African Democracy

July 24, 2008

Zimbabwe: high stakes for African Democracy

Filed under: Zimbabwe — africandemocrat @ 10:13 am
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So, Mbeki persuaded Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara to sign a Memorandum of Understanding.  What happens next?

Will ZANU-PF release all the MDC officials and members that are currently in custody?  Will the violence against Zimbabweans stop?  What about the reported use of mercenaries to brutally kill people that Mugabe’s regime consider to be a threat?  Is that now going to stop?

Unless there is an immediate and meaningful change in the behaviour of the ZANU-PF militias and the government forces, we ought to question Mugabe’s motives in signing the MOU.  He might very well be using it as a means to reduce the pressure on him and his colleagues while they continue to eliminate the MDC opposition’s key people and to punish the Zimbabwean people for not voting for ZANU-PF.

The parties to the talks should not start dealing with any sort of “power sharing” arrangement until the political prisoners are released and the army and militias are confined to barracks or disarmed and sent to their homes.  Mbeki can start by insisting that Mugabe issues the necessary orders and publishes proclamations to that effect in the Government Gazette.  The State media, radio and television stations must publish the orders to release the political prisoners and for the military and militias to stand down.

In addition, since food is so scarce in Zimbabwe, Mugabe must be told to remove restrictions on NGO’s and Aid agencies that are involved in food distribution.

The talks that are slated to start in Pretoria today are welcome, but Tsvangirai in particular should not allow the other parties to pressure the MDC into a deal that in any way waters down the basic principles of democracy.  A deal that leaves the status quo in place and offers cushy jobs to the top echelon of the MDC factions amounts to the death of democracy in Africa.

Although it will suit Mbeki to be able to tell the other SADC leaders that he has brokered a deal for a Government of National Unity when that body meets next month, MDC should not cave in to pressure to sign any deal or participate in anything that does not give effect to the expressed will of the Zimbabwe voters on March 29.  Mbeki persuaded Mugabe in previous talks to effect the changes in electoral procedures that made the March 29 elections so different from previous elections.  The new procedures made it far more difficult for ZANU-PF to fudge the results and thus losing so comprehensively to the MDC clearly caught the regime in Harare by surprise.  Mbeki deserves the credit for the March 29 elections resulting in a meaningful expression of the will of the Zimbabwe voters, although he dropped the ball by not immediately insisting that the results be published without embellishment and that the losers accept their loss and stand down.

The MDC is all that stands between the people of Zimbabwe and total capitulation to ZANU-PF and all that they stand for.  A principled stand by MDC is required to prevent Zimbabwe from remaining a one-party state run by a committee of self-serving criminals.  If the MDC caves in in Pretoria during the next ten days or so, it will be a mortal blow to democracy in Africa that may set us back decades.

If the talks do not result in a substantive implementation of the results of the March 29 elections, then MDC should refuse to be railroaded into an arrangement that ignores the will of the Zimbabwe people.  If the result of the talks is not an arrangement that will lead to real democratic elections and an inclusive constitutional assembly similar to the one that was convened in South Africa, then MDC should declare the talks a failure and set up a government in exile and continue the struggle to liberate Zimbabwe from tyranny from outside the country, just as the ANC did in the case of South Africa.

Although the MDC has many faults and Tsvangirai is not the sort of leader that many people would like him to be, the fact remains that the MDC was the only option to ZANU-PF on offer to the Zimbabwe voters on March 29, and the people of Zimbabwe gave a clear indication that they have had enough of ZANU-PF and want to give others a go at governing Zimbabwe.  Given that Zimbabwe is in effect held captive by a military junta, a straightforward handover of control to the MDC is unlikely.  However, any sort of deal that does not give effect to an arrangement that will lead to fully inclusive constitutional reform and a definite timetable for truly democratic elections at some future date that is acceptable to the people of Zimbabwe should be rejected.

More than just the future of a few dozen politicians is at stake here; the lives of Zimbabwean citizens are on the line, as is the future of African Democracy.


July 20, 2008

How to lose an election in Africa but stay in power

Filed under: Zimbabwe — africandemocrat @ 2:10 pm
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The latest idea in African Democracy is to rig an election then refuse to step down when it becomes obvious that the voters do not want you.  Then you call in a negotiator from the UN, AU or SADC, depending on where your country is situated, and negotiate a “government of National Unity”.

GNUs can work to the benefit of the country involved if they are an intentional result of democratic elections.  For instance, in South Africa, after the first inclusive election where the ANC won overwhelming support, they chose to appoint some former Apartheid Government representatives as Cabinet Ministers and included the Inkatha Freedom Party leader, Mangosutho Buthelezi too.  That worked well enough, but there was no dispute about the election results in that case.  It did not take long for the remnant of the white National Party to throw in the towel and join the ANC or other parties.  The former whites-only National Party no longer exists in South Africa.

In Kenya, the incumbent, Mwai Kibaki was accused of rigging the election.  He won, but the opposition took to the streets and in bloody violence, more than 1000 people died.  Kofi Annan negotiated a deal where Kibaki stayed as President and his rival, Raila Odinga was made Prime Minister and the Cabinet was more or less doubled to allow for all the top echelon of both parties to “share power”.

