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.


Saturday, March 29, 2008

Change is in the air, I can smell it

Change is in the air comrades. I can smell it all the way from Zimbabwe. There are two aromas, both sweet (the scents of Makoni and Tsvangirai) competing against a stench so foul it can only be that of an aging dictator (Sekuru Bob).

Frankly, on this day of reckoning, I just don’t care which of the two sweet ones lingers in my nostrils when all is done. It is the foul one I want removed from my space forthwith.

Actually, foul smells aside, did you see the suit Bob was wearing when he cast his vote. Now, that’s an attire for one who knows retirement is nigh. Very grandpa-ish, in a strange way, for those who know how Mugabe can really don them sunjaz.

But the man still talks of “conquering”, “knocking each other out”.

Oh, hey, Bona (the first daughter) is voting. I wonder if she did some of that youthful rebellious stuff and voted for Makoni or Tsvangirai, instead of her father. You, know the kind of stuff someone will reveal in a biography or something, years later.

But I digress. I was talking about the sweet smell of change. It is permeating its way here from those long lines at polling stations, and from the news that almost everywhere the catch word is “change”.

The sweet aroma comes from the dozen or so people I talked to this morning, from across the entire country, all saying: “Forget the rally attendances and the messages of doom. We are changing things.”

One elderly lady in a high density suburb of Bulawayo whose son I grew up with (and he has travelled to Zimbabwe from South Africa to vote) told me this: “My son, the fact that you are calling me from that far, not across the road and that my own son is having to travel from across the border to vote, is enough for me to vote for change.”

“By the way, I am not alone in this,” she added as I was about to bid her farewell.

Now, if Bob wants to scuttle this dear lady’s dream for change by stealing the vote, then he should not wonder if she “knocks him out” with her cooking stick.


Friday, March 28, 2008

Army deployed to protect people against Mugabe

I spent the whole election eve worried sick about the massive military deployment in Zimbabwe – tanks on the streets and even Air Force planes criss-crossing the countryside.

This has never happened before in a free Zimbabwe and like everybody else I reached the conclusion that Mugabe is ready to unleash the mighty Zimbabwean army on the people should they; either vote him out or he steals the vote and they revolt.

But then I reached a sort of eureka moment and I almost jumped out of my own skin. This deployment is actually for the good of the people, I reason.

Now before you throw your ballot papers on me, just follow, okay!

See, right from the beginning Simba Makoni has been harping about overwhelming support in the government, the ruling Zanu PF party and the security forces.

Although all the serving chiefs have uttered words to the effect that they will not salute anyone other than Mugabe, this time their declarations have not been as forceful as in 2002. They, in fact, personified puppets going through programmed motions.

Besides, we hear of Mujuru being on Makoni’s side (he has not disputed that yet), Dabengwa has come aboard and so have some other lesser military types (albeit retired). We have had the Bonyongwe issue at CIO.

We heard of police officers defying Zanu PF instructions to protect the opposition in some cases. Even some war vets and Green Bombers have been reported to shed their brutal Zanu PF past to join the progressive forces of the the opposition.

Then we had Tsvangirai telling his supporters not to worry about the army, followed by Nkosana Moyo (Makoni’s strategist) declaring that “we have people in the management” of elections (that includes the army).

In fact, the general response from the opposition is that of “oh, boys are just being boys”.

So, I reached my own conclusion that, in actual fact, the army is being deployed to make sure “Mission Remove Mugabe” is accomplished without a hitch.

My theory is that upon realizing that he has lost the plot, old Bob will try to set his presidential guard against the people, but the regular army - so deployed - will shiled the people.

But hey, I am not holding my breath.


Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Fist vs The Open Hand vs Clasped Hands

After all that has been said by all and sundry over the past months about the state of politics and the economy in Zimbabwe; after the opinions, wishes and predictions, it now falls on the people of Zimbabwe to pull their country out of the brink of total collapse or tie heavier weights on its underbelly.

The much awaited presidential election in Zimbabwe is here.

The candidates and their surrogates, journalists and observers, pundits and critics; have all had their say. Variously they have pontificated on who should win the election and why. Individual and collective opinions, wishes and hopes have been mixed with facts and reality to form predictions.

