LEADER of Democratic Union of Zimbabwe (DUZ), Robert Howard Chapman, is a fascinating man. Sharp and erudite, he has brought an interesting perspective to Zimbabwean politics.
He has taken out the toxicity that has characterised our politics in the past two decades or so.
He wishes to capitalise on the apathy that has characterised every election in the recent past. The average voter turnout has been about 35%.
“We looked at data to say would it be favourable if I ran, would people accept that? Then the second side of it was to also look and say was there a window for us to participate,” he says in his In Conversation with Trevor.
“There was an opportunity of acceptance, and then the bigger tell-tale sign was this data showed that there was huge voter apathy. In fact, that group was larger than each of the parties individually.”
The window is the 65% of people who never vote, mainly because they just don’t see a candidate who would change their lives.
Few politicians have ever thought that way. This has made every electoral contest a fight to wring voters from the opposing party.
Indeed, we have seen Zanu PF display what it says are people who have defected from the opposition while the opposition itself also prides itself in attracting new members from other parties.
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He says his project stands on three pillars: prosperity, justice and modernisation. It will be driven by the 80/20 principle. He says he has identified the vital 20% around which he will build his movement around.
DUZ is not something he just dreamt up. “The first thing we did, I think it was around April 2021, we consulted some well-respected individuals in politics and said how do we frame this? They said you need three things; you need a constitution, you need a code of conduct, and you need to know who you are so people can relate to you.”
This is more than other important parties have done — the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), for example, still does not have a constitution, but is facing an election in less than six months’ time.
Its code of conduct is unknown. It has a following only due to its leader Nelson Chamisa’s charisma.
Zanu PF too is grinding on because of its history. This is the source of the toxicity that’s seen in Zimbabwean politics.
“My grandfather told me that if a pig invites you into the mud for a fight and you accept, the pig will enjoy the fight.”
This describes precisely what happens in our politics. The electorate is polarised and violent. We are all too familiar with the “jecha” , “faka pressure” and “kurakasha” politics. Chapman wishes to bring cleaner politics.
But is Chapman really grounded on the terrain he is treading on? Asked to give an example of the poverty he says he grew up in, he says: “We didn’t have a car. We didn’t have a telephone, so if one of my relatives phoned from abroad, grandma would run several houses down the road to take the call.” Really?
Also, Chapman needs to talk to bankers and business to better understand the impact of sanctions on the country.
The land issue is hugely important and Chapman needs to acquaint himself with how to make land bankable and return the agricultural sector to its glory days.
We are not persuaded that Chapman and DUZ have given themselves enough time to have a chance at victory at the 2023 polls but we are ready to be surprised. All in all, what a breath of fresh air.
- Nevanji Madanhire is an editor at Alpha Media Holdings