MNANGAGWA CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE IF HE WANTS TO
...Is Zimbabwe missing an opportunity for nation building?
A month ago, Zimbabweans were in a euphoric mood. The brutal dictatorship of Mugabe had fallen. He fell at the hands of one of his own, in a military coup that was not a military coup. It has been described as a “smart coup”. Otherwise how else do you describe a coup in which the President still performs Presidential functions while still a prisoner? A coup in which the popular masses rose and were one with the army? and a coup that is legally defined by the courts as not a coup? For once, Zimbabwe scored a first.
We were united by the Fall of Mugabe
The fall of Mugabe united the nation like never before. ZANU-PF, Civil society, War Veterans,, vendors, MDC and other opposition formations, black and white Zimbabweans, religious or atheist, all celebrated Mugabe’s fall, bound by the realization that he had become an albatross around the neck of the people and the nation. Mugabe ran down the economy and created a nation of joblessness. He hated opposition, dissent, democracy, and anything progressive. He rewarded his cronies with access to the gravy train of state resources, creating a kleptocracy unparalleled in modern day history. He thrived on dividing people, creating a Stalinist dependency of the have-nots on the haves. If you want to gain access to power, influence and wealth, you sing praise to the emperor, even if this means selling your soul to the devil. His fall was thus one of the most welcome national developments to have taken place in Zimbabwe since independence. It united the people of Zimbabwe like never before.
A month later, Mugabe was swiftly replaced by his Vice President and longtime confidant, Emerson Mnangagwa, in a ZANU-PF fast-tracked process of impeachment pressure, and a hasty Mnangagwa endorsement by the ZANU-PF Central Committee. Mnangagwa went on to be inaugurated President at an occasion that was as non-partisan as it was national. In his inauguration speech and subsequent official statements and utterances, Mnangagwa hit the right cords that resonated with the generality of the populace. He vowed to revive the economy that Mugabe had run to the ground. He said he wanted to create jobs, and re-engage with the international community and end Zimbabwe’s status as a pariah state.
The honeymoon is over
It appears, however, that the unity and euphoria that greeted Mugabe’s departure has dissipated as fast as it had come. ZANU-PF and the opposition in Zimbabwe seem to be digging into their entrenched unhealthy parallel positions of political contestation. Their eyes are on the next elections set for July or August 2018. At best Zimbabweans are behaving like the couple that just lives together and are so used to each other that the relationship has cooled off to a brother-sister affair. At worst, we are back to throwing brickbats at each other and highlighting what divides us rather than what unites us.
I have an uneasy feeling of déjà vu on what this bodes for the country.
The Missed opportunity
From a national interest and nation-building point of view, I think Mnangagwa could have built for himself an unassailable national stature if he had created a national unity Government to take him through the rest of Mugabe’s tenure. He didn’t have to do it ( as indeed he didn’t), but if he did, he would have perhaps rendered the opposition weaker than it already is and probably made elections next year a foregone conclusion in his favour.
Instead, he appointed a cabinet that was a ZANU-PF affair and went on to reward handsomely the military that helped him acquire power. He systematically sidelined all those that were seen to be in the G40 camp, the likes of Sydney Sekeramayi, Walter Mzembi and others. Those who were the cog of the G40 such as Ignatius Chombo, Savior Kasukuwere and Jonathan Moyo are either in exile or in prison.
Militarization of government
Talking about the new role of the military in Mnangagwa’s government, one would be forgiven for being wary of the men in uniform transforming themselves into civilian administrations.
Is ED suggesting that the men in uniform are schooled in the art and science of running a government? Or is it more of rewarding the military for putting him into power? Either way, it raises concerns as to the motives. What does an Air Marshall know about Agriculture? And how good is a soldier who announced a coup to be the country's top diplomat (Foreign Minister)? Is it right that this is the man who speaks for the government with foreign leaders?
By its very nature, the military has a command structure and is not famous for democratic values. Check all regimes that are sustained by the military the world over- in North Korea, in Venezuela, in Myanmar- and the words democracy and the rule of law are not close to them. It is also not lost on us that it is the military that had sustained Mugabe for all the years, running his election campaign, and denying the people the victory on the plebiscite as was the case in 2008.
There has been talk that Mnangagwa wanted to include members of the opposition in his Government, and indeed made approaches to them to that effect. This has however not been verified, and the opposition itself has denied it. If indeed Mnangagwa had made the gesture, he should have done so openly and publicly as there is clear political mileage for him from such a stately act of magnanimity.
