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Archive for August, 2008

Tantrums of a pre-mature political baby

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Friday, August 22nd, 2008 by Bev Clark

Rejoice Ngwenya shares with Kubatana his take on the power plays between Mutambara, Mugabe and Tsvangirayi. In the realm of big boy (or bully boy) politics in Zimbabwe, may the best man win . . .

I do not know as much of Ancient Roman war strategy as I do about Tshaka Zulu’s short stabbing spear and assegai tactics. However, my limited encounter with Prussian and Babylonian siege techniques in the biblical era reveals an amazing tendency for desperate citizens to turn on one another when vital life-support systems have been blockaded. It is human tendency that when the enemy is untouchable, expend one’s anger on the nearest object, even if the object is one’s friend.

Such is the dilemma in which Movement for Democratic Change [MDC] break-away formation leader Professor Arthur Mutambara is in.  For some reason or other, Zimbabwe’s opposition body politic is defined, or rather seen through a Morgan Tsvangirayi prism of excellence. Political integrity, continuity, courage, consistence and persistence can only receive a popular vote of confidence if it confines itself within the Tsvangirayi school of thought.

There are several reasons  for this paradox, one of which is that between 1998 and now, Tsvangirayi has been elevated to a symbol of resistance against Robert Mugabe’s tyrannical rule. Much like in Gene Healey’s “The Cult of the Presidency”, once gullible society sets on a dangerous path of hero worshiping, the leader himself begins to feel and act infallible. This is the curse of mankind. It becomes more dangerous when, like with Woodrow Wilson and Robert Mugabe, such authority assumes uncontrolled military adventurism.

The other is Mutambara’s routine frolic into the murky waters of demagoguery.  Come to think of it, politics is really more words than action. As a signal tune of differentiating himself from Tsvangirayi’s puppet-of-the-west tag, Mutambara has bent over backwards to show that he is a Pan Africanist who can define his own space without Western leverage. This has been necessary. The African Unity [AU] and Southern African Development Community [SADC] have of late assumed a mettle of credibility when it comes to resolution of the Zimbabwe crisis. Since they have been, for want of a better term, contaminated with Mugabe’s anti-imperialism euphoria, African leaders, especially Thabo Mbeki, have developed a soft spot for Mutambara, much to the chagrin of pro-Tsvangirayi extremists. Whether it is by coincidence or design, Mutambara’s anti-West demagoguery has now been interpreted as an extension of Mugabe’s symphony.

And so, at a time when Zimbabwe is about to deliver a political baby, she has, according to anti-Mugabe critics, come too early for MDC. Electronic tongues are wagging in Zimbabwe’s vibrant global websites, mostly against Mutambara who is seen as a spoiler. The vitriol is directed at the professor’s alignment with the rest of Africa – and Mugabe – that Tsvangirayi is asking for too much power. Those in Mutambara’s camp are at pains to remind the world that left to his own devices, Tsvangirayi routinely lapses into Wilsonian autocracy, the main reason why MDC split in the first place. They argue that the cult of leadership reigns supreme at Harvest House [MDC headquarters] where Tsvangirayi can never be seen to err, and if this attitude is brought forward to State House, it will mature into fully fledged national dictatorship.

The last reason is based on pure market politics. Everyone wants to be powerful and for Mutambara, the transition from student activism to national leadership has been swift, though, as some internet sites would want to portray, a short circuit, benefiting from what they term ‘self-cetred opportunism’. Yes, politics is about opportunism. Had Tsvangirayi not exploited an opportunity to be chairperson of the National Constitutional Assembly Task Force Committee, he would still be wallowing in monotonous trade union politics. Mugabe himself displaced Joshua Nkomo as the leader of preferred choice in Zimbabwe’s guerrilla war. The fact that Mutambara has not been part of the mainstream struggle against Mugabe is as insignificant as the demand by the Joint Operations Command [JOC] that they will not salute Tsvangirayi because he lacks liberation war credentials. This world is cruel, you snooze, you loose. Tsvangirayi must accept that he is up against intelligent and skimming competition in Mutambara and Mugabe. May the best man, I mean, political baby survive!

Women Can Do It

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Friday, August 22nd, 2008 by Natasha Msonza

Between 14-15 August, the Women’s Trust held a post-election review conference with the theme “Celebrating women’s leadership: Mapping our future.” Over 350 women and several men congregated at the Celebration Centre to share experiences and challenges from the Women Can Do It campaign. Another objective of the gathering was to develop a national strategy for women’s overall involvement in national structures of governance and in the view of ongoing talks, establish a united position concerning women’s expectations and what they would like to see in a new Zimbabwe. The post-election review also focused on the process of lessons learnt and celebrated this first ever successful campaign to empower women in national political processes.

