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Zimbabwe’s unending wild goose chase: from the ‘people’s revolution’ to ‘Operation restore legacy’

By Blessing Vava Zimbabwe’s 93 year old despot Robert Mugabe’s 37 years hold on power has been checkmated and has reached its end ...

Monday, 20 November 2017

Zimbabwe’s unending wild goose chase: from the ‘people’s revolution’ to ‘Operation restore legacy’



By Blessing Vava

Zimbabwe’s 93 year old despot Robert Mugabe’s 37 years hold on power has been checkmated and has reached its end after the military put him on house arrest last week. In a Hollywood style of events that left the whole world amused and confused whether to call it a coup or not coup, something that puzzle military scholars for some time. Whatever interpretation, the reality is that a coup was executed in Zimbabwe and we are currently in a transition to a new dispensation and this signifies a shift in the power dynamics, particularly in the ruling party. Already, high ranking cabinet ministers have reportedly been detained by the military and more arrests are expected. Unprecedented though that a majority of Zimbabweans welcomed this ‘coup’ and have participated in huge numbers in the call for President Mugabe to step down. No doubt Mugabe is finished, the march to state house and the rally in Zimbabwe grounds was a decoy 'people's popular uprising' meant to disempower regional bodies like the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the African Union (AU) and United Nations (UN)not to censure Zimbabwe’s military apparatchiks. Essentially, Zimbabweans were taken on a wild goose chase by the military hawks despite warnings from Blogger Takura Zhangazha that this was a purely ZANU PF succession affair when all this charade started.
'Coup plotter?

Zimbabweans had suffered under Mugabe’s 37 years iron fist rule to an extent that they had reached a point that anything else and not Mugabe was good. One thing for sure, the calls for Mugabe to go attracted Zimbabweans from all walks of life; from the opposition, civil society, churches, civil service, the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF), the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance, the National Rainbow Coalition (NRC) among many others and other sections of society. However, there is a danger to it in the sense that whatever is happening is not a people’s agenda, it is not a people’s revolution but a rearranging of chairs on the ruling party’s high table.  My fear is premised on the fact that, most people just want Mugabe to go without laying on the table what we envisage for the future of our country. This is the same dilemma that hogged the opposition while accepting the GNU and the COPAC constitution saying ‘it’s better than a no deal.’  Whereas it was only years to come that they realised that the ‘better’ deal was actually nothing on the surface.  

Equally, events of the past days were largely triggered by Mugabe’s firing of his vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa, the newly anointed ‘crown prince’ of the securocrats.  The eventual dismissal of Mnangagwa from government came after verbal attacks directed to his person and the military. The ‘coup’ was long brewing, it was just a matter of day and time, but Grace Mugabe became its trigger. The purges of senior leaders of ZANU PF aligned to Mnangagwa prompted the military chiefs to step in and stop Mugabe because they also felt threatened.  They realised that the axe was also going to fall on their necks if the succession events in the ruling party had continued on the same trajectory; hence, they had to pre-emptively strike. The generals have achieved their mission, they wanted the purges to stop, they did. They wanted to stop the dynasty project. They did. They wanted to take power from the G40, they did. They wanted Mnangagwa to be at congress, he will be.
The conspirators? Emmerson Mnangagwa and Gen Chiwenga

Historically, the major political contradictions in Zimbabwe have always been resolved by the gun. Here I refer to five historical events that were resolved by the gun.  Firstly, it was the First Chimurenga (War of liberation) in 1896, which was a contest between the colonisers versus the people of Zimbabwe, a war which we eventually lost resulting in the colonisation of Zimbabwe. Secondly, the second Chimurenga which was Smith’s UDI versus that ZANLA/ZIPRA affair. Thirdly, it was post-independence, in the 1980s and that featured Joshua Nkomo versus Mugabe, which resulted in the massacring of more than 20 000 people in Matabeleland during Gukurahundi. Fourthly, the MDC versus ZANU PF in 2008, when the military factor became a crucial element in resolving the political contradictions, thereby keeping President Mugabe in power. The last of such events is the succession question we are currently witnessing in ZANU PF which is now being solved by the gun. George Charamba, Mugabe’s spokesperson for 17 years told Financial Times that Mr Mugabe’s fate would be decided by those wielding power and not by the will of the people. “What we see in the streets is just atmospherics,” he said. More importantly, what we are currently witnessing is problem solving of the ZANU PF succession, now being handled, executed and directed by the gun after Mugabe had suppressed that debate and by default making himself life president of Zimbabwe.

