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Monday, September 16th, 2013 by Michael Laban

I feel sorry for the Zanu PF Councillors. These are the bedrock, the foundation, the feet on the ground, the basis of the ruling party (again, after five years as the Opposition Party). These guys (or girls) did the footwork, went out and met the people, and got elected, even if some urban areas (yes, I am speaking as a local Harareite) where the challenges to be overcome were tremendous.

And yet… we have only just seen the results of the poll. Kubatana managed, after some prodding by me and much effort with ZEC, to get a spreadsheet today (Friday the 13th). I see 40 MDC and 6 Zanu PF in Harare. Despite being a part of the great victory, their party holds them in such disregard that they took 6 weeks to get their ZEC to allow someone to see their results! Talk about disdain for the electorate. How about disdain for the elected?

Six weeks after the elections, and we have just seen the new (very old) cabinet. But still not seen who is the party. There seems to be only one member of the ‘ruling again’ party, and his election has been announced, and contested, and accepted, and no longer contested, and analysed, and evaluated by investors, and reacted to by the market, and discussed, and rediscussed. And a bit more. But still, aside from the top, who won the posts? Do they deserve nothing but disdain?

Is there still some Socialist in the government somewhere

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Friday, September 13th, 2013 by Michael Laban

I spent the weekend (and Friday and Monday) with the Mountain Club of Zimbabwe in The Corner. No, it is not a bad place, or a place for bad boys. It is stunning, especially this time of year as the Musasas are out (and the other two Brachystigias and the Julbernardia – Miombo woodland!) it is the north end of the Chimanimanis. Chimanimani Mountains, north of Chimanimani town, but a separate National Park. A corner of Zimbabwe that sticks into Mozambique. If you walk any direction but West, you will be in Mozambique in less than 8 km. (And I think we did some border jumping a couple of times!)

It is a wonderful place. It is awesome! But the road there is a bit… sub-optimal. Maybe track is a better word? There is an ablution block, boiler for hot water,  and a camp site with about 8 braai stands. Beside one stream. And over the ridge, 350 meters, is another stream, waterfall, pool to swim in, trees to sleep under, aloes and succulents all over. Very rich.

So how come, aside from the access being ‘bad’, the ablution block does not work? There is no water? There really is nothing there, that was not there 30 years before. And His Excellency the President is sharing World Tourism ambassador status with Michael Sata next door. There is talk of Disney World at Vic. Falls.

Opportunities and investments!

And yet, Zimbabwean tourism is only for foreigners, who can fly in and fly out, afford the rates, stay in the fancy hotels, gamble, buy curios, and be tourists. There is no tourism for Zimbabweans. We are not allowed, or encouraged, to go see and enjoy our country – the most beautiful one in the world. If you do not have a 4 wheel drive to allow you to get down the road to The Corner. You are not encouraged to scramble together minimum resources, (mattress, blankets, food you would eat at home) and pay $5 a night for camping fee, and have home comforts. What we paid for the weekend (there was a big group) would go a long ways towards maintaining the facility there that would encourage Zimbabweans to visit, easily, beautiful Zimbabwe.

Why is Zimbabwean Tourism only aimed at ‘high end’ ‘big bucks’ foreign tourists? Where they bus in the wildlife to make an impression? Is it really tourism, aimed at promoting Zimbabwe? Aimed at Zimbabweans? Aimed at being a proud Zimbabwean? Or is it really about making money for select, connected, individuals. To ‘make it’ in the short term, and let their children grapple with the long term. Private vice equals public virtue – the capitalist mantra. Are we so utterly Capitalist, or is there still some Socialist in the government somewhere?

The MDC is over

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Friday, September 13th, 2013 by Michael Laban

The MDC is over. Ran three times. Their leader lost every time. They took power last time, became the ruling party, and managed to do nothing for democracy (plenty for themselves as individuals). They took the major cities every time – and again failed to make a serious democratic change every time.

And they deserved to lose. Not that the real loss is by as much as the reported margin. But they failed to campaign. Throughout their time as Ruling Party. Shocking loss of focus on the big picture. They deserved to lose.

They lost when they became a political party. Changed form being a ‘movement’ for democratic change, to the political party ‘Movement for Democratic Change’. A movement is a broad based, social, economic, cultural opinion. A voice, capable of saying all things, including all points of view, embracing all methods, being all things to all people. A Movement. A movement can be anti. E.g. the anti-apartheid movement. The anti-poaching movement. The anti gender violence movement. A political party is an organisation whose aim is to take and retain power. It does need discipline. And it needs an objective. What to do with the power it takes. The MDC had none of that. No discipline. No objective (and ‘anti’ is not an objective, it must be ‘for’). And it lost it’s broad base of support – although it did have massive support.

