Zimbabwe's president is using talks with Morgan Tsvangirai to buy time while
he prepares for war
Saturday July 26 2008
It is clear what Robert Mugabe wants to see from the talks with the Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC) that began in South Africa on Thursday. On
December 27 1987 he sat down with Joshua Nkomo, the leader of the Zimbabwe
African People's Union (Zapu) and signed a unity accord. It followed seven
years of sustained violence against Nkomo's party in which some 18,000
people died. The creation of a government of national unity made Nkomo
vice-president. Three Zapu leaders were given cabinet posts. They might as
well have been hamsters in a cage on Mugabe's desk.
This is what Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the MDC, must remember as he
sits down at the talks. Like Nkomo, his party has been battered, with many
of his MPs dead, in hiding or facing charges, and more than 1,500 officials
in prison. The mediator, Thabo Mbeki, and other African presidents would be
happy with a deal similar to the 1987 accord. But will the MDC be able to
arm-wrestle a deal that leads to Mugabe stepping down or to free and fair
elections - or even a joint Mugabe/Tsvangirai control of the state and its
security apparatus? The question, as Humpty Dumpty said, is: who is to be
Much is being made of the Kenyan model forged earlier this year when the
country exploded after a stolen election. Raila Odinga, who most neutral
observers considered to have won, accepted the post of prime minister under
Mwai Kibaki's presidency. But Kenya is different. The security apparatus
remained largely unengaged, if not neutral, in Kenya's violent January.
Kibaki is no Mugabe, and Kenya's politicians are more cynical. In return for
a slice of the power pie, they traded in their loyalty to principles and
In Zimbabwe everyone in the power structure has been appointed by Mugabe,
all are loyal members of Zanu-PF. Several of the military and security
bosses have pledged their refusal to allow Tsvangirai to come to power.
Their "right to rule" comes not solely from their "conquest" of the country
by war against white rule, it is also because many Zimbabweans voted for
them. In the March parliamentary elections, Zanu-PF gained more votes than
Tsvangirai's MDC. Even discounting rigging and bullying, the unpalatable
fact is that there is still popular support for Mugabe and those around him.
Is it conceivable that some time in the near future - two weeks to complete
the talks is an unlikely deadline - prime minister Tsvangirai will say to
Emerson Mnangagwa, the man who organised the reign of terror since the March
election, that it is time to retire? Could he tell General Philip Sibanda
that he is no longer head of the army? Miracles of reconciliation, peace and
power-sharing have happened before in Africa but this is not credible.
Mugabe and his cronies have allowed the country to be destroyed in order to
hold on to power. Talks, for Mugabe, are not about reaching a compromise,
they are a time-wasting ploy while he prepares for more war, or a tool for
retaining - even extending - power.
What strengths does Tsvangirai have? The support of millions of Zimbabweans
and a stubbornness that the flaky Nkomo lacked. Support from western
countries is a double-edged sword. They provide financial, technical and
diplomatic support but they also give Mugabe a cause - anti-imperialism - to
unite his allies. And their power is waning. The Chinese and Russian veto of
the American UN security council resolution calling for sanctions against
Mugabe last week marked the full stop at the end of the west's exclusive
post cold war domination of Africa. They cannot rescue Zimbabwe.
Much weight was put on the rest of Africa in sorting out Zimbabwe but the
African Union ducked its responsibilities at its summit in Egypt last month
and passed the buck back to Mbeki. His power as president of South Africa is
ebbing daily. The African National Congress, now dominated by allies of
Jacob Zuma, is removing Mbeki's allies from positions of power and is
setting up a parallel ANC negotiation. In the next few months we may see
South Africa begin to take the Zimbabwe crisis seriously.
But can Zimbabwe's economy wait? It is sliding quickly into subsistence and
starvation with guns and mobiles. There are no buffers, just endless
decline. Tsvangirai knows that confidence and financial support will not
return without his say-so. But the ruling elite are not troubled. Some make
good money out of Zimbabwe's ruin. They are shifting their money overseas;
sending the Zimbabwe dollar on down. They can always bring a little foreign
exchange back and buy a few trillion dollars to pay servants and purchase
food and black-market fuel. The only question is how long the government can
produce money to pay its troops, police and thugs?
For different reasons, both sides may play for time. At present whatever
moral and political strength Tsvangirai has, Mugabe is in power. Unless
something inside Zanu-PF happens to unseat him, the battle for democratic
change in Zimbabwe is far from over.
· Richard Dowden is director of the Royal African Society. His book: Africa
Altered States, Ordinary Miracles is published in September
By Jonga Kandemiiri
25 July 2008
Violence against Zimbabwean opposition members continued this week even as
power-sharing talks got under way this week between the ruling ZANU-PF party
of President Robert Mugabe and the opposition Movement for Democratic
Change, MDC sources said Friday.
Opposition sources said soldiers and suspected ZANU-PF militia abducted two
MDC drivers in the Buhera South constituency of eastern Manicaland province
this week who had gone there to transport victims of earlier political
violence to hospitals for medical care.
Provincial MDC spokesman Pishai Muchauraya told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of
VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that local activists sought assistance from the
Zimbabwe Republic Police, but police officers told them that their hands
were tied in the matter.
Meanwhile, Officials of the same MDC formation headed by Morgan Tsvangirai
said they were trying to establish the identities of 60 individuals whose
bodies remained unclaimed at Harare Hospital and who are believed to be
opposition members slain in post-election violence.
Zimbabwe was swept by a wave of allegedly state-sponsored political violence
following the March 31 general and presidential elections which yielded an
opposition majority in the lower house of parliament and in which Tsvangirai
outpolled Mugabe. Tsvangirai dropped out of a June 27 run-off election
against Mr. Mugabe over the escalating violence.
