The fight Zanu-PF can’t af­ford to lose

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Opinion - Spec­trum Jo­ram Ny­athi

ZIM­BAB­WEANS cel­e­brate this He­roes and De­fence Forces holiday more di­vided than the coun­try has ever been since In­de­pen­dence. And the most di­vided in­sti­tu­tion in the coun­try is the gov­ern­ing Zanu-PF party. Be­cause re­cently a group of anony­mous war vet­er­ans wrote what was pur­ported to be a strong com­mu­nique re­nounc­ing mem­ber­ship of Zanu-PF.

The “war vet­er­ans” did not have the courage to dis­close their iden­tity, fuelling un­healthy spec­u­la­tion about the au­then­tic­ity of the doc­u­ment.

And in pub­lic, the en­tire war vet­er­ans lead­er­ship has dis­owned the un­usual and un­char­ac­ter­is­tic state­ment.

But these de­vel­op­ments are likely to put a huge dam­per on the usu­ally bois­ter­ous com­mem­o­ra­tions of the coun­try’s moth­ers and fathers who sac­ri­ficed so much for our free­dom.

Per­haps a pe­riod of too long suf­fer­ing has the ef­fect of sap­ping our en­er­gies, and even our zeal, to­wards the most fun­da­men­tal causes.

Zim­bab­weans have been to hell and back since a de­ci­sion was made to em­bark on the fast-track land re­form pro­gramme in 2000, it­self a key is­sue around which young peo­ple were mo­bilised to go to war.

Let us never for­get that fact. Yet its ex­e­cu­tion sorely di­vided the na­tion be­cause there was a lot of moral am­biva­lence about it.

Af­ter 20 years peo­ple (black and white) seemed to have for­got­ten about the driv­ing force be­hind the lib­er­a­tion war.

The pro­gramme was em­braced with en­thu­si­asm by many, and, as one would ex­pect, in the end it was spear­headed by the same free­dom fight­ers who had fought for the lib­er­a­tion of the coun­try.

To those who op­posed the pro­gramme, it­self the most defin­ing in who we are and what a na­tion is, the war vet­er­ans be­came the most hated mem­bers of our so­ci­ety.

To those for the pro­gramme, the war vet­er­ans were merely com­plet­ing a his­tor­i­cal im­per­a­tive.

It is sad to see these gallant sons and daugh­ters so bit­terly di­vided as the na­tion com­mem­o­rates their day.

The Lan­caster House talks to end white mi­nor­ity rule in 1979 ended in the na­ture of most ne­go­ti­a­tions.

You rarely get all you want. Zim­bab­weans did not get the in­de­pen­dence they had been fight­ing for. But still 1980 opened the way to com­plete the task.

That se­ri­ous en­gage­ment in self-def­i­ni­tion was to come a whole 20 years later in 2000. The war vet­er­ans were some of the ma­jor ben­e­fi­cia­ries.

They own farms; there are chal­lenges of skills and re­sources, but most of them re­main on the land. They are mak­ing a liv­ing out of the land.

We are one of the few African na­tions to achieve such a feat, es­pe­cially when we com­pare with French colonies where 14 African na­tions still pay so-called Colo­nial Tax for the ben­e­fit of hav­ing been colonised and en­slaved by France post-Ber­lin 1884.

For­mer French pres­i­dent Jac­ques Chirac was frank enough to ad­mit that, “With­out Africa, France will slide down into the rank of a third world power.”

Be­cause it con­trols who can do busi­ness in those coun­tries, it is in charge of their cen­tral banks and de­cides whether or not it wants to be in­volved in the ex­ploita­tion of a par­tic­u­lar nat­u­ral re­source and trains their mil­i­tary of­fi­cers who reg­u­larly de­ployed to re­move un­de­sir­able po­lit­i­cal lead­ers.

It is a form of slav­ery or colo­nial sta­tus Zim­bab­weans are fight­ing to end. That fight cen­tres on the con­trol of nat­u­ral re­sources, all of which can only ex­ist in the land.

This is the mes­sage the chil­dren of Zim­babwe should carry in their hearts and minds as we solemnly com­mem­o­rate our he­roes.

No na­tion can proudly claim to be in­de­pen­dent when it has no power to de­cide who, when, where and for whose pri­mary ben­e­fit its nat­u­ral re­sources can be ex­ploited.

But the past 16 years have taught us that such a de­ci­sion comes at a cost if you are a poor, de­vel­op­ing world na­tion.

Such a de­ci­sion chal­lenges the ethos of colo­nial­ism and im­pe­ri­al­ist dom­i­na­tion of the globe. That is why Zim­babwe is be­ing pun­ished se­verely.