However, the struggle for democracy has thrown up many organisations. And they have all moved further along the road to democracy than the organisation that came before it. The Forum, and ZUM, both got further towards democracy (real democracy) than those previously. There is a wave effect. Started small, and each succeeding opposition movement goes further towards unseating the one party state than the one before it.

So maybe the next one…

MDC = Failure

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Tuesday, August 6th, 2013 by Michael Laban

So what is wrong? The election result was as predicted, so why so sad? Shocked, yes. The scale of the result is a bit of shocker, but maybe Nikuv is looking for future business. “Zimbabwe – poster child for Nikuv.” Zimbabwe – top of the list of satisfied clients.” “You think you got bad? Just look what we can do. Look at Zimbabwe!”

It is not unexpected, for many reasons. The biggest to me is the failure of the MDC. They failed to be change. They were the Ruling Party for five years, and what did they do with their parliamentary majority? They had the most seats. The power to elect the Speaker of the House. Seems they did all they wanted to do – just replace Zanu PF snouts at the feeding trough with their own snouts. But even that was not well done; they only got in five years of gravy train. Nice house for the boss though (has he called the movers yet?).

Did they learn how to service the electorate? Seems not. Six days before the election, I went to the MPOI public discussion. A neutral, a Zanu PF, and MDC were the speakers. Douglas Mwonzora, MDC, was scheduled to speak, but phoned just before. He could not make it, was sending someone else. Someone else never came! You would have thought, six days before the election that MDC would be falling over itself to get a chance to talk to the electorate. But no, they failed to pitch. They failed.

A week before the election, Tendai Biti complained that they could not campaign with POSA. However, one would think, as the ruling party of five years, they would have repealed POSA after four years. They failed.

Also in the week before elections, some Brigadier somewhere – Chegutu, Kadoma, Masvingo, Chinoyi – what does it matter, a ZNA Brigadier General in Zimbabwe threatens the locals (and all of us) that if Zanu PF does not win, they would go back to the bush and fight (as an aside, I would have loved to see one of those fat bastards sleeping under a tree overnight!) But, you would think, in five years as the ruling party, the MDC would have called to account some of the Generals for previous “treasonable utterances”, when they state who they will or will not salute. For a military commander to state he might disregard the nation and it’s constitution – treason! Failure.

The Urban Councils Act gives too much power to the Minister. Generally agreed to by all, but most especially by the MDC councils. So, did they change the Urban Councils Act? No. Failure.

To look forward, so now what are they going to do? AU and SADC have ‘let them down’. So, they will go to court. Great idea! And yet… have they reformed the Court system in their five years as Ruling Party? Failure. How do you (or anyone else with an IQ higher than a potted plant) think the courts will rule?

Well, those failures are in the past. And I think so is the MDC. Morgan has failed three times for President. Third time most unlucky! Don’t think he will be running again. He may get used a bit on his way out, maybe get one of the compromise cabinet posts offered to the former ruling Party by the magnanimous victor.

Other, future ‘end of tunnel’ lights. The security sector is stronger. It is proven above the law. It can beat the rap. It has been through the fires of hell, and emerged, better, stronger, brighter.

It has now been proven that legitimacy counts for nothing. Only power. Parliament is of no concern. And the next election will really be a non-event as it is proven that the electorate is not needed. It has been proved – they (the national rulers) do not need popularity, or the popular vote, or legitimacy. They only need power (physical and financial), and window dressing.


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Friday, July 26th, 2013 by Michael Laban

Had a chat with my older ‘brother’ the other day. We are now involved in the same project, and know where the other stands politically because when I was elected in 2002, on an MDC ticket, to City Council, he was not elected, on the Zanu PF ticket. Since then, I have left the MDC, and not been elected as an Independent, and he was not been elected as Zanu PF. This time, I am not standing, independently, and he is not standing, as Zanu PF (although he is still a member).

The bit that got me going – he says, “these papers, they tell lies.”

I agree. Papers, journalists, they all tell lies. Almost as many as politicians.

“These other papers, they should be banned.”

But, I argue, I know the Herald tells lies. I have been a part of events, and read about it in the Herald the next day, and what they wrote did not happen. All lies. So if you want to ban one, you have to ban them all.

“No, the Herald does not lie.”

But I was there, I was central to events, and what the Herald reported did not happen. They told lies. If you ban one, you ban them all.

“But the Herald is a government paper.”

