“Creative Destruction” or Apocalypse for Zanu PF?
Alex T. Magaisa
“Creative Destruction” is a ground-breaking notion championed by free-market economist Joseph Schumpeter in his description of the evolutionary process of capitalism. It has gained currency over the years to describe the manner in which a capitalist economy evolves. The capitalist is obsessed with accumulation of wealth and in order to do so more effectively, the capitalist must remain competitive. One of the chief mechanisms of achieving this outcome is innovation. And while innovation brings new and better products, it also involves the demise and extinction of the old. Thus in very simple terms, perhaps too simplistic, in order to build, there must be some destruction. The gain that comes with innovation is accompanied by pain that attaches to the demise of the old.
Adherents to this reasoning would point to the demise of the old postal industry upon the invention of the internet and mobile telephone. They would point to the innovation in smartphones and the growth of giants such as Apple and Samsung with the decline and pain caused to the old pioneers, such as Nokia. The examples are too many but the principle remains the same – that in the ever-present search for profit, capitalist businesses have be innovative and that causes pain that is felt by the old system and everything attached to it.
Hence the paradox inherent in the term, Creative Destruction – that in creating, there is also some form of destruction; that is the gain, there is also some pain. Of course, economists have grappled with this for years and it is not my station nor is it within my means to interrogate this phenomenon. I only seek to apply it, if superficially and simplistically, in respect to our analysis of the situation presently obtaining in Zanu PF and indeed, Zimbabwe itself.
Is Zanu PF simply facing apocalypse or is it undergoing its own form of Creative Destruction? Those who are more sympathetic will hope it is merely the latter while those with little favour will be hoping that it is facing total demise. All this because of the rupture that has occurred in the wake of the First Lady, Grace Mugabe’s unprecedented call for the resignation of Vice President Joice Mujuru and apparent endorsement of her rival, Emmerson Mnangagwa.
For a long time, it has been known that Zanu PF was divided between two factions: one led by VP Mujuru and another, led by Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa. Yesterday, Grace Mugabe declared her choice between the two. As she made her scathing call for Mujuru to resign, Grace Mugabe implored her listeners to “respect” Emmerson Mnangagwa, the clearest indication yet, of her preference. We had already known by her previous pronouncements, that she absolutely hated Joice Mujuru, whom, in a manner that is decidedly undignified, she has called all sorts of names in recent weeks. We suspected that she preferred the rival Mnangagwa faction. Yesterday, she confirmed it.
It has become obvious that the two factions cannot co-exist in Zanu PF, certainly not without the unifying hand of their Capo, President Mugabe. It is either one of them takes over while the other submits or otherwise quits. Either way, it is fair to say that Zanu PF will never be the same again after this episode.
Optimists, will argue that it will be a renewed Zanu PF that emerges from this. They will aver that while those who lose out and suffer the pain of oblivion will represent the “destruction” in the “creative destruction”, nevertheless, those who remain and the entity they will take with them, will be a better innovation, capable of confronting future challenges – the “creative” in the “creative destruction”. Whether or not this will be an accurate representation, will depend on the amount and quality of the old structure that is lost in this current process and the extent to which it is prepared to fight to retain its place.
And while it appears that the Mujuru faction is facing total annihilation, we must also be less hasty in forming that judgment. So far, the anti-Mujuru faction has been the beneficiary of a “shock and awe” approach to the war and the fact that it is in control of the bulk of the media apparatus in Zimbabwe. Therefore, it has enjoyed the benefit of the propaganda, which, in many ways, has painted a picture of near-total destruction of the Mujuru faction, presenting it as corrupt, dirty and clueless.
We wrote earlier on these pages of the power that is drawn from controlling the information structure, represented more starkly by the State media, which is controlled by the anti-Mujuru faction http://newzimbabweconstitution.wordpress.com/2014/10/21/state-media-abuse-in-zimbabwe-different-faces-same-old-tactics/. Using the media, the anti-Mujuru faction has so far been able to set the agenda, to plant ideas in the minds of the people, to shape public opinion. It has been able to control what Zimbabweans consume by way of news and information on what is happening. And that serving has, quite naturally, been positive for them. It represents a relationship of domination and dominance.
