Thursday, November 5, 2009

Dealing with Political and Generational Succession in Zimbabwe

By Kufara Gwenzi

Published in September 2002 (Updated in June 2008)

Where does political power and influence lie in Zimbabwe? How is the strategic centre of power and influence defined? How is power and influence or how should it be generated?

In the context of politics in Zimbabwe, ZANU PF as a former liberation movement and has been the liberation ruling party since 1980. It is still being led by those who participated in liberation struggle against colonialism and subsequently founded the new Zimbabwe. This can be called the ‘
liberation and founding generation’ (LFG). If President Robert Mugabe had outrightly won the March 29, 2008 election, the LFG would have continued to succeed itself. For fear of renewal, ZANU PF is in serious political and organizational paralysis and rigidity because the LFG are failing to comprehend or deal with generational and renewal imperatives.

The absence of a formal and well-planned natural progression of those who will take over after the ‘natural wastage’ of the LFG creates a risk of a threat to national security and national interests, if they are not defined partisanly.

The role of the “elders” has seemed to recede. The elders emerged as a political constituency as a consequence of Deng Xiaoping’s 1980s political reforms, which encouraged veteran leaders to retire from front-line leadership positions to make way for younger leaders. In the 1990s, the elders were composed mostly of veteran revolutionaries who together founded the CCP, endured the Long March, fought the Japanese after 1937 and China Kai-shek’s Nationalist government after 1945 and founded the People Republic of China (PRC). This group dominated the leadership in the 1950s and again in the 1980s after surviving Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

Their continuing influence was evident in the ubiquitous stories that circulated regarding their kibitzing in ongoing leadership deliberations. By the late 1990s, most of these leaders—including Deng himself—had passed from the scene. Today’s “elders” are largely “post-liberation and post-revolutionary” leaders who retired at the 1997 15th and 2002 16th Party Congresses.”- Chinese Leadership Monitor, No. 16, 2006.

Literally, the vanguard is a small troop of highly skilled soldiers that explores the terrain ahead of a large advancing army and plots a course for the army to follow. This concept is applied to the work done by small bands of intellectuals and artists as they open pathways through new cultural or political terrain for society to follow.

Politically, a vanguard is a small group of people at the forefront of a mass action, movement or revolution. The idea of a vanguard was developed by Vladimir Lenin because he believed that a mass uprising of the proletariat, without organization, would be too weak to stand up to counter-revolutionary mobilizations.

Writing in '
What is to be Done?', the political pamphlet first published in 1902, Vladimir Lenin explored the role of the "revolutionary vanguard" party. He argued that the role of the revolutionary vanguard is to nurture the appropriate awareness, and serve as the collective memory of the class - i.e., to help foster not only the class consciousness, but also the political direction, needed to foment proletarian revolution.

Vanguardism may more generally refer to cooperation between avant-garde individuals advancing in any field. In Zimbabwe, do we have a relatively small, loosely knit group of people with military and business background who can influence political behaviour, public policy formulation and decision making?

In the United States and other mature nations, this group is constituted by the nationalist bourgoisie in the corporate sector and those of military background. They control the principal players, institutions and whose opinions and actions influence the decisions of the political policymakers.

A Culture of Fraternal Apprenticeship

Related to the concept of vanguardism is Fabianism. The Fabian Society was founded in 1884 as an intellectual movement concerned with the research, discussion and publication of ideas by a group promoting non-Marxist evolutionary socialism i.e. center-left.

Fabians thought of themselves as a small elite group which would permeate the existing institutions of society, produce and influence the real leaders in all spheres of life, and guide social development toward its collectivist goal with the "inevitability of gradualness."

Fabianism was through-and-through managerial, technocratic and ‘plannist’. It is a philosophy of which was the inculcation of ideas is necessary to enhance individual character and eventually the broader society. An early Fabian publication wrote that they wished to be the ‘
Jesuits of Socialism’. The gospel was order and efficiency. According to Fabians, people should be treated kindly and should be run only by competent experts.

