- Organize and Decentralize
- The struggle is too centered around Chamisa — decentralize it
- The struggle is too centered around Harvest House — decentralize it
- The struggle is too centered around the MDC Alliance — decentralize it
Marcus Garvey said that we must organize and centralize. I say, at this point in time, in Zimbabwe, those fighting the political struggle must organize and decentralize.
“Ane bhora ndiye anomarkwa”, is what they say in the streets of Harare. This is a football chant-line for stressing the point that the one who is holding the ball becomes the target.
It is of no benefit to the revolution for one player to keep holding onto the ball for so long whilst attracting all the attention from spectators and the team we oppose. He gets surrounded and the ball gets taken. He needs to pass the ball around. Let the enemy chase the ball. Make the enemy run around. Don't make it easy for them to beat the team.
Nelson Chamisa is a tightly monitored person. Right now, he cannot even go to the toilet without the state’s intelligence knowing about it (NB* exaggerated for effect). he cannot effectively lead the political struggle. Every speech he makes is monitored and scrutinized for verbiage that can be used to support a case of treason.
Because the political struggle is centered around one person, Nelson Chamisa, that person becomes the Single Point of Failure. The regime knows this. If Chamisa is taken out, pulled backward, or becomes highly restricted, as he is, the political struggle itself is also taken out, pulled backward, and highly restricted.
The political leadership and roles within the revolution as far as the MDC is concerned need to be decentralized. They must be decentralized. Decision-making needs to be decentralized. The eminence of whoever is the President of the MDC needs to be diluted by the eminence of the Vice Presidents and others. If all the light is shone on the president and nothing else on others, then when that light is blown away from the president the leadership dies.
The prevailing idea in decentralizing the eminence is to create a highly capable, highly popular, leadership team, to an extent that targeting the president can only pull back the revolution by 2 steps instead of 20 steps.
To achieve that decentralization of eminence, the leadership has to be rotated. “Bhora rina Chamisa, vabva vamumaka, vamuisa pa corner, saka pasira bhora kuna Biti”. Chamisa had the ball, the opposing team marked him so tight, and he is now in a tight corner, he should pass the ball to Tendai Biti. When they go after Biti, Chamisa gets to breathe and recuperate. Biti can pass the ball to Welshman, and the latter can dribble one or two opponents and pass the ball back to Chamisa. You can even pass the ball to Job Sikala, let’s see what he can do with it.
When the ball is passed around, all players become eminent. The team becomes stronger and hard to beat. There is no single point of failure. The result is a dedication toward the entire team instead of a cultic and fanatic obsession with one key player.
The Chamisa Chete Chete (CCC) cult emerged out of necessity because the revolution was about to be stolen by puppets and opportunists. However, a continuation of that cult is a disservice to the revolution because it perpetuates and propagates a revolution characterized by a heavy reliance on the Center Point. The load should be distributed, otherwise, the center can easily get overwhelmed and fail to hold. If the center cannot hold, then the entire structure collapses.
Right now, in my uneducated opinion, I think Chamisa needs to step back a little bit and hand over the presidential button to Tendai Biti. Stepping back, in this sense, can be simply procedural. He can step back from the title of being the president of the MDC.
He can then focus on one or two other important aspects of the revolution. He can either focus on grassroots mobilization or embark on a regional drive for external support, especially in the human rights area. These are areas that really need to be attended to. Chamisa has the capability to turn Uzumba red in a few months. He has the acumen to push for a change of stance from neighboring countries.
As a vice president, he could establish a new vibrant base in SA. These are the things that he cannot do as the president of the party but can do by executing, in politics, something equivalent to a dummy in football. Let the ball go to Biti for now, whilst you carry out the tasks that need to be carried out.
It's now called Richard Morgan Tsvangirai House. I am not sure which MDC outfit is occupying it at the present moment. It is the head office. It is symbolic of the political struggle.
In 2021, organizations don't really need to be physical. Entire organizations can exist in cyberspace with very little physical representation. That being said, we can still emphasize the need to have a physical place that people can identify with, a place where people can go, a place where people can gather.
The revolution movement, however, does not really need to be heavily pivoted at Harvest House. The regime is aware of this overreliance on the Harvest House as the physical center point of the political struggle in Zimbabwe.
Whenever there are rumors of any political activity about to happen, heavily militarized police camps around the Harvest House, and the political activity dies down, just like that. It ought not to be so. The democratic revolution needs to be improved in terms of organization.
Whilst the Harvest House is instrumental and crucial in organizing and coordinating the revolution’s efforts, the reliance on it, or its replacement, has to be reduced.
What the revolution needs are plenty more Harvest Houses. A harvest house is needed in Bulawayo. Another Harvest House in Gweru and another one in Mutare. These should have eminence and significance in the struggle as well. Chamisa could lead from any of these Harvest houses. They don't really need to be majestic and elegant; they just have to be politically eminent.
