The Political Weaponisation of Disorder

In their book, ‘Africa Works – disorder as political instrument’, two scholars, Jean Pascal Daloz and Patrick Chabal, define the political instrumentalisation of disorder as a situation, ‘when politicians maximise their returns on the state of confusion, uncertainty and chaos.’ This definition is instructive and relevant to Zimbabwe political developments, and informs part of the analysis below.

Disorder, is defined as a state of confusion or disruption of systematic functioning and neat arrangement. Similes to it include words with negative connotations like chaos, confusion, mess, disarray, shambles, turmoil, lawlessness, anarchy, and ruckus. Disorder is generally discouraged and considered to be an undesirable state frowned upon. Not so in Zimbabwean Politics. The undesirable state of disorder, is not just the order of the day, but is actually desired, and where it is absent, it is manufactured to ensure political gain. To borrow Andreas Schedler’s phraseology, disorder is seen as a ‘valued horizon of attainment’ and not a ‘feared horizon of avoidance’. As such, in Zimbabwean politics, disorder seizes to be just a state of being, but a formidable weapon and instrument, especially in the hands of those who are anti-reform, anti-democratisation, anti-change, or anti-order.

In Zimbabwe’s polity, disorder is the social equivalent of a medical virus – undesirable but not too harmful, until it is weaponised. It is this weaponisation of chaos and disorder in our politics that has often proved it hard to correctly understand the state and its main actors and their seemingly illogical decisions, political moves and even survival. It has emerged clearly, over the course of a decade, that the merchants of disorder in our politics are primarily the hawks resident in Zanu (PF). For instance, the 2000 elections, which ordinarily is supposed to be a systematic, predictable (in terms of process and not the outcome) and orderly process, were thrown into deliberate turmoil by bureaucratic bungling, political manipulation of integral processes, the introduction of political violence as part of the process, and of cause the disregard for basic rules of the electoral game.

The weaponisation of disorder has also been deployed to the COPAC-led constitution making process from the chaos that characterised the 1st All Stakeholders Constitutional Conference from in July 2009, to bussing in and coaching of a disruptive and retrogressive political vanguard to make unreasonable submissions during the outreach process, to the sponsoring of disruption on seemingly technical grounds, with clear political intent of disorder, during the drafting process and the submission of new issues post COPAC agreement on a draft. Pseudo academics like Jonathan Moyo and TafataonaMahoso have been the primary promoters of disorder through their empty arguments bent on promoting disruptive politics disguised as intellectual thought.

The deployment of a weaponised form of disorder has also been transmitted to civil society. If one is a member of a social movement or NGO, they don’t have to look very far, sometimes, to see how “democratic” actors in democratic and progressive processes in these entities are constantly deploying disorder. But the most glaring example comes from the Anglican Church, where the illegitimate Bishop Kunonga, has adopted disorder to deal with a legitimate and clearly more popular and more progressive Bishop Chad Gandiya. The instrumentalisation and weaponisation of disorder in the Anglican church has mirrored unfortunate trends from the orthodox political space, which include, but are not limited to, the politicisation of religion, the employment of violence in church matters, the barring of gatherings, and allegations of murder.

Politically weaponised disorder, in spite of some rational to its deployment, is not premised on the need to reach some rational ends. The deployment and pervasive presence of disorder is in it self both a means and an end. It is a means to the stalling of progressive action and an end in that chaos as a state of affairs is generally where rogues come into their element. Political rogues thrive in situations of crisis and chaos, and would prefer that chaos to order on any day, because it allows them to act with impunity and continue with their shady dealings under the cover of anarchy. As such even when some arguments are sponsored to promote the disorder, you can be rest assured that this is a case of the devil quoting scriptures.

The notion of politically weaponised disorder is neither a new phenomenon nor exclusive to Zimbabwe, as Chabal and Daloz explain, it is an Africa-wide phenomenon. In spite of its prevalent use and sponsorship on the continent, politically weaponised disorder has always been defeated by a constant focus on enforcing order by progressives. In as much as you do not fight lies with lies, disorder cannot be fought with disorder; it is best fought by asserting order.

Order, in Zimbabwe’s case, entails the constant focus on reforms, constant campaigning to see processes through. Most importantly it entails exposing the merchants of disorder for who they are and what they stand for – retrogressive elements bent on standing still when there is a fire catching up with us and our natural instincts tell us to move on and survive. Such predatory and disorderly instincts do not bode well for the promotion of our country from its current state of democratic, economic and social disrepair to a more sane and progressive order. – Director, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition

Post published in: Politics

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