However, as many Zimbabweans in and outside the country were celebrating Mugabe’s ‘demise’ which has been instigated by the gun, they should think about the future. From a fair analysis without attaching any emotions the coup is a ‘family (ZANU) affair’ and General Chiwenga was unequivocal in his 13th of November 2017 statement that it’s a military resolution of internal party contradictions. As a result it has nothing to do with the generality of the populace, not even democracy rather a self-correction of ZANU PF as it solves its succession. It has always been a power tussle that dates back from Zimbabwe’s war of liberation between the nationalists (political leadership) and the military leadership who were playing different roles in the war. Mugabe, a civilian (who has no military background) was supported by the military in his ascendancy to the throne in 1977.  Forty years down the line, the military is featuring again to remove Mugabe and replacing him with another trained soldier Emmerson Mnangagwa.  Secondly, the military chiefs are now an economic class with its own distinct interests and this is a 'military class project' to keep hands over the party-state apparatus no matter which angle you look at it. The alleged involvement of the army elites in the Chiadzwa diamonds are a case in point. Thirdly, the coup has exposed that Zimbabwe’s opposition has paid heavily for being directionless and unable to build a cohesive social and political project. The failure of the opposition even to reform or renew itself will be their greatest downfall if ever they are going to gain space in the wake of a rejuvenated ZANU PF.

Going forward, Zimbabwe should retain to civilian order and allow the constitution to be respected. They must be a clear framework, that at least should try to involve the people or rather any transitional mechanisms should lead to reforms and ultimately a democratic election. The people of Zimbabwe should be given a chance to choose a government of their choice, but Alas! the events in the past few days indicate that we will always be asked to participate in civic affairs with the nozzle of the gun on our head in the immediate and foreseeable future. Therefore, it is critical to create conditions for a free and fair election so that we will have a government that is elected by the people. Free and fair elections are the only way to have a legitimate government and retain to civilian rule. The question again is, will the new dispensation create those conditions for a free and fair elections? If yes, will the military accept a ZANU PF electoral defeat given their strong vested interests in the ruling party and role in aiding ZANU PF to remain in power even despite losing in 2008? For the pro-democratic forces, the question is how do they build progressive political platforms that can be seen as part of the National Democratic Revolution? How do progressive forces mobilise to deepen a structurally deep movement which makes the transformation national and not be subjugated and domineered by the factions in the national liberation movement? They should continue mobilising on the ground and be relevant in the struggles ahead. However, given the fragmentation in the opposition and lack of cogent policies to address the socio-politico-economic crisis ZANU PF has somehow managed to solve its complex succession question. This means after they are finished with addressing the self-cannibalising that was threatening to tear them apart, that machinery will be re-directed at the opposition and civil society with much viciousness.

President Mugabe’s speech read on the 20th of November 2017, whilst flanked by all the security forces was a tell-tale sign and this was confirmed by Patrick Chinamasa’s utterances after the Central Committee meeting held on the same day that it was a ZANU PF affair and they did not need the opposition on the dinner table. In addition, the military apparatchiks released a statement on the 21st of November 2017, that ‘Operation Restore Legacy’ had been successful and it was time to go back to normal life. The question that begs to the military and ZANU PF is: what happened to the people’s revolution? Maybe it was never about the people but ZANU PF and its survival. The opposition, civil society and Zimbabweans in general need to avoid being easily excitable otherwise they will keep on being taken on a wild goose chase in Zimbabwe’s politics.

NB: Views expressed in this article are personal 

Blessing Vava is a research fellow at the University of the Witwatersrand, Africa-China reporting department. He can be contacted on blessingvava@gmail.com. Twitter: @blevava

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Mnangagwa’s Downfall: The Proverbial Case of Giving the ‘Kiss of Life’ to a Dying Goblin


By Blessing Vava

Kissing the Goblin
The battle for the soul of ZANU PF and succession of President Mugabe had been a tumultuous game that has in the past four decades claimed the scalps of veteran nationalists. From 1976, after the toppling of Ndabaningi Sithole, the leader of ZANU, Mugabe has out manoeuvred any potential or aspiring successors to remain the soul of ZANU PF and at the same time its life leader. Those in that category include the revered Josiah Tongogara, the feared Edgar Tekere, the sharp Eddison Zvobgo, leaders who harboured ambitions of one day leading the liberation movement. In a typical fashion of a dream deferred, all the above mentioned met their demise with no success in succeeding Robert Mugabe, who has remained the leader of the party since 1976.

 Even the indomitable late Father Zimbabwe Joshua Nkomo could not take the crown neither, after leading  the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA) in the war of liberation he was called a traitor and at some point, arrested by Mugabe and accused of treason. The same tragedy befell erstwhile comrades, Solomon Mujuru and his wife Joice, accused of trying to topple Mugabe from power. This is the same fate that has met ‘most loyal’ comrade Emmerson Mnangagwa, who over the past four decades naively thought he was the anointed one to succeed Mugabe. For Mnangagwa, he lived with Mugabe for all these decades learning and forgetting nothing. As Grace Mugabe insinuated over the weekend that Mnangagwa claims to have known Mugabe for four decades but in reality he does not know who Mugabe is. The question is was that observation wrong? Mnangagwa became too much comfortable and failed to understand that Mugabe has one principle in politics, keep your friends and enemies closer. What befell Nkomo, Ndabaningi, Mujuru were all lessons to learn for Emmerson that Mugabe was one man not to be trusted no matter what.  However, it seems Mnangagwa failed to understand the nature and character of Mugabe and his obsession with power.