Depending on whom you talk to or whose account you read, the three main candidates; outgoing President Robert Mugabe (84) of the ruling Zanu PF party, main opposition Movement for Democratic Change leader, Morgan Tsvangirai (56) and Independent Simba Makoni (57) have been tipped to win this election.

The predictions are very compelling for each of them. Mugabe’s ominous fist of fury crushes all dissent so much that people would rather vote for him than face the wrath of his security machinery, we have been told.

Tsvangirai’s “change” mantra has been so loud and poignant this time around that voters no longer fear Mugabe’s promised Armageddon if they abandon him.

We have also been told that fresh-faced Makoni’s message of unity has resonated with a nation so tired of the polarizing status quo – on both sides of the political divide – that they will elect him enmass.

Well, they say words are cheap - or better still - action speaks louder than words. It is now time for the Zimbabwean voters to do what has always been their absolute right – to determine the country’s destiny on Saturday.

The choice they have may seem so simple. Vote old Bob out and manna will fall from heaven, the proverbial milk and honey will flow along the country’s rivers and the glory days of yesteryear will return instantly. Leave him in power and unprecedented doom will befall the entire nation. The reverse has been argued by Mugabe and his supporters.

It is assumed that Zimbabweans should and would vote one way or the other as a block.

Might it be that simple?

Will a peasant farmer in the remote Zambezi Valley feel compelled to vote for Makoni in the same way as a professor in the City of Bulawayo will be?

Can an MDC activist who was jailed and tortured for his political preference convince a government worker who benefited from the land redistribution exercise to dumb Mugabe?

Would a landless white farmer and a liberation war veteran agree to unite for the purpose of national peace, reconciliation and progress?

These are difficult questions to ask anyone, and yet, Zimbabweans have to ask themselves these questions and answer them through the ballot.

From afar, it seems easy to say: Mugabe is too old to remain in power and that he has ruined the country. It also seems easy to say Tsvangirai is unsophisticated and too polarizing and that Makoni is inexperienced and rather naïve.

But the fact is that a voter’s choice is based on immediate and local needs. Whether these needs are similar for every voter will only be seen after the election.

What is not in dispute is that the country is in ruin. Inflation runs beyond 100,000%, unemployment is rated at 80%, there is virtually no food or services and a quarter of the country’s 12 million people are in exile.

Those in the country – the voters – have endured various forms of human rights violations such that not a single one has escaped emotional, mental or physical persecution.

But on Saturday these same hobbled people have to pull their country out of the brink of total collapse or tie heavier weights on its underbelly and let it sink deeper into the abyss of misrule and economic plunder.

For better or worse; they have to make a choice. Is it gonna be Mugabe’s fist that threatens to crush all, Tsvangirai’s open palm of change or Makoni’s clasped hands of national unity?

Zimbabwean voters will tell us on Saturday.


Monday, March 17, 2008

Gono turns Reserve Bank into "Elect Mugabe" Bank

Of the four candidates in the Zimbabwe presidential election due in two weeks, former finance minister, Dr. Simba Makoni, is the only one who has made it clear that, among his immediate tasks in office, would be to “examine and define the mandate of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and its relationship to the state.”

He stated in his election manifesto that he would “restore the autonomy of the Central Bank as a regulator.”

It is not surprising why Makoni would prioritize a re-look into the workings of the Reserve Bank which has been transformed by incumbent governor, Gideon Gono into anything but.

A Central Bank is universally defined as an entity responsible for the monetary policy of a country. Its primary responsibility is to maintain the stability of the national currency and money supply.

The RBZ, under Gono, has failed to fulfill its mandate. It is common knowledge now that the monetary policy of the RBZ has been consistent on printing and dishing out useless bearer cheques to the nation, a function that nobody would find easy to classify as a role for a Central Bank.

As for the primary responsibility of maintaining the stability of the national currency and money supply, well, reality suggests that has not been practiced either, with the USdollar exchanging at more than ZD 30 million and inflation at more than 100,000%.

The RBZ has also been involved in black market currency transactions, something tantamount to a policeman joining thieves instead of arresting them.

But these are the obvious failings of the RBZ that Gono may even defend successfully to those who sympathize with his self-made situation.

