Kubatana.net ~ an online community of Zimbabwean activists

Archive for January, 2009

Desperately seeking: A bold, new approach

del.icio.us TRACK TOP
Saturday, January 31st, 2009 by Amanda Atwood

I’ve been thinking about this “inclusive government,” and about the notion that that MDC had no choice – that it couldn’t risk “defying SADC,” that it had to agree to the terms of the 27 January SADC Communiqué.

One problem with that whole theory is that it gives to SADC an authority that I don’t think it deserves. Granted, some heads of certain SADC countries respect the rule of law, treat their citizens fairly and promote justice at home. But since when has SADC been an honest, reliable broker when it comes to Zimbabwe? It’s always had a bias – as evidenced by the very fact that the Zimbabwe crisis has stretched out as long as it has. And it feels like Mugabe has a case of selective sovereignty. Mr You keep your Britain and I’ll keep my Zimbabwe suddenly cares what other countries think about what he does at home? Yeah, right.

It also comes back to this question of desperation. The MDC say they’re weren’t desperate to be in government, but their actions tell a different story.

Along these lines, Dale Doré sent in these comments recently which resonated with me:

In September 2008 the MDC was pressured by Mbeki into a deeply flawed agreement. For all Mugabe’s loathing and contempt for the MDC and its leaders, there are those in the opposition who still believe that a deal with Mugabe is their only option. Instead of believing in themselves, they believe in Mugabe’s omnipotence. Instead of sticking to their democratic principles as the route to legitimate political power, they believe that power can be shared with Mugabe. Instead of believing themselves to be the true heirs of democratically-won political power, they fear that Mugabe will form a government without them. Until and unless the MDC believe in themselves and move boldly to capture the high moral and political ground – nothing will change.

Even after Mugabe illegitimately grabbed the lion’s share of power, SADC has still put their trust in him to negotiate in good faith when implementing the power-sharing agreement. Instead of fair and unbiased arbitration, Mbeki and the SADC leaders have now placed the MDC in a lose-lose situation. If the MDC pulls out of the agreement, they will look like the spoilers. If they enter the agreement, they will be completely dominated by the very forces they oppose and make them complicit in Mugabe’s dictatorship. However, our first responsibility is not to Thabo Mbeki or leaders of other countries.

We must not sign any agreement to appease Mugabe, Mbeki or SADC. Our responsibility is first and foremost to the people of Zimbabwe. Having tried our utmost, but having failed to reach agreement, we must now put aside any kind of power-sharing deal, including that which SADC has put on the table. A bold, new approach is needed.

Read more here

It’s official: The MDC has sold out

del.icio.us TRACK TOP
Friday, January 30th, 2009 by Amanda Atwood

In a statement issued following a meeting of the National Executive of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) today, Morgan Tsvangirai announced that his party has agreed to form an inclusive government with Zanu PF and the other MDC, led by Arthur Mutambara.

This agreement has felt increasingly inevitable since the SADC summit communiqué earlier this week. If things go according to the SADC timetable, Parliament will debate Constitutional Amendment 19 this coming week, and Tsvangirai will be sworn in as Prime Minister 11 February.

The sky tonight is, fittingly, dark and stormy. As the finalisation of this deal has crept inexorably closer this week, my emotions have also been dark and depressed. It’s hard to articulate how utterly disheartening this agreement is. Reflecting tonight, I thought that my heart has just taken the last break it can take.

This deal is entirely detestable. In its statement today the MDC said this didn’t mean it was giving up the struggle, just taking it to a different arena. But it’s hard to imagine that the party will have much success fighting for true democracy inside a flawed government, when it has come to such little effect outside it. A friend of mine yesterday said he’d heard this deal likened to putting on a dirty shirt. I said it’s more like putting on a dirty condom – smelly, sticky, damp, diseased and distasteful.

Admittedly, I don’t know what other the option the MDC had. A different party – one which was more Movement than Party might well have had different cards to play. But the MDC lacks the capacity to lead any sort of civil disobedience or “make the country ungovernable” movement, which might have resulted in a different outcome. Instead, the MDC has tended towards negotiations and legal challenges and contesting undemocratic elections. This strategy has left it high and dry at this most recent negotiating table.