Mugabe’s obsession with power: lessons to learn
In my previous article I deliberately referred to the late Samora Machel’s warnings about Mugabe taking charge of ZANU after the toppling of Sithole. The leaders of the Frontline states had already noticed bad leadership traits in Mugabe and their scepticism about him have finally been proven decades later. This is where we are today; he has been in power since 1980.  It seems Mugabe has never relented from his dream of becoming a Life President of Zimbabwe and it now almost seems on course after expelling the remaining veterans of the war in ZANU PF. President Mugabe’s continued hold on power has been aided by naive and selfish people who contributed in the creation of a Monster, and building a cult on the personality of Mugabe for selfish reasons. This is the scourge that has returned to afflict Mnangagwa.   Suffice to say, Mugabe has not changed tact in his bid to be the Life President of Zimbabwe.  Mujuru failed to learn, and for Mnangagwa, he should have learnt that no matter how much you play the loyalty card to Mugabe or even swallow a bullet for him, the man just doesn’t care. He is a narcissist, it’s all about himself and no one else. Mugabe is shrewd and unforgiving and believes in no other winner besides himself. He has been a master of dirty tactics, a political weapon that he always deploys to deal with perceived enemies. In describing Mugabe and his quest for power, the late Joshua Nkomo once said this about Mugabe:
I have suffered, I have worked so hard for this country before independence, during the war. I worked so hard after independence to make our independence stick and this man today calls me a traitor, me a traitor? A man who worked so hard for this country? I have never done anything wrong and Robert knows it. I tell you this is for personal power let him stand up and deny it, this is for personal power. He is frightened of my stature, he is frightened that he will not win the next elections. This is what he is doing, trying to smear me, very sly, very dirty.
Another interesting revelation on Mugabe’s crudeness is in Rugare Gumbo’s interview by the Rhodesian Herald on the 21st of February 1980:  “He (Mugabe) uses people — the Presidents of the Frontline States, people like Joshua Nkomo to build himself up and then he tries to destroy them. He cares nothing for the masses or for the country. All he cares about is Mugabe. “When he joined the party he had only a dirty shirt and trousers. Now he has money — a lot of money. He is wealthy. He built a fortune on the backs and the sweat of people like us. He takes his wife all over Europe and spends thousands. This is the man who wants to make this country Marxist. He must be stopped.” Rugare Gumbo stops talking. Then in a hushed tone, he says; “Yes, I am bitter. I am also afraid — for my people and for my country. Those who vote for Mugabe will do so out of fear, and it is wrong. They must be told not to do it. Mugabe’s intimidation must be stopped. The people must be united. I will do everything to accomplish this.”

Mnangagwa and resurrecting the Goblin?
Consequently, it is now a reality that Mugabe’s game has always been about power and nothing else. Interestingly, those who have been harbouring ambitions and yet worked tooth and nail to aid his consolidation of power have no one to blame apart from their selfish interests and political naivety. That is exactly why Emmerson Mnangagwa’s downfall is something the prodemocracy forces in Zimbabwe should welcome and capitalise on. I will explain later on in the article why and how I think the opposition and other forces can capitalise on Mnangagwa’s downfall. However, I would not want to delve much on Mnangagwa’s dark past and his alleged involvement as Mugabe’s hitman that is well documented. Hence, in the same breath I would like to point out that the most disgusting of him was his involvement in resurrecting the goblin in 2008 (kumutsa chikwambo change chafa) and now the same goblin has claimed his scalp. This I make particular reference to the 2008 plebiscite in which the incumbent Robert Mugabe lost to Morgan Tsvangirai by 73%, a figure announced by Mugabe while addressing chiefs in 2014, never mind the correction he made. Mnangagwa confirmed and boasted at a rally in Headlands on the 4th of having saved Mugabe in 2008, denying Morgan Tsvangirai and the people of Zimbabwe a victory.
President vofona, ahh zvakamirasei? Ndikati ndomamiro azvakaita,      Mugabe: saka todini? Mnangagwa: sokuti ndiri gweta ndaiziva kuti kune clause iya yekuti you must have 50 plus 1 percent. Ndikati ah imwi maita henyu 43%, uyu (Tsvangirai) 47 asi pakati penyu hapana awinner, saka kunoitwa runoff. Zvikanzi udza mai (Grace), ndobva ndaudza mama, zvikanzi toita sei manje ? ndikatoti hunzai baba nditaure navo, ndikati baba imi gadzirai cabinet   
(‘’I called the President to tell him the results and he asked for my advice and as a lawyer I was aware of the 50 plus 1 %, therefore there is no winner since you  got 43% and Tsvangirai 47% so we are heading for a runoff. Then I advised the president to organise a cabinet’’)
 This is the same man who coordinated the military and militias to lead a violent campaign ahead of the June run off poll, killing opposition supporters and destroying their houses. It is also reported that after the March elections, Mnangagwa took over as chairman of Joint Operations Command (JOC).  And when he became aware he (Mugabe) had lost the March 29 presidential election to opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party leader Morgan Tsvangirai, Mnangagwa’s first action was to advise Mugabe not to concede defeat but that he should force a second round run-off election and that at the same time the veteran leader should put pressure on the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to delay official results of the election. Therefore, Mnangagwa deserves no sympathy and surely got what he deserved. Today he should rue the day he contributed to the controversial constitutional amendment of the ZANU PF constitution to consolidated Mugabe’s one centre of power, giving the President of the party unfettered powers to appoint his deputies, positions previously elected at congress. For Mnangagwa, he is a man who stood for nothing, he lacked principle, he lacked tact and was relying on borrowed robes, but they have now been taken from him.