Though Harare Hospital in normal times occasionally receives unidentified
bodies, MDC officials said they fear some of the bodies now in the mortuary
could be those of activists who went missing in the approach to and the
aftermath of the June 27 run-off election.
MDC Home Affairs Secretary Sam Sipepa Nkomo told reporter Chris Gande that
it has not been easy to make identifications as some bodies have been
mutilated or badly burned.
By Blessing Zulu
25 July 2008
Power-sharing talks between Zimbabwe's ruling party and opposition continued
for a second day Friday at an undisclosed location in Pretoria amid mixed
signals and reports as to just how difficult the task facing negotiators for
the two sides is likely to be.
The South African daily newspaper Business Day said a deal could be reached
"soon," citing unnamed sources on both sides said to be familiar with the
"The deal is basically done, but what remains are a few issues of detail,
implementation and logistics," the newspaper quoted one unnamed source as
However, an article in the state-controlled Herald newspaper reporting on
day one of the talks seemed to suggest ZANU-PF is taking a tough stance and
drawing lines in the sand.
The article said the outcome of the June 27 run-off ballot - the widely
condemned re-election of President Robert Mugabe in a single-candidate
race - was "non-negotiable."
According to the Herald, the ruling party politburo said Mr. Mugabe would
have to be the one who appointed a new government.
The Herald said ZANU-PF politburo "noted that there has to be a figure who
appoints the all-inclusive government envisaged in the memorandum of
understanding" signed by ZANU-PF and the two opposition formations on
Monday, paving the way for the talks.
"And that figure is President Mugabe, who won the run-off," the Herald
It quoted a ruling party source as saying that, "There has to be a figure
who creates the all-inclusive government. All that program has to be given
Political analyst Chris Maroleng told reporter Zulu that the power-sharing
talks could succeed or fail based on the question of who will lead the
government of national unity or transitional government that is the most
weighty agenda item on the table, and that ZANU-PF's insistence on this
point looks like a bid to reclaim legitimacy for Mr. Mugabe.
Other political analysts agree there is a lot on the table in Pretoria as
negotiators for the two sides square off, and that despite expressions of
good will early this week when party leaders signed a threshold document,
all sides may be expected to bargain hard.
So notwithstanding reports that a deal is close to being concluded, they say
there are plenty of potential pitfalls for the discussions which are only
Observers also warn that there are forces which are not at the table that
must be reckoned with - for instance Zimbabwe's Joint Operations Command
unifying the security forces, which some say has become the real power in
the land as government structures collapse.
Some say the JOC orchestrated the violence that ravaged the country in
For a closer look at the stakes in the talks, the hidden hazards and the
likely result, Blessing Zulu turned to political analyst and University of
Zimbabwe Professor John Makumbe and Group Projects Editor Iden Wetherell of
the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper.
Wetherell and Makumbe argue that for talks to succeed, political violence
must stop, and that the ruling party politiburo must not set terms for the
discussions in Pretoria.
by Leonard Makombe Saturday 26 July 2008
OPINION: Politics involves a lot of risk and uncertainty. There are times
when politicians take issues for granted, only to be rudely awakened by a
shocking reality proving their assumptions wrong.
There are a number of variables at play in politics and as a field of study
it is very fluid, especially when it comes to a scientific study of "the
struggle for power".
One analyst once commented that political science is the most undisciplined
A scientific analysis of politics has shown that this simplistic assertion
does hold water.
I can only add that it may not be the scientific study of the discipline
which is undisciplined but the objects - human beings - that constantly
change so much so that you have to be a sociologist, historian,
psychologist, biologist, economist and any other specialised field of study,
all in one, to effectively study politics.
The constant change in the behaviour of the objects under study, that is
politicians and the people they seek to control/rule/lead, has made the
study of politics exciting and at the same time an academic minefield.
It is an exciting field to the extent that some people who never attended
even a single political science lecture may claim to be political scientists
or analysts, something unheard of in other fields such as economics and law.
Change is part of politics and what may hold true today may tomorrow be
utterly wrong as the principal players in the drama of politics always try
to maximise power.
It is therefore prudent to probe, especially at this historical moment in
Zimbabwe when the main political players have just embarked on power-sharing
talks, the country's current political configuration and what it will be in
the next two weeks, two months or two years.
One political reality that came as a result of the March 29 election is ZANU
PF's loss of parliamentary majority.
The causes of the loss - faults within the ruling ZANU PF itself, the
organising capacity of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
party, the economy and other factors - have to a certain extent been
explored and analysed elsewhere.
The response to this, in the form of a violent campaign for the presidential
run-off election has also been explored and there are many stories and
angles to this.
However, my focus is on what is happening now as an undercurrent to the
While there may be negotiations as to who will wield more power, there is a
very crucial set of 11 seats that appears to be up for grabs and it is my
sincere submission that these are as important as the other seats a
political party may have won.
Immediately after the March elections, almost all analysts were of the
opinion that ZANU PF had become the opposition since it had lost its
majority in the lower house of assembly for the first time since
independence from Britain in 1980.
This still holds true as ZANU PF still has 99 seats to MDC-T's 100 seats.
However, events since the run-off have once again shown that there are no
certainties in politics. How is this so?
One point to be remembered is that despite a formal agreement on joining
forces in parliament, the MDC factions still operate as different entities
as witnessed by the fielding of candidates in the three parliamentary seats
contested on June 27 and also the fact that there are times when, for
example, Arthur Mutambara's faction may go it alone as it did when meeting
South African President Thabo Mbeki early this month.
As such there is no certainty as to the fate of the 10 seats that the
Mutambara factions holds. This will be explained shortly.
