Opinions


A South African Minister allegedly described President Robert Mugabe as a “crazy old man” according to leaked secret communications from United States embassies published on Sunday.

Release of about a quarter-million previously secret communications from US embassies by Wikileaks, a non-profit organisation, plunged the US government into a global diplomatic panic with officials warning the development could endanger lives and fray key security alliances.

Most of the documents are from the last three years.

Prior to their release, President Mugabe was said to be among leaders subjected to unflattering remarks by US diplomats but the Zimbabwean leader will not have expected the criticism to come from across the Limpopo.

However, South Africa’s International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane did just that, describing Mugabe as “the crazy old man”, according to a cable from the US embassy in Pretoria.

The minister’s unguarded remarks could create problems for SA President Jacob Zuma who is mediating between Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on behalf of the regional SADC grouping.

Meanwhile, former US ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell is said to have written a scathing account of Mugabe and his time in the country when he left in 2007.

In a cable from Harare, Dell described the aging President as “a brilliant tactician” but mocked “his deep ignorance on economic issues (coupled with the belief that his 18 doctorates give him the authority to suspend the laws of economics).”

The US administration was in fire-fighting mode on Sunday after the release of the documents which show its ambassadors and officials making undiplomatic remarks about several world leaders and key allies.

A statement from the White House condemned the Wikileaks for the publication, warning that “these cables could compromise private discussions with foreign governments and opposition leaders, and … deeply impact not only US foreign policy interests, but those of our allies and friends around the world”.

The founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, says the US authorities are afraid of being held to account.

Wikileaks also claimed it had come under attack from a computer-hacking operation.

“We are currently under a mass distributed denial of service attack,” it reported on its Twitter feed.

No-one has been charged with passing the diplomatic files to the website but suspicion has fallen on US Army private Bradley Manning, an intelligence analyst arrested in Iraq in June and charged over an earlier leak of classified US documents to Assange’s organisation.

Wikileaks argues that the site’s previous releases shed light on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

(Source)

War veterans’ leader Joseph Chinotimba has reiterated his disdain for Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, saying he would never salute him even if he were to become the President of Zimbabwe.

Chinotimba also said in a long-ranging interview that elections were long overdue because Zimbabwe had become ungovernable as the three principals in the inclusive government were constantly at loggerheads. He however said he would only salute a president who had liberation struggle credentials.

NewsDay reporter Veneranda Langa (ND) caught up with Chinotimba (JC) at his offices in Harare last week and had a one- on-one interview with the comic veterans’ leader.

Below are excerpts:

ND: President Robert Mugabe has announced that the country will go for elections in June 2011; do you think the country is ready for those elections?

JC: My view is that Mugabe is 100% right. We need elections soon in this country, whether other people want it or not. We become surprised when we hear other leaders in the GNU saying they do not want elections.

ND: But they have said they want elections in a free and fair environment?

JC: It is not true that there was intimidation during elections. People should now choose whoever they want.

ND: Are you saying the environment for elections has always been free and fair?

JC: Even in court when someone is accused of stealing they deny the charge. As I see it myself, the previous elections were free and fair. Even when you study the American elections, you will find that they also disagree. However, Zimbabwe is the only country where people say elections are not free and fair. In Afghanistan, where there was a lot of killing the Americans said the elections were free and fair. I can confirm to you that there are many war veterans who were killed and beaten up by MDC supporters during elections. So, let us go for the elections.

ND: Supposing Morgan Tsvangirai wins the elections, are you going to endorse the results and salute him?

JC: If I cannot vote for Tsvangirai, how can I salute him? Mugabe will win, but if Tsvangirai wins the elections, he should know that war veterans brought independence and he is the one who is supposed to salute us. It would be very dangerous for him to expect that we will salute him. How can people who did not vote for Tsvangirai salute him? He should clearly understand who war veterans are and why they are important in Zimbabwe. If he does not salute us, it would become a very big problem. Even the British know that the two MDC factions should salute war veterans and if they do not do that, it would be a big mistake. We will only salute Mugabe because we suffered together with him in the bush and we have never been cowards. As war veterans we will only salute leaders who are war heroes.

ND: What are your sentiments on life presidency for Mugabe?

JC: What is the problem with that? If he dies today, would we not say he was a life president? We do not know when he is going to die and why should we start asking why he is not dying? We are not talking about death here; we are talking of someone with leadership qualities to be a life president. What we are saying is that Mugabe should always be there for the benefit of Zanu PF. We still need him even if it takes 20 more years. In the new Constitution, the people should indicate that they want Mugabe to be life president. How can we stop people from saying that when it is their wish? Right now, we do not have anyone with leadership qualities in the country like Mugabe and so he must remain President. War veterans say that he is our leader because we were together in the war.

ND: Is it true that there is factionalism amongst war veterans?

JC: War veterans have no factions. War vets will always be war veterans. If we were divided into factions, we would have a situation like the one in MDC where there is MDC-T and MDC-M. Have you ever heard of a group called War Veterans –Mugabe or War Veterans – Nkomo? We are united; it is only the Selous Scouts who want to divide us like the Minister of Education, David Coltart. We do not have two names. Even those war veterans who are in the MDC factions work for us and we planted them there. Even the war veterans who are in leadership positions in Zanu PF work for us. We send people to do our work in political parties.

ND: Do you have any political ambitions for high-ranking government posts?

JC: I can be an MP, senator or minister, especially the Ministry of Education, Arts, Sports and Culture. I can handle that one; it is a very good post for me. I cannot be President myself because we already have a President. When he dies then we will have another President. It would take me 3 000 years to reach that position. The Presidency is for Mugabe, Vice-President Joice Mujuru and Vice-President John Nkomo and they will succeed each other by death. That is what we do in Zanu PF.

