People First – is it a pig with lipstick?

Moses Chamboko

“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” The rich young ruler was confident that since he had followed all the Ten Commandments from the time he was a young boy, he therefore, automatically qualified for eternal life.  (Luke 18: 18 – 22).  Jesus said to him “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

Clearly, some of our friends and colleagues in the yet to be formalised People First, are like the rich young ruler, they still lack one thing. Yes, they may no longer be in ZANU PF, most of them only forced to do so by circumstances beyond their control, but they still lack genuineness and clarity of direction.  Granted, a lot of Zimbabweans believe Joice Mujuru was not fairly treated by her fellow thugs and erstwhile comrades in ZANU PF.

That said, the fact remains that there is a world of difference between sympathy and support. In politics, radicalism or some kind of positive disruption can move mountains. So far, we haven’t seen a trace of either from Joice Mujuru. It would appear that her heart is still tone between her political father, Robert Mugabe or the person she fought for, being the povo. We challenge her to practically, actively and visibly gravitate towards the povo, if anybody is to take her seriously in 2016 and beyond. Chanting People First isn’t enough, nada!

Children with values, dating back to the biblical times of Noah, would rather do something practical than pretend that the father wasn’t drunk and naked. So far, apart from somebody circulating something called BUILD that was associated with Joice Mujuru, nothing has come out of the horse’s mouth, so to speak. This might be acceptable in other circles, but certainly not in politics. She has acted more like Noah’s son, Ham the father of Canaan, who told his brothers in private that the emperor was naked. We need action from Joice, not just words. Period.

When one gets into the rough world of opposition politics, one must be prepared to put on a hard hat all the time. We haven’t seen this yet from the People First outfit. Any Zimbabwean with elementary education can sit under a mutondo tree and draft a decent blueprint for our nation. The difference lies in operationalising the same. This, you can’t do in the comfort of your solitude and fantasies, away from the people.

Sitting on the fence, possibly waiting to be recalled to ZANU PF in the event that something major happens by or before 2018, from afar, looks like one of their trump cards. One cannot be half ZANU PF and half opposition and hope to be taken seriously. There is talk of several MP’s sympathetic to Joice Mujuru and her conceptual People First that are still enjoying parliamentary  and ministerial privileges today, representing and serving ZANU PF, how do they balance the two?

How can one be a servant to two masters with opposing views at once? To those, I say they still lack one thing. By now, they should have jumped ship en masse or caused some kind of chaos in parliament if indeed they were genuine. One cannot be People First during the day but ZANU PF at night and expect to be accepted by Zimbabweans as genuine opposition. We seem to have a problem with most of our politicians who worry more about sadza - their next meal and social status than values and service.  It is time for the latter! Zimbabwe is much bigger than individual egos or fear compounded by indecision or the proclivity for double dipping. Zveku nzungu neku nyimo bodo! Those who have finally and genuinely seen their Damascene moment, the genuine and progressive family of opposition forces will welcome them. It is time for the politics of values!

If a party hopes to be regarded as sincere opposition, there are certain fundamentals expected of them. Not being in ZANU PF isn’t enough. They have to unreservedly and in the strongest possible terms, condemn corruption, lawlessness, violence, extortion (even if it’s given another name) and self-centeredness, amongst other things. They must be prepared to observe, respect and defend human and property rights, people’s basic freedoms, diversity of views, the principal of equality and most importantly, our national constitution. These people must genuinely yearn for a democratic, peaceful and prosperous Zimbabwe where everybody is equal before the law, where fairness, accountability, inclusiveness and respect are virtues.

When an association that aims to transform itself into a serious opposition has in its rank and file Merchants of Venice such as Jimmy Kunaka, the architect or at least ringleader of the notorious Chipangano in Mbare, Jabulani Sibanda who literally camped in my home province of Masvingo for six long months terrorising innocent citizens in 2008 to mention just two, what easily comes to people’s minds?

Yes, by our very nature, we are a forgiving people. But do we just forgive blindly without those who need forgiveness presenting themselves publicly for it? Have we heard any public apology from Kunaka or Sibanda since they became People First? No! So why should we forgive them then? This is not to say the opposition is a club of angels. However, what is not in doubt is that it certainly isn’t a haven for devils.

People First must work extremely hard to shake off residual odours from its past and long association with ZANU PF. They must stop looking or smelling like an extension or at least one of the many factions that now characterise the former revolutionary party. They must immediately drop “Chef” from their vocabulary. They must have a leadership that is task not position oriented. Such leadership must be prepared to serve not to be served. It is time for a paradigm shift.
They must sacrifice those filthy privileges and obnoxious tokens of association they had become accustomed to over the years. They must be prepared to climb down the ivory tower and for the first time in 35 years, be with the ordinary people on the ground. They must be ready to throw pebbles and raw eggs at our oppressors, if that’s what it takes.

They must be ready to march on the streets and demand our freedom, if it’s going to be the only way out of the crisis. They must publicly admit that Mugabe’s tragic failure of leadership coupled with ZANU PF’s poor policies are the only two factors that destroyed what Julius Nyerere affectionately called the jewel of Africa. Locating our crisis in Europe, America, Australia or other perceived enemies is legendary foolishness or prodigious abuse of imagination.

True, a pig with lipstick is still a pig. In the coming months, ideally weeks, People First must do a lot of soul searching, put their act together, grow out of arrogance, dip their red lips in a very strong detergent, reach out to and establish synergies with other progressive democratic forces to demonstrate that they are a genuine new entrant to opposition politics in Zimbabwe. For now, they ordinarily come across as not much different from a ZANU PF pig with lipstick. The starting point is a public apology by those who persecuted our kith and kin and pillaged our economy not long ago. Let this be a rallying point for 2016 as we explore the national convergence of purpose and values.

Moses Chamboko is a pro-democracy activist and interim secretary general for Zimbabweans United for Democracy (ZUNDE). You may contact him at or

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