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 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.

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