On the Insurrection Question
What shall we do? An Insurrection is often casually posed as an answer. Some take it seriously. An Insurrection is a power grab. It is usually violent though it's sometimes peaceful. It's a rebellion against the ruler and his administration that involves grabbing power from the rulers.
Since it is an option (whether feasible or not), it only makes sense that we explore it and uncover why it would generally not work and under what conditions it will work.
The insurrection is an answer to the “what shall we do” question. The insurrection answer is followed up with another question regarding its feasibility. If an insurrection is an answer, what are the chances of successfully carrying out an insurrection? That is the insurrection question.
It is very important to distinguish between an insurrection and a revolution. The insurrection itself is not the revolution. It can or cannot be a part of a revolution. In most revolutions, those occupying powerful positions concede to the will of the people and vacate the positions of power. Under an insurrection, they are booted out of power by evicting them from the physical positions of power and declaring a new government or a new order of some sort.
An Insurrection can come in two forms. It can either be mass-driven or it can be driven by a small group of usurpers. If mass-driven, the Insurrection is essentially a leaderless, broad-based, mass uprising against the system that involves taking control of the institutions of power, and institutions that enable the day-to-day operation of the country. An Insurrection driven by a small group of usurpers is the common type of insurrection whereby a small group of insiders (i.e., people already occupying positions in the administration) plan and execute a rebellion against their comrades in governance, a rebellion that has the formation of a new administration and a new order as its goals.
The mass-driven insurrection, in Zimbabwe, would involve the masses going out in full force to take control of key public institutions. Think of it as #OccupyWallStreet on steroids. The people occupy government buildings, preventing the usual government business from taking place. It is essentially kicking out the old government from the physical government offices. It is firing the old government.
In Zimbabwe, this would involve occupying and taking control of the following key institutions:
- Police Stations
- Ministry Offices — Makombe Building, Employment Creation building, etc
- District Offices — for ministries, for Zanu PF, etc
- ZIMRA — Kurima House, Beitbridge Border Post, etc
- Post Office
- CBZ, POSB, Agribank
- Harare Hospital, Parirenyatwa, Mlilo
- University of Zimbabwe, Midlands State University, etc
- ZINARA, GMB, Netone, NRZ
The insurrection will essentially be all about taking physical control of these key institutions, denying the old guard access to these institutions whilst awaiting the appointment of new guardians of these institutions by a new administration. It is a forced transformation.
For example, as part of the mass-driven insurrection, an occupation of the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) is effectively booting out the Chancellor and Vice Chancellors. They will be dismissed by the masses, never to set foot at UZ again. Lectures and Deans will gather around electronically and vote for a new Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor to temporarily run the institution until official appointments are effected by a new government.
An occupation of ZESA, as part of the insurrection, gets rid of Sydney Gata and his cronies at ZESA. The charlatan is never allowed to set foot at ZESA again or to communicate on behalf of ZESA. He is denied physical and electronic access to anything that has to do with ZESA. The board is dissolved by the masses. Experienced and qualified seniors at ZESA are given the chance to temporarily manage ZESA whilst a new national administration is put in place.
The police stations are occupied as a show of force by the public. The police officers are not fired from their positions. They are just reminded that they serve the people and not the other way round. The occupation of police stations is symbolic. It is directly addressing the symbol of power. Members of the community far outnumber the police officers. Even if the army comes in to take control of the station, people will run away but a message will be sent, nonetheless. In a countrywide occupation of all police stations, the army will not have the necessary human resources to take back all the police stations.
The same argument goes for all the other institutions. If all these key institutions are occupied by the people, no amount of military force will be enough to take back control. The military will need a force that is twice its current size, for them to cover a lot of ground. They will be stretched.
A mass-driven insurrection is often identified as anarchy, because of the element of having uncontrollable crowds breaking the law. This classification should not bother people, as long as the goal is to establish a new order. The order comes from chaos. The insurrection perceived as anarchy is only transitory. The chaos is not and should not be permanent.
In an insurrection driven by a small group, the mass is not involved. A small group of men and women in government and its structures grab power. For Zimbabwe, an example will be 300 persons from the CIO, the military, a few permanent secretaries in key ministries, a couple of figureheads in state-run enterprises, etc planning and executing an insurrection. It is essentially a coup of some sort, but not exactly a military coup.
We, the public, wake up one morning to the news that so and so forth have been detained and booted from office. The list continues to grow, and we learn that a small group of people have taken power and are now administering the country. The police and the military chiefs have given them their blessing and life goes on.
The small group of regime change workers inside the system who could seize government buildings effectively conspire against the government. It is a conspiracy. It is not driven by the people. People join it later just to lend their support and sanitize the conspiracy.
