Mugabe’s mystifying hold on Africa

via Sen. Flake: African monitors must call out Zimbabwe elections – The Washington Post by Jeff Flake, Published: August 18

Jeff Flake, a U.S. senator from Arizona, spent time in Zimbabwe in the early 1980s. He is the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s subcommittee on Africa.

When I was a graduate student and Senate intern in the late 1980s, I wrote a master’s thesis that proved to be a rather shallow attempt to explain Robert Mugabe’s hold on the Zimbabwean electorate nearly a decade removed from independence. Twenty-five years later, that hold on the electorate has long since been exposed as brute force and chicanery. What is left to explain is Mugabe’s mystifying hold on the rest of Africa.

Western media and election observers were notably — and forcibly — absent during Zimbabwe’s July 31 contest, but there was a robust presence of election observers from the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Nevertheless, despite clear, abundant and still-mounting evidence of a deeply flawed election process, the AU and SADC seem eager to give a pass to Mugabe and his Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front party (ZANU-PF). While final reports have yet to be issued, SADC has already declared the Zimbabwe election “free and peaceful,” and the AU has affirmed the vote as “credible.”

Note the absence of the word “fair.” But why quibble? “The whole of Africa is sending us messages of congratulations to say ‘Well done,’ ” was Mugabe’s interpretation. And who can blame him?

That Zimbabwe would have another deeply flawed election is not news to anyone who has followed Mugabe’s ham-handed rule over the past 33 years. But to those who hope that Africa is indeed turning the corner in terms of politics and governance, such a response in the wake of the election is deeply concerning.

There is much to commend in the founding charters and principles of both the AU and SADC. Cooperation and coordination through these institutions has strengthened individual economies and provided a useful tool to address cross-border and regional security and governance issues. The potential for future collaboration is even greater.

Which is why it is so puzzling that the AU and SADC would so willingly jettison their principles when it comes to elections in Zimbabwe. This is not an example of the West holding nascent democracies to unreasonably high electoral standards. It is simply a matter of asking SADC and the AU to abide by their own standards and live up to their charters.

The SADC “Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections” provide for its observer role during member-state elections to ensure “full participation of the citizens in the political process” by certifying, among other things, “the existence of [an] updated and accessible voters roll.” Such rolls were neither updated nor accessible during Zimbabwe’s recent elections.

Likewise, the AU’s guidelines for electoral observations call for “competent accountable electoral institutions” to “take all necessary measures” to ensure such essentials as “equitable access to public media” by competing parties. There was not even a pretense of equitable access to state media during Zimbabwe’s election season.

In the founding document of the “New Partnership for Africa’s Development,” African heads of state hailed the emergence of democratic regimes and committed African leaders taking responsibility for “promoting human rights . . . by developing clear standards of accountability, transparency and participatory governance.” In the context of observing the Zimbabwe elections, only Botswana has been willing to take such responsibility. Botswana decried Zimbabwe’s elections as “not free and fair” and warned that SADC “should never create the undesirable precedent of permitting exceptions to its own rules.”

Unfortunately, Zimbabwe’s course seems set for the near future. By the time official reports on the election are issued, ZANU-PF will have formed a new government. Zimbabwean courts are unlikely to intervene, and Mugabe will go on making empty speeches about liberation while Zimbabwe, unable to feed itself and having lost its own currency, erodes its independence by the day.

The final reports issued by the AU and SADC won’t tell us anything we don’t already know about Zimbabwe, but they will say a great deal about the direction in which southern Africa as a region, and Africa as a whole, is headed.

Will African leaders be true to their own undertakings and stand for the principles they have espoused, or will they bow to a desperate old man determined to keep himself in power no matter the cost to the citizens he claims to represent?

