By REASON WAFAWAROVA
Zanu PF was not always a propaganda machine. In its formative years and those that followed it was a party that represented the people, stood for the people and was supported by the people. The people were always central to the agenda and policies of the party. Off late purges, and bitter power struggles have become agenda ‘uno’, and there is a clear pervasion of the revolution. In his latest submission, Respected columnist Reason Wafarova asks and answers the hard question? Is Zanu PF ‘The people’s party?’ or ‘the leader’s party?’
From its formation ZANU-PF has always been known as the people’s party, and this did not start as a mere propaganda statement by people striving for political support. It was a resultant definition emanating from how the party connected with the people from its formative stages as a nationalist movement.
There are always incidents in the lives and careers of leaders that become defining moments for their leadership. The identity and legacy of leaders in the perception of followers, the general public, and historians will always hinge on those rare defining moments.
After the tragic death of Chairman Herbert Chitepo on the 18th of March 1975 the connection between the leadership and the led in ZANU was in tatters, and it took that defining moment in 1977 when a lasting connection was established between the guerrillas and one Robert Mugabe.
That connection was to be consolidated when ZANU-PF won the inaugural election that led to majority rule in 1980, and again the connection between the leadership of the then Prime Minister Mugabe and the people of Zimbabwe was unmistakable, as was that of ZANU-PF itself and the generality of the population.
The leadership of the time shook hands with the people, embraced the villagers, listened to the people’s grievances, thanked the people for their support, and in turn the people’s spirits were always lifted by the mere presence of leaders from the newly elected ruling party.
At that time ZANU-PF had a leadership that understood that the heart comes first in all human relations. When it comes to working with the people, the heart must always come before the head. It is only in power politics and in tyranny where the head comes before the heart, where the triumphant shenanigans of heartless charlatans will determine the course of events in a party that is supposed to be owned by the people.
It does not matter that one is communicating with a stadium full of people, leading a small team of say, some provincial executive committee, or even relating to a single party member; the essence of any such relations is always that the heart must come before the head.
People do not want to hear dry statistics or loads of facts or propaganda, or even personal accolades of leaders. They would rather the speaker engaged them on a human level, a leader who connects with them on an emotional level. That is just the nature of humanity.
It is sad that we hardly have any effective leadership in ZANU-PF today, and this is simply because today the party is led by people with zero connection with the people. The law of connection demands that before success a leader must of necessity touch people’s hearts before asking them for a hand or for their vote. All great leaders are always cognisant of this truth and they act on it instinctively. One cannot move people to action unless they first move them with emotion.
What we are witnessing today is this culture where ZANU-PF is running on patronage energy, a culture that allows unelectable people to rise into leadership because those already in leadership lift up their sorry hand. Instead of connecting with the people or the electorate, some in leadership secured their posts through connections to the powerful. This is a telling indictment for democracy.
This culture has bred the power struggles that have introduced a culture of purging in ZANU-PF – this barbaric intolerance where think alikes will always seek to eliminate those who do not share their views and political preferences.
In the run up to the just ended ZANU-PF annual national conference, party leader President Robert Mugabe bemoaned the abuse of the “vote of no confidence” phenomenon in the party, and told party members to desist from settling political differences through unorthodox purging of opponents.
It does not appear like the counsel had any takers, if post conference happenings are anything to go by. Of course those persisting with the purging of personal enemies vow that they have unwavering respect and indisputable loyalty to the man who instructed them to stop the mischievous practice.
Power struggles are never matters of the heart. They are always matters of the head, preferred by heartless people in politics, shrewd and ambitious charlatans whose sole obsession is power for its own sake.
Gone are the days when ZANU-PF was driven by leaders with remarkable ability to connect with the people and move their hearts. The party used to have leaders that would make people cry, curse, and feel colonialism – leaders through whom people could live freedom and independence.
It does not matter it is a crowd or just an individual, true leadership will always prioritise connecting with the follower. But today we have this self-centered leadership that expects the people to seek to connect to them for the reward of benevolence.
Those who pride themselves in the knowledge of politics must be reminded that in the real world people do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.