The Fabians were working towards a new world by indoctrinating young scholars who would eventually rise to power in various policy-making positions throughout the world by infiltrating educational institutions, government agencies, and political parties. Their strategy was called the "
doctrine of inevitability of gradualism," which meant that their goals would be gradually achieved. So gradual, that nobody would notice, or "without breach of continuity or abrupt change of the entire social issue." The secret was evolution, not revolution, or what Webb called "permeation."

The Fabians adopted the tactic of trying to convince people by "
rational factual socialist argument", rather than the "emotional rhetoric and street brawls" of the Marxist Social Democratic Federation. In fact, that's how they got their name. The name Fabian originated from the Roman Consul, General Quintus Fabius Maximus, the Cunctator (‘Delayer’), who through patient, cautious, delaying and elusive tactics, during the early phases of the Second Punic War (218-201 BCE), enabled the Roman army to regroup and defeat Hannibal’s stronger Carthaginian army.

Fabius Cunctator's strategy which was to guide the Fabians was summarized in Frank Podmore's words: "
For the right moment you must wait…when the time comes you must strike hard."

In military strategy, Fabian strategy is a strategy that seeks to buy time and wear down an enemy by carefully avoiding direct confrontation, pitched battles and decisive contests.

Graduates under the
Rhodes Scholarship are ideologically Fabians. They are also deliberately middle-class in composition and appeal. They were and are not for building any mass movement at all. Fabians, like Rhodes Scholars today, are a small group who permeate the existing institutions of society, influence the real leaders in all spheres, and guide social development.

The American
Federalist Society is a secretive legal association founded in 1982 by law students at the University of Chicago Law School and Yale University as a debating society from a conservative viewpoint in law school faculties. It is a network for right-wing lawyers to increase their influence in law schools and government through what is called “informal filtering role”. More than a third of the judges President George Bush has sent to Appeals Courts are members of the Federalist Society. That compares with zero for his predecessor, President Bill Clinton.

The Federalist Society is a well-oiled machinery out to remake the courts in the image of Robert Bork, the Republican Supreme Court nominee rejected by the Senate in 1987, who predicted that a new generation, "
often associated with the Federalist Society," would transform the legal profession:

It may take 10 years, it may take 20 years for the second wave to crest, but crest it will, and it will sweep the elegant, erudite, pretentious and toxic detritus of non-originalism out to sea," he said in a 1987 speech. Judge Bork now co-chairs the society's Board of Visitors with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) of Nevada, a member and former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Twenty years later, the organization designed to carry forward Bork's jurisprudence is trying to get access to the top courts in the country”.

It has also evolved into a powerful network for young conservatives looking for clerkships or jobs in Washington, fueling the buzz that one does not get a top legal job in government without a tie to the Federalist Society. "
Anyone who is ambitious knows you have to network," says political scientist Sheldon Goldman, who writes on judicial nominations at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. "With a conservative Republican administration in power, the Federalist Society is a wonderful opportunity to network."

Due to the strong influence of James Madison on the Society’s philosophy, the Federalist Society considers Madison to be their patriarch, hence the use of Madison’s silhouette as the Society’s official logo and took the name of Madison’s 18th-century Federalist Party as their own. Madison is generally credited as the father of the American Constitution and he became the fourth President of the USA.

In July 2005, the Federalist Society launched a state judicial selection project to try to dominate the state, as well as federal bench.

The Federalist Society is said to be simply the best-organized, best-funded, and most effective legal network operating in USA. Its rank-and-file includes conservative lawyers, law students, law professors, bureaucrats, activists and judges. They meet at law schools and function rooms across the country to discuss and debate the finer points of legal theory and substance on panels that often include liberals - providing friction, stimulus, and the illusion of balance.

The Society’s origins are traced back to 1979, a year before Ronald Reagan’s victory. A legal scholar named Michael Horowitz published a tract on the public-interest law movement, exhorting conservatives to overturn a half-century of liberal dominance of the legal establishment. This could be done, he wrote, by indoctrinating or winning over succeeding generations of law students, lawyers, and judges. By definition, the campaign had to be rooted in the fertile ground of law schools.

Horowitz’s concept was taken up with relish by senior members of the new Reagan Administration. They adopted a two-prolonged approach designed to ensure that the legacy Reagan would well outlast his Presidency.