ND: But you are young and when all these people are no longer available to take the post of Presidency, would you not be interested? JC: We do not know when they are going to die and we are not prophets. As a child you cannot be too ambitious to want to take your father’s position whilst he is still alive. That is witchcraft and I cannot comment on that. The only position I want is to be Minister of Education, or even the Ministry of Lands.

ND: Would you agree that the land reform programme spearheaded by the war veterans was chaotic? JC: That is a Coltart style of talking and that is cheap politics. People are doing very well in the farms. When the whites took over our land, the Rhodesian Front supported them with cheap labour by Africans and they never paid for electricity and water.

(Source)

He is now a used condom, which is heading for the cesspool. This is the best description of Arthur Guseni Oliver Mutambara’s state of political affairs as his handler, Welshman Ncube ejaculate him into political oblivion.

Ncube, who rented Mutambara since February 2006, as President of his factions, announced recently that he will be contesting the presidency next year, bringing the political career of the Robotics Professor to an abrupt end.

Ncube no longer needs the services of a condom. He is taking the ‘presidency’ of his faction live, not through a plastic Arthur.

Mutambara who never concealed his Chihuahua exhilaration when he miraculously landed on the Vice Prime Minister position on 11 February 2009 after loosing a parliamentary contest in Zengeza was dusted off from political stupor by Ncube.

The cunning Ncube who hates ‘Chamatama’ with infatuation, went out shopping for a suitable candidate in his endeavor to short- circuit the popularity of the all-time -adored Morgan Tsvangirai.

The law professor, found Arthur on the market and bought him cash. The currency Ncube offered to Arthur was the Zengeza West constituency, which the 44 year old Guseni lost gloomily.

The arrangement that followed saw the condom amassing more power and enjoyment in the inclusive government as Ncube took a junior position as Minister of Trade and Industry.

But Ncube now wants his power back. Now where to for Guseni from here?

The once fiery former student leader, who Zimbabweans once ranked within Tsvangirai’s filament, stunned the nation when he re-emerged in Zimbabwe’s political equation but on the wrong side.

Mutambara further riled Zimbabweans when he backed Simba Makoni in the last Presidential race that was won by Tsvangirai. This fast-tracked Mutambara‘s fall from residual grace to dry grass.

Occasional shot pots, he aimed at Tsvangirai also are sure to cost him dearly. Zimbabweans are so incensed with his utterances that sought to undermine Tsvangirai. Guseni failed to read the political temperatures correctly. Maybe the propensity to placate his handler, Ncube, was too tempting to resist.

In an auxiliary spectacular display of political harlotry Guseni openly backed Robert Mugabe’s recent unilateral appointments of ambassadors. He slammed Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai for protesting against such violations of the global political Agreement. The former visiting fellow of Massachutes Institute of Technology might be paving his visit to the Shake-Shake building, by insulting Tsvangirai on behalf of Zanu PF.

This is a classic case of its own kind where condoms are recycled. Mugabe will not use the same condom that Ncube contaminated already. Condoms can only be used once. After use a dirtied condom is deposited in a rut. That is where Arthur Guseni Oliver Mutambara is heading to.

(Source)

Mr Mugabe I am writing this letter direct to you hoping that it will reach you and that you will read it with an open mind. You probably know me by the generic name of “orphan” because you killed my parents.

I am one of those thousands of Matabeleland children whose parents were brutally murdered by the 5th Brigade which you specifically sent out to eliminate Ndebele speaking people. My father died a painful death in Kezi following an encounter with the 5th Brigade, he was shot dead at close range together with his two friends for a simple reason that when greeted by the 5th Brigade they responded in their mother-language isiNdebele, instead of Shona. I wonder why the international community never came to our rescue because this was clear ethnic cleansing. For example, my dad was killed for responding in “dissident” language – isiNdebele yet my dad was an ordinary civilian.  I was still young when my dad was butchered to death and your 5th Brigade deprived me of the chance of being brought up by my beloved father. I miss him so much and I love my dad you killed. I just want you to know that you took a precious and loving father away from me and my life was never the same forever.

My mother later died because of the pain and horror of seeing my father being bludgeoned to death in such barbaric fashion.

Again, I am angry at the manner your dogs killed my beloved grandmother. On her way home from Christmas shopping on the Christmas Eve of 1987 with festive goat tethered to a tree, ready to be slaughtered my grandmother was shot and killed by your dogs again. Christmas was never Christmas as it turned out to be a double funeral. Though young, I can vividly remember a cloud of fear, sorrow and despondency in my family. And, because of this curse you inflicted to my family, I pray everyday that you also die a brutal and cruel death.

The root cause of all this is the immoral, inhuman and unconstitutional way which you have subjected Zimbabweans to. You have created a culture of racism, tribalism and violence. The children and the youth of today know nothing about values and respect because you have taught them the ZANU PF doctrine of violence, tribalism and racism, yet these are supposed to be future leaders of Zimbabwe. Long after you are gone, your tragic actions will continue to resonate amongst our society. You have brainwashed the young adults through your youth service where you take them away to your adulterous camps, indoctrinate then with your ZANU PF code of violence which basically says those who do not support your party should be brutalised, those who disagree with you should be tortured, starved and in most cases killed. The lucky ones, who come out of those militia camps uninfected with the deadly HIV virus, are still too traumatised, without a conscience and left to wreak havoc among the innocent civilians with no one to hold them to book.

I grew up in the dusty streets of Bulawayo in Magwegwe, I used to be proud of my country and most importantly, my people who successfully executed the independence of Zimbabwe. My mother fought in the struggle, when it was all over she got her demobilisation card went home to start a family, to start a life for herself, but she later turned out to be your casualty. I am really angry Mr Mugabe because what you have done to me and the rest is unimaginable. You have destroyed patriotism in me and amongst millions of other Zimbabweans. The once beautiful and once rich motherland is now poverty-ravaged. There is violence and there are mass graves, some of them unmarked.

