Thursday, December 18, 2008

TSVANGIRAI: Stop dithering while people are dying

Zimbabwe’s power-sharing deal is stalled as Robert Mugabe’s wounded Zanu PF party convenes an annual conference to regroup. Morgan Tsvangirai whines about a passport and his party threatens to pull out of the power-sharing deal. On the other hand, people are dying of cholera, hunger and political abuses. The country’s economy has reached beyond the earthly definition of a crisis. When, will be the time to stop fiddling while Zimbabwe is burning.

A wounded Zanu PF regroups
Mugabe’s Zanu PF party is going into its annual conference limping from its severest political wounds yet. The once invincible “people’s party” suffered its first ever election loss in March and was forced into a power-sharing deal with bitter enemy, the Movement for Democratic Change.

Part of the reason Zanu PF lost the March 29 election is that one of its better loved leaders, Simba Makoni split to form a new movement called Mavambo/New Dawn. But perhaps more devastating will be last weekend’s withdrawal from a 20-year partnership by PF Zapu elements who revived the late Joshua Nkomo’s party under the leadership of Dumiso Dabengwa.

With the power-sharing deal tittering on the brink of collapse and calls for new elections are mounting, Mugabe’s campaign machinery has also been damaged somewhat.

Elliot Manyika, the leader of the Zanu PF Militia (the Green Bombers) died in a car accident; Joseph Chinotimba, leader of the pro-Zanu PF liberation war veterans is in hospital with back injuries sustained in another car accident and Air Marshall Perence Shiri, the notorious army leader responsible for the massacre of thousands of people since the early 1980s, was shot on the shoulder in an alleged attempt at his life.

So, if Tsvangirai and his MDC smell the blood of a dying behemoth that is Zanu PF, it is because they believe the wounds are deep. But this is Zanu PF, a party of zealots who never give up.

The MDC should never be fooled to believe Mugabe’s party is finished. This is a party with a vast array of human and material resources (mostly state-owned) at its disposal and it will use them to regain whatever ground it has lost.

Furthermore, nobody should ever underestimate the respect and support Mugabe and his party command from regional and continental movements; especially fellow liberation parties like Frelimo in Mozambique, ANC in South Africa, Chama Chama Pinduzi in Tanzania and MPLA in Angola, to name but a few closer to home.

It should not surprise anybody if Zanu PF emerges from this weekend’s conference with its fist raised high. This is a party that has been down before and rose from its own ashes.

During the liberation war it suffered a mutiny at its bases in Mozambique and a bombing campaign by the Rhodesian army. After independence, a series of opposition parties challenged it but were all swatted like flies until the MDC came along and forced it into this position of weakness.

MDC does not learn from mistakes
But the MDC does not seem to have learnt that Zanu PF is not the kind of enemy you dare endlessly (sometimes with unreasonable demands). Mugabe and his people use this time of inaction to recover from losses and regroup fast.

When the MDC won the March 29 elections, Tsvangirai and his executive literally got drunk with power they had not even assumed. For three straight days the MDC leadership failed to take control of a clearly leaderless country, enough time for Mugabe and his party to recover from the shock of their electoral losses and take charge.

Tsvangirai went into self-imposed exile and by the time he came back, Mugabe had regained enough impetus to force a run-off that ended with the veteran guerilla leader running his inexperienced opponent out of the race, resulting in the current power-sharing deal.

Instead of learning from that mistake Tsvangirai is once again in self-imposed exile, whining about a passport he knows is being used by Mugabe as a tool to wind him up while Zanu PF is rallying its demoralized troops.

How can a leader who has endured years of being beaten, detained, tortured and almost killed; condemn the people who chose him to continue suffering under the same regime he is supposed to deliver them from.

I mean, is a passport really so important to Tsvangirai that he can ignore the hundreds who are dying of cholera each week, the scores of his own supporters who are being abducted (some will not come back alive) and the continued economic meltdown.

It’s only a few months ago when Tsvangirai was holed up in Botswana and his own supporters started singing: “Tsvangirai where are you when we are being killed” at funerals of Zanu PF victims.