Yesterday, Acting Minister of Finance Patrick Chinamasa, himself a snake of a man, announced the 2009 Budget Proposal – which sees the Zimbabwe economy increasingly dollarised. City councils, taxation, plus local goods are to be sold in forex, not in Zimbabwe dollars. How are Zimbabweans meant to survive the latest economic and political onslaught? The future is looking bleak.

Unity Govt Or Not, People Must Mobilise

del.icio.us TRACK TOP
Thursday, January 29th, 2009 by Bev Clark

Stanley Kwenda interviews Joy Mabenge. This interview was originally published here

Following an extraordinary Summit of SADC heads of state in Pretoria on Jan. 26-27, it was announced that a unity government is to be formed in Zimbabwe, apparently resolving months of disagreement following a power-sharing agreement in September 2008. That agreement, signed by Robert Mugabe of the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF), Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and Arthur Mutambara, leader of a smaller breakaway faction of the MDC, ran into immediate difficulties due to differences over how government posts should be distributed. Despite the SADC announcement, the MDC says that it will only make a final decision about joining a unity government after a high-level party meeting in Harare on Jan. 30.

Joy Mabenge is an Associate Fellow at the Johannesburg-based Institute for an Democratic Alternative for Zimbabwe (IDAZIM), a think tank centred around the development of policy and democratic issues as well as the writing of development papers on the political transitition in Zimbabwe.

Mabenge spoke to IPS in his personal capacity.

IPS: SADC has announced that the two parties have agreed to form a new government, but MDC is insisting they are yet to make a decision . . . what should be the way forward?

Joy Mabenge: There seems to be no consensus, but if MDC gets into the unity government, they need to ensure that the monitoring mechanism is put to full use and strongly push for the resolution of their other concessions. Or they should just declare that the talks are over and come up with a Plan B.

What should this Plan B look like, in your view?

MDC will have to mobilise people to go against president Mugabe’s government, because obviously – with or without the MDC – he will move to form a government now.

What should be the response of civil society organisations, which have for a long time been involved in lobbying for the establishment of a fairly representative government? How should they move forward?

The original standpoint of the civic groups was the establishment of a transitional authority headed by a neutral person. They should revert to that position and push for pro-people concessions under this transitional authority. such as the establishment of a new people-driven constitution which will lead to an internationally-supervised election – ensuring that the bloodshed witnessed in June last year do not happen again. But if MDC gets into the new government, then it is the duty of the civic groups to make sure that the MDC doesn’t relax and end up being absorbed by Zanu-PF.

At the moment it appears the MDC may get into the government with a heavy heart. What sort of international support is needed to make sure that this experiment works for the better of ordinary Zimbabweans?

Its a tricky one. It will heavily depend on how international donors perceive the SADC proposal, since they have previously stated that they will not give support to an establishment where Mugabe retains all the significant power. I foresee inaction for the first six months of the implementation of the government, a sort of a wait-and-see depending on how Mugabe chooses to treat the MDC as partners in government.

SADC appears to view a unity government as the solution to Zimbabwe’s problems. Are there any alternative courses of action for the democratic movements in Zimbabwe?

In the event that MDC decide not to go into the government, then civil society organisations should continue what they have been doing, organising street protests, through Women of Zimbabwe Arise and National Constitutional Assembly’s (NCA) for example. They should coordinate and sustain civil disobidience, urging people to withdraw their loyalty to a Mugabe led government. There is a fertile ground for that, with all the long strikes in the education and health sectors. The key this time is to simply work out a plan to sustain these actions until the government is pressurised out of power.

Joy Mabenge’s views in this article are entirely his own, and do not necessarily reflect the those of the Institute for an Democratic Alternative for Zimbabwe

Tears in their eyes

del.icio.us TRACK TOP
Thursday, January 29th, 2009 by Marko Phiri

I have never seen such dejection in so many people’s lives ever since I was born. You meet virtually everyone asking what the latest is concerning the formation of the government of national unity in Zimbabwe. With the news beamed on satellite TV that this has been yet another dud, you see it in the people’s eyes: Dejection, anger and all kinds of unprintable epithets aimed at the Founding Father.

This is one nation that carries such collective misery one wonders if Zanu PF has any conscience left in its soul, someone thinks aloud. But its allowed, I figure.

The sentiment on the streets is: why did we vote in the first place if we are still expected to wait for Zanu PF “to negotiate the MDC into power?” You see it everyday and you feel your eyes welling up.

“Why are we being put through this,” an old man said as he trudged home from his work place where he stands guard with nothing but a baton stick.