As Zimbabwean youths, now, all we have is hatred and disdain for the adults in our society. Instead of trying to right the wrongs, you have buried your heard in the sand afraid of a darkness that has no hyenas. Mr Mugabe, why are you in a state of denial? It’s clear you have done a crap job, and I hope this won’t haunt us as well as a nation, to say black people are bad managers. People are dying in alarming numbers each day; children are growing up orphaned, more so, malnourished when your children are commandeering Air Zimbabwe to nice times. I am sure you know about this, as some of your own children are also out of the country, Bona is in Singapore, is she not?

It is very sad Mr Mugabe you have plundered Africa’s bread basket and turned it into a begging bowl. You have reduced the quality of lives of millions of Zimbabweans with your screwed-up and bushy policies. Zimbabweans are now a laughing stock, in South Africa, they call say us the Kwerekweres. This is all because of your vampiric policies which has destroyed such a great economy.

Maybe, we, as a nation should also take responsibility for the monster you have become. Maybe, we gave you too much power for too long and now you hold on to it like a man about to drown. Your destruction of Zimbabwe may never be remedied and we may never recover from it, and I insist, you must be punished for this old man.

Remember the Gukurahundi atrocities which were recently upgraded to genocides by experts in the United States.  You sent your 5th brigade to go and wipe out Matabeleland and you succeeded in killing more than 20000 of my people. I pray that these victims of your brutality haunt you in your sleep each night. Yes, I am pleased Gukurahundi has finally been upgraded to genocides because they were genocides for sure in the face of a civilised world. I can now tell you Mr Mugabe that you became president in 1980 not because of military might, but because of the majority who voted for you. If leadership was a case of the fittest, there is no way you would have become president and I know you know that, and that is why you cruelly murdered Lockout Masuku and incarcerated Dumiso Dabengwa for four years. Mr Mugabe you are indeed guilty of Crimes against Humanity. Your day will come Mr Mugabe and I sense it is near.

You seem to be living in your own fantasy world refusing and denying acknowledging that you are old. A young man was jailed recently for talking about your old-age wrinkles. He got a year of hard labour in prison for that I wonder what you will get for all your crimes. I thought being old was a sign of wisdom but with you it’s like a sign of madness. Is this freedom Mr Mugabe? Is this what Hebert Chitepo, Nikita Mangena, and others died for during the liberation struggle?

Yours

(Source)

Notorious Midlands war veterans’ leader Biggie Kufakunesu Chitoro, who was behind  the brutal political violence in the province during the 2000 general elections campaigns, says a coalition government with President Robert Mugabe will not work.

Chitoro led ZANU PF terror gangs who killed and tortured many MDC supporters, mainly in Zvishavane and Mberengwa districts of the Midlands province.

However in an interview with the Daily News at his homestead  in Madhoro village in Mberengwa on Tuesday, Chitoro, who last year came out in public asking for  forgiveness from  his victims, said Mugabe was the stumbling block in the  smooth running of the government of national unity.

“We  know  that  old man can’t share  power  with anybody, that’s  why you see this unity government facing many problems,” said Chitoro, who says he has quit politics and is now a born again Christian.

“Look, in the 1980s he brutalized Joshua Nkomo supporters forcing him (Nkomo) to go under his feet.”

Chitoro says Mugabe is good at using other people, especially uneducated ones in order to stay in power.

“He is good at using other people, especially among us war veterans because the majority of our colleagues never went to school,” he said.

The war veteran leader said although he is still Mberengwa district chairman for  the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA), he wanted nothing to do with ZANU PF.

“You don’t need to be ZANU PF to lead war veterans. I am still the chairman and have nothing to with that party vakandishandisa zvikakwana (they used me and that was enough),” he said.

Chitoro said he now spends most of his time conducting business for his Vapostori church or at his garden.

(Source)

ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema said on Friday that Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe must step down.

Malema met Mugabe earlier this year during a visit to Zimbabwe.

He has also praised Zanu-PF’s land redistribution programme.

But Malema said Mugabe must go.

“In as much as we support the revolutionary programme in Zimbabwe, President Mugabe must hand over to those young chaps so that we engage with [them] on the same level. We will never agree with permanent leadership,” Malema said.

(Source)

The notion that, to qualify as people-driven, the current constitution making process must exclude politicians and be spearheaded by civil society is as malevolent as it is misleading. Of course, the case is pushed most assiduously by various interest groups in a naked and doomed attempt to claim relevance without losing the high ground.

It is a proposition that discloses the cancerous condition within Zimbabwean society where some individuals have become desperate to the point of saying anything, however erroneous or self-serving, solely to raise their own profile and impress generous donor communities. Nothing could be more treacherous.

South Africa’s wonderful constitution is considered among the most advanced in the world with, among numerous other progressive provisions, an entrenched, finely crafted and generally respected Bill of Rights – yet it is the product not of any consultative process among the populace but of discussions and negotiations between political parties.

Not only were the leadership of the African National Congress and the then ruling National Party influential in both setting in motion and determining the negotiation process, they were also influential in deciding its substantive outcomes.

The point is that, while the involvement of civil society in a democracy is fundamental, the fact that it is not at the forefront of the drafting process does not render the resultant constitution any less people-driven.

Objective tests are more reliable than out-and-out grandstanding – and those tests can easily be stated. Were the people’s views sought? Were those views freely provided? Both must be answered in the affirmative to pass public scrutiny.

If there are reservations about the content of the new Zimbabwean constitution, it should not be because the ZCTU or, worse still, the NCA and ZINASU, elected not to be part of that process or merely because their ‘important’ input was disregarded. It will be because the people’s views were not sought or that their ability to express them was curtailed.

