To Mugabe:Your political brand is repulsive- by Rejoice Ngwenya- October 19, 2011

At one funeral of a mutual friend, African nationalist Rugare Gumbo enquired of me: “Don’t you have anything positive – at least one – to write about Zanu PF?” Rephrase the question: Why do you find my party brand so repugnant? The answer lies in image management – the science of sophistication.

Perceptions about us are sum total of a host of interlinked traits – behaviour, predisposition, habit, attitude, culture, background and at worst, subjective judgement.

Over the past forty years I have known and lived with Zanu PF, there are constructs about its “brand” that have left indelible skid marks in my sub-conscience.
As a boy in rural Shurugwi, perceptions of “liberation heroes” were largely formulated along teenage infatuation with military encounters between Zanla guerrillas and Rhodesian soldiers.

Fiery “enemy” helicopters and spotter planes tumbling out of the sky onto the plains of Gangarabwe were moments for spontaneous adolescent celebration.

As maturity set in, my negative perception of Zanu PF politics as a self-destruct ideology on a trajectory of coercion, impunity, arrogance, punishment and deprivation was reinforced.

Encounters with traumatised fellow villagers exposed pitiful stories of Zanla guerrillas obsessed with brutal Maoist tactics of persuasion. Defenceless peasants were well and truly under Machiavellian siege.

By the time exile beckoned at 19, I had irrefutable evidence that “pasi na Nkomo” (down with Nkomo) and “Pasi nemachowa chowa” (down with Ndebele freedom fighters) was a strategic rallying call by rabid tribalists abandoned in ideological sewers of an otherwise legitimate struggle for national liberation.

The unfolding tragedy of populist torture in the hilly base camps of Mudzengi village vindicated popular beliefs that Zanla – or at least some elements in that movement – were heartless criminals devoid of capacity to differentiate between legitimate struggle and egotistic adventurism.

Even thousands of kilometres away from home at college, my resentment of Zanu PF’s corroded Marxist-Leninist ideology was heightened by their student activists who carried about this acerbic aura of bigotry tinged with crude enthusiasm, bordering on the cantankerous.

Their habitual denigration of my Zapu’s role in the liberation smacked of disrespect and outright puerile pea-brain ignorance.

My return to post-independence Zimbabwe in 1984 offered temporary reprieve. Zanu PF cadres like Wilfred Mhanda, Wilson Sandura, Sobusa Gula-Ndebele, Mayor Urimbo, Rugare Gumbo, Samuel Geza et al turned out to be “flashes of intellectual excellence” in the storm of misguided one-party zealotry.

At least in my opinion, they seemed to be the sensible extreme opposite of the convoluted and pervasive notion that the liberation struggle is a preserve of a Zanu PF few. Yet this did little to transform my overall rancour for that party.

Robert Mugabe and his excitable band of overzealous cronies made it a personal mission to physically and ideologically eliminate from local politics our revered Joshua Nkomo. The litany of false accusations, arrests, Gukurahundi, one-party state ranting and the “surrender document” mislabelled “unity agreement” are well-documented.

Zanu PF’s dominance of Zimbabwe’s socio-political environment was not a result of integrity and acceptance, but misinformed coercion. Mugabe persisted on a path of intolerance until the obsession with one-party rule evolved into fully-blown authoritarian dictatorship.

Elections became violent, human rights shredded, and farms invaded as democratic space shrunk to near obscurity. Zanu PF recoiled into defensive denial as the economy succumbed.

Zimbabwe was now officially a failed notorious pariah state with more foes than friends. One thing Zanu PF has done well?

Zilch. Zero. For the privileged few cronies, perhaps.

As more stories of Gukurahundi, property rights violations, electoral beatings and unruly Chipangano-like excesses unfold, I insist that whatever “good” Zanu PF did will, to me, remain a figment of their own political imagination.

Rejoice Ngwenya is President of COMALISO, a Libertarian think tank in Zimbabwe.