The end of party politics

My ward is Highfield East in Harare. I last saw my MP in 2013 when he wanted help and advice on getting elected. Since then, I haven’t seen or spoken to him. This, I am sure, is the experience of most of us in Zimbabwe. I have also noted that those who are too exuberant

Vince Musewe

Vince Musewe

My ward is Highfield East in Harare. I last saw my MP in 2013 when he wanted help and advice on getting elected. Since then, I haven’t seen or spoken to him. This, I am sure, is the experience of most of us in Zimbabwe.

I have also noted that those who are too exuberant and ambitious and aspire to lead are soon side-lined in most of our political parties. You can ask Joice Mujuru and others about that. There is derision for highly aspirant people.

It is almost like a sin to aspire to higher things in politics and it is almost rare to see people who are focused and competent on getting things done properly being embraced and empowered to do more. There is just too much intrigue, back stabbing and a god complex at the top which creates a disempowering environment for most. We cannot expect such organisations to lead Zimbabwe effectively and selflessly. Zanu (PF) is a typical example and so are other opposition parties. I have met people who have left them in disgust.

Citizen movements

I have often asked political parties what they do between elections and I have not received a satisfactory answer yet. Most of them are waiting for the next elections and holding press conferences on why they should be in power – nothing else. It is a ridiculous career to be in Zimbabwe politics right now because there is no logic in the madness.

But even if we look abroad, traditional party politics are dying a slow death as citizens realise that this beast is not designed to deliver to citizens, but rather to serve the interests of those in leadership. Party politics are fast shifting to citizens’ movements as people choose to take responsibility for creating the circumstances they want in their neighbourhoods – without politics.

Political ideologies of the cold war era are no longer relevant in a fast-changing information age. People are no longer interested in philosophies and lofty ideals. They are now more interested in leaders who can deal directly with issues that affect their lives – not some airy fairy ideologies that sound only good on paper.

If you really look at what most of our political parties are offering, it’s all the same boring stuff that is written in every manifesto. The only things that change are the slogans.

We need to think anew if we are to create a developmental state that is characterised by inclusive political and economic institutions that deliver and are managed by those who are technically competent to do so. The people can never come first if we are using the same institutions that are mired in patronage, because they have failed to deliver and will not deliver in the future.

Local level

We need new structures in our political architecture. I believe local governance is the key to democracy and the sooner we rid local government of politics, the better. We need good managers, good technicians, good thinkers, social workers and people who get things done at local level.

Most politicians do not qualify simply because they are elected based on popularity or oratory skills and not necessarily competence. The disaster at local government level in the whole country must surely bear testimony that we are expecting the wrong things from the wrong people.

We need citizens’ movements where people are nominated by their community to serve for one term and all residents are eligible. Of course there must be some qualifying criteria, for example, gender balance and a diverse skills base.

Right direction

These movements must not be political party based, but can be a mix of both politicians and independent citizens. They must be accountable to the people and not a political outfit so that they can focus on delivering service to the people.

If we can do just that in Zimbabwe, I think we will have started to move in the right direction. Our current structure is not delivering because of politics and there is no accountability to the people but to political party chefs. That is a fact that I think we all agree on.

At national level we have a problem with a parliament that is merely a toothless partisan bulldog where ministers do not even attend sessions because they are not appointed by parliament but by the party. So their focus is to stay in their positions by toeing political party lines that may be against the national interest – as we saw when parliament approved the RBZ bill for example.

Every system is designed to give you the results that you get. Our current systems are created to deliver partisan politics and put narrow and selfish party interest above of national interest. This works well in a predatory and non-developmental state. We must change it.

We can never expect different behaviours from the same structures. Change the structure and you change behaviour and results. The vast majority of our politicians seek only personal gain – their idea is “it’s our time to eat”. That is what Zanu (PF) did by merely occupying and abusing the colonial structures and behaving like the very same white master they abhorred.

– Vince Musewe is an economist and author based in Harare. You can contact him at [email protected]

Post published in: Analysis

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