There is a dangerous absurdity in the argument that, because Dr. Madhuku and his backslappers feel they have been sidelined in the crafting of a new constitution, the whole country should for that reason alone blindly ‘reject’ the outcome. Such stunts serve no constructive purpose.

In part, this posturing explains why as Zimbabweans, after so many years of fighting for emancipation, we have yet to defeat tyranny. Whereas our enemy has remained determined, resolute and united, we have displayed a dangerous and damaging inclination to act disjointedly with neither unity of purpose nor meaningful coordination.

Self-indulgence cannot be pitted against discipline with any hope of obtaining a satisfactory outcome.

At every moment in the history of our struggle our ability to advance as a people has been hindered by the discord which has of late found expression through Madhuku and company.

In truth, if we fail to see the importance of acting in concert and speaking with one voice as one people, one nation, then we are indeed doomed.

If all that should matter is for Dr. Madhuku, for instance, to be revered and exalted whenever there is talk of a constitution just because he is chairman of an organization with the word ‘constitutional’ in its name…..

If all that should count is to criticise even the most progressive of initiatives simply in order to save oneself from the embarrassing prospect of being irrelevant….

If our failure to think, speak and act as a people united actually serves to promote the dictatorship rather than dismantle it… then those seeking a free and democratic country will ask, ‘Why bother?’

Morgan Tsvangirai’s failure to mobilize Zimbabwean people-power makes him and his MDC just as culpable as Madhuku and the others, if not more so. At best it represents a woeful lack of leadership. At worst it smacks of a desire to hold on ferociously to a monopoly of opposition politics in Zimbabwe.

We need Morgan Tsvangirai to encourage and promote unity of purpose among the many disparate groups of Zimbabweans committed to restoring and sustaining democracy in Zimbabwe. We need his charisma and inspiration to rally every progressive individual, organization and party into one united front if we are to win the battle against tyranny.

Zimbabweans pay heed: unless and until we speak and act collectively with one voice, as one people, one nation, our enemy will continue to revel in the status quo and tyranny will still oppress our society for many more years to come. Political posturing, disorganization, self-interest and disunity have nowhere been known to disturb let alone destroy dictatorships. Far from posing any threat, they are the very elements that enable tyrants to divide and rule. Of all nations, we should know better. We must act on this knowledge.

Psychology Maziwisa LLB, Union for Sustainable Democracy, leader@usd.org.zw

Vivacious Violet Gonda is a Zimbabwean journalist who is persona non grata in her own country simply because she is part of that rare breed of courageous radio broadcasters willing to take on a rogue state. Such is the paranoia in President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU PF regime that broadcast laws that deliberately prevent alternative opinion are entrenched in the legislative DNA.

The positive spinoff of this scenario has been a proliferation of shortwave and Internet broadcast stations spanning the globe, the most popular being VOA Studio 7  based in Washington DC, Voice of the People in Botswana and Violet’s own SW Radio Africa in England.

On many occasions, Zimbabweans and gullible Africans have been made to believe that vice and toxic rumour is embedded in such alternative viewpoint. In several ways, it is for this reason that ZANU PF refuses to take the Global Political Agreement forward, claiming as long as Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC does not engineer closure of such stations, Mugabe will refuse to cooperate.

Bulls eat grass, but the fresh results of their digestion are unpleasant to the eye. Had there been a more family-friendly term to describe the product of this biological process, I would have had no problem labelling ZANU PF’s opinion.

Ironically, Gonda and her friends do not want to live in forced exile because of family commitments back in Zimbabwe. But as long as they face arrest, and as long as the broadcast regulations outlaw alternative opinion, we Zimbabweans at home will continue to tune in to VOA Studio 7, Voice of the People and SW Radio Africa for REAL news. What we know is that the MDC have no chance in hell to influence the closure of these stations. That makes me feel good!

But it is not all diamond that glitters from these alternative airwaves – at least according to Arthur Mutambara. There is consensus amongst his supporters that most, if not all, external broadcasters have taken a position to support Tsvangirai’s MDC-T formation at the expense of all other progressive forces of democracy. Their argument is that in the haste to rid Zimbabwe of the curse of authoritarian dictatorship, these broadcasters paint anything or anyone who takes a side that opposes Tsvangirai as anti-struggle.

They continue that  the MDC-T’s  failures are not sufficiently interrogated, while only the opinion of analysts who have something negative to say about Mutambara are given undue prominence. For example, the best news item that can ever emerge from rural Matabeleland is when councillors from Mutambara’s formation defect to Tsvangirai’s party. Such news, Mutambara’s people argue, takes precedence over the antics of Theresa Makone, Tsvangirai’s new home affairs boss who is related to Mugabe’s political hitman, Didymus Mutasa.

The two have been making the front pages for attempting to spring  habitual ZANU PF property rights violators from prison. ZANU PF, who term alternative studios “pirate radio stations”, amplify Tsvangirai’s internal party struggles, reminding readers that Makone is the same woman whose husband “controls” Tsvangirai via what they call MDC’s “kitchen cabinet”. At one time, Makone was accused of displacing the MDC women’s assembly leader in order to exert more influence on the party’s strategy. And all this – Mutambara’s people argue – does not receive airplay on “ pirate radio stations”.

As a regular contributor to these useful and value-adding radio stations, I attempt to present balanced opinions. Freelance analysts like me do not influence editorial policy, but we need to pitch our commentary from an objective perspective. I have no sacred cows. More importantly,  Gonda would not be able to influence what I say, but she would be in a position to decide what to publish depending on her editorial slant.

For example, in one of SW Radio Africa Friday night programmes called Hot Seat, Tony Reeler, director of the Research and Advocacy Unit, commenting on Mutambara’s position in government, tells Gonda: “So he’s there by grace and favour of the agreement but not by any other ground.”

