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.

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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 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 hararetribune.com 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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