Beyond 2023: Post Electoral radicalization in Zimbabwe
The narrative is that we all need to register to vote in the 2023 elections. On election day, we all need to go out and vote. After that, we all need to defend the vote, Zambian style. This is not any further from the truth. However, to end there, without any further deliberations is being naive. It is more than being naive, it is refusing to see that which is evident. It is denial. It is tantamount to lying by withholding the truth. The conditions in Zimbabwe are not capable of producing a free and fair electoral result that reflects the will of the people. Almost everyone is aware of this, but we deliberately choose to ignore that fact for the convenience of trying our luck yet again.
The narrative can be summarized as follows:
- register to vote
- defend the vote
Whilst everyone is rallying behind the register to vote mantra, very few leaders are preparing the people with regards to what is required of them in defending the vote. Furthermore, no one is weighing the chances of successfully defending the vote.
The strategic fault starts with thought leaders and opinion leaders. It then spreads to the rest of the population, including the politicians. Thought leaders deprive the population of analytical thinking by choosing to ignore the elephants in the room. The issue of what needs to be done as soon as the voting process ends, and the counting process starts, is at the very core of elections and cannot be relegated to a less important status below the actual voting process. . The day after the election day is as important as the election day itself, in the context of Zimbabwe. All days leading up to the day the final set of results are announced are equally important. What should the people do? What should the leaders do?
After doing what needs to be done, what would be the response from the regime? In the last elections, the response was to send soldiers firing live bullets into protesters and random civilians. If events take this course again, how do we proceed as a nation?
Because no one would like to hear any of these questions right now, the post-2023 period would be the ideal time to start probing minds with these types of questions. Forcing the issue at the present moment would be an unfruitful endeavor. The so-called thought leaders, the politicians, and their supporters would have none of it. Everybody is gearing up for elections. They don't want to hear anything else other than “register to vote”.
What transpired in Malawi and Zambia has encouraged young people in Zimbabwe. However, it has to be noted that the circumstances that Zimbabweans face are fundamentally different from the conditions observed in both Malawi and Zambia. The regime in Zimbabwe is willing to fire live bullets and massacre the population. Genocide is on the cards if things have to go that route. Naive extrapolation of the Malawian and Zambian scenarios into the Zimbabwean landscape can easily result in thousands losing their lives for nothing, in the sense that lives will be lost but the fight for democracy and rights will still be far from over. This is different from a situation where lives are sacrificed in an outright fight for freedom, democracy, and development.
The regime in Zimbabwe is not the type that is going to be voted out of power. It is a bloody regime that can only leave power if forced to do so by any means other than electoral. A revolution under which the people, elements of the police, and the army revolt against the regime is something that can deliver change. A revolution is the next best alternative capable of achieving change outside of a full-blown war. Everything else is kid’s games and tomfoolery.
But society cannot just wake up one day and instantly turn into a populace capable of carrying out a revolution and defending themselves. It does not happen overnight. It is a process. It happens in stages. Firstly, people need to be radicalized.
The Zimbabwean populace is currently pacific. A revolution cannot happen when the people are that pacific. In fact, the level of pacificity in Zimbabwe right now is a hindrance to the process of defending the vote. A revolution demands more than simply defending the vote. Thus, at some point society needs to drop the levels of pacificity and pick up some radicalization.
Currently, the word ‘revolution’ is shunned. Politicians don't mention it because they fear being charged with treason. The simple Joe cannot mention it, lest he is abducted and tortured by the notorious CIOs. As hard as it is to say these things, this is what actually needs to be done. This is what must be done. Society has to be conscientized to a level where they think in terms of a revolution.
The journey starts with thought leaders, followed by opinion leaders, followed by political leaders, and then consumed by the rest of the population. Our current thought leaders mislead and unlead the struggle by not providing the correct thought leadership that is appropriate for the situation. The omittance is deliberate. They willfully choose not to radicalize the people. It is like a shepherd who does not lead the sheep to a waterhole. The same goes for the politicians. Politicians that are too pacific deliberately block any idea of radicalization even if it is the ONLY way forward.
The connotation of the word ‘radicalization’ is always negative, but it ought not to be so. The mainstream media is to blame for this. Radicalization is always viewed as bad, and conformity is always viewed as good. This is why oppressive and unjust systems persist for so long, unchallenged because mounting a credible challenge to such a system is termed radicalization.
Now, given the reluctance to face the reality, the outcome of the 2023 elections is already clear. You do not need to be a prophet to envision what is going to happen. What’s going to happen? One might ask. It is more or less the same as what has happened before. De Javu. We have experienced this thing before.
However, the period after the elections is the right time to commence the process of radicalization. The conversation would naturally shift from “let's go and vote” to “what shall we do”. There are several ways radicalization could play out. Two main ways are as follows:
- Radicalization as a party-driven agenda
- Radicalization as a spontaneous leaderless zeitgeist of the masses
The party-driven radicalization would be a situation where the MDC led by Nelson Chamisa or his successor, decides to take a more radical approach to politics given the outcomes of the elections. This is a low probability event. Loyalty to Chamisa is very high and as a leader, he is a natural pacifist. In the event that the party is restructured, and a more radical leader takes the helm in the aftermath of the election, the new leader might drive the party down a more radical way. The sheep will naturally follow down the same path as well. Radical in this sense means advancing a mindset that accepts that Zimbabwe is not a democracy, and accepts the vanity of elections, and sets out to liberate the people by any means necessary. This would be a departure from the obsession with electoral victory as the ONLY acceptable avenue of liberating the country from the oppressive regime.
A leaderless radicalization of the masses would result if a power vacuum develops in the political space in the aftermath of the elections. This would take shape if the MDC party led by Chamisa implodes as a result of yet another failure to win the presidential elections. This would be a scenario where the party splits again, members are disgruntled, internal squabbles are rife, supporters are disenfranchised on the back of a rigged election, and there is general strategic chaos as to what to do next. The valence of the Chamisa party as an opposition becomes eroded. Without strong or credible opposition, a vacuum opens up for all sorts of leaderless movements to emerge. Leaderless is being used loosely in the sense that the outfits will not be organized as political parties. Without a solid party driving the democracy agenda, the prevailing mood and sentiment in the street could then naturally gravitate to that which is more radical.