Then there is the other seat held by Professor Jonathan Moyo. The professor
has shown his political acumen and Machiavellian scheming by managing to
make sure that the MDC-T does not field a candidate in Tsholotsho before he
then turned, with or without justification, and started blaming the MDC-T
for tactical bankruptcy in political strategies.
The merits and demerits of this is not the intention of this debate although
it is now clear that this seat is floating in the direction of ZANU PF, be
it because of issues of "nationalism or patriotism".
It needs no political or rocket scientist to realise that logically this
seat should be in the orbit of the MDC-T as a logical consequence of the
pre-March 29 agreement that sought unity against ZANU PF.
It can be argued from the above that ZANU PF now has an equal number of
seats with MDC-T, that is, if Moyo's recent public utterances are anything
to go by.
Then the dog-fight starts on who will get the backing of Mutambara's MDC
with its 10 seats.
In terms of the alliance of democratic forces, the seats were supposed to go
to MDC-T but as mentioned before, politics is very unpredictable. If
anything, the seats are up for anyone's taking.
We cannot take for granted the friction that arose in the run up to the
run-off election when it was alleged that MDC-T had tried to lure winning
candidates from the Mutambara faction without going through the proper party
From that incident it has not been certain whether the commitment to support
MDC-T still stands and it appears that the Mutambara faction has realised
that it is the lever that will tilt the decision in the lower house in any
Talk of the power of a small number over a large number.
There may be some promises being made (dangling the carrots) and the party
that is likely to be making most of these is ZANU PF mainly because it is
the ruling party and depending on the outcome of the talks it is most likely
that it wields a certain leverage that it may use to mop up the floating
seats, one of which now appears to be certainly won over.
One also has to look at the enthusiasm with which Mutambara and company were
eager to enter the talks against the background of the reluctance by
I am not supporting or opposing the reluctance, as it is up to MDC-T to see
what is good for them.
I am only mentioning it as an important factor that supports the argument
that the other faction may be playing its cards in a way that seeks to
maximise its chances of acquiring or accessing power.
After all maybe their decision to support MDC-T in the run-off was based on
the possibility of acquiring power just as when they chose to support Simba
Makoni in the March 29 presidential race.
What we are likely to see are talks behind talks, or they may already have
been concluded with Mutambara and Moyo now aware of what is in store for
This is one exciting thing about politics, the element of uncertainty in the
ordinary man as well as those who think may be wielding power which they may
want to use to acquire more power.
However, the pitfalls lie in the danger such manipulations may bring to the
In the meantime we can just watch as the drama unfolds and it is only after
the curtain comes down, maybe with the announcement of a new cabinet, that
we will be able to see what has been taking place behind closed doors.
We may heave a sigh of relief and say it was a masterpiece or never want to
hear of the drama again as we may be frustrated by the tragedy.
They say politicians, because they cannot admire the beauty of politics,
make it a dirty game but it remains a game of winners and losers where some
win fairly and others by any means necessary. - ZimOnline
By Tony Barber in Bordeaux
Published: July 26 2008 03:00 | Last updated: July 26 2008 03:00
Thabo Mbeki, president of South Africa, has defended his cautious approach
to the Zimbabwe crisis in talks with European Union leaders determined to
weaken Robert Mugabe, the country's hardline president, with targeted
"We recognise the fact that the global community is very interested in the
issue of Zimbabwe," Mr Mbeki said after talks with Nicolas Sarkozy, France's
president, and José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president. "We
didn't ask the EU to do anything about sanctions in any direction."
The EU broadened its sanctions on Tuesday by adding 37 individuals and four
companies to a list of more than 130 of Mr Mugabe's relatives and officials
already blacklisted by the 27-nation bloc.
The EU wants to see a transitional government in Harare that would include
Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader. It hopes this would significantly
reduce Mr Mugabe's power, even if he continued to hold the symbolic reins of
But after yesterday's first EU-South Africa summit, in the French city of
Bordeaux, a joint communiqué made clear the two sides had failed to bridge
basic differences over how to solve southern Africa's most serious political
and economic crisis.
"South Africa underlined that all parties needed to respect the right of the
people of Zimbabwe to determine their future without external interference,
and that the most urgent task from now on consisted in helping the
Zimbabwean leaders, beyond political divisions, to negotiate an accord that
would let Zimbabwe meet the challenges facing it," the statement said.
The EU, which is South Africa's largest trade partner, reaffirmed its
position that it was ready to take unspecified "new measures" against Mr
Mugabe and his supporters "in the absence of positive changes in the weeks
Mr Mbeki brokered a deal on Monday under which Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai
would hold two weeks of negotiations on a power-sharing arrangement. But the
talks appeared under strain yesterday. The Herald, a state-owned Zimbabwean
newspaper, reported that Mr Mugabe's ruling party had decided to turn down
any power-sharing deal that failed to recognise his re-election last month.
Zanu-PF also ruled out any deal that would attempt to reverse Mr Mugabe's
land reform programme, which the EU contends is partly responsible for
Zimbabwe's economic disarray.