It’s wasteful to double up the number of Cabinet Ministers, and poor countries like Kenya can ill afford the luxury.  Every sitting Minister must be provided with staff, cars, houses and so forth.  The situation lends itself to the elite living the high life at the expense of the poor, and does not lead to good or efficient governance.

In Zimbabwe, the situation is not like Kenya in that the dividing line between the parties is not along tribal lines.  Both Mugabe and Tsvangirai are Shonas, and both the ZANU-PF and MDC parties have members from all ethnic and racial groups.

For Robert Mugabe and the ZANU-PF party, the writing has been on the wall for nearly a decade.  ZANU-PF has been holding elections on a regular basis, but their conduct has become increasingly questionable, and finally it has become obvious that the electoral process is just a sham to keep Mugabe and ZANU-PF in power.  Even according to the official results, ZANU-PF lost to the MDC party, and Tsvangirai garnered more votes than Mugabe for President.  The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission held back the results of the March 29 election for so long that most commentators consider it obvious that behind the scenes the results were being doctored.  Eventually they released the result that Tsvangirai had indeed won more votes than Mugabe, but that neither candidate had won the 50% plus one vote needed for outright victory.  MDC claims that that is untrue and that Tsvangirai won around 70% of the vote.

There are several reasons why ZANU-PF wants to hang on to the Presidency and has accepted that they lost their majority in Parliament.  Firstly, the President gets to appoint a number of unelected members of the Senate.  Secondly, it is relatively easy to change the balance of power in Parliament via by-elections.  It’s easy enough to arrange for 10 to 20 MDC MPs to disappear, hold by-elections and ensure that the results are in favour of ZANU-PF.

So, Mugabe has been sworn in as President of Zimbabwe for the sixth time.  This time, however, is different.  A number of African countries have stated outright that his Presidency is illegitimate.  The EU, USA, UK and many other countries have not recognised Mugabe or ZANU-PF as the legitimate, duly elected representatives of the Zimbabwe people.  The Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Pan-African Parliament election observers have unequivocally stated that the elections were not free or fair.  The African Union has made their boldest statement yet against Mugabe and ZANU-PF, although the wording of their statement was insipid by most standards.  Nevertheless, Mugabe knows that he does not enjoy the unconditional support and adulation from the rest of Africa that he formerly enjoyed.

Hopefully, Zimbabwe is the turning point for African Democracy.  Hopefully, this time there will not be compromise at all points.  According to Zimbabwe law, Tsvangirai should have been sworn in as President when no run-off had occurred within 15 days of the original election.  A GNU is a poor result for the people of Zimbabwe who have had enough of Mugabe and ZANU-PF and want them out of power.  One can argue that Tsvangirai isn’t up to the job and that without Mugabe and/or various other ZANU-PF people in positions of power that the military and militias will not accept a change in government.

Well, Nelson Mandela made the point recently that the military forces are there to serve the country, not to be involved in politics.  Settling for a GNU in Zimbabwe because the Generals have made claims that they will never server anyone but Mugabe is a poor show for Democracy in Africa.

Rather than settle for some sort of “power sharing” the MDC would do better to continue to occupy the high moral ground, set up a government in exile, and take the struggle for democracy to the countries surrounding Zimbabwe, and the capitals of the world.  It’s only a matter of time before the harsh economic realities cause ZANU-PF to implode, break up into smaller factions and cease to be a force in Zimbabwe politics.  The support, real or imagined, that ZANU-PF currently gets from Pretoria will evaporate in 9 to 10 months.  The collapse of the Mugabe regime is only a matter of time, and Mbeki’s time is up in April 2009, so the intransigence of South Africa in the UN and elsewhere is likely to end then, or even earlier.

There are two opinions about whether Mugabe and other top ZANU-PF people should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity.  The one argument is that they should be granted immunity and allowed to retire with handsome pensions.  The other is that they should be hauled off to The Hague and brought before the International Court.  The proponents of the first approach claim that it is pragmatic and will lead to a quicker resolution of the Zimbabwe situation and lead to earlier relief of the suffering of the ordinary Zimbabwean.  Those who favour the second approach claim that leaders who brutalise their fellow humans should not be allowed to get away with it.  The second approach does seem to be gaining ground in Africa, and former dictators are getting tickets to The Hague.  Should expedience triumph over justice?  What will stop future leaders from doing the same?  There are thousands of young Zimbabweans who have been conscripted to do the dirty work of the ZANU-PF leaders who are now damaged by their involvement.  What is going to turn them around and help them to deal with their violent past?  Certainly not seeing their leaders get away scot free.  Accountability is going to be a big part of the rehabilitation of Zimbabwe.  Some form of Truth and Reconciliation process will be necessary to re-integrate the lowest levels of militia thugs into society.  Those higher up the command chain ought to be held accountable for their actions and dealt with accordingly.  What happens in Zimbabwe will affect the progress of Democracy in Africa.  If we allow crimes against humanity to go unpunished, when will the brutality ever stop?