Here are a few of the challenges faced by women candidates:

- Male candidates used political platforms to de-campaign women sometimes using derogatory remarks such as women who delve into politics have failed as wives.

- Lukewarm political party promotion and support of their women candidates. Often constituencies and wards were dictated for them and these were sometimes either the most inaccessible or the opposition stronghold they would obviously not win.

- Women found themselves pitted against opponents who had more financial resources – an aspect that greatly reduced their chances of success. Sometimes they could not afford to hire campaign vehicles or buy beasts with which to feed people at rallies.

- Women vigorously campaigned against other women from their opposition, an aspect that defeated the initial endeavour to empower women in politics, whatever their political dispensation.

- Partisan voter registration and education.

- Limited media exposure and difficulties in mobilizing especially in regard to enabling grassroots women to stand for office.

An overall view shows that violence and lack of resources remain the biggest hurdle women candidates faced.

The Women Can Do It campaign played a crucial but limited role in resource and material mobilization by providing fuel and campaign regalia among other things. The campaign also actively trained all parties’ candidates in public speaking, communication and leadership skills. It also campaigned vigorously at the national level for the recognition of women participants, an aspect that bolstered a lot of women to be emboldened enough to stand for office.

The resultant 14% representation of women in parliament can be directly attributed to the Women Can Do It campaign. As the representative from the MDC-T Women’s Assembly, Evelyn Masaiti put it, the campaign was an eye opener for a lot of women.

The conference challenged women who made it into office to represent the homeless, faceless ordinary citizen on the streets of Zimbabwe and not see this as an opportunity to amass wealth.

However while the few successful candidates indeed had something to celebrate, the majority of ordinary Zimbabwean women have nothing to celebrate. The violence surrounding the elections is still fresh in their minds and the ongoing talks keep hitting a brick wall making the future less and less certain.

A challenge went to the Minister of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development, Hon. Oppah Muchinguri to expand dialogue on the issue of rape and violations of women’s bodies that characterized the elections. There was general consensus that little or nothing is being done to bring justice for victims of this and other kinds of violence.

Combies and conundrums

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Friday, August 22nd, 2008 by Susan Pietrzyk

It’s common in Harare to see combies zoom past you.  Often with a man’s head sticking out the window so that he can scout for more customers.  And even though the dilapidated vehicles travel faster than light speed, that roaming head emanating from the window can spot potential customers.  Once spotted, somehow this man gets a signal to the driver who is then able to stop in no time flat.  The other day I saw a type of combie I’ve never seen before.  A brand-spanking new one.  It was white and so pristine.  Not a scratch, dent, or loose part dragging on the road anywhere on it.

This unspoiled combie looked out of place.  I instantly jumped to the thought that there was a story behind its existence and function. Some sort of corruption; that only certain people get to ride in this brand new combie. Like so many things in Zimbabwe, this combie seemed a paradox.  Part of the façade where a carefully placed basic service is propped up to make someone think things in this is country are ok.

I saw the combie whilst I was walking along Milton Avenue.  Got me thinking about another paradox having to do with the very road I was walking on.  In Avondale, it’s King George Road.  Once in Milton Park, it’s Milton Avenue. Then when you cross over Josiah Tongagara, the road is called Leopold Takawira.  How can one road have three names?

I was walking along this road with three names on my way to an event organized by Pamberi Trust where two speakers (Ezra Chitando and Nokuthula Moyo) would be discussing Shimmer Chinodya’s novel Strife.  As is a theme in the novel, the speakers explored the tensions between the power of tradition and the forces of modernity.  Ezra Chitando made the compelling point that Zimbabwe needs leaders who have eyes like chameleons. This clever creature is able to effectively balance one eye looking forward at the same time the other eye is looking back.  When I was walking on Milton Avenue the forward eye was Leopold Takawira and the eye looking back was King George. Made me wonder.  Selecting a single name for a road might end up a superficial part of the façade, but at least it would be one step towards resolving the conundrum of balancing present and past.

The future of the Zimbabwean child

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Friday, August 22nd, 2008 by Dennis Nyandoro

Recently I have noticed that our primary school children are being turned to enjoy this situation we are in. To them it’s normal and for sure it is. They are just own their own!