Don’t hate Grace, she has done it for you
While ZANU PF is going through a seemingly self-destruction path, it is rather amusing that the opposition and other prodemocracy forces are intricately involved ‘emotionally’ that is, sadly a majority seeming to be sympathising with Mnangagwa. What they must understand is that the hatred for Grace Mugabe should not therefore translate to sympathising with Emmerson. So instead of enjoying or becoming analysts on what’s happening in ZANU PF, the opposition need to strategies and capitalise on the chaos happening in ZANU PF. Though it might seem as if ZANU is imploding, the party might actually be on the mend and in fact they are undergoing a transition to a post Mugabe era, no matter which angle we look at it ZANU PF will be a different animal altogether after their congress in December. Maybe Chirimambowa’s article, “Succession Politics in Zimbabwe: GraceMugabe and the End of Patriotic History” is instructive in understand the current politics. Chirimambowa argues that the ‘Grace’ moment present opportunities for democratisation rather than chaos:
ZANU PF-although by default and politics of convenience-is undergoing some kind of perestroika and glasnost, it presents opportunities for cross-political elite convergence on the limitation of liberation credentials based politics.
As a result, it also means that ZANU PF is changing tactics, they have already replaced the liberation generation with through the Youth league, and the tone has already been set at the interface rallies. It is unlikely that ZANU will use violence in future elections, but patronage and intimidation as a means of wooing voters. The 226 Isuzu vehicles bought for the traditional leaders are a case in point, and about 320 cars and trucks for campaigns, free residential stands being parcelled to the youth.

The MDC and the future
However, this calls for the opposition, in particular the MDC to seize this moment in the wake of an impending election which is almost six months away. Sadly, the leader of the party and the Alliance Mr Tsvangirai is going through difficult moments and has been in and out of hospital going through the straining chemotherapy sessions. In my own view, I think there is now a need to have a frank discussion about Tsvangirai’s health vis-à-vis the succession. Never mind what the spin doctors and those closer to him presenting brave faces that the man is recovering fast and ready to lead the coalition.  They need to be honest with themselves and plan ahead. Unlike ZANU PF, the MDC’s denial game will only lead to the demise of the party, which at this critical juncture has been presented with a golden opportunity to remake itself.  Tsvangirai has reached a dead ending, and no miracle or magic will even improve his fortunes if he is standing against Mugabe. The GNU did him bad, and therefore the party needs a new face. Had he handed over the baton after the 2013 defeat he would have saved the MDC and his brand as a democrat and not a cult leader like Mugabe. I argue that, he still has a chance to be different from Mugabe, this is the time for him to step down and prepare a new leader to bring in fresh ideas and a new impetus altogether. The Save chete chete mantra is akin to the ZANU PF cultism of Gushungo chete chete, being slogans that have created cults and dictators. Those singing the Save chete chete mantra are not genuine and sincere, but are rather doing it for selfish gains and not for the greater good of the party. It’s typical of the politics in ZANU PF where people are bootlicking Mugabe for the sake of personal benefit and not conviction. The most progressive move for Morgan to do is stepping down and paving way for an extraordinary congress that will choose a new leader for the party to lead as the elections draw closer. The issue of his health needs no emotions. The human body is not made of steel, it does go through such moments, and it is difficult when faced with a terminal ailment like colon cancer. Only yesterday while featuring on SABC Tsvangirai was at pains to convince the world that all was well. Anchor: We are now joined by the president of the opposition in Zimbabwe. He is joining us from his hospital bed here in Johannesburg where he is being treated for cancer. Mr Tsvangirai thank you very much for joining us welcome. Perhaps…Tsvangirai (interjects): Thank you Peter…(coughs)I am…I am not …I am not in hospital ..eh..I’m just taking a rest outside a...a hospital…eh…I’m just taking leave outside the hospital. Sadly Tsvangirai denies that he is not in hospital, but outside hospital taking a rest. Well… we all know that hospitals are not places to take a rest! Therefore in these difficult moments it does require a sober approach and accept reality. Though some might call it stigmatisation I still posit that a frail looking Tsvangirai will not do the MDC any good during the campaign period, he needs to rest and allow others to carry on the fight. The election period is a rigorous process, which will require a lot of travelling, meetings, rallies in my view will prove difficult for the MDC leader to encounter.  Tsvangirai will forever be a hero of our time for having led the struggle against tyrannical rule by Robert Mugabe but this is now the time to pass on to a new generation of leadership.Even Moses had to pass on the baton to Joshua, he never entered Canaan!!