What is really worrying – and even embarrassing – is how Gono has transformed the RBZ into an “Elect Mugabe Bank”, with departments to supply farming equipment and rural transportation.

The RBZ is directly involved in funding and active distribution of tractors, ploughs, scorch carts and other implements under a project called the Farm Mechanisation Programme.

It’s a project specially designed and timely introduced to begin at the same time as President Robert Mugabe is seeking a sixth term in office. Last week, in an interview with The Financial Gazette, one could feel the glee in Gono’s words as he proudly enumerated the thousands of tractors, ploughs harrows and other implements the programme is offering to farmers.

Ironically, Zimbabwe has an agricultural bank, but nothing is heard of it in the programme which should really be within its mandate. But the Reserve Bank, together with its governor, has become a personal tool of Mugabe’s and no prizes for guessing who will benefit from the implements.

As if that is not enough, the Reserve Bank is also in the forefront of funding and implementing another “Elect Mugabe” project; the so-called National Transport Enhancement Programme under which Mugabe and his surrogates are going round the country donating buses, 35 for each of the country’s 10 provinces.

What boggles one’s mind is that Zimbabwe’s rural transportation system has always been a private enterprise affair and never before has the government been required to provide buses.

Nobody knows who will administer the buses and under what statute. All we know is that Mugabe said the buses will charge affordable fares, by whose definition, we don’t know.

But is a direct role by the RBZ necessary? Where is Gono getting the money to embark on all these schemes, including a “Food for Votes” programme that has gone awry as nobody wants to load the maize in Zambia.

But I digress. My issue is with the RBZ being on the forefront of an election campaign on behalf of one candidate. This can only happen in Zimbabwe.

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Mugabe bangs down phone on Chissano?

Been away from blogosphere for a week or so attending to pressing bread and butter issues – the family has to eat.

Anyway, while I was away, I met three senior government officials from South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique. As I introduced myself (or was introduced – in one case) the issue of elections in Zimbabwe would come up almost immediately.

Although I met them separately and they actually do not even know each other, the three officials would ask me the same question: “So, what do you think is going to happen on March 29?”

My one important question to them was what were their governments thinking or doing about the situation in Zimbabwe.

The one from Mozambique had this to say: “You know that our former president, (Joquim) Chissano is Mugabe’s best friend, right? He tried to tell Mugabe to retire but that man (Mugabe) does not listen. Chissano persisted but he had to stop when Mugabe stopped taking his calls or if he got through, your president would cut him off the moment he heard his voice.”

“We respect Mugabe. We are forever indebted to him and Zimbabweans for their help during the Renamo war, but right now he is costing us. Investors cite our proximity to Zimbabwe as a risk. He must go.”

The South African turned out to be a man of a few words: “Our current president (Thabo Mbeki) and our future leader (Jacob Zuma) have both agreed that anybody else is preferable to Mugabe. We know he is gone.”

The Zambian official added: “Mugabe must be hard of hearing because our president has been bending his ear since he came to power but he sits there like he is listening yet, he is not. Nobody wants him anymore.”

Their words, not mine. These are very senior people in the three governments who would know.

My final question to the three officials (separately, of course) was, if what they told me were the actual views and feelings of their leaders and governments, why were they not ganging up to approach Mugabe as a group and tell him that they do not support him anymore.

Almost to the letter, the three said: “He has been told.”

Uhmm, interesting.

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Zim journalists committing electoral fraud too

Journalists of my generation at Ziana – between 1992 and 2000 – will agree that the best way to incur the wrath of the news agency’s editors was to submit a story without background, cross-references or with figures that did not add up.

Being a student of some of Zimbabwe’s best editors of that era, like Tarcey Munaku, Ndaba “Ndasto” Nyoni and “Sekuru” Tambayi Nyika (may their souls rest in peace), I cringe when I read some of the stories being churned out from Zimbabwe, particularly at this time of elections.

Very few reporters – and editors – produce complete stories that would make a reader understand an issue even if they have missed earlier accounts and I find it very frustrating.

Coverage of the highly contentious presidential election is the case in point here. Ruling Zanu PF candidate, President Robert Mugabe is quoted extensively by both the government-owned and private press as he bashes his opponents Dr. Simba Makoni and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.

