Tshabangu’s recalls have raised questions about the tactics employed in this political manoeuvre and its implications for Zimbabwean democracy.
HOW is one Sengezo Tshabangu’s recalls of Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) Members of Parliament a dress-rehearsal for politics of manipulation and inconsistence in Zimbabwe?
For students of synchronised politics, political repression lies beneath political manipulation. The end to which Zimbabwean politicians forget that hope is finite is shocking, given that the dominant theory in career politics is political realism.
The CCC politicians have now been manipulated into inconsistence. And when techniques of regime control are used to lipstick the frog of repression, opposition members are strategically excluded from political power and social influence through paranoia.
The CCC MPs have been treated like dismissed union members more than parliamentarians. A detailed plan seems to have been planned for such an eventuality, following the CCC’s strategy of ambiguity and Sadc’s involvement with Zimbabwe’s election fiasco.
The news doing the rounds is that Tshabangu is a “CCC signatory” at Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) and has also moved to bar CCC MPs from using CCC in the by-elections for the recalled MPs, something akin to the Staatsstreich or coup d’état from above canvassed by Wilheim II and his advisers.
The political landscape in Zimbabwe has thus been marked by turmoil and uncertainty, with the CCC facing a wave of recalls of its MPs.
Tshabangu’s recalls have raised questions about the tactics employed in this political manoeuvre and its implications for Zimbabwean democracy. In this article, I will delve into the complex dynamics at play, drawing parallels with historical political manipulation, including references to figures like Frederick Wilhelm I, Frederick the Great, Wilhelm II and Bismarck, while also considering the courage and initiative displayed by individuals like Crawford during wartime.
The article is not meant to be a lecture on politics, but seeks to show that CCC can, if they want, stop aiding Zanu PF’s system of political manipulation.
Repression through manipulation
The recalls of CCC MPs orchestrated by Tshabangu are seen by many as a dress-rehearsal for politics of manipulation from Zanu PF.
These recalls have raised concerns about the use of political repression masked as political manipulation.
The CCC MPs have been treated like dismissed union members, rather than elected parliamentarians, a situation reminiscent of the way Frederick Wilhelm I ruled with stern authority.
Furthermore, Tshabangu’s move to try and bar CCC MPs from participating in the by-elections for the recalled MPs can be compared to a Staatsstreich or coup d’état from above, akin to political tactics employed by Wilhelm II and his advisers.
This strategy seems to be designed to weaken the CCC’s political influence and disrupt their efforts to contest Zanu PF at Sadc level or an internal political structure to be held under Sadc mediation, following the flawed 2023 elections, much like the political manipulation carried out by Bismarck to achieve his goals in Germany.
It seems, the tool of manipulation through Tshabangu is no different from how political parties, which threatened the Bonapartist-dictatorial regime were silenced through a policy of political manipulation away from political coalition.
A clear example is how Bismarck split the liberals, perhaps his most dangerous political opponents in the 1860s and 1870s, by exposing contradictions between nationalism and constitutionalism in liberal ideology through unifying Germany without liberalising it (1866-71) and the (1878-1879) through introducing protectionism combined with stifled political or civil rights.
There is outright negative coalition to ensure even if Sadc calls for fresh election, CCC leader Nelson Chamisa might not be a force to reckon with. The goal could be to force CCC to hold a congress before December.
But Tshabangu debacle will be Germany in Zimbabwe, Frederick Wilhelm I was stern, Frederick II (the Great) was a folk hero, and Willheim II the crown prince abdicated.
The Speaker’s narrow view
The role of the Speaker of Parliament in these recalls has come under scrutiny in many cases where MPs like Temba Mliswa, Willias Madzimure, Tendai Biti and others have been recalled from their political parties.
The current Speaker, as elected in different parliamentary sessions, has taken a narrow view of the recall provisions in the Constitution of Zimbabwe, much like how Frederick the Great held a firm grip on his reign in Prussia. The Speaker argues that they are not a court of law and that those aggrieved should seek legal recourse.
In this way, he behaves like a de facto President of the Republic, something which is a constitutional problem that CCC and its predecessors like MDC-T and MDC-A have not taken seriously.
This narrow interpretation means that the electorate and the aggrieved elected MPs are at the mercy of unelected judges, often driven by political expedience, which ties the speaker’s hands away from practicing due process when dealing with recall initiators like Tshabangu.
The absence of due process
The core issue in the recall processes lies in the absence of due process in recalling an elected MP, a situation like how Frederick Wilhelm I upheld strict authority in his rule.
The process is mired in political complexity, making it difficult for MPs and the electorate to seek justice through the legal system. This lack of clear procedures puts democracy at risk and enables political manipulation.
In turn, voters are forced to practice apathy especially in by-elections, something career and realist politicians use to create a paranoid society in Zimbabwe.
No one can teach their master politics, but on the Tshabangu debacle, the CCC is lost so far. If social media activists say we do not have anything called opposition in Zimbabwe, it is because no one is categorically willing to end opportunistic or pseudo-charlatans masquerading as politicians.
