OVER the past few days, there has been a high-octane, ferocious, heated and polarising debate on the issue regarding why the Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) has no visible political and organisational structures on the ground.
The debate was triggered by the controversial, divisive and exiled former Zanu PF government minister, Professor Jonathan Moyo. Moyo has been incessantly and provocatively tweeting and arguing inter alia that CCC, by failing to provide and institutionalise visible political structures on the ground, will face existential difficulties in its campaign for the 2023 general election. Moyo further argued that structures are the oxygen of any serious political organisation and without them parties will asphyxiate.
However, as expected there was also considerable pushback from certain sections of the Zimbabwean netizens who included diehard CCC members. Accordingly, the majority of them tend to ascribe to the notion that says “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it”. Thus, they believe the way the CCC has been designed and organised is fully servicing its purpose. That is, any suggestion that the CCC must establish visible structures on the ground must be taken with a grain of salt. Thus, the advice must be viewed with a great degree of suspicion.
However, Joreen Freeman, in his academic paper titled “Tyranny of the Structurelessness” argued that “Contrary to what we would like to believe, there is no such thing as a structureless group. Any group of people of whatever nature that comes together for any length of time for any purpose will inevitably structure itself in some fashion. The structure may be flexible, it may vary over time, it may evenly or unevenly distribute tasks, power and resources”.
Therefore, in this opinion piece , I will attempt to disarticulate and demystify this deeply divisive issue of political structures or lack thereof within our body politic. I will argue that both Zanu PF and the CCC are plagued by a lack of visible grassroots structures within their
respective political formations. This explains why in the case of Zanu PF, there has been conflation of the state and the party. However, this lack of visible and traditional structure does not necessarily translate to structurelessness. Thus structures do exist albeit informally and in a very unconventional way.
Horizontal and vertical structuring
Peter Obi, one of the presidential candidates in the forthcoming Nigerian general elections, provocatively answered the structures question by saying that;
“Whenever I hear no structure my answer to it is simple: The 100 million Nigerians that live in poverty will be the structure. The 35 million Nigerians that don’t know where their next meal will come from will be structure”. Accordingly, Obi was in essence articulating on horizontal power structures, where there is bottom-up institutionalisation of power, responsibility and authority.
This is where power, authority and responsibility are decentralised and individualised to the rank and file support base of the political party. This involves the informalisation or uberisation of responsibility, power and authority. Thus, it is a laissez faire approach towards structuring and organising the machinery of a political party.
Therefore, in the case of the CCC, there are political developments that point to that type of political structural arrangement in the manner it has conducted its political business since its inception on 24 January 2022. For instance, there have been no visible and conventional grassroots structures; nonetheless, when the CCC was officially launched at the Zimbabwe Grounds, the mobilisation and drumming up of support was largely done on a ad hoc basis mainly by foot soldiers of the movement. Similarly, the CCC fundraising campaign for the 26 March by-elections was conducted and freelanced mainly by individual party members in conjunction with the diasporan community. Through launching GoFundMe campaigns and Twitter Spaces fundraising platforms. Crucially, another important case study is the dialectical voluntarism by the ordinary CCC supporters when, against the odds, they successfully raised the money for a bulletproof sport utility vehicle for Nelson Chamisa.
Furthermore, on 16 June 2022, we also witnessed the efficacy of the CCC diasporan de facto structures, when they organised a march and a rally in the Hillbrow area of Johannesburg in South Africa, as part of Africa Youth Day commemorations. The speakers exhorted CCC members to go home and register to vote and to also arrange to return to Zimbabwe in 2023 and cast their vote in the general election.
Crucially, the CCC under the stewardship of its interim secretary-general Chalton Hwende has been establishing bottom-up structuration through, decentralising and indivisualising responsibility and authority to its ordinary members. This has been done by what Hwende christened “Operation Munhu Wese KuMusha” whereby every ordinary member of the CCC must take it upon themselves to periodically visit their rural areas and spread the gospel of democracy and conscientise the villagers on behalf of the CCC. That is, every member of the CCC must become a de facto political commissar and an evangelist of the gospel of democracy and change in the rural areas.
Accordingly, Professor David Groeber, one of the leading figure in the Occupy Wall Street Movement, said that: “ These movements do not need an intellectual vanguard to provide them with an ideology because they already have one; the rejection of intellectual vanguards and embrace of multiplicity and horizontal democracy itself”. Accordingly, when the diehard CCC supporters were resolutely pushing back against Prof Moyo’s thesis of reconstructing overt and visible structures for their fledgling political movement, they were in essence embracing Groeber’s doctrine of rejecting intellectual vanguardism and embracing the multiplicity of horizontal democracy. Thus, they were in essence happy with the flexibility and fluidity of the status quo.
