The Political Weaponisation of Disorder "¦Reason for the predatory politics of denying reforms and democratisation
- Last Updated on 28 June 2012
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At the dawn of the new millennium, two scholars, one French Jean Pascal Daloz and the other hailing from London, Patrick Chabal, put together an interesting framework for the analysis of politics and political developments in sub-Saharan Africa. In their book, 'Africa Works - disorder as political instrument', they define a phenomenon they call the political instrumentalisation of disorder, as "when politicians maximise their returns on the state of confusion, uncertainty and chaos €. The foregoing definition and their further explanations on their framework of analysis is instructive for any one keeping a close eye on Zimbabwean political developments, and informs part of the analysis attempted below.
Disorder, is defined as a state of confusion or disruption of systematic functioning and neat arrangement. Similes to it include words with negative connotations like chaos, confusion, mess, disarray, shambles, turmoil, lawlessness, anarchy, and ruckus. Disorder is generally discouraged and considered to be an undesirable state, one, which is frowned on and looked down upon. In both Zimbabwean popular and traditional culture disorder is a damning indictment that can be detrimental to one's chances of doing well in many aspects of life. Not so in Zimbabwean Politics.
The undesirable state of disorder, is not just the order of the day, but is actually desired, and where it is absent, it is created or manufactured to ensure political gain. To borrow Andreas Schedler's phraseology, disorder is seen as a 'valued horizon of attainment' and not a 'feared horizon of avoidance'. As such, in Zimbabwean politics, disorder seizes to be just a state of being, but a formidable weapon and instrument, especially in the hands of those who are anti-reform, anti-democraticratisaion, anti-change, anti-efficiency, in short €¦anti-order. In Zimbabwe's polity, disorder becomes the social equivalent of a medical virus - undesirable but not too harmfull, until it is weaponised. It is this weaponisation of chaos and disorder in our politics that has often proved it hard to correctly understand the state and its main actors and their seemingly illogical decisions, political moves and even survival. Often times, Zimbabwe, as a political question has defied orthodox political theory, and even common-sense. This is because the political weaponisation of disorder of necessity demands that common mores of logic and common sense are suspended because of the political windfalls that have accrued to those sponsoring anarchy and disorder.
In Zimbabwe, it has emerged clearly, over the course of a decade, that the merchants of disorder in our politics are primarily the hawks resident in ZANU PF. There are a thousand and one examples that can be sighted as a way of showing cause to the foregoing assertion. Take for instance the conduct of elections in Zimbabwe. Since the year 2000, the process of conducting elections, which ordinarily is supposed to be a systematic, predictable (in terms of process and not the outcome) and orderly process, has often been thrown into deliberate turmoil by bureaucratic bungling, political manipulation of integral processes, the introduction of political violence as part of the process, and of cause the disregard for basic rules of the electoral game. All the above, have thrown, not just the processes of elections, but the entire country into turmoil.
Of late a clear example of the weaponisation of disorder has been the COPAC Led constitution making process. In this process ZANU PF, has deployed its weaponised form of disorder from the get go. Remember the chaos that characterised the 1st All stakeholders Conference from the 13th to the 14th of July 2009. From the bussing in and coaching of a disruptive and retrogressive political vanguard to make unreasonable submissions during the Outreach process, to the sponsoring of disruption on seemingly technical grounds, with clear political intent of disorder, during the drafting process and the submission of new issues post COPAC agreement on a draft. The intent, in all these actions, has been a deliberate attempt to sponsor disorder. The stating of the bussing and coaching of people during the COPAC process, may insinuate, wrongly, that the deployment of disorder as a political weapon is the province of lumpen elements. Not necessarily. The transformation and deployment of disorder as a political weapon in Zimbabwe's polity has primarily been the domain of studied political actors, scientists and practioners, who know exactly what they want to achieve through it. Pseudo academics of the ilk of Jonathan Moyo and Tafataona Mahoso have been the primary promoters of disorder through their empty arguments bent on a disruptive politics disguised as intellectual thought.
The Global Political Agreement of September 15 2008 and its resultant governing arrangement has also fallen victim to this retrogressive politics., disorder was carefully deployed to ensure that no progress is made with regards to meaningful implementation of the agreements that the three political parties represented in parliament entered into with the facilitation of the South African Presidency and SADC. The deployment of a weaponised form of disorder is also what has constantly stalled talks between the parties, implementation even of areas agreed on, and it is why Professor Author Mutambara is still Deputy Prime Minister in spite of being rejected by the people of Zengeza in elections on March 29 2008, and being rejected by members of the Political Party that he led at Congress in 2010. The political weaponisation of disorder is why President Robert Mugabe will agree to act on outstanding issues in private with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, and then publicly act against the agreements. What is worse is also the public denouncement of violence and then in turn, condone, through inaction, acts of violence by members of his political party.