The killings have resumed and will increase if Mugabe calls for another election (which MDC seems to prefer) and people will start the song again.

Tsvangirai might take for granted the support he gets from the people of Zimbabwe and the international community, but it is fleeting. It can change in a flash.

Also, the MDC should not be fooled by what seems to be a disintegrating Zanu PF. In reality, nothing has changed in Mugabe’s party. In fact, the groups that are breaking away will hurt the MDC more than Zanu PF itself.

Both Makoni and Dabengwa are strong in MDC’s own strongholds. In the past election Makoni beat Tsvangirai and Mugabe in Matabeleland South province and he dented Tsvangirai’s chances in Manicaland province where both men come from.

If Dabengwa’s party reclaims its support base of Matebeleland and parts of Midlands, again, the loser will be the MDC because Zanu PF has not had support from that part of the country since 2000.

If an election is held in a few months as envisaged by many, Zanu PF stands a good chance of actually winning or at least forcing yet another stalemate that will result in another round of negotiations.

You made your bed, sleep in it
So, Tsvangirai should stop posturing and sleep in the bed they made with Mugabe and his party – the power-sharing deal.

Sure, it is not a perfect document but to blame its shortcomings on Mugabe alone is to be dishonest. This was a two-way affair. Each party gang pressed the other into it in one form or the other.

It is important not to forget the purpose of this deal: (which is) to offer immediate economic relief to the long suffering people of Zimbabwe, draw up an all inclusive and democratic constitution and prepare the ground for free and fair elections in at least 18 months.

The clock is ticking. Both sides should stop dithering and get on with the work people died for them to do.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Cracks in SADC support for Mugabe?

Cracks seem to be developing in the Southern African Development Community over the election crisis in Zimbabwe.

Leaders of the 14 countries that make up SADC have all along been united in preserving their liberation struggle camaraderie that bordered on ignoring the economic plunder and human rights abuses being perpetrated by President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party in Zimbabwe.

However, Botswana – the region’s undisputed leader in democracy - has broken ranks with the rest of the regional members, opting to confront the Mugabe regime.

Prior to the Lusaka emergency SADC summit in mid April, Botswana offered opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader, Morgan Tsvangirai a safe haven when he faced imminent arrest on “treasonous” charges of declaring himself the winner of the presidential election before the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission announced the results.

Last week the Botswana government went on to ban Zimbabweans from buying fuel within its borders, a move that is reported to be grounding transportation in Zimbabwe as even government institutions and Zanu PF functionaries sourced fuel from Botswana among other sources.

The Botswana government went on to instruct its public media to report on the violence being perpetrated by security agents, the army, police, war veterans and Zanu militia in Zimbabwe.

"I have told the public media this must be given the priority it deserves. We cannot be getting stories on a local problem on the wire service when we are here on the ground,"
Botswana’s deputy permanent secretary in the Ministry of Communications, Science and Technology, Andrew Sesinyi is quoted by the Zimbabwe Standard as having told the Mmegi newspaper.

According to the Standard, Sesinyi’s directive came shortly after an unprecedented mass deportation of Zimbabwean traders from Zambia last weekend. Observers saw this as yet another sign of growing regional impatience over the unending political crisis in this country, Zimbabwe’s independent Sunday newspaper said.

In fact, it appears more countries, even those whose leaders appear to be solidly behind Mugabe – like Thabo Mbeki of South Africa – have taken action against his intentions.

The refusal by union workers to offload a Chinese ship carrying arms destined for Zimbabwe is reliably understood to have been initiated and encouraged by politicians within Mbeki’s ruling ANC party who do not subscribe to his quiet diplomacy.

Their action was emulated in Mozambique.


Albie Sachs, SA's top justice an ordinary man

TORONTO, ON, Canada (The Southern - As a student of the history of the struggle for majority rule and democracy in southern Africa, one name I came across regularly in texts and lectures was that of Albie Sachs.

Reading and hearing about him, I pictured a fiery giant, both in stature and demeanor. A domineering figure who birthed modern South Africa’s constitution and is its custodian in the Constitutional Court of South Africa.

