that matter, Paul Kagame.
Before they even assume sole presidential ballot paper representation: Nyagomo, Biti, Mbira, Dzikiti, Dabengwa, Makoni, Mujuru, Tsvangirai, Mangoma, Ncube, Ngarivhume or Shumba must sign a servant leadership social contract with Zimbabweans. Our memories and political wounds are still fresh about a despotic Mugabe-type leadership grossly abusive of the constitution. We know how he has desecrated and defiled the independence of commissions; how the military and the judiciary have been poisoned with patronage.
I was there when COPAC failed to limit Mugabe’s power in appointing and dismissing ministers; immunised himself against parliamentary impeachment as even some opposition leaders argued against presidential running mates. We are exasperated with strong man politics of divine appointees and unlimited terms. Any coalition leader worth their weight in gold must enter into an agreement that they will not be all that. This, dear reader, is what I see as the high but bearable cost of opposition coalition leadership. Rejoice Ngwenya