In a patriarchal society such as we have, we cannot underestimate the fear that Robert Mugabe inspired even in people we know to be otherwise very brave. We cannot therefore say nothing has changed with his departure.
We can’t assume that the new president, whatever his reputation, is necessarily going to be ruling by fear and not through a well-calculated strategy to win the hearts and minds of the Zimbabwean people and the support of the international community.
I am actually hoping that President Mnangagwa picks a great cabinet, and that between now and the end of his transitional term, his government will build a strong foundation for the future success of our country. It’s time to wake up to the fact that today’s war can no longer be fought by the lazy “Mugabe Must Go” mantra, but by offering a qualitative alternative to whatever a Mnangagwa administration may offer. Great nations are built on a contest of great ideas and leadership, and one set of ideas and leaders prevailing at a given time in a nation’s history because, in the judgement of the people, they offer the best opportunity to improve well-being and a nation’s fortunes.
Elections for the presidency must be like choosing the winner of the Golden Boots, or Player of the Year award. The best player is not chosen from a set of mediocre players, but from among the best. Similarly, the best team in any nation’s premier league does not win by competing against bad teams, but against the best.
If any political formation or leader is to be the true champion of Zimbabwe’s wellbeing, they cannot be afraid to compete against the best. As the word says, “as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” So we must pray that President Mnangagwa picks the best if we have Zimbabwe’s interest at heart. We do not need the best of the bad running our country even during these next 8 to 9 months, but the best of the best. A resurgent Zanu(PF) will be a tougher fore than one that is tearing itself to pieces. But then, winning the right to lead a nation should never be a walkover in a genuine democracy. No one is entitled to anyone’s vote. We must all work for it. We must fight for it.
In his inaugural address, President Mnangagwa cited the presence of current and former African Heads of State as showing “a story of succession which speaks well of our continent,” and which must, in his words, “get bolder and bolder as generations hand over to succeeding ones, all in amity.” In democracies, conceding leadership to the next generation is not left to the good-heartedness of the ruling generation, but is accomplished through the fullest possible expression of the people’s will through free and fair elections. A free and fair electoral process will invariably result in leadership renewal, something that can only happen if the president keeps his promise to strengthen and respect the pillars of the State that assure democracy.
We can only have the best of the best running our government, our companies, our councils if the full participation of every citizen in deciding the future of our country and building it is assured. That means extending the period to register voters beyond January so that as many Zimbabweans who are eligible can register to vote. That means turning our Embassies into registration centers and polling stations so that Zimbabwean citizens in the diaspora can exercise their constitutional right to vote. That means granting the full rights of citizenship to Zimbabweans classified as aliens even though they were born in Zimbabwe. That means reconstituting the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to make sure we have a truly independent body to administer our elections fairly and to ensure that the will of the people is fully expressed.
And by the way, leadership renewal and generational succession is not just a requirement for ruling parties and governments alone, but for all political formations. Only then can we ensure that we don’t replace the deadwood whose removal many paid for with their lives with our own dysfunction.
Zimbabwe! Ilizwe Lethu! Ilifa Lethu!
Zimbabwe! Our Nation! Our Heritage!
Zimbabwe! Nyika Yedu! Nhaka Yedu!