We read that at almost every rally, Mugabe accuses Makoni and Tsvangirai of being funded by British and American businesses. The Herald even published names of companies alleged to be funding Makoni.

The reporters doing these stories may be young and without much knowledge of what happened in the 1980s and 1990s, but their editors will definitely recall that every election before 2000, Mugabe received public financial donations (solicited and unsolicited) from mostly British individuals, companies and organisations.

I recall vividly that in preparation of the 1996 presidential election, Mugabe dispatched the late Eddison Zvobgo to go and fundraise in London, no less. Zvobgo raised more than 1 Million Pounds from the likes of Tiny Rowland and others.

I made several trips to London and other European destinations with Mugabe as a presidential reporter. There were meetings with white businessmen, which we would not be allowed to report on. I don’t suppose Mugabe discussed cricket with these men.

Lately, Tsvangirai has ganged up with Mugabe in accusing Makoni of being funded by foreign “embassies” in Harare. This sounds to me like a jilted lover venting on a rival suitor.

Was it not a few short years ago that Tsvangirai prided himself with being seen in the company of the same diplomats and even travelling to their countries to seek (and receive) endorsement and funding as the next president of Zimbabwe.

Could it be that after failing to deliver in three attempts, his former backers have decided to pursue a new and perhaps more acceptable option and Tsvangirai is lashing out in bitterness?

Whatever the case, the point is that Zimbabwean press (and to a large extent Diasporan and foreign press too) has been complicit in not being diligent enough to provide this background and cross-referencing or balancing their reports.

And the funding issue is not the only problem. There is the fact that Mugabe’s message at this year’s election rallies is exactly the same as he delivered at every other election campaign since the 1980s. He would give people land and food, increase salaries of government workers and make sure “bad ol’ whitie” doesn’t come back.

Yet, not a single reporter has raised this background in the thousands of stories we read each election period. No effort is made to go to the people and ask them if they ever received the things Mugabe promised them every election period.

Then there is the issue of rally attendances. Last weekend when Makoni addressed a rally at White City stadium in Bulawayo, depending on the newspaper one read, the number of his audience ranged variously from 4,000 to 7,000. That’s understandable.

Then this weekend, it was Tsvangirai’s turn and the range was 12,000 to 40,000.

I covered many rallies and other functions at White City stadium and unless its carrying capacity was increased in the years that I have been away, I know that there is no way 20,000 people can fit into White City; let alone 30,000 or 40,000 which is the capacity for Barbourfields or Rufaro.

Then there is the issue of generals who declare that they will not salute any leader other than Mugabe. Why doesn’t anybody tell these gentlemen the truth that if Makoni or Tsvangirai are elected by the people of Zimbabwe, it is a simple fact of military rules that they will perform a crisp salute to their new Commander-In-Chief or else they will be court-martialed.

In any case, President Makoni or Tsvangirai will remove them from the positions they hold now and replace them with generals befitting that rank.

These are just a few of many inadequacies I notice in reports from Zimbabwe and I wish someone could ensure that we get backgrounded and balanced news.

Neglecting these ground rules of good journalism is, in itself, an act of electoral fraud.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Who will endorse who, in the run-off?

It is becoming more likely that the March 29 presidential election in Zimbabwe will not produce an outright (more than 51%) winner between incumbent President Robert Mugabe (84) and his two challengers, former Finance Minister, Dr. Simba Makoni and MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.

Thus, a never used constitutional provision for a second round run-off between the two leading candidates is more than likely to be invoked.

This has opened a new question that is not yet being debated but will soon be on everyone’s lips. The question is: If any of the three candidates comes third, who, of the remaining two will he endorse?

There is no simple answer to this question. First, we have to consider the candidates’ electorate.

Mugabe is likely to win among his rural base mostly in the Mashonaland provinces. But he will not take Matabeleland and will lose in parts of Midlands, Masvingo and Manicaland.

Tsvangirai will carry most of Harare, about a third of Manicaland, a piece of Masvingo and Midlands and a tiny bit of the vote in Matabeleland.

Makoni will share Harare with Tsvangirai, a third of Manicaland, a few seats in Masvingo, a third of the spoils in Midlands and most, if not all, of the votes in Matabeleland where he should reap the rewards of being endorsed by the Mutambara faction of MDC.