July 16, 2008

Business as usual in Pretoria

Filed under: South Africa — africandemocrat @ 11:22 am
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At the opening of Parliament in Cape Town this year, South Africa’s President Mbeki announced his theme for this year as , “Business Unusual”.

South Africa had just experienced more than a week of electricity shortages and mines were forced to close down their operations for safety reasons.  Mbeki promised to deal with issues that directly impact the lives of South Africans promptly and effectively.

Since then, Mbeki has survived a serious discussion by the ANC/COSATU/SACP alliance to force him to stand down.  The alliance partners decided that the political instability that would result from firing him would be worse than leaving him to finish his term in office.

In December 2007, the African National Congress, South Africa’s ruling party, met in the Limpopo Province capital of Polokwane and elected Jacob Zuma to be its President.  While Jacob Zuma enjoys popular support within the ANC and alliance partners the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the South African Communist Party and also amongst his fellow Zulus in Kwazulu-Natal Province, surveys have indicated that he doesn’t have the same support in the rest of South Africa.

South Africans are nervous of “The Showerman” as he has been dubbed because of his bizarre claim that taking a shower after having sex with a woman known to be HIV positive would protect him from HIV infection.  Zuma is due to stand trial for corruption, and his personal life has been in the spotlight in two very public trials.  It has been demonstrated in court that Zuma is quite incompetent at budgeting for his own household and hence vulnerable to the largesse of donors or those offering bribes.  The rape trial ended with his acquittal, but illustrated that Zuma tends to not know when it is prudent to keep his pants zipped.

Nevertheless, the way in which President Mbeki has gone about his business this year is causing many South Africans to think that Zuma, for all his blatent faults, might very well be a better President than Mbeki has been.

Mbeki’s role as the SADC-appointed mediator for Zimbabwe is widely criticised within South Africa.  Many, if not most, South Africans think that he is biased towards Robert Mugabe and should recuse himself.  He has refused to utter any public condemnation of the ZANU-PF brutality whatsoever.  At least Zuma has done that.  It illustrates that having Mbeki as President of SA and designated mediator for Zimbabwe is a profound conflict of interest.  He finds himself unable to act in South Africa’s interests because that would undermine his credibility as mediator.  Replacing him as chief negotiator in the Zimbabwe crisis with someone from outside the region such as Kofi Annan seems an eminently sensible action.

The way that Pretoria has handled the flood of refugees from Zimbabwe is incomprehensible.  Mbeki has stated that they are not refugees, but “economic migrants” seeking better opportunities in South Africa.  Maybe a few Zimbabweans have had better job offers in South Africa, but those few thousand economic migrants left years ago with legal papers.  The millions of Zimbabweans that have fled their country, entering South Africa illegally have been trying to escape from famine, grinding poverty and political violence.  They come to South Africa hoping to find safety and enough food to survive.

Instead, because the Mbeki government refuses to state categorically that there is indeed a crisis in Zimbabwe, political, economic and humanitarian, the Zimbabweans flooding into South Africa are refused refugee status, are treated as illegal immigrants, and South Africa continues to deport thousands back to Zimbabwe.

What South Africa should be doing for Zimbabweans is to recognise that they are indeed refugees from famine and politically motivated violence and set up refugee camps in the Limpopo Province.  There the refugees can be provided with shelter, clean water, food and basic medical care with the assistance of the international community.

But to do the right thing that South Africa is required to do as a signatory to treaties concerning refugees requires that Mbeki calls the situation in Zimbabwe a crisis and publically admits that Mugabe and his ZANU-PF military junta are indeed using violence against their fellow Zimbabweans.

That, President Mbeki, would be Business Unusual.  Instead, we’re likely to see the situation in Zimbabwe and in South Africa gradually deteriorate for the next 9 or 10 months until we finally get a new President. 

Pity the next person to be sworn in as President who has to clean up the mess that Mbeki looks likely to be leaving as his legacy.

July 15, 2008

Violence in Zimbabwe takes a really ugly turn

Filed under: Zimbabwe — africandemocrat @ 6:18 pm
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If reports of ZANU-PF using mercenaries to hunt down and butcher MDC people is true, then we are facing a kind of “ethnic cleansing” in Zimbabwe, albeit aimed at a political party rather than a tribe.

Reports that they are cutting out people’s tongues and removing their genitals point to these murders having an element of so-called “witchcraft” about them.  In South African terms, such human body parts are used in buthi preparations and are part of the practice of butsakatsi (translated as “witchcraft”).

It might well be that the cutting out of tongues and removal of genitals is intended to give the impression that butsakatsi is involved and it is just another ugly form of violence, but it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that some elements within the ZANU-PF group would resort to using dark magic in their bid to cling to power.

All possible pressure must be brought to bear on the ZANU-PF group to cease and desist from these activities.  Another genocide in Africa is not in any way acceptable.