Going to school is as good as attending Sunday school at churches with no teachers in class to teach them maths and content lessons or to be ‘treated’ for not having done their homework. The freedom they have is just too much and a challenge to the nation. After school they go home to join their friends on the streets to play money-games (soccer) where these coins are now exchanging hands. They can pick them easily from the dumping sites.

In the evening they join the rest of the family where everyone is just paying attention to the TVs and radios to wait for any announcement of the results of talks.

No one pays attention to them whether they have bathed, done their homework, or how they performed at school. The father will be dozing in a corner after working on a hard rock to make three-quarter stones for sale. On the other side of the room their mother is busy counting some coins and a few of these new notes recently introduced after a busy day playing hide and seek with the policemen for selling her goods ‘illegally’.

So with all this happening in their own homes and the environment they live in our children don’t know what is normal and what isn’t. To some extent they even cherish to become a hwindi (conductor) because they don’t have the proper guidance and education for anything more.

The political situation in Zimbabwe is even making matters worse in every sector. The task is simple as it is complex – to rebuild the country and the future of the Zimbabwean child we need bold steps in rehabilitating education, housing and health. So far I see precious little improvement in any of these areas that inspires confidence or offers peace of mind.

Morgan’s poor choices

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Friday, August 22nd, 2008 by James Hall

Whoever advises Morgan Tsvangirai must be an academic stuck on definitions and not a strategist grounded in reality. I have consistently argued that Morgan should have contested the run off election. By giving in to his national executive council or advisers and pulling out of the election, he displayed a lack of resolve and leadership and worsened Zimbabwe’s crisis. By his own admission, he wanted to participate but chose consensus over common sense. Even Nelson Mandela, a man renowned for consensus decision making had to enforce his leadership position and negotiate with the apartheid regime on his own during the Pollsmoor years, despite the suspicion and resistance of his long time comrades.

Whether they like it or not, the MDC T’s pulling out of the run off elections, gave Mugabe a legal argument to carry on and be declared victor. The MDC T forgot that they had accepted the results of the parliamentary election which immediately pointed to a government of national unity to more correctly reflect the much touted will of the people. In a hurry to get in to power and bruised from the experience of the court battles from the previous elections, the MDC T enthusiastically endorsed a flawed parliamentary outcome in anticipation of a landslide in the Presidential election. But then, “a week is a long time in politics.” It is my contention that if Morgan had participated in the election, the SADC observers, and the rest of the world would have declared the resultant Mugabe victory null and void because of the conditions on the ground before, during and after the elections. Morgan would have had a stronger hand to negotiate from with the added moral high ground. Morgan did not save any lives by pulling out. He complicated matters for all concerned.

Badly advised both by his colleagues and light weight regional powers, he has put himself between the proverbial rock and a hard place. To compound matters, this hard place has an even harder mediator who is clearly opting for power sharing – something the MDC T agreed to without much strategic thought. Moral high grounds do not win wars as Sadaam Hussein will telegraph you from the grave. The moral battle has long been lost and the people who lost their lives for an outright victory have been betrayed by this weak kneed approach to the rough and tumble of African politics.

The new moral imperative is forget the power plays, sort out the economy and lets get on with our lives. Welshman Ncube’s interview with Basildon Peta is instructive in basic politics and I hope that Morgan, for the sake of the country, realises that it is time to live and sup with the devil because that is practicable. The African people, including us coloureds (God’s forgotten people), will have once more been betrayed by practical issues and lady justice will have no choice but to douse her flame. Is this the nature and pace of societal development? Perhaps, but then that is another topic.

Time to unite

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Thursday, August 21st, 2008 by Bev Clark

If Mugabe convenes Parliament next week he will violate the recently signed Memorandum of Understanding. Surely this provides an opportunity for united action from both MDC factions? The action being the boycott of the opening of Parliament.

This is a test that Mugabe is setting for the MDC knowing full well that the foundations of the MDC are flimsy and fragile. The scent of a free oxtail and mashed potato lunch after lolling about in Parliament for a few hours will sorely tempt a host of opposition MPs who are likely in it for what they can get. And this doesn’t necessarily equal freedom for Zimbabwe.

If Parliament is convened and if we don’t see united action on the part of both factions of the MDC then Zimbabweans should recognise that we’ve really got our work cut out for us, battling both a bankrupt opposition and a devil of a dictator.