Friday, July 22, 2016

Zanu-PF: A Mean, Mass-mobilizing Machine
Thousands of zanu-pf youths gather at the revolutionary party’s headquarters in Harare on Wednesday for a Youth League inter-district conference. —(Picture by John Manzongo)

Tichaona Zindoga
Political Editor
Zimbabwe Herald

On Wednesday, Harare was presented with an unexpected spectacle: Thousands of Zanu-PF youths and supporters marched from the party’s Harare provincial office to the headquarters, bringing business along Jason Moyo Avenue to a standstill.

There are a couple of reasons why the march or demonstration was something of a spectacle.

By all means, this was a flash crowd — the way you would view flash floods (known from elementary Geography floods occurring “when excessive water fills normally dry creeks or river beds along with currently flowing creeks and rivers, causing rapid rises of water in a short amount of time (and) happening with little or no warning”.)

Nobody saw this coming and the least that was guessed was that the ruling party’s youth wing was due to hold a routine meeting.

But the youth wing masterfully paraded its numbers from Harare Province as a show of force on behalf of the party and its leader President Mugabe.

The second thing that made Wednesday incredible was that the current mainstream and social media had been clogged with the discourses around one Evan Mawarire and the so-called #ThisFlag “movement” he is fronting.

Mawarire is enjoying his moment in the sun as he is being feted in South Africa where, especially, the white establishment media have embraced him with both hands in the hope that he can be a blow to President Mugabe and the ruling Zanu-PF.

All of a sudden, a crowd — a huge crowd — appeared expressing support for President Mugabe and his policies, the very things that traditional opposition and its embryonic cousins are denouncing.

The development was hard to ignore with local and international media splashing pictures of the imposing crowd.

And it became an instant talking point, predictably.

There was a quick, lashing response on social media as the anti-President Mugabe netizens — who dominate the sphere — tried to come to grips with the unexpected tour de force.

The crowd was derided and scolded and condemned.

They were described as uneducated fools and idiots.

Some said the people had been bribed with, or lured by, the offer of residential stands.

What were they demonstrating against?

An attempt was also made to look as though this was a demonstration against Mawarire.

An analysis of the debate in the context of the bigger political dynamics of Zimbabwe will show a number of key things.

The first and biggest is that Zanu-PF is an effective mass mobilization machine.

The flash crowd witnessed on Wednesday is good enough testimony that the party can mobilize its supporters to rally behind a cause or a show of force.

Zanu-PF’s revolutionary pedigree is largely responsible for that.

Connected to this is the fact that most of the people, including the marchers on Wednesday, that constitute the organs of the party, are voters.

Zanu-PF is robust in recruiting, registering and directing its membership to vote and this has allowed it to command electoral numbers.

Contrast this with social media activists that artificially clog media discourse and opposition ranks.

The opposition in this country — largely the MDC-T — seems to be misled by social media noises and the support in urban areas that it often forgets that there are virtual not real people out there.

Additionally, it is a fact of life that there are people whose demographics differ from those of the urban dwellers and Diasporans whence the opposition draws support.

This brings us to another major factor of Zimbabwean politics.

The opposition, largely out of sheer naivety, has derided the so-called uneducated and idiotic people from the farms and countryside, who happen not to vote for it.

That the people in this demographic have a unique outlook based on historical and economic experiences, is lost to the opposition.

Columnist Bernard Bwoni captured this beautifully when he commented on the way the opposition had reacted to the overwhelming success of the Million Man March held at the end of May.

He reported that, the ruling party supporters were described as “stupid”, “a complete joke”, “mediocre”, “dull and dumb”, “blind and poor souls” and “crazy morons”.

He noted that there were also outrageous statements used such as “you should have said one million fools march”, “they are dumb to attend that stupid march”, “they were frogmarched and bused to the march” and “no sane person would attend such a march”.

He further noted that there were even unsparing remarks with such assertions as, “emaciated looks of the stupid marchers” and “poor skin pigmentation of crazy morons” being thrown about.

Bwoni noted that this is where the opposition loses it.

“The reactions from opposition officials and some of their members leave a sour taste and this points to an urgent need of a complete regeneration before they can attain the required standards required to govern.

“Those people who attended the march are adults who have the ability to think independently and make very independent decisions like all of us…

“Those people who were being described as “mediocre, foolish, silly” and many other epithets too colourful to print, are the same people who vote. Voters come in all manner of shades, shapes and physical appearances…This is an opposition that needs to start looking inwards to begin to understand their endless shortfalls when it comes to elections.”

He said the opposition separated itself from the poor and held itself to very different standards from them.

He concluded: “Those jibes thrown at the ordinary people of Zimbabwe, who chose to attend the march, exposes the opposition as seriously lacking in strategy to counter the dominance of the ruling party in Zimbabwe’s politics.”

One can also quickly call to mind how MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai once derided beneficiaries of land reform saying they were like mushroom.

Now these same new farmers have land to defend and they will vote for Zanu-PF.

Zanu-PF is giving youths residential stands and the same youths will have to defend the land that will be given them — even so with gratitude, what with all the desire in Zimbabweans to become landlords.

Lastly, one cannot help but recall how Tendai Biti was right when he said Zanu-PF won the elections in 2013 on the back of a simple message understood by ordinary people.

Biti is the former secretary general of MDC-T and leader of new party called People’s Democrats Party.

Come 2018, Zanu-PF is trusted to have yet another simple message, say “Munhu Wese NdiLandlord” (Everyone is a Landlord) in its push for the provision of housing stands.

On paper, that can give the party no less than 300 000 appreciative households and about a million voters.

And it is well known that numbers count in the game of politics.

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