Giving ZANU-PF the time and space to kill off their rivals is exactly what South African President Mbeki should not be doing.  By the time that Mbeki shuffles off into political ignominity in 9 or 10 months’ time, most of the MDC officials and party members could be dead.  Is opposition to ZANU-PF deserving of death, President Mbeki?

July 14, 2008

The Constitution must be defended by all – especially the ANC

Filed under: South Africa — africandemocrat @ 10:07 pm
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The Star published the following on 14 July 2008:

Remnants of the counter-revolution, including the Democratic Alliance, and those opposed to Jacob Zuma becoming South Africa’s next president must be eliminated, says ANC Youth League President Julius Malema.

“We must … intensify the struggle to eliminate the remnants of counter-revolution, which include the DA and a loose coalition of those who want to use state power to block the ANC president’s ascendancy to the highest office of the land,” he said on Sunday.

Malema was speaking at the funeral of former ANCYL Free State secretary Thabo “Skotch” Moeketsi in Vredefort.

In addition:

Malema said Zuma would not only be the face of the ANC election campaign in 2009 but also the next president of South Africa.

“The political campaign to rubbish his name and destroy his political career will not succeed.”

The National Prosecuting Authority was involved in a “relentless pursuit of an innocent man using state resources”.

Reading the above in the context of other utterances by ANC leaders, one can only conclude that some ANC leaders and members have no respect whatsoever for our Constitution.

The attack on the Constitution and the rule of law in South Africa is of serious concern.  Should the principled stance of the ANC over the decades be abandoned, and the rule of ruffians be allowed to take its place, we are in deep trouble.  That will put us on the same path as Zimbabwe, the DRC, Sudan and Somalia.  In particular, various writers have warned against the “Somaliazation” of South Africa.

No one, including the President of the ANC is above the law.  In fact, the office bearers of the ANC should be held to a higher standard than the ordinary ANC member.

If Jacob Zuma is truly an innocent man, then he has nothing to fear from the law, and should welcome the opportunity to clear his name.  Instead, we see him ducking and diving and using every legal loophole that his counsel can find to attempt to have the case against him dropped, and to suppress evidence both in South Africa and Mauritius.

Currently, Shabir Sheik is doing time for paying a bribe.  He has tried to have the judgement against him deposed in every court in the land, and has failed.  If Shabir Sheik paid a bribe, then we, the citizens of South Africa demand to know to whom he paid that bribe, and we expect that person to be prosecuted for bribery and corruption.

Then we have the “elephant in the living room” in the form of the infamous arms deal.  Why, if the ANC top brass are squeaky clean, do they persist in squashing any and all investigations into the deal?  If they have nothing to hide, they should open the books and invite a full forensic audit into the deal.  Instead, they refuse to co-operate with Germany and Britain who have both found irregularities from their side.

Just how high up the ANC hierarchy do allegations and actual incidents of bribery and corruption go?  Does the buck stop in the office of the President of South Africa, or in that of the former Deputy President?

Finally, the attack on the Democratic Alliance (DA) is completely unwarranted.  The DA today stands on the shoulders of giants like Helen Suzman who for decades was the lone voice in the whites-only Parliament speaking out against Apartheid.  No one can rightly claim that the DA is counter-revolutionary.  Before 1990 when the National Party finally relented and began the process of negotiation with the ANC and other revolutionary groups, current and former members of the DA were amongst the groups of white South Africans who made the trip to Dar-es-Salaam to talk to the ANC leadership.  It was those approaches that began the collapse of Apartheid.

The Democratic Alliance is a legal political party in South Africa.  As the largest party not allied to the ANC, it is the official opposition party.  Under the constitution of South Africa, it is every citizen’s right to associate with whomever he or she might choose, and to organise and register a political party if they have sufficient support to do so.

If we are to adopt the same logic that ZANU-PF uses against the MDC, then it is “counter-revolutionary” to vote for the PAC, or the Independant Democrats, or Bantu Holomisa’s United Democratic Movement simply because they are not the ANC.  The struggle credentials of Patricia De Lille and Bantu Holomisa are not in question and they have proven to be fierce fighters against corruption and for the Constitution of South Africa. 

Are we to understand from Malema’s speech that he, like Mugabe, seeks to annhiliate the opposition by whatever means are available?

Disagreement with, and opposition to the ANC is not, and never will be “counter-revolutionary”.  Julius Malema is sounding more like Robert Mugabe by the day.  The revolution was accomplished with the overthrow of the white Apartheid government, and the elections of 1994 completed that process.  We now have an inclusive society where, under the law at least, all people are equal.  South Africa cannot, and will never go back to the dark days of Apartheid.  Even if the people of South Africa chose to elect a government of mostly white people to govern them, it would still not result in a return to Apartheid.  We have all moved on from those dark days, and will never allow a return to a time where a Minister of (so-called) Justice could, at a whim, declare a person to be a threat to the government and have them imprisoned or banned without even being charged in a court of law.