Like Nelson Mandela and other important men and women of the struggle, I looked forward to the day I would meet him.

That day was Wednesday, May 7, 2008, 24 floors up a trendy legal office building in downtown Toronto. The occasion was a special reception organized by the Canada-South Africa Chamber of Business and the University of Cape Town Foundation, to flaunt him to Toronto-based members and well-wishers.

In sauntered a very ordinary man in a blue “Mandela shirt”. I only realised it was him when I saw how everybody farced over him.

But like all great people, Albie Sachs is just an ordinary man. No, there wasn’t any of the learned pompousness associated with legal minds. Absent, was the self-importance of a judge as he posed for pictures with everyone (including me) who wanted and, at one point, sat alone in a corner just observing his soon to be audience make rounds between the coffee and snack tables and, of course, the wine bar.

When he stood up to speak about "Every Judgement I Write is a Lie", his latest book, the authority of a Justice came out and so did the defiance of a freedom fighter.

His stumpie arm (cut off in a bomb attack in the 1980s) pointing menacingly at his audience, Justice Sachs spoke about how decisions made by judges are made by people. There are rules to follow but there are also personal considerations that may not be declared openly but may, nevertheless, come out in the judgement.

“Every Judgement I Write is a Lie” – is, of course, tongue in cheek, or is it?


Sunday, April 13, 2008

See no crisis, hear no crisis and speak of no crisis

So, leaders of the Southern Africa Development Community met for an unprecedented 12 or 13 hours. Turns out the issue that took most of their witching hour deliberations was whether to call the situation in Zimbabwe “a crisis” or not.

In the end, after a whole night, they announced their decision to compel the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to release the presidential results – as if they were the first to call for that.

To crown it all, they declared that there is “no crisis” in Zimbabwe. No prizes for guessing where that phrase originated from. Here is a hint through – South African president, Thabo Mbeki passed through Harare on his way to Lusaka.

No Crisis
A simplified dictionary definition of a crisis says it is a “critical moment”. Politically, one could define it as “an unstable and dangerous situation”.

Now, let’s put this in context. Zimbabweans voted on March 29. Two weeks later they have not been told who their choice for president is. The Movement for Democratic Change claims that its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai won. They are supported by the independent Zimbabwe Election Support Network.

The ruling party does not dispute that Tsvangirai may have won but they have demanded recounts, a run-off and now a re-run. Mugabe has reconstituted his dissolved cabinet including MPs beaten in the election.

The army and police have been deployed massively, war veterans and Zanu PF zealots are re-occupying farms and, slowly but surely, information and evidence of people being tortured is coming out.

The economy is at a virtual standstill.

All this does not constitute a crisis to SADC leaders. It is normal for Mbeki to host more than three million Zimbabweans in his country. It is normal for Mwanawasa to see Zimbabwean mothers and young girls prostituting themselves on the streets of Lusaka.

It is no crisis for President Khama to have Botswana’s commercial sector clogged by Zimbabwean professionals seeking refuge in his country and President Armando Guebuza sees no crisis when Zimbabweans cross the border everyday to seek jobs on Mozambican farms.

Ah, handina remuromo (I am lost for words).


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Zimbabwe Election Crisis: Can we trust SADC?

So, SADC leaders will meet on Saturday to tackle the crisis in Zimbabwe.

Can we really trust these spineless men who seem to be “awed” every time they are in the presence of Robert Mugabe? They always appeared so dazzled that they literally flaunt their wimpish deferment to him.

Watch my word, come Saturday afternoon, all we will hear is gibberish about “African brotherhood” and perceived “western imperialistic forces” only they can see lurking along their borders with Zimbabwe.

This will be the third time these leaders are meeting over Zimbabwe in just one year. The previous two meetings turned out to be talkfests whose achievements were to endorse Mugabe’s brutality against the opposition and unbridled plunder of the economy.

One really wonders what kind of hold Mugabe has over the SADC leaders. Most of them are a generation younger and all of them replaced their countries’ founding leaders, some three or four times over. Why they do not see the need of that democratic process in Zimbabwe boggles my mind.