The EU dismissed Mr Mugabe's reconfirmation in office as a sham after Mr
Tsvangirai withdrew from the second-round election because of
governmentinspired violence against supporters of his Movement for
Comment from The Mail & Guardian (SA), 24 Jull
The signing of the memorandum of understanding between Zanu PF and the two
MDC formations must be welcomed after the protracted period of violence and
political stalemate. But is it the right medicine and what does it say about
the two protagonists? Zimbabwe's economic and political crisis is a
deep-rooted one, the antidote to which requires more than agreeing to who
will hold the reins of power or how the spoils of defeat will be parcelled
out. The malaise has surfaced over more than a decade where land reform was
only one of a number of structural challenges the state faced. Thus the
fundamental problem that this negotiating process, starting today, ought to
address is the restructuring and transformation of the state and society
after years of brutalisation, exclusion and erosion of the constitutional
A culture of violence, subversion of the rule of law and scant attempt to
deal with the country's history during and after independence need to be
addressed if this round is to yield anything more substantial than previous
rounds. However, the agreement has a number of weaknesses. It required some
compromise on both sides in terms of what it contained and how it was
phrased, but has this weakened the substance of the agreement or reflected
the balance of forces between the negotiating partners? While President
Mbeki was still trying to get the parties to the negotiating table, Morgan
Tsvangirai set out five preconditions for signing any draft agreement: the
appointment of an AU envoy to join the SADC mediating team; the release of
all political prisoners; the cessation of violence and the disbandment of
all militias; the reinstatement of access by humanitarian organisation to
provide food, medical and other related services to Zimbabwe's population;
and that parliament and the senate should be sworn in and begin their work
Two preconditions are not addressed in the MoU: the release of political
prisoners, and the swearing in of parliament. President Mbeki's creation of
a reference group which included AU and UN envoys may be said to partially
address MDC concerns with the impartiality of the South African mediator.
Under "interim measures" the MoU sets out that each party will issue a
statement to condemn the promotion and use of violence, ensure the law is
applied fairly to all irrespective of political affiliation, and take all
steps necessary to "eliminate all forms of political violence, including by
non-state actors". It makes provision for the return of any displaced person
and the resumption of the work of humanitarian organisations. While these
articles address the very heart of the challenges of negotiations, there is
no provision in the agreement for effective, independent monitoring of their
implementation. This is a fundamental shortcoming.
This is particularly problematic in the light of the manner in which Zanu PF
has conducted itself both before and after the presidential run-off,
bringing to bear the might of the state apparatus. In addition, members of
the opposition are still in jail or have treason charges pending. While a
level political playing field is unattainable for the MDC in the short
space, given what has preceded it, the absence of a monitoring mechanism
assumes the good will of all parties, something experience has shown is not
the case, especially with power at stake. The MoU is very ambitious in the
agenda it sets itself, which ranges from economic to political, security and
communication matters, framework for a new government, implementation
mechanisms and a "global political agreement". There is a great deal on the
table in the overarching political and economic framework. At a clinical
level, it is not impossible to cover the ground in two weeks. Yet this
downplays the significance of the intangible elements of a successful
negotiation: a degree of trust and confidence-building between parties.
Notwithstanding these flaws in the agreement, the process can render some
positive outcomes. The role of the mediator, the reference group and the
region are key in this. First, they need to appreciate the omissions and
weaknesses that I have mentioned and mitigate their possible negative impact
on the outcome. This relates particularly to the balance of power between
the MDC and Zanu PF. The MDC holds the moral high ground. The party's trump
card was its reticence to participate in an MoU or an ensuing agreement,
because the region recognises that the current situation in Zimbabwe is no
longer tenable. But the MDC has demonstrated weak mobilising capacity,
especially in the face of overwhelming state security machinery.
Zanu PF is not entering into these negotiations to lose its "gains" of June
27. They recognise that they have to make certain token compromises - just
enough to ease the entry of foreign currency for the beleaguered economy,
but not enough to weaken their control over the levers of power. This is why
the way in which President Mbeki and the reference group play their cards is
crucial at this juncture for any agreement. And while not even FW de Klerk
began negotiations believing he was negotiating himself out of power, the
duration of those negotiations allowed the reality of this eventuality to
dawn on him and his supporters, including the military. This agreement lacks
that "luxury". Thus this round of negotiations should aim to set in place an
interim arrangement, upon which a more comprehensive constitutional
framework that includes not only the political elites but a cross-section of
society, can be negotiated.
Such an interim arrangement will have to put policies in place to stabilise
the economy, end political violence, and restore the rule of law and freedom
of association, movement and of the media. This will require the swearing in
of MPs in terms of the March 29 results (no mention of which is made in the
MoU) to repeal the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the
Public Order and Security Act, the Broadcasting Services Act and the
Interception of Communications Act. The interim arrangement should make
provision for effective monitoring measures, including the deployment of
SADC peace monitors to ensure adherence and implementation, especially by
the security establishment. To achieve such an outcome will require
consummate skill and the judicious application of pressure by external
actors (not only the mediating team).
This is a tall order indeed. The reference group constituted by President
Mbeki was not mentioned in the MoU. Yet the reference group allows for a
more robust facilitation. Thus President Mbeki should not permit its
dilution, especially as it legitimises the mediation more in the eyes of the
MDC. Furthermore, the terms of reference of the Reference Group should be
made public in the interests of a more transparent process. Any
comprehensive settlement will need to be crafted by Zimbabweans themselves.
South Africa, however, carries a huge responsibility in this two-week
period, to ensure that the "hard" power of Zanu PF does not trump, yet
again, the moral high ground of the MDC. The events after the March
elections show that elections alone or a government of national unity will
not address the country's problems, nor can the country and the opposition
do it alone. What must be avoided in the talks that begin today is the
Zanufication of the MDC. If that were to happen, the process is likely to
produce another damp squib.
Elizabeth Sidiropoulos is the national director of the South African
Institute of International Affairs
The European Union will continue to support the mediation effort of South
African President Thabo Mbeki in the Zimbabwe crisis, the EU's acting head,
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, said on Friday in Bordeaux.
"I personally would not speak with (Zimbabwean President) Robert Mugabe
because I judge very harshly what he has done," Sarkozy said after the
first-ever EU-South Africa summit. "But one cannot criticize Mbeki because
he wants to mediate and therefore is talking with all sides."