Needless to say, the CCC supporters and to a certain degree its leadership have been psychologically, emotionally and physically scarred by the manner in which they were forced to abandon and dump their hitherto political vehicle, the MDC-Alliance. Hence, there is over-protectionism and excessive caution whenever outsiders, particularly former Zanu PF members, have exhorted or vociferously cajoled them to either convene an inaugural congress or in this particular case establish an overt grassroots structure. Their fear and insecurities are based on the need to protect their newly political baby from being infiltrated, soiled and sabotaged by state agents.
This was further buttressed by Hopewell Chin’ono when he tweeted that one senior Zanu PF official has confided in him that the lack of visible structure by the CCC is making it difficult for the Zanu PF government to infiltrate and capture key CCC officials. Thus, there are fears and insecurities; even though they might border on hypersensitiveness and paranoia, they may be well-justified.
Moreover, incognito structures can also be very useful as a form of protective measure for the CCC members. That is, it will make it difficult for the state to identify, isolate and ferret out key CCC members for abduction, murder or neutralisation, since there is prima facie evidence that points to a violent and treacherous 2023 general elections. This was the same strategy adopted by the Umbrella political movement of Hong Kong, when it decided to be a leaderless movement, without overt structure as a counter-hegemonic and security strategy. They had embraced Bruce Lee’s doctrine of “Be formless and shapeless like water”. This explains why there has been intense resistance from the CCC supporters against Moyo’s over-prescriptive and unsolicited notion of establishing overt structures.
However, vertical political structuringvis the orthidox or conventional form where there is a centralised and hierarchical distribution of positions, power and authority. This is a top-down approach which results in bureaucratisation of power and responsibilities. This form of organising and structuring a political party has often resulted in elitism and spawning a cult of personality and the “big man” type of politics.
Zanu PF in its current form perfectly illustrates this phenomenon, where power, authority and responsibilities are highly centralised and to a certain extent personalised. Thus, ordinary party members and low-ranking officials are hardly allowed to make independent decisions and implement their own policies without approval from the top leadership. Unfortunately to a great extent the opposition parties in Zimbabwe have also exported those hierarchical, centralised and bureaucratised power structures into their movements.
However, it is important to note that, Zanu PF, despite having the power of incumbency and being at the helm for the past 42 years, has also been finding it difficult to establish and institutionalise organic grassroots structures. Hence, the Zanu PF government has always conflated the state machinery with its Zanu PF political business. This dearth of grassroots structures can be clearly demonstrated in the manner in which Zanu PF periodically contravenes the constitution and abuses village chiefs, headmen, teachers and headmasters who are deployed as de facto political commissars of Zanu PF, especially during election season.
This dearth of grassroots structure was brought to national attention and sharp focus with the recent debacle, confusion and disaster that accompanied Zanu PF’s national cell audit campaigns. Thus, the whole cell audit campaigns were marred by poor turnouts and huge apathy. In some regions such as Gwanda and Beitbridge they had to cancel the cell audit meetings after people failed to turn up. Even the disgraced former vice-president
Kembo Mohadi, when addressing a Zanu PF meeting, openly admitted that the party grassroots, at cell level, are in very poor shape and to some extent non-existent.
Suffice to say that there are interesting and valuable historical lessons and examples to also deploy and reflect upon on this whole controversial and polarising debate about structures or lack thereof. Accordingly, between the years 1963 and 1979 both Zanu and Zapu were outlawed political organisations within Rhodesia. They were criminalised and considered persona non grata and had no visible political structures whereas, on the other side, Bishop Abel Muzorewa and his party UANC were allowed to have political structures and conduct their political business freely in Rhodesia. However, when both Zapu and Zanu were unbanned in January 1980, they had only less than two months to prepare for elections, but managed to convincingly defeat Muzorewa.
Fast forward to 24 January 2022, when the CCC was formed from the ashes of the MDC-Alliance, it had neither the visible grassroots structures nor the financial war chest in comparison to both the Zanu PF and the MDC-T. However, on 22 March 2022, it managed to perform very well and win 19 parliamentary seats and a good number of local government council seats.
These two historical examples point to the fact that ordinary people of Zimbabwe are politically literate and streetwise and thus able to discern genuine political forces from charlatans. The masses know those who genuinely represent and champion their socio-economic and political needs regardless of whether the political parties have visible or no visible structures. Therefore, in as much as visible organic and robust grassroots structure are an essential institutional ingredient for political parties, winning the battle for the hearts and minds of the electorate can mitigate the lack of visible structures.