Take time to understand those who you want to lead

As argued in the previous article, there is a worrisome dislocation of the Mthwakazi movement from its main constituency, Matabeleland. For a successful transformation of Mthwakazi, organisations will need to transform themselves. We need to actively unmask the conditions leading to that disconnect, and that would require taking time to understand the population we want to lead.

Ignorance has no place, arrogance needs to turn into humility. We need to appreciate that the public has no obligation to follow us if what we stand for does not even remotely reflect their needs, aspirations, their society and culture. First and foremost, our politics must seek to be compatible with the needs of the public, the relevant global changes, and the public must be intuitively at ease with our political systems and institutions.

However, the reality is that politics is values based, we will not always see things the same way, perceptions of challenges and solutions will differ; as such, compatibility is not always assured; this however, must not of itself be viewed as disastrous but an opportunity to devise decent ways of dealing with any incompatibility within our systems.

We may hold different views on different issues within Mthwakazi, but it is not beyond us to respectfully engage, and converge onto a constructive core understanding and work out mutual solutions. Inflexibility is not a good political stance from which to deal with difference. This is an opportunity for different Mthwakazi groups to set aside ideological differences and hold a dialogue in the interest of the public. There is no point attempting to outshine each other when the public hardly understands most of what we all stand for.

Harsh as it may sound, at present the would-be Mthwakazi leaders have lost the public because the public do not recognise what they stand for. Instead of following the leaders, the nervous public has metaphorically scurried away in panic. Let us redesign our processes, check if we are ‘solving’ the right problems. Are problems informing pro-Mthwakazi politicians’ policy formulation the same problems affecting the public’s experience of life within an independent Zimbabwe?

We must acknowledge our limitations as humans and accept limits too to our comprehension of Mthwakazi challenges hence we do not have all the solutions. Our approach must be to open our politics to the public; the attitude should be to stop dreaming and announcing policies from the ivory tower but dream and create with the public on the ground, and together rise to the top of the tower. We must aim to enable people to make the most of their political, economic and social lives, but we can only do that with the people.

It is an open secret, we cannot lead people whose ideological location we cannot comprehend. Mthwakazi leaders need to take time to understand the needs of the people. The public wants to be closer to the decisions that impact their lives; we need to be actively showing that is our priority too, and be consistent. Here we are basically looking at direct democracy as the way forward.

How we work our way from the to do list to the done is not a political accident but a result of deliberate planning and action. Let us creatively remove the incompatibility currently prevailing in our socio-political environment; there is debilitating distrust between the public and the organised political groups.

There must be mutual trust between the public and the organisations; let us start moving towards the Mthwakazi public, the public will move towards us. We may have ideological knowhow but let us appreciate that people are experts in how political decisions impact their lives, and listen to them. Any policy meant to serve the public must be drawn with the public, no shortcuts.

The biggest handicap is that there are no objective tools to measure the depth and breadth of the Mthwakazi agenda within Mthwakazi. We are arguably working on assumptions, if not outright arrogance. While it is a fact that ZANU PF does not, and may never enjoy popular support in Matabeleland, it is equally true that people have yet to be convinced by the Mthwakazi movement.

Analyses of voting patterns and voters’ behaviour of the last two elections (2008 and 2013) suggests that more Mthwakazi voters did not vote for ZANU PF. Significantly, most of those who did not vote for ZANU PF tended to vote for a Zimbabwe focused opposition party and not an openly Mthwakazi leaning organisation. Why is that? Answers to this question, among other factors, will arguably inform our policy and campaign strategy.

The quality, and not the popularity, of policies is what is important. We will strive to set and maintain high standards, and our people must get used to an environment where excellence is expected of them. Our target must not just be quantitative growth at whatever cost, but growth in the quality of our politics. We need to witness active growth in the policies and information we dispense, for a well-informed electorate enriches the political space.

Maintaining high political standards means that at times we may have to go against the public perception of what is right if there is persuasive objective evidence against subjectivity. This is of course politically risky, but one move any principled leader should be prepared to take.

To lead people, one does not only have to have walked the path but need to understand people and their needs. Direct democracy is the best way forward for Mthwakazi. Our political ideology must be informed by the public, and there must be no decision about the people without the people. Let us learn to plan and act together. Even more important is learning to agree to disagree well.


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