That leaves the country divided in three almost equal parts with no clear winner. Many expect Mugabe to come up with a tiny lead, followed by either Makoni or Tsvangirai.

Now, it may seem simple enough to assume that if Makoni comes third, he will endorse Tsvangirai because he stood up to run specifically against Mugabe, not Tsvangirai. It can also be assumed that Tsvangirai will endorse Makoni because he would consider him a better devil.

Although no one expects Mugabe to come out third, should people determine so, convention would expect him to endorse Makoni because he came out of his party and has clearly said he will not seek retribution against the veteran nationalist.

But Zimbabwean politics is not as straight forward as that and nobody can predict what will happen until it happens, just like nobody expected Makoni to run until he actually did.

But there is no harm in speculating
Mugabe is not prepared to lose. He has conditioned himself to rule Zimbabwe until he dies, so much as he might anticipate the annoyance of being forced into a run-off, he does not consider himself coming out last. That means he is not thinking of who to endorse.

In any case, Mugabe will never be expected to accept defeat just like that and happily endorse Makoni or Tsvangirai. If he cannot rig his way back into State House, he will most certainly cause chaos, perhaps of a military nature because he clearly has the army in his pocket.

However, if circumstances force him to give way after the first round, he is most likely to throw a tantrum and refuse to endorse anyone and his supporters will then make their own choice.

Tsvangirai too does not expect to come out third in the first round. At the least, he expects to come out second to Mugabe and much as he dismisses Makoni’s overtures for an alliance, he will need his fellow Manyika’s endorsement to defeat Mugabe in the run-off.

But should what he thinks is unrealistic happens and he comes out third, he too is not going to roll over and give his blessings to either Makoni or Mugabe. He is so ready for State House that a defeat in the first round will leave him so bitter that he will most likely refuse to accept the results and seek the intervention of the international community – Kenyan style.

But if push comes to shove (particularly if his supporters and financial backers force him to endorse someone) he will grudgingly throw his weight behind Makoni, but not without a firm deal of some influence in the new government. There is simply no way he will back Mugabe and even if he did, Mugabe is likely to throw the endorsement right back into his face.

So, if Makoni comes third, who will he endorse? Convention would say Mugabe because Simba is still Zanu PF at heart and a loss for him and a win for Mugabe would indicate that the Zanu PF support he banked on is non-existent.

Besides, people who are going to vote for Makoni are those who are disgruntled by both Mugabe and Tsvangirai, so the former minister’s endorsement of one or the other may not make much of a difference as the voters will simply go back to their old parties or just stay away.

But then again, if Makoni sees himself as a leader of the future like most people see him, he will look beyond 2008 and start preparing for the next contest. That then, might persuade him to endorse Tsvangirai in the hope that if the MDC leader wins the run-off, he will make it easy for Makoni to form a new party to launch his own bid in the next election.

Well, there might even be other considerations and permutations I could not think of here but are, no doubt, in other people’s minds.

The bottom line: If it were not for Makoni’s entry into this election, all these possibilities would not even be on the table.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

How soon we forget

Reports of South Africans attacking immigrants from other African countries seem to be getting worse, with the latest being today’s attack in a settlement called Laudium, just outside Pretoria.

Tomorrow’s Pretoria News leads with a story titled: “Flames and Mob Fury”, a sad account of how South Africans turned against their Angolan, Malawian, Mozambican and Zimbabwean neighbours attacking them with anything from guns and machetes to sticks and booted feet. Not even children were spared, the report says.

Authorities could not say what really sparked the attacks, but the locals accused the foreigners of committing crime.

Whatever these people have done to anger the locals should not warrant any attacks in a country considered to have the rule of law.

In any case, South Africans should not forget that it is only a short 14 years ago when millions of them were scattered in the countries where their victims come from.

They were treated as guests in their time of need and rightly so. No South African was ever victimized in all these countries even when, in some cases, people felt some of them abused their privilege of being apartheid victims needing protection.

The foreigners they are attacking now are in South Africa because they too need protection and help and they figured who better to go to other than their brothers and sisters whom they protected not so long ago.