Never again, Mr Malema.  The importance of the Constitution cannot be over-emphasised.  We have to have one set of principles that transcend the petty issues of the day, so that, in the end, we can say that the struggle was not in vain, and that the lofty principles of those who signed the Freedom Charter, dedicated their lives to fighting Apartheid, and finally prevailed, are not forgotten.

The struggle was not fought so that some ambitious people could get rich.  It was so that the poor people of South Africa could gain the right to share in the wealth of our land.  That the ANC has done such a poor job of uplifting the poor, and such a good job of enriching cronies stands as a shame on the ANC, and dishonours all the honourable men and women who led the ANC during the struggle.

South Africa is more important than the ANC.  The Constitution is more important than the ANC.  A hundred years from now, the ANC might no longer exist, but the Constitution of South Africa must still stand as a beacon of light on our dark continent and in our dark world where the rights of humans are being trampled daily, especially by those who claim the loudest to be the champions of those rights.

The ANC is more than the leadership of one man.  Right now, Jacob Zuma enjoys the popular support of the members of the ANC.  Outside of the ANC, the majority of South Africans have grave doubts whether Showerman has what it takes to be our next President.  Leaders will come and go, but if the ANC wishes to remain relevant to the future of South Africa, then foolish utterances like those of Julius Malema need to be treated with the contempt that they deserve.

July 13, 2008

Diplomacy or is it hypocracy?

Filed under: Zimbabwe — africandemocrat @ 4:15 pm
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Various African leaders, including the de-facto (but not legally elected) President of Zimbabwe, Mugabe, and the increasingly unpopular (but legally appointed by the ANC) President of South Africa, President Mbeki have spoken out against sanctions against Zimbabwe.

The claim has been made that the sanctions will either hurt the Zimbabwe people, or will harm the negotiating process between the Zimbawean parties.

How can measures that extend only to banning travel by fourteen top Zanu(PF) officials and freezing of their assets have any effect on any Zimbabweans other than those 14 and their immediate families?

How can an arms embargo possibly do anything but make it more difficult for Zimbabweans to procure arms with which to kill each other?

Thus, it is a stretch to imagine how the failed UN resolution could have been harmful to the ordinary Zimbabwean citizen in any way at all.  So, why are African leaders so adamant that no punitive measures should be allowed against the top Zanu(PF) officials?  Are African leaders afraid that they might be next in line?  Why is it that sanctions against Ian Smith and his white Rhodesian colleagues were supported and encouraged by black African leaders, but sanctions against black leaders (who clearly conspired to retain power despite a clear indication from their people that their services were no longer required) are not acceptable?

Ian Smith and his colleagues denied the majority of Zimbabwans the right to choose their own leaders.  By using force and fancy footwork, Mugabe and his colleagues are denying the majority of Zimbabweans the right to choose their own leaders.  So, what’s the difference?  White is bad, black is good?  That sounds like a line out of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”.  Put aside the racial hypocracy for a moment and you have to agree that both the Smith and the Mugabe regimes denied the Zimbabwe people a right that is considered fundamental – the right to self-determination.

Then we have Mbeki, one of the ANC exiles who travelled the world lobbying for support for the ANC and for pressure against the white National Party government of South Africa.

In both cases, the sanctions imposed by the international community were economic sanctions, not specific sanctions against the top hierarchy of the ruling party.  Neither ZANU, in the case of Zimbabwe, not the ANC in the case of the sanctions against South Africa argued that they would harm the ordinary citizens.  Pure hypocracy.

As Katie Melua asks in one of her songs, “If a black man is a racist, is that alright?”

Meanwhile, back at the UN, Russia and China both vetoed the UN resolution to place sanctions against the top fourteen ZImbabwe leaders.  What’s in it for them?  For sure, China is actively trading with Zimbabwe’s (now illegitimate) regime and no doubt would like to continue to sell arms to Zimbabwe, with or without South Africa’s help.  Then there is South Africa that also voted against the UN resolution.  South Africa has also been selling arms to Zimbabwe.  Still, it is hypocritical for Russia and China to use the Zimbabwe crisis as a football in their political game with the US, UK and Europe.

Finally, in response to Kevin Myers’ piece in the Irish Independant I wish to point out that the G8 countries making promises of aid to Africa that they have no intention of honouring is hypocritical.  Many African countries are deeply in debt as a direct result of the immoral and often illegal loans that those very same G8 countries (and the IMF and World Bank) made to regimes and despots even worse than Mugabe and Zanu(PF) during the Cold War era.  The G8 countries continue to demand payment of interest on interest on loans rolled over many times when the original capital plus interest has already been paid many times over.  The amount of those loan payments far exceeds the pittance of aid that G8 countries give to Africa each year.

The morally correct thing is to simply cancel Africa’s debt.

The “structural adjustment” packages that the World Bank and IMF have forced upon many African countries have further impoverished Africans.  African countries have been forced to remove restrictions on trade from the rich countries without much being given in return.

If Africa is allowed to trade fairly with the rest of the world, without trade-distorting subsidies in Europe, the UK and the USA, and the totally immoral debt is cancelled, then the G8 and all the well-intended but meddling charities and NGOs can go home and Bono can retire to the Bahamas.