Having the opposition in his government would have turned out to be witty political craftsmanship. First, the opposition itself was already weak, riddled by political infighting characterized by numerous breakaway parties. With Tsvangirai indisposed due to ill health, no credible leader with the numbers was worth talking about. Chances are the opposition would have joined, to save themselves from crumbling further. This would have been another smart “coup”. For someone so schooled in the art of smart coups, I don’t know how ED missed this one.
Second, Mnangagwa is coming into power carrying the label of Mugabe. He needs to demonstrate and prove to the people of Zimbabwe that he is his own man, and any liabilities by association are either misplaced or outrightly unfounded. Having been Mugabe’s Vice President at a time Mugabe’s dictatorship was at its rabid worst, it is normal for people to be wary of Mnangagwa and ask themselves whether things have changed. Indeed some who never wanted to give him a chance to prove himself to be his own man has said the head is the same, what has changed is the haircut.
Third, and more importantly, having the opposition formations would have made the removal of Mugabe a national people’s revolution and would be making the Mnangagwa Presidency more national than it is today. This is important for the nation, which has known nothing but divisive politics of Mugabe and ZANU-PF. It would have made people pose and look, not at ZANU-PF and its character, but its new leader and what he stands for. As he said at his inauguration, he wants to be President of everybody, not just ZANU-PF supporters. People in Zimbabwe had reached the stage where they did not care about the colour of the cat, so long it catches mice.
The ZANU-PF Congress and the retreat to the trenches
The just ended ZANU-PF congress did nothing to allay concerns that the party intends to run affairs of state the ZANU-PF way. The party seems more united than ever before. All those suspended by Mugabe and the G40 have been allowed back into the party, with all suspensions nullified. The War Veterans have reclaimed their rightful place in the party, and have been handsomely rewarded for standing up to Mugabe (and for Mnangagwa) at a time no one else dared to show what appeared to be foolish bravery. The likes of Chris Mutsvangwa hold pride of place in the Government, with him as Advisor to the President and his wife a resident Minister. Matemadanda has also been rewarded with a deputy ministerial post in the War Veterans portfolio. I only hope these guys do not change the stance and inclusive nationalistic language they had adopted that endeared them to many Zimbabweans, I included. I have contended before, that if anyone can reform ZANU-PF, it is the War Veterans in the mould of Mutsvangwa and Matemadanda. Because I genuinely believe these guys have the nation at heart.
ZANU- PF is wooing its old party stalwarts, and there is talk of Rugare Gumbo rejoining the party. Temba Mliswa, independent MP for Norton, is likely to be on his way back. By the way, lest it is forgotten, Mliswa’s victory in Norton had as much to do with the support of MDC as it had with his own organizational skills. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be having that parliamentary platform from which he is shining and is now being called brave. At this rate of reclamation, there is no guarantee that the likes of Joice Mujuru will not be approached, and abandon the opposition trenches and rejoin the revolutionary party. After all, as Jonathan Moyo once said, “its cold out there”.
So, ZANU –PF is regrouping, and they have a new sense of energy. In this spirit, they don’t need anyone to give them legitimacy. They could as well have replaced the Jah Prayzah Congress song“Kutonga Kwaro” With Frank Sinatra’s “I will do it my way.”
Therein lies the sadness. The ZANU way of ruling is a very worrying way. After 37 years, no one trusts the ZANU-PF way. It is self – centred, intolerant to dissent, and built on a doctrine of infallibility and the right to rule forever. As Mnangagwa himself has said before if you dream that one-day ZANU PF is no longer in power, “muka ubike doro”. It comes with a certain arrogance that is too much the character of some still in higher echelons of the party. One recalls Patrick Chinamasa in the wake of the ouster of Mugabe saying ZANU-PF does not need the opposition to rule, and the removal of Mugabe is an internal ZANU-PF affair. He was called to order by Mutsvangwa. Such hawkish language and the building of a national ethos are anathemas to each other.
The Zimbabwe Opposition, reading for a fight
It is the irony of fate that the Zimbabwean opposition gained a lease of life from the circumstances leading to the overthrow of Mugabe. Prior to that, they were a pathetic lot of visionless groups bent on splintering at any and every occasion. The largest opposition, MDC led by Tsvangirai, has a sick leader, whom many rightly believe should call it a day and leave leadership to younger and more energetic cadres. The party admitted through its Secretary-General that it is not ready for elections, and is poorly funded. The ascendancy of Mnangagwa threw the opposition a lifeline. They started demanding from his political and economic reforms with greater force than they had done with Mugabe. The reason was simple. During his Central Committee speech, Mnangagwa pleaded for the lifting of sanctions by the West. He made it clear he needed the support of the international community to turn the economy around, and vowed a “robust engagement process" and measures to make Zimbabwe "a place where capital feels safe” and said that the government will do all in its power to make sure the election in 2018 is “credible, free and fair”
The international community had withdrawn its support precisely because of the lack of political and economic reforms in the country. The opposition had suddenly found not just an ally, but a renewed raison d’etat.