The South African government should stop these attacks forthwith lest it be accused of abetting these attacks.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Voting for Mugabe is cruelty to our elders

Prior to last Friday, the day when all aspirants of various elected political offices in Zimbabwe filed their papers, I did everything possible; pray, wish, will and hope that President Robert Mugabe will give himself (to our immense benefit) an early 84th birthday present.

I told myself that there is no way an old man could still want to play this dirty game called politics with men young enough to be his children. Surely, he would want to leave it all and go to Zvimba to tend to his pigs and chickens while he can still totter after them.

But then, he registered to be elected and since Friday I have been asking myself why uKhulu is putting himself in this situation. Surely, it can’t be power he still covets? There has to be something that causes a man in the twilight of his life to quicken his journey yonder by continuously carrying the burden of a hungry, poor, jobless and cowed nation.

Then it dawned on me. You see, the problem is not old Bob. Gushungo is only responding to those of us who keep pushing him to stand for election and then go on to elect him (genuinely or otherwise).

The shame is on the men and women who fill up an arena and endorse him as their candidate when there are younger people who can carry the yoke. A bigger shame on the men and women who coo in his aged ears that “you are the only one to do this job, Chef,” when in effect they mean “you are the only one who can ensure our butts are covered beyond March 29.”

But what would be immoral, heartless or even diabolic would be to go into a polling booth and putting an “X” on the name of an 84-year-old man.

That would be total disrespect for our elders, a total lack of compassion for a man who, for a whole 28 years, has been shouldering all our problems as a nation. He needs to be relieved of this heavy burden.

I know, of course, that like most elderly people, Mugabe can and will be stubborn. He will campaign vigorously, lifting and shaking that once potent but now withered fist in the air and admonishing anyone who dares challenge him or threatening to floor anyone who votes him out.

But old and senile people do that sometimes, right. They angrily insist that they, and only they, can protect us from the evil men of the West who want to colonize our land and enslave us again. They let their senility cloud their judgement and believe they can conquer everything and everyone even if the weight of their own fist can send them sprawling onto the ground as they try to strike imagined enemies.

“Ndinombonzi aniko ini? Vaudze kuti ndairova mikono ini (What is my name? Tell them I used to beat up stronger men),” they will sputter rhetorically.

The point is, there is simply nothing new 84-year-old Mugabe can offer Zimbabweans, no matter how his oratory and eloquent self may try to argue.

Voters should not allow themselves to be hoodwinked by the same old tricks: whites will come back to take over, war veterans will go back to the bush if you vote me out, etc.

In fact, for him to raise these issues would be to assume that Zimbabweans cannot prevent any “re-colonization” or whatever he calls it, without him as leader.

As for the war veterans, it would be amusing to see people in their late 40s to 80s going back to take arms just because old Bob has not been voted back into power.

In fact, how about putting a cap on the age at which one can stand for the presidency. Something like 60 years should be reasonable.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Makoni Is Now Ahead On Issues

A friend of mine, political analyst Ndaba Njobo, called Simba Makoni a Mafikizolo, in an endearing way, of course.

Omafikizolo, in Zimbabwean politics, are supposed to be bumbling upstarts open to lampooning by the veteran of Zimbabwean politics, President Robert Mugabe.

But this John Come Lately is a whole lot smart. Knowing that his opponents, Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai have had years of preparations with established organisations to back them, he beat them to the one thing very important in any election – the Election Manifesto or Platform.

I have not seen the full document, but what I have read in the media is enough to convince me that Makoni is out of the blocks while his opponents are still lacing up their boots.

The Issues
The issues Makoni intends to tackle if voted into Zimbabwe House are:
To undertake immediate and urgent tasks to resolve the food, power, fuel, water and sanitation problems and develop a policy framework for economic and social renewal, in the short, medium and long term.
To redefine the mandate of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe its relationship to the state as well as improving the bank’s relationship with other financial institutions. “I will restore the autonomy of the central bank as a regulator; remove different foreign exchange rates as a tool for doing away with the parallel market and removing distortions in the economy.”
To institute a people-driven national constitution.
To restore property rights and restore the rule of law in mining.
To institute a transparent land reform programme.