Why an Insurrection would not Work in Zimbabwe?
Insurrection is not just some random uprising. It is a delicate art whereby timing (not time) is of the essence. The conditions must be ideal, and the timing must be perfect.
The consequences of a failed insurrection are dire. People will die. There will be gnawing and gnashing of teeth. The oppressor will tighten the stranglehold on the people leaving no room for any possible future dissent. This will drag the revolution behind by another decade or so.
Planning an insurrection needs nuclear precision. You cannot afford to make any mistake. Zimbabwe does not possess the quality of human resources capable of carrying out such delicate planning and strategizing. Whilst there might be some Zimbabweans abroad, who might possess something closer to the dexterity required, in most cases, such Zimbabweans are out of touch with the political and economic realities of the motherland and stay far away from politics.
A good example in this regard is James Manyika (Chairman and Director of McKinsey Global Institute). Above planning, the coordination and organizing required to pull something like this off need high-caliber operational cadres. People with skill sets to organize all the necessary human resources. Think of these as your operations manager. The country does not have such skill sets.
If you own a recording studio and music label, you need seriously talented artists and producers to make your enterprise work. If you have only good producers but no talented artists, the craft doesn't turn out to be the best, in the sense of topping charts. Because music is a winners-take-all business, your enterprise does not make the cut needed to be among winners, you make losses and eventually close shop. At a minimum, the recording artists should be able to understand music, project a voice, hold a note, among other essentials. The same applies to an Insurrection, all factors must be right. If you do not have the right planners, organizers, actioners, monitors, etc, the whole thing will end in tears. Human resources are dear.
Why would an insurrection not work? For both types of insurrections, the key is for the army and the police to join in and disobey the commands of the small group of oppressors above them. This is very critical. You do not want an insurrection to evolve into a civil war. An insurrection is supposed to be a short and quick power grab. Power changes hands quickly. An insurrection that does not quickly gain the support of the army and the police can easily fail.
The support of the army and police in Zimbabwe is highly likely but it is not guaranteed. There are no guarantees. The key, just like it is for all the other institutions is to bifurcate the members of the police and the army into two groups. One group of “them”, the oppressors, and proxies of the oppressors. The other group of “us”, the oppressed, the used, and the downtrodden.
From the middle-rank officers down to the foot soldier, everyone should identify with the “us”. Some who hold senior positions should be sweet-talked into correctly identifying with the “us”. The few ones at the top that belong to the “them” group are the ones earmarked for removal by the insurrection.
Bifurcating the members of the defense forces and police into these groups is a challenge because of the closed lines of communication that are very hierarchical. It is easier said than done. That is exactly where any talk of insurrection becomes unrealistic.
Once an insurrection is in motion and gaining momentum, it is easier to sway members of the defense forces and the police into supporting the insurrection. However, support needs to be gained before the insurrection. Leaving things to chance is not wise in this type of endeavor.
To be precise, any insurrection needs to draw support from the soldiers and police, before and during the actual insurrection.
The conspiracy type of insurrection can easily go wrong because it is a small group of people grabbing power and using that power to restructure society. Most times, when they have that power, they only abuse it and do not restructure society in a manner that is consistent with the goals of the revolution.
Even with a mass-driven insurrection, there is a danger that whoever is selected/elected to lead following the insurrection can fail to construct a new order. The nation can be stuck in a semi-chaotic order that is worse than the previous order. Such is the case of the Arab Spring. People will yearn for the old oppressive days as “the good ole days”.
Failing to construct a new order is a failure of the insurrection, even though the physical insurrection act would have been deemed successful. In that sense, an insurrection can be an incomplete revolution.
We must properly digest the last sentence. If an insurrection has a reasonable chance of being an incomplete revolution, should such an insurrection (mass-driven or otherwise) attract the support of and endorsement from the revolutionary brothers and sisters? Should the revolutionary brother support something that has a reasonable chance of failing to attain the goals of the revolution?
Digested in this manner, an insurrection can be exposed for not be wide enough to capture all the goals of the revolution. An insurrection can attain some goals, but it can easily fail to achieve the society-wide transformation that is aimed at by the revolution. However, an insurrection used as a crowing act of completing a revolution that has already happened within the minds of the people will be a useful event in completing the revolution.
Under What conditions would an Insurrection work?
- When the country has capable human resources
- When there is active mass support
- When the average military personnel views an insurrection as something that is in his best interest
- When an insurrection can easily morph into a full-blown successful rebellion as opposed to dragging into a civil war.
- When an insurrection exists within the context of a revolution as opposed to political party in-fighting and mindless power grabs.
For now, an insurrection is a joke. The joke will be on anyone who attempts an insurrection of any sort.