Blessing Vava is a blogger based in Chipinge. He can be contacted on blessingvava@gmail.com



Monday, 23 October 2017

Samora Machel’s warning to Zimbabwe on Mugabe: not yet Uhuru


By Blessing Vava

The month of October casts a dark cloud over of our Mother continent Africa, as it swallowed great revolutionaries who greatly shaped the struggles against colonialism and imperialism. On the 19th of October 1986, Samora Moisés Machel the first President of Mozambique died when his presidential aircraft crashed near the Mozambique-South Africa border.  We will never forget on the 15th October 1987 and 14th of October of 1999, Mother Earth called Thomas Isidore Noël Sankara President of Burkina Faso and President Julius Kambarage Nyerere of Tanzania to rest. Giants in the anti-colonial struggles, Nyerere and Sankara departed leaving an indelible mark that will forever be engraved in our hearts in the same way that President Samora Machel did.


As we commemorate the luminaries we remain mindful of what they stood for and their vision for Africa to be a great continent to live for future generations. However, the purpose of my article is focusing on the legacy of President Machel, a towering figure in our struggle for liberation. With other leaders of the Frontline States, Machel provided solidarity in form of military and social support for Zimbabwean fighters as they waged a protracted war against the Smith regime. Had Samora been alive today I am sure he would be saying to Zimbabweans remember my warnings on Mugabe given the state of affairs in Zimbabwe right now. Those who were at the forefront during the war gave narrations of how Machel was sceptical of Mugabe assuming the leadership of the revolutionary movement. At least he had seen beyond!

The Samora warning
Dzinashe Machingura a commander during the struggle said that Machel had very profound misgivings about any thought of granting Robert Mugabe any importance whatsoever, let alone viewing him as being some kind of central-player-in-the-making. Dzino explained of an incident, a meeting between Frelimo and ZIPA command structures in 1976 in Mozambique at the height of the war. Samora had called for the meeting with the ZIPA leadership to discuss its long term plan with regards to Zimbabwe’s prospective leadership. Mhanda aptly illustrated the moment: ‘’ Rex Nhongo then submitted our list, with Mugabe at the top. Machel leapt from his chair in disgust. He was clearly not happy that we had included Mugabe, let alone as the leader. He went on to tell us that he had removed Mugabe from the refugee camps for a good reason: ‘He loves the limelight,’ and is opposed to unity.’’ However, President Machel went on to accept Mugabe as its new leader, but Machel was not far from the truth as evidenced by Mugabe’s selfishness as he has morphed himself into a life president. A notion against the ethos of the revolutionary code that leaders come and go.

Leaders of the Frontline States
Again, in 1974 Mugabe had previously been rejected by the Frontline leaders after he was released by Smith to go and meet the Front Line leaders, Kaunda, Julius Nyerere (Tanzania), Agostinho Neto (Angola) and Samora Machel (Mozambique). According to Dzino and corroborated by Rugare Gumbo in an interview with China Global Television Network, that  Nyerere especially was so angry at the idea of a leader being so obviously sent to them with Smith’s connivance that he refused to talk to Mugabe and demanded that he and his followers go back to Rhodesia and return with Sithole.
Rugare Gumbo lamented: '' When we were released from prison we were asked who our leader was and we said Robert Mugabe and Nyerere and Samora then said, ''Are you sure?'' 