These are the issues in people’s hearts, the issues that will restore Zimbabwe’s respectability in the world. With a promise for economic reforms, transparent land redistribution and restoration of property rights, Makoni is not appealing to Zimbabweans only, he is appealing to the international community too. Take it from me, they are listening.

But most importantly to any candidate, Makoni is the first to have made the declaration to tackle these issues if elected. All that is left for him to do now is explain how he will do it, the funding and the time frames.

On the other hand, Mugabe and Tsvangirai now have the dilemma of coming up with either different platforms or “copy” Makoni’s. Either way, they are doomed. There are basically no other issues that could trump the above and copying only results in them having their ballot knuckles rapped by the voters.

Makoni also has the advantage of not having been in a similar election before so, there is no history for anyone to look back on and say, “oh, you promised this before but you did not deliver.”

Both Mugabe and Tsvangirai have history. Mugabe’s history being that he never delivered on any of his promises, that’s why people want him out. On the other hand, if Tsvangirai raised these issues before, it was not with the same clarity as they have been raised by Makoni.

This is why many Zimbabweans (and interested foreigners too) wish Tsvangirai could emulate Arthur Mutambara and join forces with Makoni.

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Can I Vote For A President And MP From Different Parties

I received an interesting question from a voter in a “real dilemma.”

“Mr. Madawo,” he began. “I have a problem. I am excited about voting for Simba Makoni to become president, but I am related to our local Zanu PF Councillor and I also think that the MDC MP we have is doing a good job. If I put Makoni in power, will he give us a good MP and a good Councillor like my aunt?”

Well, my answer to the fellow (and hopefully to others in a similar situation), was simple. Although the harmonized election(s) is on the same day, you vote for the President, Senator, MP and Councillor separately.

So, it is quite right for a voter in Gwanda to elect a Zanu PF Councillor, an MDC MP and/or Senator and an Independent President. Isn’t that the richness of democracy? Because you like a Councillor from a certain party should not necessarily mean that you have to be burdened with a president from the same party.

But knowing those party campaigners out there (especially in the rural areas), I will not be surprised if people will be told that the only way is to vote a team from one party or the other.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Did you hear: Bob Raring To Fly To Zvimba For Good!!

Everybody has been wondering why old Bob has not vented, a whole week, after Simba Makoni announced his intention to contest him for the presidency of Zimbabwe. I mean, we had become accustomed that almost immediately someone says or does anything considered abhorrent by Gushungo, he would instantly hit out calling them names and symbolically striking them down with his fist.

But there had been deathly silence from State House, until today when The Herald reports that he came out of an extraordinary politburo meeting and said: “I am very raring to go and raring to fly."

Oh, and The Herald qualifies this with ‘he said while raising clenched fists in a show of confidence.’
Now, I was not there, but for the Bob I know to give such a short and meek remark, without taking a shot at Makoni or even Tsvangirai, that means something is terribly wrong. Could the fists have been an old man’s feeble effort to defend himself from perceived blows from his enemies?

The Herald also says the man who could have been king but lost his chance by aligning himself with an out of fashion faction of Zanu PF, Emmerson Mnangagwa will hold a press conference tomorrow on the fate of Makoni. He will be flanked by old timer Nathan Shamuyarira.

Well, gentlemen, just be careful what you say about Makoni, this is the man whose shoes you could soon be licking.

Nuff said. Let’s see what the press conference will reveal.
Oh by the way; just talked to someone who was in Bulawayo yesterday. He says the name Simba Makoni has suddenly become the most popular in The City of Kings. Another fellow says a former CIO boss is firmly behind Makoni.

And guess what, if MDC Mutambara has teamed up with Makoni (as is reported) it means within a week of entering the presidential election, the former finance minister could easily sweep the vote in the whole of Matebeleland and parts of Masvingo and Midlands provinces, not to mention his home turf of Manicaland and, of course, Harare.

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If The Truth Be Told: A Case For Simba Makoni

Simba Makoni’s intention to seek the presidency of Zimbabwe has injected a welcome excitement into an election that many of us were ready to dismiss as just a farce.

