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Zimbabweans Must Reclaim the Revolution

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Political events that have taken place in Zimbabwe in the past few months require that the masses in this beautiful country, endowed with massive natural and human resources, take ownership of the revolution. This article is a humble addition to the voices that have been calling for a return to the rule of law, the revival of the economy, and the true practice of democracy in Zimbabwe.

By Jameel Asani

The analysis is based on what we have seen playing out in our country – a rich ruling elite riding on the back of the impoverished masses to plunder the country’s resources. They have succeeded in doing this in the past 37 years since the country attained independence by using revolutionary rhetoric, violence and intimidation, and massive corruption that has created a ruling elite (class) which is extremely rich. It is clear that this ruling class has become insensitive to the suffering of the masses who have become impoverished by mismanagement of the country’s economy.

One of Africa’s foremost anti-colonial campaigners and revolutionary, Amilcar Cabral, and Liberation Theologian, Isasi-Diaz amongst many others have argued that, given the widespread prevalence of injustice in our world today, one has to choose; one is forced to choose. One cannot decide not to opt, not to choose. Options must be made: one cannot escape. The option for the oppressed cannot be put off; it is an urgent matter—a matter of life and death for two-thirds of humankind. Indecision and delay when it comes to the option for the oppressed and the impoverished are ‘‘as criminal as resolutely evil acts.’’ Indecision and delay bring enormous suffering and even death to the oppressed.

We cannot escape the reality of the situation in Zimbabwe. It has directly affected almost everyone in the country, except for the few in the ruling class and those connected to them. The people in the country are faced with high levels of unemployment and galloping inflation. Those in the diaspora live uncertain lives – home is always best. Our silence in the face of political games that seek to perpetuate the rule of this corrupt, insensitive class will lead us to certain destruction. It is time we demanded our revolution back. The liberation struggle was fought, not only by the fighters, but by ordinary Zimbabweans who supported it in different ways.

Our current situation calls for a change in our mind sets. We have allowed the exercise of this vertical power – from the top to the bottom – resulting in the creation of a corrupt leadership. We must now demand a horizontal leadership – one where the leader, being the servant is truly accountable to the people because we are at the same level. And where the leader fails, the people must have the power to remove that person. Instead we have seen the recycling of incompetent leaders who are kept in office on the basis of political patronage. The ‘leaders’ now decide for the people and turn around to claim that this is democracy.

We have a leadership that is now worse than the colonialists. It is not a leadership that inspire the people to move in a particular direction. Instead, it is a leadership that loves the material interests as we see in their lavish lifestyles from ill-gotten wealth. This is really sad because it goes against our philosophy as Africans – the spirit of Hunhu/Ubuntu. The masses are suffering at the hands of their own – a minority black ruling class violating human rights, exploiting the people beyond measure, arresting and killing people at will for opposing or disagreeing with them. How different is this from the colonial system?

Cabral felt that a key to the possibility of successful revolutionary socialism on the periphery lies in the post-independence role of the petty-bourgeoisie leadership of the nationalist movement. Will they be lured by the promises of neocolonialism into being satisfied with mere political independence? Will they merely use their political control to turn the state into a means of ruling class formation? If so, political independence will not bring true liberation defined as popular control of the forces of production. If the nationalist leadership simply acts on its own narrow class interest within the context of global capitalism, the petty-bourgeois class will preserve and reproduce itself as a privileged class, perhaps becoming a national pseudo-bourgeoisie. This is a strong temptation for the petty-bourgeoisie in that it allows them to retain positions and powers of leadership after a nationalist political victory. Social revolution, however, requires that the petty-bourgeois leadership of the independence movements commit a kind of “class suicide.”

Class suicide by the revolutionary petty-bourgeois leadership amounts to listening to its own revolutionary consciousness and the culture of revolution rather than acting on its immediate material interests as a social class. Although, Cabral proposed the notion of ‘class-suicide’ I believe in the Zimbabwean context we have passed the need for that. This ruling class must step aside.

A new leadership that is accountable to the people is needed as a matter of urgency. Zimbabwe needs servant, moral, transformational, and empathetic leadership. This is the only kind of leadership that will take the country out of our crisis. A crisis that has made us a laughing stock of the world.