The sanc­tions im­posed on Zim­babwe in 2001 and still bur­den us are a warn­ing to those who dare. And they have had the de­sired, chill­ing ef­fect.

Let no one tell me black South Africans and Namib­ians don’t want their land; that they are happy with the egre­gious eco­nomic in­equal­i­ties based on racial priv­i­lege, worse still, that they were bet­ter off un­der apartheid rule (like we are of­ten cyn­i­cally told here).

South Africans have the best con­sti­tu­tion in the world be­cause it le­git­imises colo­nial loot.

It is a dis­ease Zim­babwe has been cured of with­out be­ing able to share the medicine. We should be proud of that mile­stone in Africa.

For that we should be for­ever mind­ful of those who risked their lives to make Zim­babwe unique. He­roes and De­fences Forces com­mem­o­ra­tions are only sec­ond in national im­por­tance to April 18.

A day too that harks to the sac­ri­fices of the same men and women we hon­our next week.

The ap­par­ent di­vi­sions in the rank of war vet­er­ans, whether as an as­so­ci­a­tion or in their re­la­tion­ship with ZanuPF, has been a ma­jor cause for cel­e­bra­tion in some quar­ters.

Some have gone to the ex­tent of call­ing it a long over­due dam­a­scene mo­ment. Oth­ers have called for re­pen­tance, yet more have chal­lenged the war vet­er­ans to ask the peo­ple of Zim­bab­wean for for­give­ness.

Ask for for­give­ness for spear­head­ing the land re­form pro­gramme; for that is the only crime which they have sin­gle­hand­edly been ac­cused of com­mit­ting.

That in it­self should worry gen­uine war vet­er­ans. The clas­si­fi­ca­tion of war vet­er­ans as ei­ther hard­lin­ers or re­formist re­volves around their per­ceived at­ti­tude in re­la­tion to the land re­form pro­gramme.

Those whose at­ti­tude to­wards all em­pow­er­ment pro­grammes is luke­warm are the good guys.

Those who say the land is a pri­mary birthright of ev­ery black Zim­babwe are the bad guys, the hard­lin­ers who must be pun­ished.

And those who lost the land have the con­nec­tions and alchemy ei­ther to bless or to curse.

Let us not con­fuse is­sues. There is a huge chasm be­tween the need and ne­ces­sity for land re­form on the one hand and the cor­rup­tion which ac­com­pa­nied its ex­e­cu­tion on the other.

There is a car­di­nal prin­ci­ple which can­not be faulted: apol­o­gis­ing for land re­form is no dif­fer­ent from those un­for­tu­nate fran­co­phone Africans be­ing made to pay in per­pe­tu­ity for the sins of be­ing colonised by France.

{And the good guys now talk re­peat­edly about com­pen­sat­ing those who lost farms from 2000, as if 90 years of loot­ing and self-en­rich­ment were not a crime griev­ous enough against the indige­nous peo­ple.}

Let peo­ple not con­fuse the prin­ci­ple un­der­pin­ning land re­form and man’s sus­cep­ti­bil­ity to avarice and cor­rup­tion.

For me, Zanu-PF’s fail­ure to deal de­ci­sively with cor­rupt of­fi­cials has been its ma­jor un­do­ing. There are enough cadres who can fight in de­fence of the land re­form.

There is none ready to de­fend cor­rup­tion. The en­e­mies or those who have al­ways op­posed the land re­form and other black eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment ini­tia­tives have taken ad­van­tage of Gov­ern­ment’s fail­ure to fight cor­rup­tion to gain moral sup­port for agen­das which seek to de­mean the spirit of in­de­pen­dence and the sac­ri­fices of the men and women buried at the National He­roes’ Acre.

That should be a cause for con­cern to gen­uine war vet­er­ans. When you are a war vet­eran own­ing a piece of land and you sud­denly find your­self be­ing hero-wor­shipped by the same forces op­posed to the land re­form, ask your­self if you haven’t been trapped.

Who ben­e­fits from di­vided war vet­er­ans, from a weak­ened Zanu-PF?

And one of the main di­vi­sive is­sues lately has been the mat­ter of fu­ture Zanu-PF lead­er­ship, a mat­ter which has been very badly han­dled, lead­ing to cur­rent avoid­able di­vi­sions (a sub­ject for an­other day).

Suf­fice to say the fight to de­fend the land re­form and to feed the na­tion is far greater than any lead­er­ship po­si­tion. It is a fight Zanu-PF can­not af­ford to lose. It is a fight from which war vet­er­ans can­not with­draw. It is a fight Zim­babwe must win.

That should be the big­gest hon­our Zim­babwe can be­stow on the peo­ple who lie at the national shrine.

Lan­caster House con­fer­ence held on De­cem­ber 21, 1979

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