At the summit, Mbeki held talks with Sarkozy, European Commission President
Jose Manuel Barroso and the EU's foreign affairs chief, Javier Solana.
Sarkozy assured Mbeki of the Union's continued support in his efforts to
resolve the crisis in Zimbabwe.
More time needed
There is consensus within the EU that Mbeki should be granted more time to
deal with the issue, particularly as it appears to be bearing fruit. But
Sarkozy said the negotiations should not be drawn out for too long.
"Europe does not want to interfere, but at the same time Europe cannot
accept certain images and acts," the French president said, referring to the
violence perpetrated by Mugabe supporters during the protracted election
campaign in Zimbabwe.
According to Mbeki, talks in Bordeaux did not include the issue of further
sanctions against the Mugabe regime.
Other issues discussed during the summit included immigration, trade and
South Africa is the only African state to date to have signed a Strategic
Partnership Agreement with the EU. Friday's summit was the first since the
establishment of the Partnership, in May 2007.
DPA news agency
Mail and Guardian
PETINA GAPPA: COMMENT - Jul 28 2008 06:00
Robert Gabriel Mugabe and Morgan Richard Tsvangirai held hands. Mugabe tried
to lift Tsvangirai's hand above the shoulder, to join it in his in a
triumphant double fist, a gesture reminiscent of the moment he held up
Joshua Nkomo's hand and with that gesture killed opposition politics in
Zimbabwe for a long 12 years.
Tsvangirai may also have had Joshua Nkomo in mind, at that moment, because
he seemed to resist this, his hand remained just below shoulder level, and
Mugabe had to be content with a sideways shake and a toothy grin. Mugabe
grinned. Tsvangirai grinned. Arthur Guseni Oliver Mutambara grinned. Thabo
Mvuyelwa Mbeki grinned. They all grinned and were happy together.
It is surreal, this orgy of grinning, this sudden, blinding flashing of
teeth: barely a month ago the pictures of torture camps filled television
and computer screens, photographs of burnt bodies illustrated the stories of
horror from Zimbabwe. Seared on the minds of millions were the story of the
death of Abigail Chiroto, killed in an arson attack, and the haunting image
of Joshua Bakacheza, diminished and fragile in his death, just two of the
victims that made the front-page news of just about any newspaper that gave
prominence to Zimbabwe. Tsvangirai was warning the world about genocide in
Zimbabwe. Barely a month later he is sitting down to talk with the
Such is the fluid world of high politics.
Like Kenya before it, Zimbabwe is to be another example of a new model of
African elections. Losing an election, it seems, does not actually mean you
have to give up the seat of office. The example of Zimbabwe should be
particularly encouraging to Eduardo Dos Santos in Angola and Paul Biya in
Cameroon, two incumbent leaders whose countries are next on the elections
This is the lesson of Zimbabwe: if you are the incumbent and it looks like
you are on your way out, for God's sake do not panic, just hang in there;
beat the living daylights out of some of your people, just because you can,
and the poorer they are the better; imprison those who would dare to oppose
you, torture them, and if they are women, throw in a little spot of rape;
kill them in horrible ways and burn their bodies and dump them in shallow
graves, or no graves, as you please; in a word, intimidate your way back to
power and, bingo, the African Union will very nicely ask you to accommodate
your opponents in a government of national unity.
"The people of Zimbabwe have suffered long enough," is the mantra that is
being used to push forward these talks. And indeed, the suffering is beyond
levels that anyone with compassion can accept. Everyone knows the figures;
the hyperinflation, the unemployment rate and now, yet again, the spectre of
creeping starvation -- the United Nations reports that up to five million
people face starvation. But how far should this mantra be carried?Have the
people suffered so much that non-bread and butter issues to do with the
dismantling of oppressive institutions, accountability, justice and
reparations must be sacrificed on the altar of political expediency?
There is no doubt that, even if the MDC pushed for these issues to be at the
forefront of the negotiations, Zanu-PF would not welcome any demands for
justice, for truth and reconciliation, even at the very basic level of a
public airing of the atrocities. An insistence on this point may well mean
the end of any talks, any negotiation, any accommodation. And is it to be
expected that Zanu-PF will approve the demilitarisation of state
institutions and thus dismantle the very system that has ensured its
The result of this negotiation, when it comes, may well be a political
compromise of the kind that Zimbabwe saw in the 1980s when Joshua Nkomo's
Zapu merged with Mugabe's Zanu-PF after a violent campaign of intimidation.
That process of negotiation left unaddressed the violent suppression of
Nkomo's supporters. The politicians got their Mercs and perks. And to this
day the people of Matebeleland have reason to remain bitter that nothing was
ever done to address their pain.
It is in this regard that the most disturbing element of these talks is
that, as with the Zanu-Zapu talks, and the Lancaster House talks before
them, they are yet again the exclusive preserve of politicians. If there is
something Zimbabweans should have learned by now, it is that the fate of the
country should not be entrusted to politicians. This is a political crisis,
the thinking goes, and a crisis for politicians to address. When the MDC
wanted the mediation expanded, it talked only of adding another mediator to
watch over Mbeki, who has given the world reason to believe that he is
Mugabe's most able and hard-working ambassador. The real expansion in the
mediation should have been the inclusion of civil society, because the
people who truly need watching over are not the mediators but the
The exclusion of civil society means that matters of justice, however
broadly defined, may never be addressed. Nor will the many economic crimes
of this brutish regime. And there is another dimension: not only redressing
the evils of the past, but also laying a foundation for the future: one of
the items on the agenda of the talks is a new Constitution. Certainly, this
mediation presents an opportunity to jettison the Lancaster House agreement
that was progressively amended to concentrate power in the hands of the
executive, thus giving Zimbabwe the horrors of 28 years of Mugabe. The
negotiators should agree to a new Constitution but not, as they have
attempted to do in the past, come up with a draft themselves. To leave the
process of Constitution-making to two political parties would be quite
The absence of civil society from the talks inevitably means that
Zimbabweans, like Kenyans, will be held hostage to a political compromise.
