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Friday, 9 March 2012

We are not Stone Throwers Mr Prime Minister

Too comfortable-MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai too
comfortable to engage the streets

By Blessing Vava
In the previous weeks I wrote an article on my blog, headlined; A pen alone cannot  remove Mugabe and ZANU PF from power,’ a controversial piece which did not go down well with some MDC fanatics. My argument was that it will not be easy for Robert Mugabe and his party ZANU PF to cede power easily after losing an election. In the same line i suggested that in that case the MDC should be prepared to flood the streets and force Mugabe and his cabal out like what we have witnessed in other progressive African countries. Some critics argued that Zimbabweans are streets shy and are afraid of being crushed if they engage the streets. But in any case wherever in the world a violent response and resistance should be expected when you challenge a dictatorship.  But that should not deter citizens who want to free themselves from a dictatorship government that does not respect democratic processes like the one we have in Zimbabwe.  

Radical-File photo of Tsvangirai during his
days at the ZCTU
 If there is serious coordination and mobilisation no sane   Zimbabwean would not want to join a march that wants Mugabe out. Mugabe has become a liability to this country and no one wants him anymore. Change is something that is difficult to accept. And all dictators use fear amongst citizens as a weapon to stay in power. How they fear an organised citizenry and that’s the reason why ZANU PF crafted laws like POSA which bars a certain number of people to gather and also that you have to report any meeting to the police prior to its conduct. Do you think that if a million Zimbabweans are to march to state house today his security forces will open fire? NO I doubt that very much. Even in the late 90s when civic society groups namely the workers and students engaged the streets demanding better wages, salaries and a new constitution the regime succumbed to such pressure. Mugabe is different from Gaddafi he will never open fire to protesters unless he now suffers a mental problem. He is one man who thrives on fear using his intelligence officers and not direct violent response like that of Gaddafi.

So my argument that a mass protest to force Mugabe out is so far one of the best options  if he fails  to accept a defeat in the elections.  In that regard I however found remarks attributed to Morgan Tsvangirai in today’s Herald titled ‘I’m not a revolutionary:  Tsvangirai,’ quite disturbing. The story is based on an interview Mr Tsvangirai had with BBC while in South Africa. He suggests that the struggle is in three phases, one that of throwing stones, secondly the negotiations-GPA and lastly transition. He further suggests that the era of throwing stones is now over, literally translated he is saying he will not engage the streets anymore and that now it’s time for transition from ZANU PF to MDC.  Mr Prime Minister are you saying that during those years when you led millions of workers protesting about their rights, better living conditions and a new constitution you were a stone thrower? Mr Tsvangirai should be careful when using symbolism because  he faces the danger of being quoted and misinterpreted to ZANU's expedience.

Throwing stones might have different meanings, to me stone throwing was a game that we used to play in the rural areas when we were herding cattle. This was usually done at the river. It is also usually associated with student confrontational politics without any worry about the consequences. We were never stone throwers all those Zimbabweans you led during your time in the labour union are not and were not stone throwers but serious and responsible citizens who protested for better living and working  conditions in a Zimbabwe that is governed properly. So if surely what he said to the BBC reporter  are his own words then its rather unfortunate for Tsvangirai to suggest that he was a stone thrower.

ZANU PF, though unpopular are a serious political party who have mastered the art of not accepting results of elections when they have lost. Zimbabweans last voted freely for ZANU PF in 1995 and since then they have been manipulating the electoral processes in their favour so that they continue ruling. Again they will lose the next elections but it won’t be surprising to see them controlling the key components of the state. The MDC should wake up in its slumber and engage the common man in the streets if they are to take over from ZANU PF.

The question is what will the MDC do in the event that ZANU PF does not accept a defeat in the elections? They have already indicated that the streets, negotiations have passed and we are now in transition, we are yet to see if we are indeed going to transcend.  They continue falling in ZANU PF’s silly traps, how they were duped into entering a unity government which initially was said to be a power sharing only to realise that they had ‘imaginary’ powers. Even now they were made to believe that we are in a transition, a transition to where? We are not in a transition ZANU PF is just buying time and they are not going anywhere. Zvazviri!

Thursday, 8 March 2012


By Blessing Vava & Terrence Chimhavi
His song corruption was banned-Exiled musician
Chimurenga Music legend Thomas Mapfumo

Exiled Chimurenga Music legend Thomas Mapfumo is a fiery musician whose music inspired guerrilla fighters during Zimbabwe’s struggle for independence.  A fearless and courageous figure who composed a catalogue of songs  that made him a target of the colonialist government and many a times he found himself  in brushes with law enforcement agents. In the post independent Zimbabwe, Mapfumo or Gandanga as he is affectionately  known,  continued speaking out boldly against social, economic  and political injustices which were now being witnessed in a free Zimbabwe. And in 1989, his smash hit album ‘Corruption’ was banned by the government because the lyrics contained in the song ‘corruption’ were deemed  incorrect by a new black administration who seemed to have  forgotten why they fought a racist government which only favoured a white minority.   The song corruption was produced at the heat of the infamous Willowgate scandal involving cabinet ministers. In the song Mapfumo warned, ‘you can’t get away with corruption watch out my friend they gonna get you, you can’t run away from justice.’  Such was the courage of Mapfumo and as a result the Willowgate scandal claimed jobs and even the life of one cabinet minister Maurice Nyagumbo, who could not stand the embarrassment after his shady deals had been exposed. May His Soul Rest in Peace.