To end the Tshabangu debacle and ensure a more transparent and democratic political landscape in Zimbabwe where Zanu PF’s intransigence as a system is checked, several steps can be taken, drawing inspiration from historical precedents such as:
Holistic call for reforms
At theoretical and practical normative levels, the CCC should consider comprehensive and consistent calls for reforms to clarify and streamline the recall process, much like Bismarck’s unification of Germany, to ensure transparency and due process.
The recall process should be overseen by an independent body or commission to prevent undue influence by political actors, like the need for unbiased judges during critical periods in history.
A clear and efficient process for judicial review of recall decisions should be established, ensuring that elected MPs have a fair chance to challenge recalls, as seen in countries with strong judicial systems.
Civic education and public awareness campaigns can inform the electorate about their rights and the implications of political manipulation, empowering them to make informed choices, as individuals like United States private soldier Crawford displayed initiative and courage during times of crisis against Germans.
Practice politics of realism
Class theorist Karl Marx once said that “the production of too many useful things results in too many useless people”.
He saw democracy as a road to socialism and the theory of communism as an abolition of private property. We have seen how CCC’s strategic ambiguity has become an open secret and how CCC has been besieged and to employ Marx’s words, how, or the bureaucrat, the world of politics is a mere object to be manipulated by him.
For liberation backers and socialist revolutionaries, the meaning of peace is the absence of opposition to socialism.
So, everyone is now worried about Zimbabwean politicians, who stand on something but cannot stand firm on it. The MPs were recalled as CCC MPs, but we hear something like they are being barred from using CCC, something Tshabangu may take to the courts until by-elections have ended and perhaps Zanu PF has gotten their two-thirds majority.
To me, this endless drama could have been ended once and for all. The CCC hinted on ending formal processes that glorify the Zanu PF and proxy systems.
What point is to be proved by CCC now by participating and perhaps, winning the elections they won, again? What if the card of apathy eats into their vote when voter fatigue weighs in? If at Sadc, whispers or truth, the incumbent president was told or made to know that there is need for dialogue with CCC, why is CCC forgetting the Shona proverb, “mutambirwi gwinyawo?”, which means that one should not aid his adversaries.
Without lying to each other, even those labelled as pro-establishment no longer speak about defending their territory or gains confidently. There comes a time when CCC says they have disengaged. After all, it was their position that the election was not free and fair.
In Sierra Leone, the opposition recently set a precedent of resignation that have discredited the incumbent presidency once and for all. The CCC is giving Zanu PF a blood life by continuing to take part in the by-elections or seemingly illegitimate processes.
The pertinent question becomes this: by participating in things that you know what will happen, whose interests are you serving? Even if miracles happen, this does not mean the children of light should be unclever.
When mistakes are not mistakes, they are not repeated. When mistakes are repeated from MDC, MDC-T, MDC-A, CCC and others, they become grave mistakes.
Each opposition politician should know that hope is finite. That is why most opposition politicians joined Zanu PF out of hunger, cold politics and loss of hope in how things are being done.
There comes a time when people will begin to question if their hope makes sense. Zanu PF is not consistent and CCC now aids it by indicating right and turning left.
A note on Sadc processes
Sadc only takes Zimbabweans where they want to go. Even Frontline States benefited from Zanu PF simply because citizens were involved in active combat. Let us not pin our hope on external assistance when the opposition blesses the system by taking part in politics of brazen politics.
While some are negotiating to work with CCC, hardliners are scuttling the process. What is there for the ordinary person? When Sadc preliminary report came out, the opposition CCC missed the opportunity to make things unmovable.
Things that logically flowed from the report are things they follow with verve. If Mnangagwa was illegitimate, he swore in their MPs. And CCC MPs are legitimate when they were sworn by an illegitimate president?
In Shona they say, kana wafunga kudya mbwa idya iri hono. It’s either you capitulate or collaborate. Please anyone in CCC or anywhere, save us from career politicians.
Or read some feminine threads from one Elisabeth Valerio on why she is not taking part in an election where the impartiality of Zec and the judiciary is at stake and where there is a variable of unconstitutional recalls, which the CCC fails to consider as a finite resource.
High Court ruling
However, High Court judge Justice Tawanda Chitapi this week issued an interim interdict stopping Tshabangu from recalling the opposition party’s legislators and councillors until the matter has been finalised.
In his ruling on Tuesday, Justice Chitapi said: “Pending the determination of this urgent application, the first respondent (Tshabangu) shall not purport to issue any letters of suspension of any members of the National Assembly, Senate or local authorities elected under the applicant (CCC)’s ticket.
“The second respondent (Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda), third respondent (Senate president Mabel Chinomona) and fourth respondent (Local Government minister Winston Chitando) as the case may be, shall not effect any recalls made pursuant to any request by the first respondent (Tshabangu) in terms hereof.”
Hofisi is a lawyer, conversationalist and transdisciplinary researcher. He has interests in governance and international law. — [email protected].