It is evidently clear that Robert Mugabe was a blue eyed boy of Ian Smith, contrary to the Pan African giant he portrayed himself. The late Joshua Nkomo’s biography The Story of My Life, page 10, made the same revelations about how Mugabe used to get preferential treatment in jail, allowed to organise meetings that orchestrated a coup against Ndabaningi Sithole. Here is Nkomo: ‘’Next morning we gathered for our meeting with the presidents of the black nations of Southern Africa who were in the front line states of the struggle against racism. Julius Nyerere walked in off his plane and greeted us all, and the first question he asked was: ‘Where’s Ndabaningi?’ The Zanu team, surprisingly enough, did not include Sithole, whom we all regarded as president of that party. Instead there were its secretary general, Robert Mugabe, and its secretary for youth and culture, Morton Malianga. It turned out that five members of the Zanu central committee had been kept in prison and allowed to hold meetings there. This tiny group, without consulting their members or their colleagues, had decided to depose Sithole as their president: Mugabe and Malianga were acting as their spokesmen.  Nkomo went on: ‘’The presidents could not accept these two relatively unknown people as valid spokesmen for Zanu, so they were sent off to wait in their rooms while the business of the meeting was tackled.’’ All this points out to some interesting observations, that Mugabe’s role in the liberation struggle is rather a vanitisation of a narcissist geriatric posing, and posting his selfies. Secondly, our history books are so distorted in their eulogising of Mugabe, and in the fullness of time intellectuals, historians and writers must revisit that area and give Zimbabwe a correct narrative of the liberation struggle. The Kudzai Chipanga’s of this world and many of the sycophants who have elevated Mugabe to God should however be reminded that Zimbabwe belongs to all of us and inspired by many generations before us who were fearless and not Mugabe and ZANU PF. President Mugabe is inherently insecure and forever threatened by fear of the unknown. As we remember Samora Machel, Zimbabweans must stand firm in defence of the ideals of the liberation struggle and independence which the genuine heroes fought so hard to achieve. We should defend the legacy of all departed comrades who fought for real freedom, not for the freedom of one family and a few cronies.  

The war of liberation was not an individual struggle
For ZANU PF they have forgotten that the liberation struggle was not an individual, or a one party struggle but rather it as to free all the masses of our people from the yoke of dictatorship under a racist imperial white settler regime. The recent political developments are just but an indication that ZANU PF is a self-serving party which has used the liberation narrative as an excuse to stay in power. Various political formations, the youth movement, civil society, trade unions have since independence decried the economic decay, underdevelopment which has had to accompany political liberation. Sadly, a majority of Zimbabweans have left the country and are scattered all over the globe because of oppression, economic exclusion as people are still trapped in the poverty and starvation that existed under colonial domination. President Samora Machel’s warning indeed cautioned of what we are experiencing under a self-serving leader. Mugabe’s rule has been characterised by dictatorship, patronage and extremely intolerant forms of leadership. His inability to persuade and politically convince those that disagree with him, has resorted to use of force and coercion as his leadership style.

A tale of two liberation movements
There is no doubt that Mugabe has been the biggest curse that Zimbabwe has ever got, his empty rhetoric as the champion of black empowerment has remained on his mouth. Since ZANU PF got another mandate after the ‘resounding’ victory in 2013, the party has dismally failed to transform Zimbabwe through their ill-fated ZIMASSET blueprint which has since gathered dust. The party’s obsession with elections is worrisome as if a new mandate in 2018 would translate to a new order of development and economic recovery. Mugabe like all ancestral spirits who from time to time need appeasement through traditional rituals, has become a living ancestor who, despite facing no challenge from within his party needs regular endorsement to reaffirm that that he is the ultimate leader of ZANU PF. For example they have already indicated that the party is going for an extraordinary congress in December to ‘endorse’ Mugabe as the party’s candidate and centre of power. It is all about him and he wants the limelight, as described by Machel. The useless conferences by ZANU PF clearly show that they are out of touch with reality and should however take a leaf from their all-weather friends the Chinese Communist Party, who had their congress these past days.  
While ZANU is gathering for a special congress to ‘endorse’ Mugabe, the CPC’s congress was highlighting the successes that the party has made since their last congress. The congress report recorded China’s average annual growth rate of over 7 percent, which contributing more than 30 percent on average to world economic growth. Under the CPC leadership, China created more than 13 million new jobs annually for four consecutive years between 2013 and 2016. China Daily also reported that new jobs created in the first 18 months of 2017 stood at 9.74 million are some of the highlights from China. Since 2013, China has lifted 66 million Chinese people– equivalent to the population of France –out of poverty. They have benefited from the Targeted-Poverty-Alleviation strategy put forward by Chinese President Xi Jinping. Under the strategy, China aims to lift 10 million people out of poverty each year, and is expected to reach the goal of “eliminating poverty in China by 2020. The congress also outlined China's future development at a new historical starting point and indicates the effects the country's development will have on the world.  Xi Jinping’s talk of the China Dream should inspire ZANU PF and President Mugabe to lead us to the Zimbabwe dream. A Zimbabwe dream that should in it carries the aspirations of the masses. However, I should say that Mugabe doesn’t have any Zimbabwe dream but a Mugabe dream as he has literally become a life president.

 A big lesson for ZANU PF is that congresses are not for rituals to endorse the ‘the ancestor’ but rather an opportunity to articulate strategies and tactics, providing a programmatic and methodological guide for any serious movement that seeks to develop the country. ZANU PF seems lost; theirs is about power, and power to One Man, chastised by Samora as a selfish individual who shouldn’t have been given any leadership role of that magnitude.