July 10, 2008

President Mbeki, instead of “quiet diplomacy” try this.

Filed under: Zimbabwe — africandemocrat @ 1:53 pm
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The draft resolution before the United Nations Security Council includes the following text:

The Security Council…

1. Condemns the Government of Zimbabwe’s campaign of violence against
the political opposition and the civilian population, which has resulted in
scores of deaths, thousands of injuries, and displacement of thousands of
civilians, making it impossible for a free and fair election to occur, and
expresses strong concern with the decision of the Government of Zimbabwe to
go forward with the June 27 elections;

2. Demands that the Government of Zimbabwe:

(a) Immediately cease attacks against and intimidation of opposition
members and supporters, including those by non-government agents affiliated
with the ZANU-PF party, and in particular end the abuse of human rights,
including widespread beatings, torture, killings, sexual violence, and
displacement, and release all political prisoners;

(b) Begin without delay a substantive and inclusive political dialogue
between the parties with the aim of arriving at a peaceful solution that
reflects the will of the Zimbabwean people and respects the results of the
March 29 elections;

(c) Accept the good offices offered by the African Union, the Southern
African Development Community, and the Secretary General, giving such
representatives full access to the country, security, and all requested
authority over negotiation processes;

(d) Cooperate fully with investigations of the political violence
experienced by the country between March and June, 2008 and hold accountable
those who have carried out abuses of human rights;

(e) End immediately all restrictions on international humanitarian
assistance and support international aid organizations’ access to all parts
of the country for distribution of food, medical assistance, and other
humanitarian aid;

In case South African President Thabo Mbeki is unsure of what many, if not most South Africans think that he should be telling Mugabe and his Zanu(PF) colleagues, the above text is a fair summary.

It is not South Africa’s place to effect “regime change” in Harare, as Mbeki stated recently.  It is, however, as responsible citizens of Africa, our place to insist that basic human rights are upheld.  It is indeed incumbent upon us to insist that our neighbours obey the principles of the treaties that they have signed, including the SADC and AU rules about democratic elections.

We do not ask for President Mbeki to force Zimbabweans to accept any preconceived notions as to who their leaders should be, but we do expect him to insist that the correct conditions are established in Zimbabwe for Zimbabweans to make that decision for themselves.

Furthermore, we ask President Mbeki to recognise that it is in South Africa’s direct interests to support authentic democratic processes in Africa, especially in our neighbouring states.

Out of the fryingpan? The role of the IMF and World Bank in Africa

Filed under: Zimbabwe — africandemocrat @ 1:00 pm
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Sooner or later the political parties in Zimbabwe will have to get together a find a way forward for Zimbabwe.  The current jockeying for power will most likely be overtaken by the urgency of food shortages and the worthlessness of the Zimbabwe dollar.

So, what will happen to the economy when either a transitional government is formed, or the MDC gains effective control of Zimbabwe? 

The MDC has already indicated that they will engage the IMF and World Bank to help Zimbabwe out of the economic doldrums.  Britain, the US and the EU have all promised “massive” aid to Zimbabwe conditional on Mugabe and Zanu(PF) stepping down.

The question, “What strings are attached?” should be asked.  As soon as Mugabe retires, dies or is pushed out, there will be a rush of speculators wanting to make a quick buck in Zimbabwe.  In fact, Lonrho has already started a new fund based on buying commercial property in Zimbabwe.  Mining companies already have plans to expand their operations in Zimbabwe.

During the Cold War era, Africa was the playing ground of the Superpowers.  They jockeyed for influence and did deals with dictators who make Mugabe look like a Sunday School teacher.  After the 1970s oil crisis, the West was awash with cash, and huge loans were made to African countries with few questions asked.  In many cases, the money went directly to Swiss bank accounts belonging to the corrupt rulers of various Africa countries.

Eventually, the original despots, like Mobutu Sese Seko and Idi Amin were deposed, and the lenders came looking for repayment of their loans.  Even though the countries involved received little benefit from the loans, they have been forced to repay enormous amounts of interest.  Loans have been hugely inflated over the years by rollovers and interest on interest.  Some African countries spend up to 60% of their GDP servicing loans.  Since the 1980s, the IMF and World Bank have forced their “structural adjustment” programmes upon debtor nations, in the process further impoverishing Africa’s poor people.  Before these programmes were implemented, most African countries operated according to a form of benign socialism and their industries were mostly driven by import-replacement strategies.  The average African’s per-capita income was steadily increasing.  Since the structural adjustment programmes, the value of currencies has plummeted, per-capita income has dropped to pre-1960s levels and life expectancy has also been drastically reduced.

Of late, meetings of the G8 result in a great deal of hand-wringing over Africa’s woes, and promises of increased aid for African countries are made.  Of course, it’s one thing to make promises, and quite another to pay over the cash.  Only a tiny fraction of the promised aid ever reaches the poor nations of Africa.