A more mundane interpretation of this cryptic statement is that Mutambara is not in the coalition government by virtue of electoral credibility, but that he is the president of an MDC minority party with few seats in a remote part of Zimbabwe. Obviously with Zimbabwe’s first past the post electoral system, it would have been unthinkable to have the professor in government. Herein lies the need for progressive “pirate” analysts to offer objective radio commentary.

My angle would be that the GPA brought into government hundreds of worthless politicians from all three sides. Tsvangirai himself has on several occasions expelled councillors and recently reshuffled ministers. Accusations of corruption, underhand deals and inefficiency have plagued his party, while neutrals argue that as prime minister, Tsvangirai is guilty of soft-padding Mugabe in international foras.

Observers insist that incomes, infrastructure and public facilities are only marginally better than before the coalition, while power blackouts hound an industry struggling to emerge from recession. The human rights sector is disastrous, with no single conviction of ZANU PF zealots who murdered, maimed and raped innocent citizens in June 2008. His critics argue he has failed to rein in rogue elements raiding commercial farms including those properties protected under regional bilateral agreements. Therefore to diminish Mutambara’s role in government without a rub off on Tsvangirai’s personal political reputation is an impossible feat.

Reeler himself is a product of a decade-old struggle against dictatorship, a flag bearer of a contingent of brave human rights defenders that have survived determined ZANU PF antagonism and intimidation. In this noble group of principled citizens one finds peace campaigner Jestina Mukoko, lawyer Irene Petras, constitutional expert Lovemore Madhuku and countless other civil society activists.

But, unlike Mutambara who has risen from mere student activism to national leadership, I and Reeler have little other than political vuvuzelas to show for our rhetoric. My point is simple. This is no time to denigrate each others’ value propositions. If civil society was half as effective as its loud voice, Mugabe would have abandoned ship in 2002.

(Source)

SW Radio Africa Transcript

Reeler is the Director of the Research and Advocacy Unit. His organisation recently released the report: ’What are the options for Zimbabwe? Dealing with the obvious!’  Robert Mugabe says elections will be held next year with or without a new constitution and his counterpart in the coalition, Morgan Tsvangirai, agrees the way forward is for an election next year. But what needs to be addressed before it’s possible to hold a truly free and fair election in Zimbabwe ? Does stability bring good elections or good elections bring stability?

BROADCAST: 18 June 2010

VIOLET GONDA : My guest on the Hot Seat programme is Tony Reeler, the director of the Research and Advocacy Unit with his analysis on the unfolding events in Zimbabwe. Tony, let’s start with getting your thoughts on the situation in Zimbabwe. What is your reading of the political situation right now?


TONY REELER: Violet as you may know RAU recently put out a report entitled “What are the options” and we put that out very much in response to the situation as it was at the time and the report came out about a month ago and I think we would argue that the situation has not changed in any material detail, so the arguments we were making in that brief report still stand. If you remember that report, we analysed the situation from the March 2008 election to the current time and essentially what we were arguing was that there was an opportunity in March 2008 for the crisis to be resolved if SADC had acted in a completely different way. They didn’t, the June election emerged and as a consequence of that we ended up with the Global Political Agreement and since that time, what we see is a very polarised, stuck process of an inclusive government that doesn’t really operate like an inclusive government – it operates like two governments largely struggling with each other and despite some small changes if you want, in the humanitarian and economic situation, the major political issues are not being resolved. It’s an inclusive government in name but it certainly doesn’t behave like an inclusive government in behaviour – you know they contradict each other, they countermand each other, they don’t implement the Agreement in full.

So our view was that Zimbabwe was in a political crisis in March 2008 and remains in a political crisis in June 2010. And the question we were trying to address was – what will resolve the crisis? And there are many different views currently at the moment about how this crisis is going to be resolved. The dominant view is it will be resolved by mediation or it will be resolved by the parties coming together and finally agreeing on what the final implementation of the Agreement will be. But our view was, that whatever happens, the final resolution of the crisis will involve an election and so our view was – let’s start looking at the quality of the election because it is the case that all elections since 2000 have been highly disputed affairs and rejected in the main by most of the international community. That’s what we were arguing in brief.

GONDA: We will come to the issue of the elections, but I want to go back to the issue of the stalemate. In your view, why do you think the partners in this GNU, in this inclusive government, are failing to resolve their differences? Why can they not get agreement between them?


REELER: Well you’ve got to start off with the understanding that of the two main parties, they are ideologically different if you want and certainly are competitors. They’re not coming together out of mutual desire to work together. They’re coming together because the situation demands a forced marriage. So in this sense, the Global Political Agreement which is argued to be a solution is really only a starting point for bringing two largely hostile parties together to work out a future. It’s not a solution in itself, it’s a mechanism for a solution and what is working out in this process are the differences between the two parties that existed before the Global Political Agreement was signed and it represents the difficulty of two parties who have been contesting for political power and control of the State since 2000, since before 2000. So this is a marriage of inconvenience you might even put it, it’s not the choice of either of these two parties to be in this relationship together and therefore one must expect an enormous amount of friction and difficulty and suspicion between the two parties.

GONDA: As you said the talks are endless but what do you think is the strategy of the different parties in this unity government?


REELER: I think both parties are clearly committed to not being the person to break the Agreement for a start. I think that would put them in bad odour with SADC because SADC is the key player in this, they brokered this Agreement and they’re supposed to watch it be implemented and act as guarantors. So neither party wishes to break it. Both parties are still in a sense contesting for a balance of power within it – you know – all this argument about who can have which ministry and who can have which governorship and the issues about the Reserve Bank and the Attorney General. That is the central problem with this marriage of inconvenience.

GONDA: And you keep saying both parties but of course there are three parties in this inclusive government. What do you think is the strategy of the Mutambara led MDC?