Obey Sithole is capable of running the Gweru Harvest House and bringing it to national eminence. The more we have hubs of national and provincial eminence that are capable of driving the revolution the higher the chances of mounting sustained pressure on the regime to give us the political freedoms we desire.
The revolution needs to be physically decentralized as much as possible. The revolution should have several hubs and several pockets of change agents. The structures of the MDC as a party need to consciously de-emphasize Harvest House (or whichever its replacement is) and uplift other centers.
Change doesn't necessarily have to start at Harvest House all the time. Change can physically be anywhere and everywhere.
As a country, the revolution is centered around the MDC Alliance. Everything else is just a distraction and a nuisance. This is the widely adopted view.
Only the MDC Alliance truly represents the political struggle of Zimbabweans. This is indeed very true. The reality is exactly like this.
Whilst the relevance of the MDC as the main opposition is a reality that was born out of necessity, another reality for the country is that the democratic movement’s overreliance on the MDC as the only savior is a drag on performance towards the goal of attaining political freedom.
The MDC itself, as a political party has become a single point of failure for the revolution. The junta regime is aware of this. The junta plants divisions within the MDC. They arrest the figureheads of the true MDC, and boom the revolution is dead. The dormancy of the MDC Alliance is the dormancy of the political struggle in Zimbabwe. It ought not to be so.
If the only manner in which the people of Zimbabwe can fight for their political rights is through being organized in the form of a political party, then several political parties are needed to organize people and spearhead the revolution.
The movement for democratic change needs to be decentralized across political parties.
This then brings us to two issues. The first one is the splitting of votes and the second one is the question around the effectiveness of having numerous small political parties.
The splitting of votes
The reality is that having numerous parties will only split the opposition vote come election time. This is true, but it is only true to the extent that the electoral process itself is decent.
The reality faced by the MDC with regards to the elections:
- the MDC cannot win elections without taking part in the elections
- the MDC cannot win elections if the elections are not free and fair
This is a topic on its own that needs dedicated time. By virtue of participating in shambolic elections that are neither free nor fair, the MDC lends legitimacy to the electoral process. Zanu PF borrows this legitimacy at a very low-interest rate.
If the MDC chooses not to lend legitimacy to the electoral process, Zanu PF will proceed to obtain a replica of that legitimacy from the numerous “little Zanu’s” and “fake MDCs” that they have created over the years. The elections themselves can never be sanitized enough without a real credible opposition.
Procedurally, Zanu PF can conduct those shambolic elections and continue to rule the country as they wish.
If the election question is out of the equation, only to be brought forward when electoral reforms are in place, then the issue of dilution of votes exits in the equation, only to be brought back when a genuinely free and fair election is on the cards.
Elections are thus irrelevant in the absence of political reforms. We therefore cannot talk about the splitting of votes if there are no electoral reforms.
The Question around the effectiveness of numerous small parties.
The picture painted by Hollywood and now Netflix movies is that the bigger and bulkier guy can lose a fight where flexibility and thought matter more than bulkiness. In the absence of numbers needed for the ballot box, being heavy and bulky becomes a disadvantage. Being small, nimble, and flexible becomes an advantage.
The issue plays around the objectives. The principal objective of the political struggle becomes electoral reforms instead of winning elections. With this objective in mind, the revolution does not need to be centralized, bulky, heavy, with masses rallying behind one party.
Ubiquity is precious. The revolution now needs to take a new form. It needs to be everywhere, thus the focus on decentralization. It needs to be ban-resistant, thus the focus on having numerous small parties emerging everywhere like mushrooms, carrying out the Lord’s work of freeing the people from political bondage.
It needs to be spontaneous, thus numerous autonomous parties, that make decisions autonomously without consulting a head office somewhere. The revolution needs to be cojoined with the people in local communities, thus smaller localized political parties would do the work as opposed to branches of the big party in Harare.
People in Gwanda should not always wait on the decisions made by Nelson Chamisa of the MDC at Harvest House in Harare with regards to the way forward for demanding political freedoms. They need a party in their region, that they can identify with. A party that can swiftly take on the Zanu PF there and the state’s machinations.
The idea is to have numerous forces at play. Nhimbe. Mushandirapamwe. If protests are the instrument to demand change, then it should be protests everywhere by numerous parties. Action across the country, not just in Harare CBD. This is the best way to demand change. The demand needs to be everywhere. It needs to be decentralized.
Make no mistake, the centralized demand for change and political freedoms is great. A million men marching to Harare CBD is a sight to watch. It has a psychological effect. However, the regime knows how to deal with that. The regime knows how to stop that from happening. The regime knows how to stop it once it starts and how to clean up afterward.
The regime doesn't know how to handle granular protests. The regime doesn't know how to stretch itself. The regime might not even have the coordination capacities that we think it has in terms of managing a nationwide political crisis.
Centralized movements are easy to contain. You simply put a basket in front of them and they fall into that basket. “Dzinowira mutswanda dzega”.