Chief cuprit in the Willowgate Scandal-the late Maurice
Nyagumbo drank poison on the 28th of April 1989
after his shaddy deals had been exposed
Gold fingered-suspended corrupt Town Clerk
Godfrey Tanyanyiwa
Apart from the likes of Mapfumo and Solomon Skuza  raising awareness to the public about the corrupt activities that our dear government was involved in, the media, through newspapers played a critical role in exposing corruption. Those in university even went to the streets to demonstrate against corruption at Willowvale.  Remember the famous demonstrations at UZ by the likes of Arthur Mutambara and Enock Chikweche to mention but a few. All these efforts to a certain extent made corruption a topical subject in Zimbabwe and  indeed, in the years to come ZANU PF paid dearly. Now, like 1987 and with a unity government corruption seems to have taken its toll and like fashion, everyone is wearing it.  It is now a cancer that has been proving difficult to cure. Every day you have to pay an extra dollar than the required for goods or services because of corruption.  Those who are supposed to watch over us have turned to be the biggest threats and cannibals who prey on human flesh for their survival. The fighters of crime have become the biggest perpetrators.

From local to central government, the police and private sector, civic society, corruption is now very rampant and sadly those whom we have given responsibility to run the government are now the biggest culprits. Corruption has seriously affected the smooth running of government and the ordinary Zimbabweans continue bearing the brunt. The 2010 Transparency International corruption index ranked Zimbabwe on number 134. It should be noted that a majority of Zimbabweans are generally poor and are living far below the poverty datum line and the gap between the rich and the poor is widening by day. Against such a background the poor are remaining  poor and the rich getting richer. The system of today is such  that  if you have nothing you can’t get anything. If you want a piece of land to build a house you have to bribe, to pass a roadblock, a bribe, to be attended to in hospital you pay a bribe, to get a job, a bribe,  driver’s licence, passports you pay a bribe.

Such is the level of corruption that has swept the corridors of our society. So the question of the day which always troubles one’s mind is how the low-income earners are surviving in this ‘dog eat dog’ affair?  Thirty two years after independence, a majority of Zimbabweans are still landless despite the Harare administration having claimed to have distributed land. One of the reasons why we fought the colonialist government was because of the uneven distribution of the national cake. AND yet that ‘even’ distribution remains a dream. The reason why we continue to have a black elite controlling the prime land, the same way a white elite did, is because the land was corruptly distributed, in this case along political party lines. The same levels of corruption and nepotism have been taken to the indigenization process and it remains to be seen whether anything positive will come out of the process given the corrupt way through which it is being done. Make no mistake, no indigenous person in their right mind would want to wish away the indigenization process, but this must be done in a transparent and open manner, so that it truly benefits the intended beneficiaries – in this case, the black majority who have and continue to represent poverty in our country.

One of the main reasons why the MDC brought so much hope in the people at its formation was its vivid attack on the corruption and nepotism that was now endemic in Zimbabwe. Zimbabweans are naturally not a corrupt lot (like what we hear of in Nigeria or Equatorial Guinea) and this is the reason why ten years before the MDC was formed, Edgar Tekere, then ZUM leader had managed to challenge Mugabe, riding not only on the fight against a one party state but also against the rising levels of corruption in government. And this is also why even against rampant violence, intimidation and forced starvation, many Zimbabweans have braved the Zanu PF onslaught because they honestly believe that the MDC would end this endemic corruption in government.

However, true to the old age Shona adage, ‘makudo ndimamwe’ (baboons are all the same), our politicians have gone on to prove just how much they value self-aggrandizement at the expense of what they campaign for and promise to the electorate – quality service delivery. The levels of corruption that have been exhibited by local councillors in MDC dominated urban and rural councils are shocking and appalling to say the list. So disgusting is the blatant abuse of office and council resources by some of these councillors that you really tend to wonder if these are the leaders that the people of Zimbabwe really think will reverse the Zanu PF-inspired rot when you can hardly distinguish their love for personal gain at the expense of the poor masses. It is no lie and no joke that the majority of Zimbabweans are suffering, having to live life on the wrong side of the poverty datum line and yet there are still politicians in this day and age who think they can just take the people’s vote for granted, simply because the people have expressed that they are fed up with Zanu PF rule.

The MDC can do itself a big favour by fighting corruption, first in its own ranks and then taking this fight to government. The major reason why the MDC currently feels so impotent in fighting the endemic corruption in local and central government is the fact that their own house is not clean in terms of such corrupt tendencies. There are a lot of ‘leaders’ in the MDC who have mastered the art of corruption better than what Zanu PF has been doing. The recent CDF scandal is just a tip of the iceberg, not to mention the Chitungwiza Town Council debacle. It’s a shame! If it is to reclaim its status as a formidable and competent alternative to Zanu PF’s mismanagement of government, it is all-too important that the MDC declares zero-tolerance to corruption within the party itself. Any politician who wishes to rule this country and aspires for the people’s vote should simply declare zero-tolerance to corruption because the honest truth is that Zimbabweans are fed up with this corruption. Nobody wants to pay a dollar more than what they should in essence pay for any service. This should also serve as a clarion  call to the police to desist from corrupt activities and work hard to ensure that this disease is eradicated and that all culprits should be brought to book. For as long as we continue to witness their blatant extortion of money from kombi crews and travellers on our roads, they will remain enemies of the people. For as long as they continue to connive with prosecutors at our courts to release criminals who deserve to be behind bars, the people will not take them seriously. The police ought to be a safety valve against abuse of office and political power by our leaders. If they cannot perform this duty, without fear or favour, then we better not have a police force to talk about. Our current government should at least for once show us that they (as a government) are serious about bettering the lives of Zimbabweans. And there is no better way to prove this than by collectively fighting corruption (and nepotism). It is every Zimbabwean’s responsibility to fight corruption, let’s all join hands for a corrupt free society.

Both authors are from the Committee of the Peoples Charter