And because the people have suffered enough, they will have no choice but to
accept what the politicians decide and try to rebuild their lives anew on a
foundation of compromise and cheated dreams. If the MDC sings the praises of
this new deal in dulcet enough tones and Zanu-PF accompanies with soothing
sounds about healings and new visions and unity of purpose, the money for a
rescue package will start to flow. Inflation will go down.
The politicians will serve their terms and campaign for new terms. They will
make grand speeches at the opening of Parliament and schools. They will pose
for photographs with visiting dignitaries. Zimbabweans will joke and laugh
about the time inflation was 2 000 000% and they paid their bills in
billions and trillions and the budget was set in quadrillions.
Joshua Bakacheza and Abigail Chiroto will fade out of memory; they will
certainly not appear in any history books -- neither they nor the many
victims whose beaten buttocks and burnt bodies served to stoke the flames
and keep the story of Zimbabwe in the limelight. Having served their
purpose, they will leave the limelight, appearing only in the memories of
the people who loved them and in the occasional search on the internet,
where nothing is deleted. And Zimbabwe will go on to a future rooted in
grief and pain, where the accumulated resentments of the past will be daily
reminders of the dangers of political compromise.
Petina Gappah is a Zimbabwean writer and lawyer who lives in Geneva. She
recently won the Mukuru Nyaya prize for comic writing
Saturday Nation, Kenya
Story by GITAU GIKONYO
Publication Date: 7/26/2008 There is a saying among my kinsmen to the effect
that "what it sires is what it breastfeeds". The reference in this case is
to animals and they seem to have no choice. Thus should a cow give birth to
a hen, then it will breast feed it. But we humans have a choice and if, for
instance, a woman heavy with child, knew that she would give birth to
Lucifer himself, she can terminate the pregnancy.
December 27, 2008, was the due date for our country and our
experiences thereafter are the ensuing results of what we gave birth to. We
had a choice and we opted for a coalition government.
Zimbabweans have followed suit after Robert Mugabe ran an election
against himself and won. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has embraced
Mugabe and termed his agreement to begin peace talks with Mugabe as
"historic". What a misuse of a good word. He sees it as a great opportunity
for peace and possible continuance of governance in Zimbabwe.
Unfortunately democracy or the delusion that passed for it in Africa
has finally been mutilated, and may never again be allowed to grace this
continent. It has inhaled its last breath of life through the suffocation of
the people's will by the powerful clench of electoral fraud witnessed in
Kenya and Zimbabwe.
Kenya had offered to help Zimbabwe in settling the impasse by
prescribing solutions or suggestions. It seems like the Zimbabweans took the
offer and most likely Tsvangirai will be bequeathed premiership and half of
the cabinet like his friend Raila Odinga. Ask Tsvangirai why he is
negotiating and he will tell you that he does not want to see more blood
being spilt. But is there an alternative?
I submit that there is, but the alternative never seems to work in
Africa. Even though the flame inside us has died and has been replaced by a
dark bottomless void, a small ember must remain, refuse to die and grow.
According to the American Declaration of Independence a government derives
its just powers from the governed in guaranteeing their liberty and the
pursuit of happiness.
Where it fails, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish
it, and institute a new one that guarantees safety and happiness. Thus on
February 26, 1986, for instance, Corazon Aquino became the President of
Philippines. An almost bloodless revolution known as 'Peoples Power' had
brought Aquino into office.
When one looks at the crisis in Zimbabwe and recently in Kenya, there
are almost similar events that had built up to that day 22 years ago.
However, while the Philippines crisis resulted into a revolution by the
people, the same did not happen in Kenya and with Tsvangirai having thrown
in the towel, it won't happen in Zimbabwe. Why? Because revolutions are
waged by people seeking to regain their identity from repressive regimes or
Philippines was under President Ferdinand Marcos, one of the world's
most powerful dictators. First elected President in 1965, he became a master
of manipulating public opinion, stealing elections and bribery.
In November 1985, Marcos in an American talkshow, This Week with David
Brinkley, announced his decision to hold a snap presidential election to
appease the Americans and legitimise his control over the country, a
monumental blunder. The elections were held on February 7, 1986, and were
marred by violence and alleged electoral fraud from both sides of the
According to official election canvasser, the Commission on Elections,
Marcos won with 10,807,197 votes against Aquino's 9,291,761. National
Movement for Free Elections had Aquino winning with 7,835,070 votes against
Marcos' 7,053,068. Marcos was proclaimed the winner but the Filipinos
rejected the results asserting that Aquino was the real victor.
Both "winners" held separate inaugurations with Marcos' attended by
family members and a few paid guests.
Why haven't we seen such a scenario in Africa? It's because most
African countries lack a middle class and a cultural-spiritual battlefront
necessary for a people's revolution.
Instead, in the case of Kenya, the ethno-history is rooted in
suspicion and animosity inculcated into the minds of Kenyans by politicians.
The end result is deep and hidden ethno-hatred that transcends all classes
concealed by the usual smile and handshake.
It is no wonder, therefore, that hoodlums and bands of criminals were
able to style themselves as the emancipators of Kenyans by destroying
property and killing people. A people's revolution must evoke national
appeal and is in most cases bloodless.