REELER: Well I think if you’ve been looking at opinion polls. We put one out recently on the views of women and Freedom House did one and then MPOI did one earlier or last year and it’s quite clear that this is a very, very, very minority party. The MDC-M grouping is there by courtesy of the Global Political Agreement but clearly in our view and I think in most people’s view, command no real popular support. So I think their major role is obfuscation. They represent a third opinion and sometimes the third opinion is pretty strange but they’re not in a sense, in our view, added value for this inclusive government because the issue is clearly a contest between the MDC-T and ZANU PF and I think their major role is confusing matters.

GONDA: But what about statements we’ve heard from some of the members of this party, especially from Professor Arthur Mutambara who maintains that his party holds the balance of power in this inclusive government and in a way has become the go-between in terms of bringing the two main parties together?


REELER: Well he’s right. He holds the balance of power but he holds the balance of power because of an elite pact not because that’s how the voters behaved. If we looked at how his party performed in the polls in 2008 it was pretty appallingly poor so he is a very much minority party so it’s a bit fatuous really to argue that he holds the balance of power. The balance of power is held by people who have popular support and can call on real constituencies; he’s there because of an elite pact and because the way the Agreement has been configured and the way things stand is that he’s given a right of veto at a very elite level. We don’t think he represents populist opinion at all and certainly in the opinion poll that RAU did recently with women, I think two women in over two thousand people interviewed thought he had any power in the inclusive government at all. So he’s there by grace and favour of the Agreement but not by any other ground.

GONDA: I understand that most of the women in the survey also said they would not vote for ZANU PF?

REELER: Well I think there’s a continuous trend and it’s always a difficult thing to look at potential voting from opinion surveys. The recent British election will tell you that but consistently over three opinion surveys, you have MDC Tsvangirai hovering at around something like 50%, ZANU PF somewhere between nine and 12% but you have 27% of the people unwilling to state their political party preference and you have to decide which way are those folk going. Are they going in favour of ZANU PF, are they going in favour of MDC-T, are they all closet MDC-M supporters? But I think the general trend is and that’s borne out by the March election and continued is that ZANU PF increasingly has, or has decreasingly popular support in the country and that is of course a material issue for any future election.

GONDA: And what are the main concerns of the people on the ground, especially the people that participated in the survey?

REELER: Well we asked them a very interesting question. We asked them what is the way forward? And we gave them a choice of – what are the three most important things for you to solve the problems with Zimbabwe? And that came back in rank order, three things. They said Number One – an end to violence, Number Two – free and fair elections and Number Three – democracy and those are very important things coming from ordinary citizens because that’s what has continuously emerged from the Afro-barometer surveys over the last five or six years – is they show that Zimbabweans have a very acute understanding of what democracy is, its manifestations and that they also have a very acute understanding that they don’t have a democracy.

So what you can see is Zimbabweans want a solution, they want a solution in a particular way, they want elections that are non-violent that restore democracy essentially. I think they also said there has been some improvement due to the inclusive government and the Global Political Agreement and they saw some improvements in health and a few improvements in education but they also saw many areas in which there was no improvement whatsoever. What we are hearing from discussions within communities are people who are deeply concerned about whether this Global Political Agreement and the inclusive government is working and people who are very concerned that there is a resolution to this crisis. And I think what people are saying is they understand quite clearly that the solution to a political crisis will be an election. That’s the Zimbabwean perspective. In other countries what used to happen was that you used to have military coups or rebellions as we’ve had to do to get rid of white colonial power here but Zimbabweans are saying they put their faith in an electoral process. That’s what they hope will resolve the crisis and clearly what that means is, is that people’s votes translate into the reality they expect and the majority of people, when they vote, expect a particular outcome, that they will in fact elect the party of their choice.

GONDA: We have heard what the principals in this coalition government have been saying on the issue of elections. We have Mutambara on the one hand saying that we need reforms first before we have an election but ZANU PF and, well Mugabe and Tsvangirai on the other hand have both said they want elections as soon as possible and in fact next year. In your view, what mechanism will actually resolve this problem that we have and restore stability?


REELER: Those are the two arguments currently aren’t they? One that says stability will bring good elections and the other argument says good elections will bring stability and these are the two arguments that have been discussed. You have the principals of the two major players saying we have to go to elections, the minority group saying too early. You have MPs saying it’s too early and there’s an enormous amount of contradictory opinion about whether we should be going to elections or not. Now in our view the question is not so much whether or when we go to elections, it will have to be at some point, we will have to go to elections, it is to do with the quality of the elections that is the key issue here. And that’s the major problem isn’t it since 2000? In the last ten years all these elections are disputed.

Now in our paper when we were arguing about what were the options, we pointed out that in a way, March 2008 was almost an exemplary election. There was very little pre-poll violence, there was still pre-poll violence; the process of the election through the voting and in the early stages of publishing the result looked very good indeed. The consequence of that election was a very clear result – Morgan Tsvangirai came first in the presidential race; MDC-T had a clear majority and that’s the result that the election showed. Now at that particular point and this is the key issue for elections, that particular point, SADC had a number of options. They could have insisted and applied pressure to say you’ve got a clear result, stability requires you to go with this result and we would put pressure on ZANU PF to accept the result, Morgan Tsvangirai sworn in as president, the MDC assumes the government. That didn’t happen and the rest is history.

So our view is that it’s the quality of an election that we have to be looking at. Not when but how. Whether it’s in 2011 or 2012 or 2020, the crisis will be resolved by an election and that election has to be genuine, free and fair and able to be accepted by the entire international community and the key to that is SADC. They have been given by Africa, the mandate to deal with the regional issue, the regional body SADC has empowered South Africa to be the mediator and the facilitator – whatever term one wants to use on this thing – and they will be the guarantors and the facilitators of any election. And so the west and anybody else can scream and shout, but in the end, it’s SADC who will have a primary role in ensuring that the election meet the minimum standards that apply in SADC region and then also ensuring that if the result, for example were to favour the Tsvangirai faction, that they guarantee transfer of power. There’s nothing that the EC or the United States or anybody else can do about that and it’s not entirely an internal matter because now the GPA has involved the entire region, SADC are the guarantors and that’s the key, but they will insist on the kinds of conditions that will allow Zimbabwean citizens to freely choose the government of their choice and guarantee the transfer of power takes place. That for us in a nutshell is the problem and it’s very important that we’re looking at new constitutions and national healing and those things but if we’re not doing the work that will ensure that, with or without a constitution, there will be a genuine free fair acceptable election, then the crisis will continue in our view.