I thought I saw him shed tears.

“Shame on Robert Mugabe,” another octagenarian said as he related how his rural neighbours are scrounging for food. You hear these miserable stories from the older folks who saw it all and thought they had built nests for their grandchildren only to be told their pensions and savings are now useless.

My mother saw for the first time an American greenback note and she made sure she did not accept it despite the fact that this is now the standard for all kinds of transactions.

“What kind of money is that?” asked the old girl.

She would rather settle for the South African Rand, she said.

My heart went into pieces. “Be careful with these Rands,” I said. “The boys out there will fleece you.”

“I will be fine,” she said.

Why can’t she and all those old darlings just use the local currency than be confused by all this crap, I cursed.

I have seen old people with distant looks in their eyes just wondering what the hell hit them, wondering what got into the head of that man they lifted shoulder high in that euphoric moment back then. But no one has the answers.

The elders say it goes deeper than power mongering, they see something we do not see and they are not at liberty to confide. But they carry the burden of having lived through the good old times of the white man, then the promise of the black man, then watched a good man gone bad wrecking havoc on a jewel they were proud to dedicate their blood, sweat and tears to.

I listened to Shona-speaking old men cursing the Founding Father and it was a bit curious as the understanding and interpretation of the dynamics of local politics has for years been Shonas being Mugabe-for-life types.

This is the history that has been fed by peddlers of ethnic politics where tribal overlords are supposed to have whole rabid acolytes lining up to voice their undying support all in the name of ethnic loyalty.

This indeed has existed, but I wondered if that rings true today. This is the kind of ethnicity that has seen the ghost of Gukurahundi continuing to haunt the psyche of many here.

So now by the twist of fate, Mugabe had alienated his own, I wondered as I watched the mouths of the old men move as they talked politics.

Not so, as the old men proffered.

All human beings must be respected, and this man does not respect anybody, one old man said as he puffed poignantly at his roll of shamrock and waited for a new day, silently wondering what it would bring.

MDC . . . puppet poodles

del.icio.us TRACK TOP
Wednesday, January 28th, 2009 by Bev Clark

Here is an excerpt from an article by Tendai Dubutshena writing for Zimbabwe Times.

The obvious question the National Council must ask is whether these issues have been addressed. Honest answers must be provided by leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his negotiation team. No spin. No lies. No vague empty promises. Only straightforward answers will do. From the information available, including that contained in the official SADC communiqué the answer is an emphatic no. Promises were made that issues raised by the MDC would be looked into but none were partially or fully addressed. The MDC got nothing from the summit. If the party is to honour its own resolutions it should not be part of an inclusive government. There are those who argue that the MDC has no alternative to joining this government. What utter rubbish. The alternative is to continue the struggle for freedom, justice and democracy.  If the MDC leadership no longer has the stomach for the struggle it should say so. They should not tell people lies. None of their demands were met or will ever be met. Joining under such circumstances is capitulation.

Waiting until we can dance again

del.icio.us TRACK TOP
Wednesday, January 28th, 2009 by Bev Reeler

Our team got together for the first time since Christmas in
Zimbabwe to share our stories
where had we been?
what had we done?

3 funerals . . .

R’s nephew drowned in the sea at Mozambique
2 and a half weeks to negotiate borders and bribes and restrictions
before the family could lay him back in the earth.

Stories of visits to the mortuary
– without electricity,
filled with bodies
waiting for relations to get together enough money
to pay the cost to retrieve them
searching for loved ones through maggots
the indignity brought into our lives and deaths.

Of relations back from Namibia
visiting their home in Buhera for Christmas
the purchase of a cow and the sharing of this feast with the community
their first meat for months.

Of people resorting to the old foods of the ancestors
leaves of black jacks and pumpkins and forgotten fruit from indigenous trees

Of one desperate family exchanging their young daughter
for seed – to survive another year

Of green fields in some communities who had received seed donations
exploring new ways of dry planting with cow dung and compost
in the absence of fertilizer
and of their determination to never starve again
drawing people into shared work.

Of an estranged family together for the first time in years
old connections, broken and remade
the slaughter of a goat in celebration
the joy of belonging.

Riding the edge of the wave with the immediacy of the moment
and keenness of attention
learning of survival when our reactivity or despondence is our worst enemy.

This is the grey time of unending ‘coping’
and waiting until we can dance again.