 

COMMENTS

WORDPRESS: 18
  • comment-avatar
    Demba Temba 7 years ago

    The West is used to acting as a judge on what is good for any country and what is not. Africa hates that hut seldom express it. Africa wants to be free of this western attitude. African poverty is also very artificial and soon the whole world will see it. Africa is starting to stand up. There’s no turning back. The west should ask themselves why, in spite of going the whole 9 yards on demonizing him, Mugabe is still loved in Africa. Just like China slipped out of their grip, Africa will do so too with disastrous consequences for those who were sucking out Africa’s life-blood, senators included.

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    Tawanda 7 years ago

    my enemy’s enemy is my friend so to speak. the west shows solidarity when their allies make terrible decisions. iraq, GFC. why should africa be any different. Bush’s legacy was abysmal but we don’t see US leaders treating him like Mugabe.
    As much as I think the zanupf and mugabe regime is now a terrible beast. US leaders have no room to talk looking at what they’re supporting. Or is inflicting suffering on the middle east, africa, asia and south america not as bad as what mugabe has done to his own people.
    hypocrisy… and so it is no surprise many africans will defend the likes of mugabe in public even if in private they may be praying for his demise.

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    Murairwa 7 years ago

    The problem with the West is that they selectively/willingly allow themselves to pot ray many faces in the quest to control the world and of cause to continue manipulating third world people and bleed resources. What the West should learn, or rather accept is that their attitudes of selective application of rules, antagonizes people. The West will never play fair when it comes to business and self interests. Look at how the environment is damaged in the Niger. Look at how some multi -corporations conduct mining in the Congo with no benefits to ordinary people and their governments. They do not value native people and therefore do not see any good reasons why third world people, in their minds should be treated as equal partners in any dealings with them. Instead of apologizing to so many innocent people who die as a result of misjudgments on their part, they arrogantly refuse to accept blame and therefore trivialize civilian deaths world over. This is wrong. Collateral damage remains one of the many things that incense nations and people. The West treats third world people like they don’t have any reasoning capacities. Imagine, if R.G. Mugabe was the Egyptian Army General. And the more than 900 people killed so far with thousands maimed were Zimbabweans. America and the British would have invaded Zimbabwe yesterday. Serving self interests at the expense of the “valueless” ordinary people is at least abhorrent and ruthless. Africa is arising and Mugabe is the alpha male of that movement. Seeds have been planted and germinations are awaited for. Those who value who they are will not retreat. Africa arise.

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      Rudadiso 7 years ago

      Murairwa, Mugabe slaughtered 20 000 people during gukurahundi and the West did not even murmur a word. Why would they invade Zimbabwe over 900 deaths?

      Africa may indeed be rising but Zimbabwe, led by a clueless and corrupt cabal of plunderers who only know how to destroy but not to build is moving backwards.

      Remember how we used to be net food exporters? Now we rely on food handouts from the very nations we endlessly denigrate.

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        Zimbabwe 7 years ago

        In that case Rudadiso GW bush and blair should be tired fpr war crimes. Its took them days to kill that numner of people.

        • comment-avatar
          Rudadiso 7 years ago

          Indeed they should! Guess what though, Zimbabwe, they nenever kill their own people while Mugabe does. So, Mugabe takes our army into the jungles of the Congo to protect a baboon called Desire Kabila. Zimbabwean lives and equipment are lost. Back him he kills his own through outright murder and hospitals deprived of medicines.

          I leave you to judge for yourself.

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            Zimbabwe 7 years ago

            Don’t be so naive my friend…thesepeople srick thier noses where they don’t belong. More american and british personal hav died in these recent wars on the middle east than in the korean war of the 50s. And pliz don’t tell me ur one of those.people who actually think these wars are about democracy.

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        Tawanda 7 years ago

        agree mugabe and cronies are running zim into the ground… the sooner they are out of office the better.
        That said the opinion of US senators is very much tainted looking at the regime/empire they represent or are at least party to.
        Anyways the polarizing grandstanding happening from both corners is nauseating.

  • comment-avatar
    Rudadiso 7 years ago

    We Africans never cease to amaze. What the writer of the article is simply saying is that Africans should hold themselves to the standards they set for themselves. Mugabe violated electoral principles set by both the AU and SADC. And the same organizations did not censor him.