GONDA: I was actually going to ask that with or without a new constitution, can Zimbabwe’s security forces for example, be brought under civilian control because they have also been a major factor in this crisis?


REELER: Well I think the aspiration of the Global Political Agreement was that there would be constitutional reform followed by an election and that constitution would lay the grounds for an election and a new democratic state. Mugabe has already said with or without a constitution, there will be elections next year and we agreed, with or without a new constitution, there will be elections. I think we have some pessimism in RAU that the constitutional process will deliver the kind of constitution that Zimbabweans want, but that’s a personal view, we can’t pre-judge the process, the process may be highly effective. But in terms of what I was talking about earlier, in SADC guaranteeing or creating the conditions for free and fair elections, the critical issue is clearly the security forces must be under total civilian control and that doesn’t mean of one party, it means under the control of the government as a whole and we don’t see much evidence that that has in fact taken place, notwithstanding the National Security Council. When members of JOC can carpet a trade unionist and complain about a report and a film, they are clearly interfering in civilian affairs. They have no right to do that, there’s no legal basis for them doing it but they nonetheless do it. So that is a key issue as you say, is the return of the security forces to genuine civilian control. It’s a crunch issue but against that is also the issues for elections, as I think electoral commission needs to be genuinely independent and has control of all aspects of elections – the voters’ roll, the limitation, the polling, how the media is used to get people’s views across.

In every way, what we’ve seen in past elections is that every aspect of the election has failed the test or certainly not conformed to the SADC principles and guidelines for the holding of democratic elections – fails it on every front. So there’s a big job to be done; the security forces are important but there’s a whole range of other things that need to be addressed with urgency, in our view, if there’s a probability that there’s going to be an election in 2011.

GONDA: Right and how realistic are calls for a peacekeeping force?


REELER: They are good calls. My view is that you put peacekeeping forces in countries that are failed states or, you don’t put, United Nations will only appear in any of these situations where the country has an inability to be able to run itself. This is not the case in Zimbabwe. The problem is that they don’t obey certain parts of the government, so I don’t think we’ll get a peacekeeping force, I think probably the best we can have is incredibly intense observation and that would require the cooperation of the State in Zimbabwe where you have observers observing the electoral commission, the police, the army, the prisons, the civics, the political parties, the rallies – there are different ways of doing this thing. The notion that we would turn over administration to some kind of peacekeeping force I think is very unlikely but I think SADC could insist on the kinds of level of observation, very intense observation that could ensure a genuine election.

GONDA: SADC is due to hold a summit in August and although it’s not clear yet whether Zimbabwe’s deadlocked power sharing agreement will be an item on the agenda, speculation is rife that President Zuma may advocate for fresh elections for Zimbabwe when he submits his report to the regional body. What are you reading from Zuma’s style of mediation and how significant is his role now to break this political impasse?

REELER: OK, I think he’s already made the statement that he, and Ian Khama has made the similar statement, that this crisis will be resolved by election and we hear speculation that he wants a negotiated timetable for election and I suspect that he and every other SADC leader knows just as well as anybody else that this will be resolved by election but I think he will, my guess is that he will call for some kind of timetable to that. He’s not going to leave this process open-ended to drag on for year after year after year.

I think his style is clearly different to Mbeki, it’s been a much more assertive style in dealing with Zimbabwe but on the other hand he also has the constraints of being the hegemonic power in this region and definitely not wanting to be seen like a bully and his government, or the government he has inherited has instituted this whole process of the Global Political Agreement so they are going to have to try and make that work too. But I think his hands are to some extent tied by the fact that we have the GPA and if the parties here continue to insist endlessly that they can make this thing work then his hands are tied, but I think he will on the other hand also, push very hard for some kind of resolution and that’s going to be the difficulty because it’s one thing to push for a negotiated timetable for elections, it’s entirely another to guarantee that those elections in the end will be the kind of elections that resolve the crisis.

GONDA: Right and back home, critics have said that the leadership of the MDC is now completely consumed in trying to make this GNU work but on the other hand the party’s not building any structures, internal structures and preparing for elections. Now given the fact that all party leaders are in government, will it be prudent for the MDC to reshuffle perhaps cabinet ministers back to the party in preparation for the next elections?


REELER: I think the MDC, the Tsvangirai faction has a very, very difficult task. They do have to try to make the government work, they committed themselves to it and they’re trying very hard to make it work and that clearly takes enormous resources of a party that has had an extremely difficult time in the last ten years. So I think they’re stretched, they’re stretched in making government work and therefore they’re also to some extent stretched in trying to build the party structures ahead of elections. But I think the MDC, one of the positions I have heard from the MDC is that they don’t fear elections, what they fear is their inability to effect transfer of power – in fact they won’t be given power, they can win an election but they’re not going to end up with the government.

So I think they are being pretty realistic. I think it’s terribly easy to criticise the MDC all the time and blame them for everything that is going wrong but the reality is they are working against a party that is absolutely determined not to surrender political power and there has been considerable evidence of ways in which they’ve tried to maintain their political power by means outside the constitution. So MDC is committed to try to do it within the constitution and within democracy and using democratic tools. That can be very difficult with a political party that refuses to play the game by the same rule. So I think they have to be realistic and they do know they’re going to go for elections and I think that’s why Morgan Tsvangirai said we will face elections and I think they are doing their best on the ground to try and build party structures and maintain government but it’s an exceptionally difficult task for them.