Blessing Vuvuzela Vava is a blogger based in Chipinge. He can be contacted on blessingvava@gmail.com

Monday, 21 August 2017

Thinking Beyond MDC-99: Some Notes on Designing Winning Coalitions



Blessing Vava**

The defeat of the opposition by ZANU PF in the 2013 plebiscite eroded the once vibrant power of the opposition. Since that heavy defeat of the MDC-T, the ruling party ZANU PF has been consolidating its support base to an extent that pundits have already predicted a landslide win for the liberation movement in 2018. Yet, benign to the so-called resurgence of ZANU PF are internecine struggles and convulsions that make it vulnerable to its own self-engineered demise. With endless splits, the once vibrant movement, the MDC-T has been reduced into a ‘pressure group’ that now needs to rejuvenate itself and undergo a serious metamorphic phase to reclaim its lost glory. As a mitigating measure, the opposition has forged an alliance in the hope that they will field a single candidate under the auspices of the MDC Alliance, with Morgan Tsvangirai as its sole candidate. 

The Need for Numbers that Matter.

 In so doing, the opposition is responding to the reality that ZANU PF is a colossal animal that requires all forces to unite and confront it in the upcoming elections.
High school reunion of 1999 boys?

The default logic of politics is that the numbers matter at the end of the day and the fact that they have coalesced means that they need numbers. However, the critical question that has to be asked is whether the MDC alliance will bring the numbers that matter as argued by McDonald Lewanika, a London School of Political Science Doctoral Researcher in Gravitas Vol 1 Issue 2 of 2017. Lewanika observes that:

             In the final analysis, an opposition coalition alone may be necessary but       
             insufficient to lead the opposition to victory, and a coalition of opposition  
             parties, which doesn’t take on board broader societal interests, and interest   
             groups in urban and rural areas may be doomed to fail. Opposition parties     
             can fail to garner the numbers that matter for defeating ZANU-PF if they
             do not accede to the reality that putting together a winning coalition may
             entail moving beyond the limited space of political parties to encompass
             other social and economic interest groups, in urban and rural areas.

The fundamental lesson learnt is that coalitions are the key to electoral success for opposition parties but at the same time designing a winning coalition needs to consider diverse and complex interests rather than simple arithmetic reductionism. The idea of coalitions ahead of an electoral process is not a new phenomenon, a glance in many parts of the continent can attest to the value of cooperation by the opposition movement and building alliances to achieve common goals. There are many examples in Africa, where the opposition have 3 successfully coalesced to defeat the incumbent and some cases are instructive: Gambia (2016), Nigeria (2015), Lesotho (2012 and 2015), Senegal (2000 and 2012), Benin (2006) and Kenya post-2002. In these cases, the coalitions were successful because, they designed alliances that were informed by and based on the different social classes composing their societies. It is my contention that the recent coalition signing ceremony that happened in Harare on the 5th of August 2017 was nothing short of a high school reunion laced with pomp, fun fare and hot air rather than any heat to melt the hegemon or dominance of ZANU PF. The event which drew a significant crowd failed to restore hope amongst many Zimbabweans who yearn for a better alternative to end ZANU PF’s decades of misrule. In my view, the coming together of these ‘former’ comrades was nothing much to write home about. In much simpler terms, it was just an elite pact or rather a high school reunion of 1999 boys and a congregate of the banqueting; simply rearranging chairs. In reality, they took the prefects to the banquet and forgot the students from the classes (society). There is a lot of work to be done if that said coalition is to see the light of the day.

 Names Matter: Where is the New Zimbabwe Alliance?

Firstly, the name itself ‘MDC Alliance’ is not inspiring at all, it is trapped in the nostalgia of history, in particular 1999 and in this case, they could have sought Job Sikhala’s permission to run under the rubric MDC 99. I do not doubt he would have accented. However, the only danger of this strategy is that in as much it will send a clear message of the terms of the reunion, it will be oblivious to Professor Brian Raftopoulos’ observation of the reconfigured political economy and calls for new forms of organising. In addition, it becomes exclusive to the present realities that there are now new kids on the block such as Zimbabwe People’s First, National People’s Party, citizens’ movements and new voting demographics, thus becomes limited in attracting the numbers that matter in designing a winning coalition. Naming and branding are very important in politics and the coalition needed a name that unites the people and at the same time a name that gives the people hope. Branding is all about appealing to peoples’ dreams. Politics is all about selling hope to a people. Political branding is gaffe-prone territory. It is a delicate operation where missteps and unplanned moments can spell political doom. This is indeed homework for the coalition. Maybe, The New Zimbabwe Alliance may have helped in giving a national outlook and as well as aspiration for a better tomorrow, thus sending a clear, simple and straightforward message that can easily resonate and at the same time energise the masses. Secondly, the speeches by the principals were nothing but hot air with the usual rhetoric of ‘Mugabe must go’ and massaging inflated egos of the politicians without proffering a clear framework on how to solve the economic political impasse engulfing the nation. There was a sense of insincerity and it shows that the leaders are not coalesced around certain ideological principles, a shared national vision which is more than the Mugabe must go rhetoric. With allegations that the donors were behind this coalition, it already paints a bad picture on part of the leaders as greedy people who are driven by their own material conditions. Coalitions should not be formed because the donors have said so, but they should be formed on the basis of the people’s aspirations.