The total amount of economic aid to Africa is only a fraction of the total amount of debt repayments that African nations are making to the IMF, World Bank, foreign governments and private companies for loans incurred decades ago by the likes of Idi Amin.  Rich nations seem to be blind to the hypocracy of bleeding poor nations to death (literally in many cases) by demanding repayment of loans that in fact have already been repayed many times over in real terms while making empty promises of “aid” to alleviate the human suffering that is directly caused by the debt repayments.

Whomever takes over from Mugabe and regardless of which political party or parties are tasked with ruling Zimbabwe, they should strenuously avoid accepting any loans that have onerous strings attached.  At this point, few Zimbabweans have anything to lose, and incurring debt that future generations will be forced to repay just perpetuates the injustices of colonialism.  Those who wish to assist Zimbabwe to rebuild itself as a democratic nation should be willing to give generously without imposing self-serving conditions to their donations.  Any loans that are arranged should be realistic and directly beneficial to Zimbabwe’s citizens.

The future rulers of Zimbabwe would be well advised to take no responsibility for any debt incurred by the Mugabe regime and to insist on starting with a clean slate.  They will be well advised to steer clear of World Bank and IMF advisors that try to force them to adopt Milton Friedman’s Big Business-friendly economic theories that have so clearly failed to lift any Third World country out of poverty.  Instead of co-opting the economic failures of the Western World, they should adopt a “Zimbabwe First” economic policy that leverages Zimbabwe’s rich natural resources to create wealth for Zimbabwe’s citizens, and no longer for the wealthy former colonial powers and particularly the corporate interests that are the de-facto governments of those former colonial powers.

All indications so far are that Morgan Tsvangirai is somewhat naive about matters of economics and somewhat ignorant of how the Global Village is run.  Hopefully this will be rectified if the MDC rises to power in Zimbabwe.

July 9, 2008

Restoring democracy in Zimbabwe – MDC’s options

Filed under: Zimbabwe — africandemocrat @ 2:59 pm
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According to an article on Mugabe’s Zanu(PF) party wants to make a deal with the breakaway MDC faction led by Arthur Mutambara and then pass off the result as a de facto Government of National Unity.

While that might suit Mutambara and Zanu(PF), it ignores the reality that the larger MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai won 99 of the 210 seats in the Zimbabwe parliament and Tsvangirai won the most votes in the March 29 presidential election.

Clearly, Tsvangirai’s MDC has the support of a majority of Zimbabwe’s voters.

What are the MDC’s options?

They can choose to flounder around and hope that Zanu(PF) regime collapses soon.  They can hope that a negotiator other than South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki is appointed soon.  They can try to survive for the next ten months or so until a new Parliament and President are sworn in in South Africa.

What does appear to be happening is that Zanu(PF) is quietly going about executing a plan to neutralise MDC as a viable opponent.  It’s not necessary to round up all the MDC elected officials and party leaders and kill them, although some of them will probably be eliminated that way.  All that Zanu(PF) has to do is imprison and harrass MPs so that they are unable to put in an appearance in Parliment for more than 21 days.  That will result in the absent MP being automatically unseated and a by-election held in the vacant constitution.  Zanu(PF) can then concentrate their efforts on winning the by-election.

The indications are that Zanu(PF) wants to ensure that if and when any future elections are held, that the MDC will be a spent force and no threat to the re-election of the incumbent party.

While it is possible that Thabo Mbeki’s intentions are entirely honourable and that he will do his level best to broker an inclusive deal with all the Zimbabwean parties, it’s also possible that his game plan is to drag things out for long enough for Zimbabwe to drop off the radar.  Once Zimbabwe is not longer a front page story, the world’s interest will soon enough dissapate.  Since this is a black versus black issue, the same moral indignation that kept the anti-apartheid activists going just isn’t there.

Perhaps the MDC should learn from the South African experience.  The African National Congress (ANC) was opposed by a hostile and well armed regime in South Africa.  The whites-only National Party did their utmost to wipe out the ANC.  Some were killed by undercover agents of the state, some were imprisoned, tortured, subject to house arrest and some were slapped with banning orders that restricted their rights to travel and attend meetings and the like.  The ANC’s response was to set up a government in exile and to establish and support resistance groups within South Africa’s borders.  The Trade Unions were mobilised against Apartheid and the United Democratic Front (UDF) was launched.  The ANC set up offices in various Western and former Soviet Union countries and mobilised support for their cause.

The ANC and the MDC causes share other similarities.  The ANC sought to bring democracy to South Africa.  The MDC is faced by a ruling party that does not care about the democratic rights of the people and uses elections just to give it a democratic facade.  The ANC fought to bring democratic rights to all South Africans and negotiated a new constitution to facilitate that.  The process followed in South Africa was to set up an interim government, engage in formal negotiations with all parties to draw up a constitution and hold credible, inclusive elections that were monitored by both civil society and foreign observers.

With the ongoing violence being perpetrated on the people of Zimbabwe, and the unlikeliness of South Africa putting meaningful pressure on Mugabe and Zanu(PF) to stop the violence any time soon, perhaps the MDC should consider the ANC model.