Credibility is a product of connecting with the people and showing them some care and willingness to serve them.
Defeating your opponents in politics might give you political power, but it can never on its own give you credibility, not until you connect with the people.
ZANU-PF is a people’s party and must be returned to the people before it loses its connection with the masses – the very lifeline of the party itself.
It is a revolutionary party that has always been driven by people-oriented policies. Such policies as mass education; health for all, land redistribution, and indigenisation have always been an expression of care, and they have always defined the party’s connection with the people.
But it takes a lot more than mere policy to connect with the people. We have seen seemingly competent politicians who stand in front of a rally and all they see are voters or supporters. Great leaders stand in a stadium full of tens of thousands of people and they see tens of thousands of individuals with tens of thousands of individual needs and aspirations.
I am a writer and I write from my soul. What I write is me. This is how I connect with my readers. If I pretended to be someone else, my critics and detractors would easily unbalance my world. The same applies to leaders. A true leader must first and foremost connect with himself or herself.
People do not heed the call of an uncertain trumpet driven by mere ambition. People have a natural way of identifying a leader who is confident and who believes in himself, and that is the way they identify genuine charisma. Equally they know the material that makes up pretenders and charlatans.
True leaders communicate with openness and sincerity. Any politician who believes in winning the hearts of people through cookie-cutter propaganda fools himself or herself. People regardless of their level of education will always smell a phony from a mile away, even if they might pretend otherwise. No one can feign integrity and honour. These are earned and never contrived.
True leaders will always endeavor to know their audience, not what we see in this nefarious culture where newly elected politicians expect the audience to adjust to their own personal whims. A true leader will speak to what his followers care about, not just what he or she cares about.
A true leader lives their message, do as they say, and practice what they preach. This is where credibility comes from, and there is no other way it can be contrived. Most of our leaders love to say one thing to us, but do something else. Of course they will not last.
It is important that a leader in communicating with the people realises the need to attune to the culture, background, education, aspirations, and needs of the audience. A true leader goes to where the people are when communicating, and will not expect the people to come where he is.
A true leader must focus on the people, not on himself and his cronies. We all know how desperate some of our leaders become when it comes to efforts to try and impress us. They brag about their achievements and they demean and deride others as underachievers or failures, all in the hope that their own star may be seen as the shining one.
This other day I listened to this other ZANU-PF politician ranting in front of an audience about how he was ready to deal with undisclosed enemies, and he sounded like a wrestler trying to scare away an opponent just before a match. You do not come to a political rally to settle your personal scores with perceived enemies right in front of an audience that has given you the locus standi of a leader. The focus must be on the audience, not on yourself.
It is one thing to communicate to people because you believe you have something of value to say, and it is another thing altogether to communicate with people because you believe the people have got value.
People’s opinion on leadership has less to do with what they see in a leader than it does with what the leader can help them see in themselves.
People are not going to gain much in seeing or hearing the brilliance of a learned politician, but in seeing how that brilliance translates into benefits in their own lives.
The role of true leadership is to offer direction and hope to the people. People expect leadership to help them get where they want to go. Any leader that takes away the hope of the people rules by tyranny.
True leadership creates hope in people, and as Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “Leaders are dealers in hope.”
We cannot create in our people any meaningful measure of hope when all they see in us is a leadership obsessed with power fighting, factionalism, sectarianism and unbridled ambition.
Zimbabwe we are one and together we will overcome. It is homeland or death!!
• REASON WAFAWAROVA is a political writer based in SYDNEY, Australia
(This article first appeared on Reason Wafawarova’s Facebook Profile. Our section ‘Reason On Thursday reproduces and shares the articles, comments and views as published by Reason through his public platforms.)
Editor’s Note: Reason Wafawarova is Zimbabwe’s most respected, fluent, well researched, grounded, and appreciated columnist and political writer. He is both loved and hated, respected and loathed, revered and accused. There is no greater sign of candidness in a political writer than such an ability, to stir extremely opposite reactions from all over. It is for that reason (pun intended) we have decided to republish his content for your enjoyment. We have no doubt his views will stir intense debate, and discourse.