Decentralization of the movement across political parties avoids the “falling into the basket” event. If the troublesome grains “nhinhi” are scattered all over the place, the regime will have a hard time trying to put all of them in a basket.
Decentralizing the political struggle is effectively taking the struggle back to square one. It seems like regressing backward, but it is effectively progressing because at this point in time the struggle actually needs to go back to the grassroots, to the foundation, and restart the whole thing. The struggle needs to adopt a new form that is consistent with the challenges being faced today. The struggle needs to be dynamic and responsive to the environment rather than being static in structure.
The political struggle has to be resilient and stubborn. That resilience can profitably be built into the movement through decentralization. A difficult encounter at one point or by one party does not bring the entire revolution to a standstill as other parties continue to exist. The resilience is collective.
Suppressing decentralized movements will require a ton of resources. It won't be easy. Localized successes in regions and towns will drive the population into a “yes we can” mode. If Nkayi is freed politically, with freedom of expression becoming the order of the day within Nkayi, then the people in Murombedzi will be optimistic that they too can also free themselves from the Zanu PF youth groups and militias. They can free themselves from living in fear. These political goals have higher chances of being attained when the people are not organized as MDC. Any other party name, relevant to that area would do.
A decentralized political struggle will give the security and intelligence services a good run for their money. They will have to hire more CIOs, further stretching the state’s budget and further reducing the junta’s ability to prolong reforms. The security-military complex will have to occupy the entire country, effectively putting the country under extreme military control typical of a country in war. This will expose the electoral process for being shambolic. The emphasis on electoral reforms will even be louder across the country and beyond its borders.
If the regime calls for elections, protests everywhere should be the order of the day. People demanding political reforms across the country. Protests every day leading up to the fake election day. Protests during the election and after. The election itself should be turned into an impossibility, which makes it very difficult for the usual SADC and EU sanitizers (also known as Observers) to sanitize.
Without a proper election in place, we will be effectively under a military dictatorship. This is necessary. It is indeed necessary for the regime to be exposed for what it is. Without a sanitized government, it will be difficult for the regime to be viewed as legitimate, internally and externally. This will lend credibility, internally and externally, to the calls for electoral reforms.
The centralized movement appears to have stability because of the centralized control. The reality is that the “stability” is a mirage. The movement is not stable at all. It appears stable when it's not under a test. It becomes very fragile when the core (the center) is tested. This is because fragility is built into that system by the very nature of putting all the eggs in one basket at the center. The stability is assumed. It's not real.
Time and time again, we have witnessed the MDC as a party in the driving seat of the revolution, being rocked at the core, and each rocking at the core results in the party almost becoming extinct or existing in a somewhat reduced form, and then take some time to rise again.
The democratic movement, which is synonymous with the MDC goes through the gyrations that the MDC party goes through. The core of the MDC continues to be rocked. It shall continue to be rocked, either by external interference or by natural differences. The democratic movement, however, does not necessarily have to go through the same. It doesn't have to be so.
The people of Zimbabwe, who are interested in attaining political freedoms need to diversify the efforts. The eggs have to be spread across several baskets. Viewed in its entirety, the sum of those efforts and baskets will be more stable than when they are all invested in one basket that has a center that cannot hold.
Centralized movements appear to have better organizational capacities with regard to resource mobilization. This is true with respect to financial resource mobilization but not so true with respect to human resource mobilization. Decentralized movements, which are usually localized, have a higher capability of mobilizing human resources. At this point in time, for Zimbabwe, human resources are needed more than financial resources. Financial resources will be required for centralizing efforts come election time (after attaining electoral reforms). Even then, human resources will still supersede financial resources. Some politicians with very high capacities to mobilize financial resources occasionally try to use financial resources to “buy” human resources. Those efforts don't always work because the strategy is not sustainable. “Paid” voters, “paid” demonstrators, and “paid” youths do not sustain the revolution.
The idea is to avoid building fragility into the revolution, by default.
The key however is to centralize under The Alliance come election time. Before we get to that, we have to fight for the electoral reforms first.
The Coordination Problem
Decentralizing the political struggle obviously granularizes and defragments the movement into numerous smaller parts.
To achieve a common goal, nationally, one way or the other, these smaller autonomous parties have to be coordinated in some way.
Coordination is a big word.
It is difficult to coordinate efforts and events when you have numerous small parties that hold fundamentally different ideologies. Ideologies will range from the far left to the far-right including the centrists. Anarchists, successionists, and devolutionists will also form part of the whole.
Where coordination is required and necessary it will be a very big challenge, especially when the regime has given in to the electoral reform demands.
Wrap-Up: Political Revolution
The context in which the decentralization of the political struggle exists is that of a Political Revolution. The electoral reforms also exist within this context. A political revolution seeks to fundamentally change the way politics is done. It seeks to change the system.
Decentralization is not a long-term solution. Centralization is. However, decentralization is the temporary tactical solution to get the revolution to firstly win and then get back to long-term strategic centralization.