The middle class in Philippines was deeply affected especially those
excluded from regime-nurtured monopolies and became a centre of vocal
resistance to the Marcos' regime.
In Zimbabwe, the middle class is not visible anywhere. In Kenya,
middle class retreated to their homes with their wives and children and
watched the unfolding events on their plasma TVs.
The police in Kenya and Zimbabwe ran wild shooting demonstrators but
the situation in Philippines was different. Soldiers were met by people who
sat in front of them, praying the Rosary.
Priests, nuns, ordinary citizens, and children linked arms with rebels
and faced down, without violence, the tanks and machineguns of government
troops. Many of the government troops defected and announced their support
for People's Power.
Eventually the US government sent its marines to rescue Marcos but not
before behind the scenes face-saving manoeuvres by Marcos begging to be
allowed to stay on as an "Honorary President," or at least to remain in the
Philippines as a private citizen.
Short of a people's revolution, which incumbent African president will
hence accept genuine defeat at the ballot if he can coalesce winners and
losers into a grand coalition? The incumbent, as Mugabe has aptly put it,
must always remain President, most probably "Honorary President."
Isn't it a win-win situation since we all vote and we all win?
Even if you get five per cent votes you can still be a vice-president
and get the much coveted outriders. If you are the actual winner you become
the prime minister and get to do everything, but nothing in particular.
The writer is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya.
July 26, 2008
By Sibangani Sibanda
NOW that all the "excitement" of the presidential run-off has subsided, and
the oh-so-fleeting glimpse of change in Zimbabwe has flashed past, things
have returned to normal and we are back to the grind of trying to put food
on table and send children to school so that they have a chance to look for
employment in other shores.
But "normal" in Zimbabwe is like no other normal. On the economic front, we
have a situation where on March 29, 2008, one American dollar would buy you
about three billion Zimbabwe dollars. On June 27, the same American dollar
would have bought you twenty billion Zimbabwe dollars and today, it will buy
you ninety billion Zimbabwe dollars! Yet, when we watch international news
channels, we are told that the American dollar is weakening!
At the same time, we have a central bank governor, who tries to control the
country's money supply by limiting the amounts that individuals and
companies can withdraw from their bank accounts each day. Never mind that he
is, on the other hand, seriously increasing money supply by simply printing
notes! The withdrawal limit today is one hundred billion dollars - which
translates to one American dollar and eleven cents. This limit applies to
both individuals and companies, so on a daily basis, a company has just over
one American dollar to run its operations! That is too mind-boggling for my
simple mind, so I will concentrate on individuals.
A mini bus ride to the bank will cost me fifty billion dollars, which I have
to borrow, then when I get to the bank, I get my 100 billion, use fifty
billion to ride back home and repay my debt - which means that tomorrow, I
have to borrow another fifty billion to go back to the bank. Of course I
also need bread for the family, which costs one hundred billion on the
street (and it is only available on the street) so, I have to borrow for
that too, but as everyone is in the same predicament, there are fewer and
fewer friends to borrow from. In fact, there are fewer and fewer friends,
What I do about buying my other basics like mealie meal (250 billion for ten
kilograms which, admittedly will last a few days), vegetables for relish (30
billion per bunch that will feed a small family for one meal) is anybody's
guess. "Luxuries" like onion and tomato do not even come into the picture!
Bath and laundry soap, toilet rolls, sugar, salt, candles and many other
such items that are optional extras have to wait for the time when Reserve
Bank governor Gideon Gono decides to raise our withdrawal limit - by which
time inflation will have made sure that the new limit is as meaningless as
the old one.
But if you think my problems are bad, think about the really poor who do not
even have the one hundred billion to withdraw every day!
The effects of this withdrawals policy can be quite comical in the wider
economy. Supermarkets and other retail outlets for instance are not
receiving as much cash as normal because their customers do not have the
cash. Point of Sale systems have become the thing. However, it means that
however many trillions of dollars in sales they make every day, they can
only withdraw one hundred billion! But they need cash to assist their staff
with transport fares and to pay their suppliers, many of whom insist on cash
because of the problems associated with having money in the bank!
But because there is no cash around, businesses are having to accept cheque
payments, transfers and other forms of payment that put their money into the
dreaded banks. But they are being careful. With inflation estimates being
anything from three million to nine million percent (my mathematician friend
tells me that there can be no such figures. At which point I tell him that
when you are dealing with matters of defending "National Sovereignty",
anything is possible), they are having to "hedge". In simple language, they
charge three or four times the price that they would charge for cash, just
so that the value of their sale stays the same.
Enter the National Incomes and Prices (something) Commission (NIPCC) crying
foul over profiteering and other dirty words associated with capitalists and
imperialists. All manner of goods disappear from the shelves, reappearing
shortly afterwards on the black market. Prices sore to new unprecedented
levels, "stakeholders" hold meetings and new prices are agreed at slightly
lower unprecedented levels. Everybody goes home happy. Except the one
hundred billion dollars buys even less!
Governor Gono, always ready with a new and innovative solution will raise
the withdrawal limit to, say, one trillion dollars. Bread will probably be
costing that much, then.
Imagine what that will do to us. Already, one of the highlights of my day is
going into the bank and watching people filling in their withdrawal slips or
cheques. Everybody looks like they are talking to themselves as they mouth
silently, one, two, three four, five....., just to make sure they have got
the correct number of zeroes! Well, there is not much other humour around!
There is hope, though. The politicians have just have settled around the
conference table at some secret location outside Pretoria.
Unfortunately their meeting is out of bounds for the press but they must
come up with something in less than two weeks now.
I cannot wait!