That would involve setting up a government in exile.  Lusaka comes to mind as a suitable venue, and Zambia has been one of the few African countries that has declared Mugabe’s presidency to be illegitimate.  They could send delegates to the AU and the UN and set up offices in London, Washington DC, Stockholm, Brussels, The Hague and other strategic cities.  Then they can lobby for support in Africa and the rest of the World and organise resistance to the Zanu(PF) regime both outside of Zimbabwe and within her borders.

Given the intransigence of Mugabe and his allies, the ANC model might be the best option that the MDC has.

July 6, 2008

Zimbabwe in perspective

Filed under: Zimbabwe — africandemocrat @ 9:17 am
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Zimbabwe is in crisis.  The economy is in freefall, the people face slow starvation, and as Bishop Desmond Tutu said recently, there is a tragic failure of leadership in Zimbabwe.

From my perspective, the issues are:

  • The March 29 elections were surprisingly free and fair, but the results were not what Mr Mugabe and his ZANU(PF) colleagues expected, so they fudged the results to make time for implementing a strategy to retain power.
  • Mugabe insists that opposition MDC recognise him as duly elected president.
  • MDC claims to have won the March 29 elections outright and refuses to recognise the June 27 runoff election at all and refuses to recognise Mugabe as Zimbabwe’s elected president.
  • The AU, SADC and Pan-African Parliament all declared the March 29 election to be substantively free and fair, but all three have declared that the June 27 presidential runoff was not free or fair.
  • The Western World has roundly condemned Mugabe and the June 27 process.
  • South Africa’s President Mbeki is not acceptable to MDC as a negotiator as he is seen to be biased towards ZANU(PF) and is a longtime friend of Mugabe.
  • ZANU-PF and MDC seem to be more concerned about political power than the greater good of Zimbabwe.
  • MDC has good reason to fear being swallowed up by ZANU(PF) based on what happened to ZAPU in the early 1980s.  Hence they have good reason to resist a Government of National Unity where ZANU-PF dominates.
  • While Mugabe’s claims about “the British” and his rantings about Bush and Brown sound rather like Marxist/Leninist/Maoist invective, there is a certain amount of truth in what he is saying about the intentions of those parties and their links to the MDC.
  • Big Business in the guise of Lonrho, Anglo American, Barclays and Standard Chartered, amongst others, has always been able to do business with Mugabe and ZANU(PF).
  • While Mugabe’s government was co-operating with the World Bank and the IMF, his record in respect of human rights and his attitude toward democracy were largely ignored by the Western Powers.  Now that he has slipped the leash, they are gunning for him.
  • Morgan Tsvangirai has publically stated that he will welcome the World Bank and IMF if he is elected president.
  • The IMF and World Bank are directly and indirectly responsible for impoverishing most of Africa.
  • IMF and World Bank “structural adjustment” programmes are a euphemism for milking poor countries for every dollar that can be extracted, always at the expense of the poorest citizens.
  • Although there have been promises of massive foreign aid for Zimbabwe should MDC take over, one must remember that such promises are rarely kept and those that are always have onerous strings attached. 
  • Land ownership in Zimbabwe is an issue of colonialism.  The land was forcibly taken from the native population of Shona and Matabele tribes in the 1890s and from then until this century, has mostly been owned by white people.
  • The British brokered a deal at Lancaster House that protected the property rights in Zimbabwe of a number of members of the House of Lords.
  • The British did not keep their side of the deal and did not provide the funds that they had promised for purchasing land from white owners for distribution to black Zimbabweans.
  • At the turn of the century, Mugabe and top ZANU(PF) officials had already acquired ownership of prime land for themselves.
  • While some black Zimbabweans do want land, most would prefer regular employment to the grinding poverty of subsistence farming.
  • The land grab after Mugabe lost the referendum in 2000 was more about neutralising part of his political opposition than it was about restoring the land rights of black Zimbabweans.  White farmers had openly supported the MDC during the campaign in 2000, and in order to win the 2002 elections, Mugabe and ZANU(PF) saw fit to drive out the white farmers and their workers who had also largely supported MDC.
  • Although the Zimbabwe State has taken posession of the vast majority of white-owned farms, the landless peasant has not been the beneficiary.  Farms have been given to ZANU(PF) cronies and to so-called “War Veterans”, many of whom weren’t even born at the time of the 1970s bush war that ousted Ian Smith’s regime and led to black rule in Zimbabewe.
  • Although in principle the restoration of land to the indigenous people is fair and just, the results have been highly detrimental to the country and to the region.  Millions of displaced farmworkers and other Zimbabweans have left the country either legally or illegally to  seek a better life elsewhere.  Those with better education and skills have taken jobs overseas.  Those that cannot get legal entry to foreign countries have mostly fled to South Africa.
  • As was the situation in the 1970s, where Ian Smith’s white regime only continued to exist as long as South Africa tolerated it, Mugabe’s regime only exists as long as it has the support of South Africa.

So, now what?  Who will blink first, and will the current stalemate continue until a new South African government takes control after April 2009?

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