By Kundai Marunya
As Zimbabwe heads for the first election without Mugabe since 1980, a change driven group of politicians has sprung forth.
There has been a large influx of (over 120) new political parties who have declared their interest in the council, senate, parliamentary and presidential seats. What most outstanding is the independent candidates most of whom are human rights activists, community and religious leaders.
These are the people who have been vocal and active in the fight for human rights, democracy, economic reform and the well-being of their communities. Some have been prosecuted and persecuted, and still fought on.
They are credited for making enough noise and fighting hard enough organising demonstrations and social media campaigns that eventually forced the military to intervene and oust the Mugabe ‘dynasty”.
This make up of independent candidates gives the nation hope of a new leadership that will be determined to fight in whatever positions they get elected into. It is opposed to many ill-educated and substandard political candidates that win their chance to run for office as a result of bootlicking and blind loyalty to leadership in their parties.
Loyalty costing the electorate
After attaining their respective office, in a fully funded party campaign, loyalty is maintained through threats of being recalled from whatever position you have been elected to by your organisation. And many of these threats were carried out in the current term of office with politicians in both the ruling party and opposition being recalled as a result of in fights or for being loyal to the ‘wrong faction’ as succession wars tore their leadership.
This resulted in many by-elections being held, costing the country the much needed finance that could have help ease operation in many under funded sectors, health and education included.
Linda Tsungirirai Musarira is one of the activists that once chose to join politics away from the red tapes and bureaucracy that comes with political parties; that is before she then decided to join the MDC-T breakaway function led by DR Thokozani Khupe.
A former labour activist and trade unionist at the National Railways of Zimbabwe, her decision came with many push factors. These include the need to address challenges ranging from economic disenfranchisement, state induced poverty, joblessness, inequality of opportunities and being marginalised by vicious cycles of exclusion.
She decided to stand up and influence positive change and sustainable human development in Zimbabwe.
A natural fighter who has stood up for hers rights and other people’s rights, standing true to her cause despite countless arrest, torture, prosecution and persecution, Linda has become a darling of her constituency, Harare Central.
“I was convinced by numerous Zimbabwean citizens residing in Harare Central to run for public office and represent them since the incumbent public officials had failed to provide the necessary representation and are only visible during the election period,” said Musarira.
Among the reasons of standing independent of political parties is the long standing issue of sexual harassment in the country’s main political parties. Many female politicians are known to ‘sleep their way to the top’ in a system that doesn’t freely give power to women.
“I realised there was no space for women in political parties and that women are just but tokens in political parties with no real power in regards to governance issues,” said Musarira.
“I also don’t subscribe to the politics of patronage, entitlement and bootlicking in our political parties in Zimbabwe which reward loyalty in the form of parliament and council seats and not on merit or capacity.”
For Rufaro Kaseke, a very vocal activist and celebrated filmmaker who is vying for the Zengeza Constituency parliamentary seat, being independent means he can do more for his community. Instead of investing his effort in intra-party fights, his energy will be focused on the betterment of his constituency. Because his campaign is self-funded, he is not to owe loyalty to anyone thus representing his people without fear of being recalled.
“As an independent I will be able to cut down the decision making process and work closely with the community”, he said. “I will take full advantage of the liberty to make decisions for the benefit of the community.”
The effectiveness of independent candidates has been well indicated in the case of Temba Mliswa, who after being recalled from ZANU Pf stood alone and was back in parliament. This time around he took the fight his former colleagues. He has been effectively raising issues to do with policy change while bringing to book injustice, abuse of office, government corruption and financial mismanagement.
Though independent candidacy may seemingly be an effective solution to political red tape, there is need to effect change in political parties. There is need to influence a new political culture in that is not based on patronage but merit, capacity and innovation is solving problems.
We need dedicated and committed statesmen who are driven by the desire to develop Zimbabwe not to loot for self aggrandisement.