Some analysts have doubted Makoni’s intentions, given his timing - weeks after meeting President Robert Mugabe behind closed doors and days after being denied a chance to contest Zanu PF parliamentary primaries in Manicaland. But the most lurched on “flaw” of Makoni’s is that he insists on remaining a Zanu PF member. Well, the fact that this is the worst his critics can throw at him shows how Makoni is easily what the doctor ordered for Zimbabwe.

In any case who, among politicians of Makoni’s generation (including Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)’s Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara) was not a member or sympathizer of Zanu PF, at some point. The fact that Makoni is challenging for the leadership of the country from within Zanu PF, shows that he has the guts (not displayed by anyone else) to fight for democracy from within.

It is often too easy for people to cry wolf when someone emerges from a party other than theirs, but I believe there is need for us to distinguish between an entire party and those of its leaders who are anti-democracy.

Lest we forget, this is the same Simba Makoni that long before Tsvangirai and MDC came on the scene, people of all walks of life were happy to tout as the most qualified to succeed Mugabe and even do a much better job running the country.

Makoni has proved how smart he is as a politician by not getting carried away and jumping on the earlier calls for him to challenge Mugabe when the old fox was still strong. Lessons were learnt when the likes of Edgar Tekere, Enock Dumbutshena and Eddison Zvobgo tried to challenge Mugabe. They all failed because then, the entire Zanu PF machinery was behind the president.

Now, fissures have developed and the Zanu PF train is just a kilometre from derailment, perfect time to bail out. Even better for Makoni, the opposition is even more disorganized than the ruling party.

Like other people willing to give Makoni the benefit of the doubt, I worry that he might not have enough time to convince the electorate to vote for him but should he lose or be prevented from becoming president, Zimbabwe would have lost the one chance available to replace Mugabe with a leader who has the knowledge and willingness to pull it out of the current economic crisis in short order.

Some critics have been quick to brand him a failure. They particularly single out his 10-year tenure as Executive Secretary of the then Southern African Development Co-ordination Conference (SADCC). They have said he achieved nothing. Not true because to say he failed at SADCC would mean that the current successes of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are the work of his successors in Gaborone.

The simple truth is that Makoni was thrust into a role that no one had ever been in before at a time when the southern African region was struggling to be self-sufficient from apartheid ruled South Africa. Through his leadership at SADCC, the frontline states managed to sustain themselves and reduce the apartheid regime’s economic hold on its neighbours. If that is not success, then what is?

The fact that supporters and critics all agree that Makoni is respected internationally stems from his successful stewardship of the SADCC and that gives him a clear advantage over his opponents when it comes to forging foreign relations.

In the early 1990s Makoni was appointed Chief Executive of the Zimbabwe Newspapers Group. It was during his term that its flagship, The Herald and its Bulawayo-based sister papers, The Chronicle and The Sunday News were transformed from government mouthpieces to impartial media. That was the only time when you could read, in The Herald, a story as critical of the government as you would read in The Financial Gazette or The Zimbabwe Independent. Zimpapers’ value on the stock exchange soared and circulation increased. Again this puts him ahead of his opponents in terms of the kind of business acumen that is needed now in Zimbabwe.

But there was one hold out at Zimpapers, The Sunday Mail, which was then edited by Charles Chikerema, a relative of President Mugabe. Makoni and Chikerema clashed over editorial issues and Makoni was fired; not because he had failed but because he dared order Chikerema to be a true journalist.

Makoni went into private business and again proved too valuable for Mugabe to ignore and after the ill-fated 2000 election; he brought him back to clean up the mess in the engine room of the country’s economic policy development, the finance ministry.

Ever so diligent, Makoni presented Mugabe with a plan to devalue the Zimdollar as a way to correct the economic imbalances caused by the war veterans' compensation exercise of 1997 and the DRC war in 1998. Mugabe refused to devalue the dollar and the two immediately parted ways. Many congratulated Makoni for that bold move and yet, some people are now twisting the facts to present Makoni as having failed to revive the economy, hence Mugabe fired him.

Quite simply, Makoni is by far the best option Zimbabweans have right now. Mugabe has nothing new to offer except more misery for the country. Tsvangirai may have been appealing in 2000 and 2002 but not anymore. Politically, he has become as dictatorial as Mugabe and even worse, he is very divisive. Mutambara on the other hand is just directionless as, well, a mis-programmed robot.