The question that keeps bothering me is whether these leaders are with the people of Zimbabwe (as they should be) or against. In fact, this is the answer they will provide on Saturday, whether by design or default.

I mean, we all know what Zimbabweans need. They voted, as required by the democratic principles SADC promotes. But they have not been told who won.

So, Zimbabweans expect SADC to tell Mugabe to let the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission announce the results of the March 29 presidential election. That is what the Zimbabwe constitution demands, that is what SADC should demand and that is what Zimbabweans deserve.

But, I can predict to you now that you will not hear any of them utter that demand. Not when old Bob is eyeing them from one corner of the room.

Actually, it is rather curious that Mugabe, after initially calling for a run-off, has now changed his mind to demand a re-run. To back up his demand, he has claimed some superficial irregularities.

He cried foul over some 8,600 votes (as if they would make a difference) and dragged some poor ZEC officials to court for prejudicing him of as little as 51 votes in one constituency – how pathetic.

But hey, a man is gotta do what a man is gotta do, right!

So, now with that flimsy evidence, he will dazzle his fellow comrades with his usual oration, threaten any dissenters with that withered fist and they will all fall in line.

Mark my word, SADC will call for a re-run “at such a time when the atmosphere is right to do so” – an indefinite endorsement to Comrade Mugabe.

So much for “African brotherhood”.


Monday, April 07, 2008

Presidential results: High Court joins the delay game

Nine days after the historic presidential election in Zimbabwe on March 29, the result has not been released and it may never be.

After a promising election process that was remarkable for its peaceful conduct, Zimbabweans and the entire world expected an equally orderly counting process and everybody expected that by now there would be a duly elected president ready to be inaugurated on Independence Day, April 18.

Instead, the world has watched in disbelief as the army-led Zimbabwe Electoral Commission dilly-dallies with the results.

Electoral rules stipulate that a maximum of six days is allowed for the announcement of results and ZEC met that stipulation only in relation to the senate, parliamentary and council elections that were conducted concurrently with the all important presidential poll.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change’s leader, Morgan Tsvangirai has declared himself the winner over long-time national leader, President Robert Mugabe of Zanu PF and two independents, former minister, Simba Makoni and political upstart, Langton Towungana.

Tsvangirai based his declaration on figures tabulated and released by his party (from results posted outside polling stations) and those collected by the independent Zimbabwe Election Support Network. Those results put Tsvangirai’s tally at 50.3% against Mugabe’s 43.8%.

If those results are correct, they put Tsvangirai above the 50% plus one vote stipulation to win the election. There are reasons to believe the results are correct. ZEC and Zanu PF are not disputing them. Instead, ZEC has continued to postpone announcing its own totals while Mugabe and his party have called for a recount and are preparing themselves for a re-run.

MDC has appealed to the High Court to compel ZEC to release the results. The High Court has also joined the delay game. On Sunday Justice Uchena said he would decide on Monday if the case can be heard. On Monday he determined that, yes, he could hear the case but will determine on Tuesday if it is urgent or not. So, the game continues.

Meanwhile, Mugabe and his party have revved up their campaign for a second round, even though none has been declared. War veterans have been reactivated and there are reports of fresh farm invasions. The opposition alleges that the army has stepped up recruitment and Zanu PF youths (Green Bombers) are being reactivated.

The government propaganda machinery is working overtime to incite Zimbabweans with stories of white farmers returning to “forcibly occupy their former land” and allegations that the opposition is planning to hand over the economy to whites.

The international community seems powerless, reduced to making the feeble noises of “release the results now”. Noises that fall flat on Mugabe’s “hard to hear” ears.

South Africa, ever the prop on which Mugabe stands against international condemnation, repeats the mantra “let’s all be calm and wait for the results”.

Meanwhile, Zimbabweans have gone back to their miserable lives, invoking their various gods to intervene SOON.


Monday, March 31, 2008

Despondency as election results trickle in

Initial jubilation by opposition supporters in Zimbabwe is fast turning into despondency as official election results are being announced at a seemingly deliberate trickle.

All Sunday the Movement for Democratic Change was telling the world that its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai had won the presidential poll by up to 67%.

