Zim’s mounting political volatility!

FOUR critical events have transpired in the last one week which reflect the possibility of the existence of a phenomenon known as “State deconstruction”.

By Allen Hungwe

mnangagwaState deconstruction, though applied in different contexts and meaning different things at different times, can apply in the current Zimbabwean situation.

In this case, State deconstruction reflects the fragmentation of a once unitised State.

As I have highlighted in the last two or so weeks, the emergence of President Robert Mugabe as leader of ZANU-PF in 1977, was instrumental in how the State became constructed after independence.

His centralised control, his political charisma and his capacity to merge the political and military organs of the party and State under his single leadership and loyalty, all contributed to the construction of a unitised state, through tight centrality.

Ever since the heightened in-fighting, just before the December 2014 party congress, the unitary order has been challenged and continues to be.

Whilst many suspected that after that congress, the party would slowly move towards re-centralisation and consolidation of its unitary distinctive, this does not seem to be so.

Instead, the State is fast deteriorating towards an advanced stage of State deconstruction.

In the last few weeks, we have seen the topical issue of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)’s Constitutional Court bid to have criminal defamation struck off, exposing the fractures in the State functionary approach.

Whereas the Attorney General’s Office, in opposing MISA’s bid, which cited Jonathan Moyo (the Minister of Information) as respondent, filed opposing papers on Moyo’s behalf, he disowned any such stance in his capacity.

Instead the “good old” Professor indicated that he was indeed opposed to criminal defamation.
As much as this discontent raised signals around the fractures in the unitary manner in which the State, under ZANU-PF rule, has been known to discharge its monopoly, further questions were posited around the exposition of continued factional tussles within the party, which by default is also the State.

Some quarters blamed the boob on slime political set-up, meant to project Moyo as being opposed to what many would consider as progressive reforms of media laws.

Moyo has been on a roller coaster since his re-appointment to the Media Ministry in 2013, exhibiting openness for media reforms.

This boob, according to some, could have been intentional in order to throw doubt at his now escalated tag as the “media sector darling” given his dramatic turn from how he repressed the sector during his first tenure at the ministry in the early 2000s.

The question will remain; who within the State construction specifically benefits from soiling Moyo’s political profile?

Another example of State deconstruction has been reflected through the unfortunate disappearance of the “Occupy Unity Square” activist and journalist – Itai Dzamara.

His abduction can be mirrored with that of another civil society activist, Jestina Mukoko in 2008.
In contrasting the two abductions, some crucial questions emerge.

When Mukoko was abducted, the State’s response was uniform and there was less astonishment within the State functionary, than there was outside of the State.

Dzamara’s case has, however, been a paradox – with some of the State functionaries genuinely left dumbfounded and startled at what had transpired, against a tirade of suspicion that the State was again to blame, as had been with Mukoko’s abduction.

One, however, senses that there are so many questions that those in State power are asking themselves — one of which is; if the State is really to blame, then who among them could be responsible?

We have seen party heavyweights like Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa and ZANU-PF spokesman Simon Khaya-Moyo vehemently calling against Dzamara’s abduction and professing ignorance of what could have transpired.

Not that I want to absolve some in the State functionaries against this deed, but I sense some form of ignorance by some key players inside the State in terms of what is taking place and who could specifically be responsible.

The other case to note was the Maleme Ranch debacle in Matobo, Matabeleland South. After the ranch, which was being run by a Church-based organisation, and benefiting multitudes of local villagers, was taken over by Rodney Mashingaidze, an operative in the President’s Office, community resistance ensued.

For months there has been lobbying against this take-over with the local community taking centre stage in resisting this move by Mashingaidze.

Eventually, Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko announced, on March 15 that the take-over had been reversed.

This was a huge victory for “people power” against a background of a largely docile Zimbabwean population that has not exhibited such orderly courage in a long time.

This reversal is very uncharacteristic, but seems to have been driven by the State’s realisation of stirred-up mood of the Matobo community and therefore the need to sacrifice one of the State functionaries in order to give in to the people.

Now we also realise that Mnangagwa’s recent round-the-nation meetings meant to explain the new Constitution have also just turned political.

Some within the State construction are questioning why he is holding these meetings.
Despite being Minister of Justice, they are reading deep through the convulsions of ZANU-PF’s power-consolidation and faction-building antics.

All these signs are worrying and indicative of a fragmenting State construction — or the deconstruction of the State.

Many will assume that this fragmentation is temporary and soon enough the State will find its unitary ensemble, which has historically kept ZANU-PF firmly overshadowing the State and maintaining a centralised command structure.

It, however, seems that this fracturing is setting in deeply and will not be addressed easily.
It will likely bring about so much tension within the State that it may arrest any progressive State functioning.

Clearly, ZANU-PF has limited capacity to address this deconstruction soon, given the multiple angles and the complexity with which the deconstruction is taking shape.

The fear is that once State deconstruction takes place, two scenarios are possible.

One is when such deconstruction leads to each of the factional sides realising that their survival is by increasing levels repression against the other(s) and those on the outside, who may leverage on the eminence of State deconstruction.

The factions within the state will therefore aggressively compete to take charge of any repression machinery; to protect themselves from “enemies” within the State construction and outside.

The other option will be that; the battle within the State construction by the factions can become so intense that more focus will be targeted at each other with little attention on the external.

This will lead to internal State battles, unintentionally creating momentum and opportunities for forces outside of the State to revive their battle against the State construction.

Whichever way this evolves, State deconstruction will likely continue to persist, and it will trigger increased resistance from forces outside the State.

Whether State functionaries decide to capture and deploy State repression machinery against each other and those on the outside, or not; Zimbabwe seems headed for bitter political times ahead.

If ZANU-PF does not intently resolve current State deconstruction, which to some is a clear opportunity for the party’s self-destruct schema, then volatility may increase with dire political consequences. – This article was first published in the Fiancial Gazette

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