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.