The first, to reclaim the Federal courts from liberals, swept an array of conservative scholars and judges from law schools and state courts onto the Federal bench: the likes of Robert Bork, Ralph Winter, Antonin Scalia, Richard Posner, Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy.

The second track was even more forward looking and involved the apprenticing of a new generation of conservative lawyer-intellectuals-under-30 to the Reagan apparatus. This second track required fresh brains and hands, which is where the Federalist Society came in. The founding chapters of the Society were established at Yale, where Robert Bork taught before Reagan nominated him to the bench, and at the University of Chicago, where Antonin Scalia was faculty advisor and from whose ranks he would later recruit former student-Federalists to prestigious Supreme Court clerkships.

Relating to Zimbabwe's Circumstances

The people of Zimbabwe should be reminded that the concept of universal suffrage of ‘one person, one vote’ is convenient, BUT it is not central to the idea of selection and choice. It works at the level of endorsement. Hundreds determined fools can never win the day against one physically frail but wise old man. In fact, in Africa, the hundred fools would make a mob that needs close attention. Legitimacy is derived from essence of matter not numbers. Even if millions agree that ‘amai ngavaroodzwe’ (giving your mother away for marriage like a daughter), they will not have it their way.

Essence is the quality and character that gives something its unique identity from anything else. It is smoothing deeply intrinsic to and inherent in a thing or category of things.

To be systematic in bringing the young people in the political and public service fold is to ensure stability and continuity. Without a systematic approach, either the young people will be shut out or there will, in their desperation and anger ‘drive out’ the mature like we do when we are taking cattle out of the kraal.

Orderly succession and rejuvenation of the leadership’s ranks were major emphases in the political reforms Deng (Xiaoping) introduced in the early 1980s (in China). For that purpose, a new body adjunct to the party (higher leadership structures) was created at the 12th Party Congress in 1982, onto which aging party leaders could retire and still have a backbench voice in current leadership decision making.” –Chinese Leadership Monitor, No. 10. By 2004, all leaders above the age of 70 had retired.

Although the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) “is still predominantly a Leninist party state, which monopolizes all the most important posts in the government", the 2007 17th Congress Politburo’s members embody the “post-revolutionary” characteristics sought by Deng Xiaoping ( who ruled for 11 years as the Paramount Leader) in promoting Party leaders since the early 1980s—that they be “younger, better educated and more competent” replacing the revolutionary agenda of Chairman Mao (the founding leader of China who ruled for 9 years) of class warfare and egalitarian social transformation.

The party reasoned that if the social elites, the “bourgeoisie”, are not given political voices in the party itself, they have sufficient resources and skills to emerge as a political opposition to the regime. Therefore there must be the “bourgeoisie” to lead the way in China’s effort to become prosperous and powerful. (One wishes the Zimbabwean current political leadership reads this!) These have been suited for the progress of China’s modernizing reforms as underpinned by four pillars:

Age: since the 1990s, the Politburo has continued the pattern of electing leaders who on average are in their early 60s. A candidate for the post of CCP secretary-general should in his 50s.

Education: a trend set in the 1990s, the Politburo has continued to elect leaders possessing university degrees, largely of engineers and scientists.

Regional balance: since 2002, the Politburo membership has been balanced between leaders from the coastal provinces—the backbone of economic reform—and those in the interior.

Military experience: since the 1990s, the Politburo leadership has continued to be strongly civilian. (Chinese Leadership Monitor, Number 23, 2008)

Generational succession should involve inducting the young people slowly in an apprentice format. This is a deliberate generational succession policy based on clear principles. Succession should not as a replacement or wholesale handover, but gradual strategic continuity that connects the mature and the young. The retiring generation should continue to have some influence over the direction of the Party to avoid dramatic and inorganic political changes.

Organically managed generational succession, using the process of mentoring and censuring, allows strict vigilance against efforts to subvert the integrity of national interests. Ultimately, the highest office in the land is a straight jacket whose occupant is expected to observe, respect and appreciate the objectives of national interests and security.

