UK – A new political party formed by Zimbabweans at grassroots level seeks to overhaul the self-serving culture in Zimbabwean politics thereby putting power in the hands of ordinary Zimbabweans. Dumi Senda is the Interim Media Officer and co-founder of Freedom Justice Coalition Zimbabwe (FJCZ).
Senda is an award winning poet and author who has made a mark as a community leader in Zimbabwean circles as well as internationally. He has used his gifts of poetry and stories to share a message of hope and unity amongst Zimbabweans and has raised the Zimbabwean flag on world platforms including being a speaker at the Pan-African Conference at Oxford University sharing the stage with leaders including HM King Letsie III of Lesotho and Guy Scott Vice President of Zambia and twice at the United Nations in Geneva.
But Dumi insists that the most important part of his work happens away from elevated stages and in classrooms and community halls where he has spent many years teaching children about the Zimbabwean culture.
Some of the best years of my life were years spent living with my grandparents in rural Mberengwa, here I learnt the values of Hunhu/ Ubuntu and experienced first-hand the impact of ordinary people coming together to work for the betterment of their community. I did not know then that this experience would shape my outlook on life and lead me to a life of service and community organising.
In Mberengwa it did not matter that you did not have the biggest kraal of cattle or the largest flock of chickens roaming your yard or that you were not related to the Ishe (King) or Mudhomeni (village watchman), what kept our villages and our families afloat despite the relentless droughts and the feeling that we were far away from the capital and in many ways forgotten by the government were systems embedded in our culture that brought us a sense of togetherness.
I remember with great fondness days spent at Nhimbe, a gathering of families from around the villages to assist families who may not have adequate manpower and or equipment with which to till, mulch or harvest their lands. Our leaders were servants of the people; they lived amongst the people and were chosen by the people. We did not fear walking past the home of our village watchman; in fact his homestead was the playground for the children of the village. This taught me something that has stayed with me todate, that the best leaders are not the most powerful but the most humble, accessible and devoted to putting power in the hands of the people.
I learnt that leading is not about being ahead of the pack always, it is also about being behind in order to lend a hand to those who may struggle to keep up with the pack.
These childhood lessons have informed my attitude towards the poor and led me to believe that looking after them is not charity work in its conventional sense, it is communal justice. It is this conviction that led me to seek a different vision to the “normal pursuits” of our politics that has tended to benefit the few at the expense of the many.
To deal with a problem sufficiently it is necessary to acknowledge its existence and to understand its nature.
I believe the problem Zimbabwe faces today is a political one. The nature of this problem lies in the limited understanding of politics , the misconception that politics is a concern only for political classes creates a culture of apathy and mob-politicking with citizens who do not engage with the issues and therefore cannot exercise informed consent through the ballot or in everyday discourse. It is this understanding that informed the alignment of FJCZ to a grassroots foundation and departure from the traditional approach of political parties that are formed by political classes in cohorts with corporations and big-purse sponsors in order to impose leaders on the people.
We have insisted on a party that is not built around the charisma of the individual as this has been both a cause and result of the self-serving culture of politics in Zimbabwe. Parties are built around individuals, making the individual stronger and more important than the institution. This has resulted in the flouting of party and national constitutions when the interests of the individual have come into conflict with the interests of the party or country.
That such practices can continue to occur with no consequence to the individual and the parties in question is in itself an indictment on the citizenry. Accountability is not the responsibility of the politician who may violate it; it is the responsibility of the citizen who must ensure the politician may not violate it.
The formation of FJCZ has not happened over night, it has been in the pipeline for a little over three years now with a dedicated team of individuals in Zimbabwe and the Diaspora volunteering their time and expertise to incept a plausible alternative to political parties currently in our politics.
The decision was taken to not reveal the party to the public during the previous elections as the concern has never been primarily about seeking political positions and opportunism but about inviting Zimbabweans to be part of the structuring of the party’s administrative organs. We believe this will encourage participatory politics and accountability hence. When the people have had their say and contributed to building a party they can have confidence in, it will be time to commit FJCZ to the public fully and to launch the People’s Coalition for Change.
This article serves a two-fold purpose, to share our vision with Zimbabweans and friends of Zimbabwe worldwide and to invite Zimbabweans home and abroad to take ownership of their country by acknowledging that the problem we face is a political one and the solution cannot be complete without the participation of citizens who must play their part to ensure accountability.
Change is not easy to implement and often the most difficult part is changing attitudes. We have to believe that it is possible for Zimbabweans to come together in the same way that people in impoverished rural parts of the country have done for years and built unassuming yet effective systems that ensured that nobody is left behind. The time to build a politics that works for all Zimbabweans, shona or ndebele, black or white is now and the responsibility is not charity, it is communal justice.