See below for reply:
Joining a government of national unity could be fatal for the MDC
From Peter Dee
1.The MDC cannot join a government of 'national unity' if it includes
Robert Mugabe or any of his lieutenants without itself committing political
2. Rotten policies need changing, rotten people must be replaced. With
Mugabe part of the pack it is hard to see how any of those tough decisions
can be implemented.
3.. MDC's support base is built entirely upon dissatisfaction with the
state of Zimbabwe and the concomitant expectation that only it can return
the country to prosperity.
4.. To even begin the economic repair process the any new government will
have to attract huge western support programmes and, more importantly from a
long-term perspective, overturn much that Mugabe has done to destroy the
economy. It is unlikely that significant aid would be forthcoming if Mugabe
or ZANU (PF) remain in any position in the government, and none of the
surgical steps necessary would be possible.
5.. Land reform has been deliberately turned into a sacred cow by Mugabe
in an attempt to put a cloak of respectability on the removal of white
farmers. Even the MDC is afraid to talk openly about reversing what has been
done, preferring to leave the impression that what went wrong was not so
much the principle of giving white farms to blacks, but the chaotic and
corrupt manner in which it was done. Yet getting some white farmers back
onto the land would be one of the fastest routes to reconstruction - not
because they are white, but because they already have the know-how and the
years and years of experience. It may be that the MDC's reluctance here is
more about not giving Mugabe another stick to beat it with than a true
reflection of what the party would do in power. In a minor role of course it
could do nothing.
6.. Much the same is true of mining and industry, which are also currently
living under the threat of appropriation.
7.. The most complicated surgery needed for Zimbabwe's rehabilitation
involves sacking army and police generals, probably hundreds of military,
police and air force officers, judges, magistrates and civil servants at all
levels.Over the past ten years these people have been so corrupted and
subverted that it is unthinkable that they can remain at their posts in a
new Zimbabwe. They have shown no commitment to the people, to the
constitution, or to the law of the land. Even low-ranking policemen on the
beat, so to speak (although in Zimbabwe the police don't do beats) have
refused assistance to victims of mayhem and violence on the grounds that
their cases were 'political'.
8.. So what is going on? What is behind the current 'negotiations'? Why is
Mugabe pushing it, and why is the MDC engaging?
9.. Many observers believe another huge deception is on the go. Mugabe
knows he is
in a hole and that he cannot halt the economic melt-down. He also knows that
he needs one friend - South Africa. If he does not pay at least lip service
to Mbeki's counsel there is always the possibility that South Africa could
shut him down. So he is going through the motions, much as he did in the
first round elections in March. (There is no doubt the event was
unexpectedly peaceful if not exactly fair.)
10. In agreeing now to talks it is again a case of 'heads I win, tails you
lose'. If the MDC comes aboard with him and somehow manages to turn things
around, the victory is his and he can break the arrangement any time he
wants to so long as he has his army and police. If the MDC declines to join
him in a government of national unity, any further deterioration of the
economy can be laid at the party's door.
11. For Morgan Tsvangirai the dilemma is classic. He has been waiting a
long time, and as long as Thabo Mbeki rules in South Africa, there is no one
to help him move into Government House. The Mugabe regime could go on for
years. Perhaps Morgan has had a whiff of power now and it may be that he
will take any small share rather than none. But if he does sign on, it is an
odds-on bet that his party will be finished with the people.
Reach Peter Dee on email@example.com
8.. So what is going on? What is behind the current 'negotiations'? Why is
Mugabe pushing it, and why is the MDC engaging?
Wrong! The MDC is pushing it and Mugabe is being dragged into it. Remember
what Tsvangirai and Biti did soon after the first round when it was becoming
clear that ZEC, in response to ZANU(PF), was fudging the numbers to create
the need for a run-off? They went off on a diplomatic mission around the
region. One result of that is that several African countries have not
recognized Mugabe as President. Another is the calls from all around the
region for "talks". The only way a peaceful, democratic party that has won
the elections can get rid of a violent dictatorship that refuses to go is
this way. Why should Mugabe want "negotiations"? He would rather carry on as
he has done for the past few months and pretend that there weren't any
elections, keeping his (defeated) ministers in an (unconstitutional) cabinet
and rule without Parliament. He can only negotiate the terms of ZANU(PF)'s
9.. Many observers believe another huge deception is on the go.
Wrong! Mugabe is not controlling this process. The MDC is calling the shots.
Thabo Mbeki has lost his credibility, knows it, and is being pushed from all
sides (except ZANU(PF)'s) to act objectively. ZANU(PF) has no capacity to
"deceive" in this process as it is, as you say, in a hole.
10. In agreeing now to talks it is again a case of 'heads I win, tails you
lose'. If the MDC comes aboard with him and somehow manages to turn things
around, the victory is his and he can break the arrangement any time he
wants to so long as he has his army and police. If the MDC declines to join
him in a government of national unity, any further deterioration of the
economy can be laid at the party's door.
Wrong! First, I know we've been saying this for a long time, but there's not
much more deterioration to go. Today, even the black market currency dealers
don't have Zim dollars. Next week there will effectively be no cash. Maybe
Gono will pull a new currency on Chinese paper out the hat. Otherwise, we
will grind to a halt. ZANU(PF) has no bargaining power in regard to the
Second, there is no way that the MDC will agree to any sort of a deal in
which ZANU(PF) retain control of the army and police. How can the MDC
"demand" the cessation of violence yet not have control at least over the
the "regular" forces?
11. if [Tsvangirai] does sign on, it is an odds-on bet that his party will
be finished with the people.
And you think he doesn't know that?! But it will be Mugabe that's signing
up, not Tsvangirai! The only alternative is for ZANU(PF) to pull out and
formally stage a coup.