    Just how then can that possibly be interpreted to mean, in this instance, that America wants to dictate anything.

    Honestly we need to stop treating ourselves as dumb wits then still expect the rest of the world seriously. An accurate voter’s roll is a requirement for a credible election. It’s as simple as that.

    • comment-avatar
      Zimbabwe 7 years ago

      Really my man????…your not all that smart are you. If america and this writer had such high standards then why is it that the US sec of state Kerry two months ago sits next to a Qatar prince a day after his father PASSED DOWN power to him!!!! talking about bringing democracy to Syria??? Learn more about the world before you speak on it little boy.

      • comment-avatar
        Rudadiso 7 years ago

        Zimbabwe, who said America was principled. They are hypocrites, and one of the major beneficiaries of that hypocrisy is Robert Mugabe. America didn’t say a word when he slaughtered 20 000 of his own people between 1981 and 1980 during the gukurahundi massacres.

        Here the issue is about Africans lacking self respect to the extent that they do not even respect their own laws.

        By the way Zimbabwe, it would be extremely difficult to find anyone as hypocritical as Mugabe. The man won’t even be touched by African doctors. We are told he has to make countless expensive trips to Malaysia for an eye ailment. But how so when we have our own world renowned eye surgeon right here? His own universities are not good enough for Bona. Who in their right would take seriously a ruler who after 33 years is still to come up with a medical institution that is good enough for him. What a loser!

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          Rudadiso 7 years ago

          I meant betbetween 1981 and 1987 – that was when Mugabe shamelessly unleashed the 5th Brigade on Matebeleland and the Midlands.

      • comment-avatar
        furedi 7 years ago

        How thick can some one be not to know the difference between a prince and a president.These are two very different types of government.

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          Zimbabwe 7 years ago

          Oh that makes it alright does it?? Your the thick one mate. The UK gov recently supplied £4 billion worth of military equipment to help the Bahrin monarchy stamp out protests seeking a democratic system to be put in place in that country. Now the same prople tell me that they know whats best for my country and myself. Please!!! Ask Al Gore if the US is truely a democratic system. He won the popular vote but wasn’t elected as president of the US because he didn’t win the electorial vote! Learn young man…learn

  • comment-avatar
    Murairwa 7 years ago

    Read for yourself this article. R. G. Mugabe is not wrong after all. Read.

    The other side of the coin
    August 20, 2013 Wenceslaus Murape Opinion & Analysis
    Udo Froese The global north is unable to feed itself. This explains the “land acquisition” (sounds better than land grab) for food crops in Africa. The UN body, the ‘Food and Agricultural Organisation’ (FAO) published a report on this trend in December 2009.The writer/researcher, Thembi Mutch from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, documented in the London…

    Udo Froese
    The global north is unable to feed itself. This explains the “land acquisition” (sounds better than land grab) for food crops in Africa. The UN body, the ‘Food and Agricultural Organisation’ (FAO) published a report on this trend in December 2009.The writer/researcher, Thembi Mutch from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, documented in the London based news magazine, NewAfrican, “Rural land grabs in sub-Saharan Africa force peasant farmers into ghettos in cities where jobs are scarce — which will only contribute to further food shortages and crisis in the future.”

    Such ruthless foreign land grabs cause imminent abject poverty and starvation of continental proportions.
    Mutch observes further, “In many African countries there are no mechanisms to monitor land appropriation. Although there are public protectors, an auditor general, anti-corruption units and other controlling mechanisms in place, it is easy to bypass them: they monitor only government and donor money, not private investment.”

    It means, the purchase of land in sub-Saharan Africa will not end. This will lead to further disenfranchisement of already disadvantaged indigenous Africans in their own land on their own continent. They remain hopeless, starving third-class citizens.

