Reports are reaching me that last minute efforts are afoot to change the nominations for the Presidium. At the very moment when we should be trying to bury the bitterness that has been engendered by the party provincial elections we seem determined to resurrect it. This would be a real disaster, not simply because it would be re-opening wounds that might otherwise start to heal but also because the only alternative candidates under consideration would be even worse for the party than the current line-up. It appears that President Mugabe himself may be the one who is trying to effect these last minute changes, possibly under pressure from others.
We are not going to regain the initiative by nominating Didymus Mutasa for the party chairmanship in place of Simon Moyo Khaya Moyo as is being suggested in some quarters. The only thing that can possibly recommend Mutasa to Mugabe is his unquestioning loyalty. He is a man who does not even have the support of his province - although he likes to see himself as the leader of the Manyikas, he is not popular there. And he is even less popular in the country at large - the people hold him in no small part responsible for Operation Murambatsvina. And since then he stated publicly that Zimbabwe would be better off with fewer people - therefore it would not matter if a few thousand died of hunger. It is incredible to think that our leadership might possibly have become so far removed from reality that that they should even contemplate having such a man leading the party. If he were from ZAPU, there might at least be some rationale given the long-standing convention of having a ZAPU man in the party chairmanship. If the factions in the party were now competing to alienate as many potential supporters as possible, they could scarcely choose a better candidate than Mutasa.
Sadly, the problems our party is facing stem largely from the fact that Mugabe himself remains at the helm. But even he realised after the March elections last year that the people no longer wanted him. Without the intervention of the security chiefs, the country might have avoided the violence and bloodshed of the presidential run-off that has so discredited us in the eyes of even our natural allies in Africa and Asia who had always stood by us in the face of an onslaught of criticism from the West. Liberation movements don't like to see their fellow liberation movements beating up their own people.
By allowing himself to be influenced away from the path his instincts told him to go down, Mugabe sacrificed his legitimacy and that of the party forcing him and them into signing the Global Political agreement and ulimately entering the inclusive government. Those same security chiefs have done everything possible to resist the implementation of the global political agreement that we as a party have signed up to and SADC has endorsed. They do not seem to understand that it is only through participation in - and ideally long-term domination of - the inclusive government that we can regain the intiative and our legitimacy in the eyes of the people. There is nowhere else for us to go as party - and if we are going to have any chance of winning at the polls next time round, we need to embrace implementation of the global political agreement sooner rather than later in order to secure a constitution that suits us. The longer we remain spoilers, the more we lose influence.
The theme chosen for the Congress, "United in Defence of our Natural Resources and People's Economic Empowerment", emphasises the right points provided the party can present a convincing programme to deliver. The fact is that the majority of the Zimbabwean people did not feel at all "economically empowered" at the time of last year's elections. As a result ZANU failed to emerge electorally empowered. The perception of the people was that the only people benefitting from the defence of our natural resources and the land redistribution programme were those people directly responsible around the President. The redistribution of land was long overdue but it has been done in a completely unplanned way. The vast majority of the farms in the country have rightly changed hands but not necessarily into the most deserving ones. Although there has been a distinct improvement in the economy since inflation has been brought under control, this has not filtered through much to the rural areas and the party is not as closely associated with that improvement as it should be. This is partly because we appear such reluctant participants in the inclusive government.
Equally the people do not see themselves as experiencing the benefits of the defence of our natural resources. Our security forces have been most visibly involved in the defence of our natural resources in places like Chiadzwa and what do they see there? They see plunder as the army and the police ride roughshod over the local population. It is not the lower ranks who are primarily to blame for this - it is their commanders who remain engaged in protecting their own interest rather than those of the wider population.
The sums of money generated by the trade of diamonds from the Marange area are thought to be enormous - millions daily. But who has seen the benefits? Not the local community, not central government, not even the party, which has had desperate difficulty raising the funds to cover the costs of the Congress. Today's Herald reports the frustration of the delegates with the poor administrative arrangements - one complained "we are being harrassed by the people who are supposed to be assisting us". Now delegates to the party congress are experiencing what many people in the country have been feeling in recent years. The people who have been most directly responsible for the well-being and security of the people are those who have made them feel most threatened, vulnerable and insecure.