In the Zimbabwean polity, the deployment of a weaponised form of disorder for purpose of capturing and retaining power is not only relegated to the orthodox political field. It has since been transmitted to civil society (including the church and organised civil society). If one is a member of a social movement or NGO, they don't have to look very far, sometimes, to see how "democratic € actors in democratic and progressive processes in these entities are constantly deploying disorder. But the most glaring example comes from the Anglican Church, where the illegitimate Bishop Kunonga, has adopted a very potent brand of politically sponsored disorder to deal with a legitimate and clearly more popular and more progressive Bishop Chad Gandiya. The instrumentalisation and weaponisation of disorder in the Anglican church has mirrored unfortunate trends from the orthodox political space, which include, but are not limited to, the politicisation of religion, the employment of violence in church matters, the barring of gatherings, and allegations of murder.
However, having made a clear case of the existence of this phenomenon of the instrumentalisation and weaponisation of disorder in our politics, the question that it begs is, to what end and is there a logical explanation to these clear deviations from basic social mores? Unfortunately, there is some rationality to these seemingly irrational actions, and a clear method to the madness that politically weaponised disorder presents. There are many reasons for the deployment of politically weaponised disorder where our politics and polity are concerned; I will mention only three here.
Firstly politically weaponised disorder in spite of some rational to its deployment is not premised on the need to reach some rational ends. The deployment and pervasive presence of disorder is in it self both a means and an end. It is a means to the stalling of progressive action and an end in that chaos as a state of affairs is generally where rogues come into their element. Political rogues thrive in situations of crisis and chaos, and would prefer that chaos to order on any day, because it allows them to act with impunity and continue with their shady dealings under the cover of anarchy. As such even when some arguments are sponsored to promote the disorder, you can be rest assured that this is a case of the devil quoting scriptures; the intent is not to make you a believer but to sway you from the path of righteousness. The most persuasive and reasonable arguments presented to deal with what would have been presented by way of argument, will not make the merchants of disorder move an inch, because what they want is the chaos itself, through the perpetuation of the politics of loud "NOs € devoid of reason.
Secondly, politically weaponised disorder is meant to halt democratic development and progress, leaving the status quo intact. This reason is principally because the assassins or gravediggers of the democratic order know that they benefit the most from limited movement and a return to the status quo. In context, ZANU PF has got no reasons to see the value of a new constitution. They see no value on implementing the reforms that the GPA promotes, which subsequent SADC resolutions of Maputo (November 4 2009), Livingston ( March 31 2011), Windhoek (May 23 2011), Sandton (June 12 2011), and Luanda ( June 1 2012 )entail. Changes do not benefit them, and as such their disorder is deployed as a weapon to maintain the status quo, which presents them with continuous opportunities to being part of the state without upsetting the patronage system and the patron that are already in place.
Thirdly, the deployment of politically weaponised disorder creates uncertainty. Uncertainty itself becomes a good ally for assassins or gravediggers of the democratic order because of the benefits that it presents. Opponents in such a situation waste their time trying to get certainty on key issues. In Zimbabwe's case the issue of when a draft will come out, when a referendum will be held, and when elections will take place, are issues that are shrouded in mystery and uncertainty. The intent would be to spring surprises on everyone (because of the sponsors of disorder's sole proprietorship of key knowledge and information) while they are busy with trying to find certainty under conditions of uncertainty that have been deliberately created by disorder.
The notion of politically weaponised disorder is neither a new phenomenon nor exclusive to Zimbabwe, as Chabal and Daloz explain, it is an Africa-wide phenomenon. In spite of its prevalent use and sponsorship on the continent, politically weaponised disorder has always been defeated by a constant focus on enforcing order by progressives. In as much as you do not fight lies with lies (you fight them with the truth and truth doesn't lie), disorder cannot be fought with disorder, it is best fought by its anti-thesis, order.
Order, in Zimbabwe's case, entails the constant focus on reforms, constant campaigning to see processes through rather than hijacked or halted midway. Most importantly it entails exposing the merchants of disorder for who they are and what they stand for - retrogressive elements bent on standing still when there is a fire catching up with us and our natural instincts tell us to move on and survive. Such predatory and disorderly instincts do not bode well for the promotion of our country from its current state of democratic, economic and social disrepair to a more sane and progressive order