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By Dr Masimba Mavaza
GOVERNMENT failure and inaction has become an increasingly common aspect of our political system, whether it is due to political polarization as in the government’s shutdown in 2008 or through poor planning, which characterised the slow implementation of government policies.
But how does the nation apportion blame for these sorts of failures? It is true that people apportions blame to a particular political party in office. You will find that even when experts say otherwise, people still blame the party that rivals their own political views for the failure.
This goes against the idea that a better informed electorate would be less partisan – in actuality, people simply ignore the extra information they are given if it challenges their beliefs.
Government failures are a reality in any political system, and have received a lot of attention in Zimbabwe in recent years. In the past decade, failures have included the government’s woeful response to corruption and in more recent years the inability to make policy and tackle societal problems.
The question is, who do people blame when these failures occur? Prices have gone wild a plate of T bone steak is now 40 US dollars in A Zimbabwean hotel. By far Zimbabwe is the most expensive country in the world and investments are stalling.
People overwhelmingly blame the party for the failure. The opposition will blame the ruling party and the buck stops with the party in power. This is not entirely surprising and is consistent with the normal reaction of the general populace. What is most interesting is how people blame the ruling party for the rain.
People are very selective about who to blame but, when the blame is on one’s own party, the information is ignored and people just continue to blame the other party for the failure.
Put simply, when we blame the other party, people listen and use that information. But when there is a problem people tune it out, seemingly unwilling to listen and blame their own party.
For one, representative democracy requires that the people are able to hold elected officials accountable for performance in office. When politicians fail to produce desired outcomes, citizens need to be able to accurately place blame and potentially vote them out of office. We have shown that rather than consider relevant facts, people are more interested in pointing the finger at the other party.
When the information confirms our beliefs, we use it, and when it challenges us we ignore it. Partisanship colors much of our political experience, and expecting people to take off the partisan glasses when considering information about who is to blame does not appear to happen.
So it is clear that the failures of the government reflect badly on the party. Defending the party blindly destroys the party more.
If the party takes no decision to deal with the failing government then the party is losing the plot.
It is thus important that the party be in charge of the government so that they are able to control the damage exerted on them by the government in action.
Party will have a bad name if government fails.
As we enter in the first bleak quarter of the year with no fuel no cooking oil swimming in price hikes and poverty being a luxury the party must rise above all this.
The blame game must not be the pointer to the effects of the party. The party must always be above the government. It must control the government.
If the party fails to control the government then it will lose the backing of the electorate. The supremacy of the party must be above the government.
So when the public whip dances on the party we must know we were asleep while the government was soiling our legacy.
Most government officials and senior civil servants have got no interest of the party at heart.