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 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 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.

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