    In her article on “land grabbing” in Africa in NewAfrican, Mutch writes, “A whole new industry has sprung up, including commodities and futures trading on African land and water rights, and with it, there has been a concomitant rise in investment firms, many based in the UK, who actively promote partnerships between private companies and brokers based in sub-Saharan Africa.”

    “The British firm, Silverstreet Capital, boasts about its ability to buy up African farms and ‘boost productivity’ by, among other things, abandoning ‘till’ farming — i.e., farming by hand. Smallholding African farmers are at the bottom of the pile. Land acquisition is attracting new players. For example, the Rockefeller/Gates Foundation/USAID partnership is working with Monsanto — US$150 million will be invested by them into an ‘Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa’ (AGRA) project,” Mutch explains.

    Global land grabbers of huge tracts of African soil include the likes of US, British and European billionaires, the Saudi Arabian government and the Sultan of Brunei for their private use only and without access for the local population. They do not carry Africa’s interests. Those well-heeled foreigners arrange themselves through their elites on the ground.

    They receive tax breaks and exemptions, repatriations of profits, additional free land and water concessions.
    As Mutch documents in her research, “The issue is not necessarily the purchasing. It is the levels of secrecy, the lack of templates or agencies monitoring how the (indigenous) people who already live on the land, will be dealt with.”

    It gets worse. “Numerous ‘pioneering’ Dutch and Swedish farmers are keen to use areas in Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Uganda for biofuels experimentation. The needs of smallholders are sidelined. They are viewed only as potential cultivators for an industry that is still trying out seeds, growing methods and approaches,” as observed by Thembi Mutch.

    The above documented research should be one of the priorities of the African Union (AU), Ecowas and the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) in order to stem the resultant high unemployment, abject poverty, starvation and the destabilisation of a whole continent.

    Farayi Nziramasanga in Harare, Zimbabwe, summed up the actions of the new breed of African leadership writing in NewAfrican, “Over the past couple of decades, nationalist leadership with a pan-African, perspective has been replaced by ‘new democrats’ supported by the (international) West.

    These donor-funded client-leaders have a local focus and dare not annoy their funders. They owe their elevation and sustenance to foreign interests, who in turn dictate policy.”

    Addressing the role of the AU, Nziramasanga, writes, “Our power as a continent lies in us being able to speak with one voice and act in unison on issues of (African) continental interest. And, Nigeria and South Africa have to shed the illusion of continental giants — they are not and never will be.”

    It is important for Africa to understand its position and the foreign interests, the real role, for example, of the US’s continental Africa Command (Africom) and its proxies. This should also mean, the role of South Africa’s former cabinet minister, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma occupying the chair of the African Union, is to understand and accept it as her primary task “to pull the Africa-wide power into a continental force for the advancement of Africa-wide interests.”

    Leaders, who secretly sell the birthright of their supporters for a bowl of soup, commit the serious crime of high treason and should be held accountable by the structures of their countries, their regions and finally, the AU. Africa should view the outsourcing of its land as a criminal offense.

    “Western capitalism arose through strong government for the economy and for accessing the resources in the global South (which continuous to this day),” are the final words of Mutch.

    Forget the European ICC in the Netherlands. Cut ties with it. Africa has no option, but to re-establish itself, its land, its wealth and its own souvereign courts.

    Udo W. Froese is an independent political and socio-economic analyst and columnist based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

    • comment-avatar
      Rudadiso 7 years ago

      Get real Murairwa. The issue here is about Africans setting their own standards and failing to uphold same. We are talking about a president who violates every aspect of the AU and SADC plus his own electral laws. It is that simple. Mugabe, among other things, held an election where candidates where not availed with electoral copies of the voter’s roll as per our own laws, not America’s.

  • comment-avatar
    Mkast 7 years ago

    Americans still think they can control africa through their proxies,media and coporations what they forget is that world dynamics have changed africa realises the potential of its land and natural resources with so much food deficit and weak business in the west , we are the last great frontier

  • comment-avatar
    Chims2013 7 years ago

    I