Forget Makarau and Think People.

 As it stands the coalition has failed to inspire hope and questions which we might have to ask are: What has changed and what is new, in the wake of the same political players that failed to unseat Mugabe whilst still united? Whilst there is much talk about electoral reforms and emphasis on transforming Justice Rita Makarau’s ZEC; it has to be borne in mind that ZANU PF has already declared that it will not reform itself out of power and any over-investment or over-reliance on that strategy is tantamount to chasing a waterfall. Without the much talked about electoral reforms, what is the strategy of the Alliance in as far as ensuring pacification of the margin of fear and margin of rigging? I would hasten to say that the MDC Alliance might need to go back to the founding documents of that movement of 1999 in Gwanzura, as those are still as relevant as today. The National Working Peoples Convention and documents like ‘Beyond ESAP’ clearly articulated a shared vision of the mass democratic movements, the working class, the churches, students and other social classes of our broader society. In the same vein, the MDC Alliance needs to go beyond the 1999 analytic lens and realise that there are other new social classes such as, rank marshals and touts, Kombi drivers and operators, artisanal miners, vendors, new farmers, millennials, cross border traders, and the new citizens’ movements amongst many other existing groups or that may emerge.

 Sincere Reconciliation is the Foundation for Democratic Politics

Thirdly, one can get the sense that there was a lot of hypocrisy and if not grandstanding of the highest order especially from the likes of MDC leader Welshman Ncube, who chose to trivialise his speech by ‘apologising’ to the people of Zimbabwe. One wonders what exactly the law professor was apologising for, when in reality his departure from the united MDC was a genuine expression of the lack of internal party democracy under the leadership of Morgan Tsvangirai. Perhaps, the professor might need to tell us what has changed now? The need to forge a coalition is more than just the call for Mugabe to go, but rather it is about bringing a new politics and forms of governance practices that are pro-people and different to ZANU PF’s anti-people politics. It is about delivering social services and a better life to people as well as ending corruption, but above all the coalition should provide a framework on how they envisage taking the country forward. Fourthly, this coalition is not a sincere move but rather it is just meant to address short-term goals of ‘Mugabe going’ rather than to inculcate enduring democratic reform agenda. Instead of the opposition coalescing around a shared vision, ideological underpinnings and principles that will provide a democratic narrative to salvage Zimbabwe, the parties in Zimbabwe are opportunistic vehicles for their own selfish ends. It is just a coalition of individuals without an organic mass movement enough to bring confidence and building the numbers for the coming elections. There is need for the coalition to extend beyond the existing political parties and an elite civil society comprising of individuals who dominated the proceedings at the launch.

Realism Helps

Fifthly, there is an issue of the spoilers: small man with a big man syndrome in the mould of PDP Secretary General Gorden Moyo who is exhibiting shocking levels of infantile radicalism. While his principal Tendai Biti has shown commitment to be part of the coalition, Moyo is busy packing emotions as science and objective reality. Moyo should know that good English and rhetoric is not the same as having the numbers. He and his lot need to be patient, otherwise they face the wrath of history and run the risk of perishing. The painful reality for the other small parties is acknowledging that at least for now there are two political homes in Zimbabwe: Morgan Tsvangirai and Robert Mugabe and the rest will remain shadows for now. Nevertheless, this is no blank cheque for the MDC-T to be arrogant but a call to leadership and exercise magnanimity by realising that all creatures great and small matter. However, it has to be noted that the opposition coalition will have a twofold objective outlined in the perking order and weight below in the 2018 elections. The numeric power that is needed is firstly, to dislodge ZANU PF from power and this is the most primary objective and best-case scenario. Secondly, is to reduce ZANU PF’s two-thirds parliamentary dominance, i.e. capacity to amend the constitution in the legislature and to defend the zones of autonomy as part of withering authoritarianism. The question of Mugabe going is now a question of Nigerian Novelist Dan Fulani’s “God’s Case: No Appeal”. If he wins the 2018 election, the constitution will not allow the nonagenarian to run again for office in 2023, assuming God is gracious with time and life to him, thus this is likely Mugabe’s last dance as president of  Zimbabwe. If he decides to run again in 2023, Mugabe may not rig the biological life circle of a human being; his day is now a matter of time and the tale-tale signs have started creeping in. That day will certainly change the dynamics of our politics. For doubters, a reading of Malawian and Zairean history will give us lessons on how Africa’s former strongmen tumbled from grace in their last days: Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda and Mobutu Sese Seko Wazabanga.

This article first appeared in the Gravitas Edition on Coalition Politics

**Blessing Vava is a Zimbabwean blogger based in Chipinge. He can be contacted on blessingvava@gmail.com. Twitter: @blevava