By contrast, the Mujuru faction has hardly been visible in the media except when it is being attacked. When they do appear in The Herald, it is because they are being singled out and attacked by The Herald – the chief hound that is sniffing out, barking at and biting every perceived opponent. Indeed, if you want to know those who are suspected to be with Mujuru, you only have to look for who in Zanu PF is being attacked by The Herald and other state media – so far, Didymus Mutasa, Cephas Msipa, Rugare Gumbo, Simon Khaya Moyo, Temba Mliswa, Ray Kaukonde, Karikoga Kaseke, Paul Chimedza, Amos Midzi, Tendai Savanhu, Jabulani Sibanda.
Control of the media has given the world the impression that the Mujuru faction is in disarray and that they are finished. But this may be premature. As the old adage goes, until the lion learns to tell its own version of events, the tales will always glorify the hunter who tells them.
The one area from which we have not heard any signal so far, but is an area of critical significance, is the military. My observation over the years is that the military represents perhaps the most critical source of power in Zimbabwe. It has been the decisive difference between Zanu PF and the opposition over the years, principally because the military has declared its alignment to and support for Zanu PF and strong dislike for the MDC. The military generals made it very clear that they would never support Tsvangirai by dismissing anyone without liberation war credentials. It is widely believed that it was the military that rescued Mugabe after his defeat to Tsvangirai in the March 2008 elections. It also played a crucial role in the July 31 election after strident resistance against reforms.
The last time Zanu PF installed its leader, in the mid-1970s, Mugabe became President courtesy of a putsch led by a group of guerrilla commanders following the Mgagao Declaration. He has never relinquished his position since that time. The soldiers who now lead the military come from that generation in which there was no real separation between the military and civilian leaders, and the military had a key role in the selection of civilian leaders.
It is reasonable to suspect that the military generals still see themselves as having a role, albeit one they would like to play outside the public glare, to influence the succession question in Zanu PF, with which they remain tightly aligned. It will be critical, therefore, to know where the military leaders stand on this issue. It is not inconceivable that there is a division of opinion, as we have seen in the political organs pf the party and the war veterans, where leaders have a preference for one of the two factions. It is this possibility of a clash of opinions in the military that can be a source of high risk and danger, which is why the succession issue in Zanu PF is not only a matter of national interest but one of national security as well. It’s fair enough, even if it’s ugly, if politicians trade words against each other but an entirely different matter when it draws in the military. Which is why Grace Mugabe’s casual reference to Defences Forces chief, General Constantine Chiwenga in her speech yesterday, was yet another indication of recklessness, unless, of course, the idea was to inform the Joice Mujuru, that the General was on her side to the extent that she could take liberties with his name like that in a speech of such political gravity.
This is certainly one of the most interesting and fascinating episodes of our politics. Zanu PF, the party that has dominated politics in Zimbabwe for a generation, is undergoing its most defining process since independence – one that optimists will hope is at worst, only of the “creative destruction” type and, while there will be serious pain – both temporary and permanent for those facing the chop – that nevertheless, what will emerge will be a stronger political party. Zanu PF’s opponents, meanwhile, will be hoping it is facing its apocalypse. My view is that a judgment of apocalypse is more hopeful than real, precisely because Zanu PF first did what Kenneth Kaunda’s UNIP failed to do in Zambia – it forced its way into remaining in power during this period of upheaval, while UNIP imploded and disintegrated after it lost power in 1991. Zanu PF could not have afforded to undergo this type of fight outside the chambers of power. Still, things might have been better-handled, with both Mwalimu Julius Nyerere (Tanzania) and Nelson Mandela (South Africa) and Joachim Chissano of Mozambique after them, providing precedents on how to handle succession without causing too much pain and threat to the security of a nation.