As if this makes any difference! And now I am just thinking. What hold does the government (which is only partly made up of his former ruling party) have on his mind. When he believes this. Which basically means that he is calling me, standing right here in front of him, a liar. Because my story demonstrates (proves) that which he is not able to hear. That the Herald writes lies. That half of the government (his party) is only half of the government, and being made up of politicians, they are liars.

It will take quite some time to unravel some alternate realities.

Zanu PF, and the vote

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Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013 by Michael Laban

I think it is pretty much agreed – by the sane and rational, not by those with vested interest – that Zanu PF is unpopular and clinging to power. But to what end?

“To keep the whites out” is a theme I have heard often. And it has some resonance with a lot of people. Land reform was more popular than many will admit, because, even if it meant to many losing food, jobs, houses, health, schools, etc. it was a final nail in the coffin of Rhodesia. Old whites, especially those on farms, in many ways saw the new regime as the old. Life carried on, on the farms. White was the boss, black was the labour. White told black what to do. Lived at a higher standard. In a more comfortable house. Better. In many ways, it was the nature of the business, the farming business. Boss tells labour what to do. Boss makes more. Boss lives better. Just that boss was white, labour was black. And in many ways, land reform was welcomed because it ‘upset’ the traditional way. No one wants to remain labour, underclass, less well off. The fact that land reform was not about to change that, was not about to make labourers bosses and bosses labourers. Was only going to bring new bosses in (of the same race). Labour was going to remain labour and actually be worse off because cheap food was suddenly not available, as well as many other things lost. They (labour) did not know that, and they welcomed the change, and even know they know now, it is still not completely unpopular because it brought a change of/from the old regime that was frustratingly continuing. It is not better, but it is different.

So land reform, to me and my perception, ended white power. White domination of the economy. It ended land and agriculture (dominated by whites) as a an economic force. It pretty much ended the economy as well, but that is a burden we have to bear for change.

It seems to me then that “keeping the whites out” is not a real reason. The whites, as a force, a power, are dead and gone. However, this is not a good enough reason to stop using that as an excuse. First, as mentioned, it has a resonance with people. They like it. They understand it. Second, it is all Zanu PF have ever done. While it is important to note that they did that well – who else (even if they did not do it alone) has managed to mobilize the masses against an existing regime? A force in power? Certainly not the MDC. They have managed to mobilize themselves to some nice houses, new cars, and other good things, but they defiantly have not managed to mobilize the overthrow of a regime!

So that excuse is used, but moot (good for debate, but not actually valid in reality). A point the population generally does not see, and Zanu PF is thankful for that! It works! Even if it does demonstrate that the ‘reason’ for Zanu PF s over.

So why are they clinging to power? So we can move from a European colony to become a Chinese colony? Look East?

The vested interests want Zanu PF power there. Must have it there.

Money. You can make money. A great deal of it. And Zanu PF have ushered in a big capitalist regime – not socialist by any stretch of anyone’s imagination. Money is all that counts. Private vice equals public virtue (read Adam Smith). Even those who learnt ‘politics’ (rhetorical propaganda) under the Rhodesians cannot call the new regime socialist. In this regime, it is defiantly not what you know, it is who you know, if you want to make money here. Ask Mr Rautenbach. Ask the Chiadzwa diamond field ‘owners’. You can even hunt the Presidential herd!

So Zanu PF connections (or just being ‘inside’) was the way to make money. From the earliest. Ask why Maurice Nyagumbo committed suicide. And today, Zanu PF military! That is the ticket to wealth (and infamy).

And even if you made money, and don’t need to make anymore (yes, we have all been there!), in order to hold on to your money, you cannot allow “regime change”. Who will get hold of the records? And what records? And who will say what? And where anymore can you retire and keep your slightly dirty money ‘safe’? Ask Col. Mengistu.

Then, those with degrees in violence. There are few places safe to retire when you get that diploma. Ask Charles Taylor. And very cleverly, while they had theirs (from Matabeleland up to 2002 elections) they managed to get a new class in and graduated at the 2008 elections. Junior (none higher than Brigadier General), but still, suddenly, with a new vested interest. And therefore an inability to allow things to move on.

Other reasons to keep power? Some agenda to complete? Well, the manifestos are out. What are (any of them) about? One is obviously ‘change’. But change to what? The trough system, or the faces at the trough? Create jobs. Scoff… How?

The other big one? Not change but indigenisation, which is simply race based (“keep the whites out”) method of taking things for those inside. No go back on land reform (keep what ya got). Not much in either about ‘build’. Social justice. Equality. Standards, values, leadership. Health system. Education. Sure it is the details of both, but it is not noticed now, why should we believe it ever will be noticed.

Or acted on.