Although the dust has barely settled following last month’s presidential and parliamentary elections in Zimbabwe, it would be remiss of us as South Africans not to consider the clear and palpable similarities between the political climate in Zimbabwe and that of our beloved SA.
By Mmusi Maimane
Indeed, while there is much to learn from our northern neighbour, there is also much to avoid if we are to fulfil the dream of 1994, to be a united, nonracial and prosperous beacon of hope on the African continent.
Since their own liberation 14 years before ours, Zimbabwe has been under uninterrupted executive rule of the political party most closely associated with its own liberation Struggle – Zanu-PF.
While the initial years of Zanu-PF governance showed promising signs of real progress, the party quickly became what liberation movements across the continent eventually become. Grand corruption, elitism, nepotism, poverty and ever-growing economic and social inequality became the order of the day.
And with each passing day, as the material conditions for ordinary Zimbabweans continued to deteriorate, institutions of state were captured and undermined.
The entire constitutional order then became the target of direct attacks by government and Zanu-PF. “Big Men” politicians cemented their places in power, and for them, the riches of the state are the spoils of war. Jobs, tenders, land, power – they feel entitled to it all.
To this point, the parallels between SA and Zimbabwe are self-evident. We have the same Big Men, just with different names.
The same new elite who quickly discovered that the state is their ticket to wealth, and where patronage pays far better than honest public service.
This is why the future of Zimbabwe, the future of SA, lies in post-liberation politics. The greatest test of a modern democracy is the peacefully transition of power from one political party to another.
The majority of citizens in both countries have not been quick to dispose of the party of liberation, and predictably so. Both the ANC and Zanu-PF still have a massive stronghold on emotive patriotism in both SA and Zimbabwe, respectively. And both countries are trapped in what is in essence a one-party state.
For many, the possibility of governance outside of the ANC is just beyond the scope of conscious imagination. The same goes for Zimbabwe and the Zanu-PF.
But recently we witnessed recent shifts in polls and voting patterns in both countries which indicate that patience is wearing thin, and electoral support waning. The removal of Jacob Zuma, like the removal of Robert Mugabe, was not about change. It was about the entrenchment of rule by liberation movements that have past the point of no return.
For Mugabe, Emmerson Mnangagwa was good enough as vice-president for almost three years. That was until the impending electoral threat. Similarly, Cyril Ramaphosa was happy to run for leadership on Zuma’s ticket in 2012 and serve as his deputy for over three years.
For ordinary South Africans, nothing has changed. It is the ANC and its long-standing practices and policies that have left almost 10 million unemployed, half the nation in poverty and an economy on its proverbial knees.
Despite this façade of change, the economic direction of SA – much like Zimbabwe – remains the same.
It is up to us to untie ourselves from the identity that these liberation movements have very deliberately coupled to the people. We are not Zanu-PF or the ANC, and Zanu-PF or the ANC are not us.
The late Morgan Tsvangirai once quipped that in order to advance, we must liberate ourselves from the liberators. Because in truth, the liberators of yesterday are the oppressors of today. –
Mmusi Aloysias Maimane is a South African politician, the leader of South Africa’s opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) and this article was first published by The Soweto