GONDA: And as a human rights activist, what are your thoughts on the issue of, on justice issues? Can you have stability at the price of injustice?

REELER: You know its back to that old argument – stability produces democracy or democracy produces stability? I tend to believe that democracy produces stability and that’s a general argument I think that’s accepted widely and that the difficulty in Zimbabwe is that so many institutions have been compromised in the last ten years. We have deep concerns about the whole judicial process, we’ve had deep concerns about the behaviour of the Attorney General, we have deep concerns about the partisanship of the police and so on and so on. So it is a very, very difficult situation here and that the argument I think that some people are saying ‘well we have to transform all those institutions before we have a possibility of a decent election’, and there’s some merit in that argument – if we were to have security sector reform and the police would now work wholly within the constitution and the police act and the judiciary could be seen to be absolutely independent of any political influence and the media space is completely open, shortwave radio could broadcast from within Zimbabwe, there wouldn’t be a problem, would there?

And so the argument is can you achieve those things without an election first? And this is the crunch political question, in our view, is we don’t believe that those things can be transformed without an election and a transfer of political power because the current political power maintains that situation as it is. And there are different views about that, I’m not sure which view is going to prevail, the only thing that I can be 100% certain of is that whether it’s next year, the year after or the year after that, we will have an election and that election will either resolve the crisis or it will attenuate and it will go on.

GONDA: And a final word Tony?

REELER: I think people tend to be so desperately pessimistic about Zimbabwe. I think that we should see what Zimbabweans have done in the last ten years through democratic peaceful struggle, is quite exceptional and I think people need to pat themselves on the back. The country is a disaster in many ways but there are such encouraging signs all over the place of people’s demand for democracy and understanding of democracy that I think it can only be a very bright future for Zimbabwe if we can resolve the problems and if we can persuade SADC to do its job and do its job properly.

GONDA: That was Tony Reeler, the director of the Research and Advocacy Unit. Thank you very much Tony for speaking to us on the programme Hot Seat.

REELER: Pleasure Violet, keep well.

Source: SWRadioAfrica

President Robert Mugabe used the recent G-15 summit in Tehran to make new threats to grab British and other foreign-owned business interests in Zimbabwe.

The threats were accompanied by the kind of extreme, almost incoherent rhetoric which places him in the same league as former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, who hounded out the Asian population from that country in the 1970s through similar racial and economic persecution.

Mugabe, 86, who faces an imminent election campaign after the end of the current transitional unity government, upped the stakes by threatening to seize foreign-owned mining interests, after “indigenising” all foreign-owned business interests. He accused the former colonial power, Britain, and other foreign interests of milking his country and denying its African inhabitants their birthright.

Rio Tinto, Anglo-American and Lonmin are among the British-American concerns which could see their assets in Zimbabwe confiscated. They mine copper, gold, asbestos and iron in the mineral-rich country. The world’s two largest platinum miners, Anglo Platinum and Impala Platinum, who have multi-million dollar investments in Zimbabwe, have also expressed concern at the new “indigenisation” legislation.

Mugabe said that after redistributing farmland confiscated from whites – ostensibly to benefit landless blacks but in reality to enrich himself and his supporters beyond their wildest dreams – his next goal was the “Africanisation” of the rest of the economy.

He singled out the mining sector for “aggressive indigenisation”. Speaking in a  speech peppered with hardline demagoguery, Mugabe slammed Britain and the US for “threatening to occupy smaller and weaker nations which are seeking to assert sovereignty over their resources for the betterment of their own people”.

“There must be Africans in there, as owners, not just as workers,” he thundered  to the G15, a group of 17 developing countries from Asia, Africa, and Latin America, set up to foster cooperation and provide input for other international groups.

“We are gold, copper, asbestos and iron producers. But most of the benefits are enjoyed by the former colonialists. At the end of the day, black people must be able to say, the resources are ours – our people own the mines, our people own the industry.”

Political analysts who have been critical of Mugabe’s rule warned him sternly against his plans. “This cannot help Zimbabwean jobs, wealth and opportunities,” said political commentator Ronald Shumba.

International mining giant Anglo American, which has significant interests in Zimbabwe, said this week it had discussed its operations with the Zimbabwe government but said that respect for the rule of law was of “prime concern to us and other investors”.

His Indigenisation minister, Savior Kasukuwere, insists he is plodding ahead with indigenisation plans, which took effect on March 1 – forcing foreign-owned companies to submit plans to show how they will sell 51 percent of their shares to black Zimbabweans within five years.

International jitters about Zimbabwe’s economy in the wake of planned expropriations can be expected to turn to full-blown panic at Mugabe’s latest position.

This is the umpteenth time he has said he would Africanise the mining sector. And his tone suggests there may be nothing that can sway him.

The MDC has accused him of trying to buy votes with a plan that could lead to economic disaster. Observers describe it as a desperate move by a desperate party that will do anything to stay in power.

Mining accounts for about 8 percent of Zimbabwe’s GDP, generating about 40 percent of annual export earnings. At its peak, Zimbabwe produced 28 tonnes of gold, raising nearly US$450m. Other mines extract coal, copper, nickel, chrome, asbestos and iron ore.

By setting his sights beyond land reform, Mugabe appears to be following the well-trodden – but discredited – path of Africanisers such as Uganda’s Idi Amin and Mobuto Sese Seko of Zaire.

Amin’s deportation of about 50,000 UK passport-holding South Asians in 1972 failed to bring promised prosperity, and saw the collapse of the commercial sector.

Meanwhile, the economic outcome of Mobutism was the wholesale plunder of Congo’s resources by the ruling elite.

(Source)

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