Unmanaged succession creates the risk of problems arising out of political experiments, social raptures and convulsive political tensions. Unmanaged succession makes the State or national institutions partisan, vulnerable, weak and unstable.

There is need to clarify transition and succession policies to avoid unintended consequences.

Such an institutional approach will make a political party guard against the ‘Gorbachev Syndrome’. A historical journey to explain the ‘Gorbachev Syndrome’ will be helpful. In March 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev took over as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union following the death of Konstantin Chernenko. A year later, he launched the policies of ‘glasnost’ (the opening or liberalization of the political system) and ‘perestroika’ (economic restructuring and reform). He did so under pressure from the USA. This led to the ultimate collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991.

Nobody in his/her wildest dream ever imagined that within less than 5 years, Gorbachev would have administered the fragmentation and destruction of the Soviet Union.

We do not wish for a Stalinist Soviet political model in Zimbabwe, but to have a political system of a managed generational transition and succession process. For example, Gorbachev required reforming the Soviet Union Communist Party into a social democratic machinery, without having to destroy the Soviet Union.

We should learn from a smooth and carefully designed leadership, political and generation succession that occurred in China in November 2002. A key function of the Chinese Communist Party Congress (CPC) was to endorse the passage of power to the ‘
Fourth Generation’ i.e. the CPC leaders who were aged between 60-70 years, taking over from the ‘Third Generation’, aged 70 and above.

Thus anyone above 70 years of age was not eligible for election as a Central Committee and Politburo member.

Analysts said an orderly power transfer was an achievement of China since the older generation did so gradually and gracefully to maintain political stability and ensure continuity.

Therefore, it is not enough to have the manner of choosing a new leader of the Party stated in the Constitution. For example, that he/she should get the support of so many provinces or that he/she should be proposed by so and so. Such a constitutional provisions are simply procedural.

A succession policy should be both constitutional and value-driven. It should adequately address ‘What’ and ‘Why’. It should also inform what basis should be used to settle on a particular person.

The incumbent should not shy away to indicate his/her preference without coercing members to support his/her preference.

A party that does not reproduce itself generationally faces extinction and has itself to blame. UNIP of Zambia and KANU of Kenya are telling examples of how not to do it, while Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) of Tanzania is a typical example to follow with customized variations. KANU and UNIP are no more because they failed to re-new and re-generate themselves across generations.

From being the ruling nationalists parties in Zambia and Kenya, both UNIP and KANU, are shadows of themselves. They are not even meaningful opposition parties by themselves.

Succession is “
the act or process of following in order or sequence”. HOW do we ensure that leadership is not hereditary but “elected” in a way without an open and messy opposition, and after months in which significant power brokers manufacture “consensus”?

Succession and the choice of a person to lead should be guided by the following principles:

i. A sound consensus-building process, especially behind the scenes involving inclusiveness of internal competing interests.
ii. Fresh impetus, i.e. the creation of a renewed governance and policy formulation.
ii. Popular endorsement of the candidate who would have gone through the consensus.
iii. Consolidation of national interests and security, and a well grounded social market economy.

There is a very strong argument that politics and the economy would benefit from some fresh blood every 5-10 years. New leadership provides the opportunity for the nation-state to take stock and change tact under new leadership and be rejuvenated with a different but 'safe' hand.

Tanzania had its independence in 1961 and has had 4 presidents giving an average of 12 years for each president; Malawi (1964) 3 giving an average of 15 years; Zambia (1964) 4 giving an average of 11 years; Namibia (1990) 2; South Africa (1985) 3 giving an average of 7.6 years; Botswana (1966) 4 giving an average of 10.5 years; Kenya (1963) 3 giving an average of 15 years.

From 1949, China has had 6 presidents, thus an average of 10 years. The longest serving was Deng Xiaoping who held supreme power for 27 years roughly from 1978 to 1989 without officially holding the top political office. Thereafter, China has been on a roller coaster of renewal and Africans do not seem to learn from he hindsight of available experiences.

Zimbabwe still has one president in the 28 years it has been independent and anyone who may wish to compete with the only one, is considered as an imperialist agent.

A rigid political environment suffocates innovation and excellence for both the public and private sectors!

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