However, by early Monday afternoon in the country, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission had not released any results in that poll and the opposition has begun to suspect rigging of the already counted votes.

Other sources said the presidential race was actually inconclusive with the possibility of a second round run-off between Tsvangirai and either President Robert Mugabe of the ruling Zanu PF party or Dr. Simba Makoni, an Independent candidate who is a former cabinet minister in Mugabe’s government.

In the parliamentary poll, which is equally important, the ZEC had released results from 24 constituencies by 1 pm Zimbabwean time (7 am EST). The results were evenly split between the ruling party and the opposition.

However, MDC tallied the results officially posted outside polling stations throughout the country to conclude that it had so far taken 95 seats against Zanu PF’s 40 and 20 for independents. There are 210 contested parliamentary seats and, if indeed, MDC won 95, it is just 11 seats away from claiming victory (which it has already done).

News agency reports say up to nine of Mugabe’s key cabinet and politburo members had already lost their seats to the opposition. These include vice president, Joyce Mujuru; the minister of security, Didymus Mutasa; minister of justice, Patrick Chinamasa; minister of youth services, Elliot Manyika and minister of local government, Ignatius Chombo.

Some of the Zanu PF big wigs who lost their seats appeared to have taken the losses so hard that Manyika killed a polling official and is now in custody. There are unconfirmed reports that Chombo and another losing minister, Webster Shamu were also involved in gun-related disturbances in their constituencies.

All this comes at a time when President Mugabe’s sister and long time confidante, Sabina Mugabe died on Sunday after suffering a suspected heart failure. She had been very ill for a long time.

Her two sons, Leo Mugabe and Patrick Zhuwawo (both senior members of Mugabe’s government) are said to have lost their parliamentary seats.


Sunday, March 30, 2008

Minister commits murder after losing election

Even a serious event like an election has its own anecdotes. Some are sad, some are outright funny and some are just horrible.

As Zimbabweans eagerly await official results of yesterday’s landmark elections, unofficial results are already being floated around.

But, before we get into that some serious and rather said tidbits.

Elliot Manyika, an outgoing member of Mugabe’s cabinet and the ruling Zanu PF party’s political commissar (lead campaigner) lost his parliamentary seat and his mind. Upon being told that he had been beaten by an opposition Movement for Democratic Change candidate, Manyika is said to have lost all control and shot someone dead. He then bolted from the scene and was only apprehended at the airport where he attempted to skip the country. He is now in police custody facing murder charges.

That Manyika would do that is not surprising. This is the man who personified the brutal aspect of the ruling party’s campaign tactics as the leader of the Green Bombers (the ruthless Zanu PF national youth service). Besides, his very life is (or should I say was) Zanu PF.

Another liberation war veteran and former perpetual cabinet member, Webster Shamu is also said to have been barring polling officials from announcing results of his being trounced by the opposition in his “safe” seat in the Chegutu commercial farming area. A gun was also sighted. Let’s hope nobody is going to be shot there.

Other Zanu PF heavyweights reported to have lost (but have not gone berserk yet) are:
Vice President, Joyce Mujuru
Party National Administrator and Minister of the Secret Police, Didymus Mutasa.
Minister of Local Government (as corrupt as they come), Ignatius Chombo
Minister of Agriculture, Joseph Made

Many more Zanu PF titans are expected to fall as the day goes by.

One cabinet member who had already fallen at the Zanu PF primary election level, Aeneas Chigwedere, Minister of Education, epitomized the saying “the harder they fall”.

He was on Sunday bestowed the headmanship of a village in Hwedza. From leading the entire education system in a country reputed to have the high literacy rate in the developing world, to heading a village of peasant farmers. Chisingaperi chinoshura (everything comes to an end).

On the presidential election. The unofficial results show things are not good for old Bob. It appears at best he will make a second round run-off. But with his close allies (who were campaigning for him) losing to the opposition, it becomes difficult to imagine how he would win.

In fact, the delay in announcing elections could mean either of two things. That election officials are trying to find a way to give him a win (rigging) or they are giving him time to gather himself before he faces the music.

More to follow.