The Problem of Triumphalism
Opinion & Columnist

The Problem of Triumphalism

Alex T. Magaisa

A few days ago, in an article entitled, “Life after political victory”, I wrote about the burden of success. In it, I implicitly warned about the danger of triumphalism – that whilst the Mnangagwa faction had claimed victory in the gruelling factional battle for leadership in Zanu PF, it was necessary to manage it carefully. While some celebration of success is to be expected, there is always the risk of overkill, a risk of alienating further, than dividing a people, with all the dangerous consequences that comes with such circumstances.

The papers report that a celebration party in honour of newly appointed VP Mnangagwa was held at his rural mansion in Zvishavane. This is all very well – in our culture, a boy must return to his roots, the land where his umbilical cord is tied to the earth, and pay homage to his ancestors. The traditional type would even perform a libation, pouring an intoxicating beverage into the ground, representing an offering to the ancestors, paying homage and gratitude for their act of benevolence in enhancing the fortunes of their earthly son. Others, of a different religious persuasion, would offer prayers, thanking God for his generous favour. Most now do both – they thank God but also, often privately, offer their acknowledgments to the ancestors. Therefore, the Zvishavane celebration is not of itself a problem.

But then you hear more celebration parties are lined up elsewhere and you get the sense that there is more to the parties than the traditional purpose. These are political statements, designed to flaunt newfound status and assert superiority, indeed, to cement the victory. Next, they will be countrywide, organised by provincial structures and war veterans, all intended to assert political authority.

The trouble is you get the sense that there is very little comfort in this victory. There seems to be a lot of unsureness, indeed, a great deal of insecurity after the event. Hence the State media which led the assault continues as if the battle is still on, as if the goal of achieving political victory in the succession war is not yet won. It’s as if, after dismantling the Mujuru faction, they have nothing else to write about and they must continue as if they are still on the warpath. The fact of the matter is that Mujuru is no longer VP, which is what they wanted and that he allies are gone too. But now it’s as if after fighting so hard and winning power, they have no clue what to do with it, rather like what has happened since July 31 2013, when instead of concentrating on the mandate to govern, they never stopped ranting about Tsvangirai and the MDC.

And you hear too, that so-called Mujuru allies, including government ministers and officials are identified and thrown out of such celebratory events – as is alleged to have happened to deputy Mines Minister, Fred Moyo. One could say it is foolhardy, of course, for anyone who should know that they are not welcome to attend such an event, but equally, leaders ought to show magnanimity in victory. That this is allowed to happen shows not only the existence of seriously bad blood between the factions but that there may be more recriminations in future. There are too many ingredients to suggest that without good leadership characterised by a restraining hand, the nation may be headed for a bitter conflict. The victory has come at a high cost and there is obviously a reservoir of displeasure and disgruntlement within Zanu PF circles at what has happened.

The new VP Mnangagwa should use his power to exercise the hand of restraint that is required to manage this potentially explosive situation. Triumpulism can breed overzealousness, especially among excitable youths who are prone to wanton displays of infantile behaviour. One has to demonstrate magnanimity in victory rather than further humiliating and alienating the defeated faction. But already, we hear grown men like Josiah Hungwe expressing fawning adoration of the new Vice President. He joins a long and embarrassing list of politicians, on both sides of the political divide it has to be said, who have shamelessly dressed their political bosses in Messianic robes.

Calling Mnangagwa “the Son of Man” may be regarded as political banter within their private circles, suggesting most probably that he is Mugabe’s favourite, but such language does not sit well in a nation that is deeply religious and neither do the connotations bode well for a nation that is in need not of demi-gods but humble leaders who serve the people. It is such fawning behaviour that has made our leaders think they are untouchable; indeed, to imagine that they are infallible. It is precisely the kind of behaviour from which as nation we should be departing and embracing a new culture of accountability. Hungwe should be ashamed of himself but equally, Mnangagwa should call them to order if his leadership is to inspire confidence among those who doubt him.

The trouble is we might have another round of parties, which means more rallies and more speechifying and fawning adoration as Mnangagwa is described as the anointed one. And more Zimasset promises. But still without delivery. The people of Zimbabwe do not need more celebratory parties and rallies. Just get on with it and deliver!

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