The regrouping of the opposition.
In a democracy, the business of the opposition is to keep the government in check and to aspire to be the next government. Therefore, when they engage government on issues of governance and political and economic reform, they are engaging in a legitimate exercise of their political enterprise.
The formation of the MDC Alliance is for all intense and purposes a reincarnation of the former MDC that gave ZANU-PF a run for its money. The Alliance now has the same faces that gave ZANU-PF a hard time in the past, with the likes of Tendai Biti and Welshman Ncube once again teaming up with Tsvangirai. I see the MDC Alliance as some form of regrouping of what worked before, based on the lessons of the failures of the project to go separate ways.
Deep distrust of ZANU-PF
In Zimbabwe, the opposition sees this regrouping in ZANU-PF as a serious threat to democracy and holds all statements of holding free and fair elections by the Mnangagwa leadership as hollow and empty. There is an understandable belief that ZANU-PF is incapable of reforming itself and that no promises of support and engagement with the Zimbabwean government should be made by the international community on the basis of platitudes without tangible proof of such reform. There are those in the opposition like Tendai Biti who believe that Mnangagwa is not a reformer, and they look back to his track record in Government and some of his statements regarding the right of ZANU-PF to rule forever as evidence that he cannot for example reform the electoral process to provide a level playing field. Remember it was not long ago that Jonathan Moyo had publicly admitted at a debate in Bulawayo that ZANU-PF would never reform itself out of power.
For this reason, the opposition has taken the route to apply maximum pressure on Mnangagwa. This approach has one central purpose. To force Mngangagwa to walk the talk, and prove that he is not Mugabe and is his own man. If the opposition can get that concession, then the opposition is doing what the opposition should be doing.
It is in this context that the visit to the US Congress in Washington by the MDC Alliance opposition delegation needs to be seen.
Opposition address to the US Senate
On 12 December 2017, a powerful MDC Alliance team including Nelson Chamisa, Tendai Biti, and Welshman Ncube addressed the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy. According to the team, the essence of their address to the subcommittee was to tie the US normalization of relations and re-engagement with Zimbabwe and the Mnangagwa regime to a return to true legitimacy, constitutionalism, and the rule of law. Tied to these broad changes are the electoral reforms; restoration of civilian rule, institutional and political reforms, in particular alignment of laws to the constitution, and the restoration of the social contract between the government and its people.
This was a daring move by the opposition. First, they have drawn the line in the sand on Mnangagwa and served to warn that they will take him on as far as creating democratic space and good governance are concerned, just the way they had taken on Mugabe, albeit without success. Second, they re-established their relevance as an opposition, which many had started to question in the face of an unyielding scorched earth policy by Mugabe, who did not care two hoots what the international consequences of his internal policies and positions were.
Some have criticized the opposition for taking this apparent belligerent position so soon, most of them being the avid supporters of Mnangagwa of course. They have labelled the opposition unpatriotic, impatient and lackeys of the West. If indeed sanctions are maintained as a result thereof, the old Mugabe excuse for the lack of development will be blamed squarely on the opposition, they opine.
These were the risks the opposition were taking. I too regret this move, though I fully understand. I regret because this is a missed opportunity for Zimbabweans to learn a different kind of politics; of cooperation and collaboration, as is the case in other democracies where party lines do not necessarily create parallel rail tracks that shall never meet. Coalitions are the order of the day.
It seems the two parties that united to get rid of Mugabe are digging into their parallel trenches and all signs are of the same ugly paths of political contestations but are based on the typically Zimbabwean zero-sum-game approach.
I still think this was something within the power of Mnangagwa to have avoided if he wanted to.
Is Mnangagwa really different from Mugabe?
I have covered Mnangagwa in a number of my previous articles. The coverage has been more positive than negative. The simple reason for doing so is that I have chosen to be driven by hope rather than despair, which has characterized my whole life since I was born under the regime of Robert Mugabe. But a feature of my characterization of him has been that he is an enigma. There is an air of mysticism about him that makes it difficult to put him in particular box. There are however attributes about him that people have vouched for. That he is a performer; he is results focused. That he really wants to turn around the economy and create a legacy for himself.
These are huge positives, but they all reside within the sphere of economics. When you cross to the political terrain, they say he is a schemer, a hardliner, and when it comes to power is Machiavellian.
Weighing against Mnangagwa’s credentials as a reformer and a Democrat is his past associations with the Matabeleland Gukurahundi and associations with election violence in the past where opposition members were murdered. And of course, the mere association with Mugabe is in itself toxic.
His past notwithstanding, Mnangagwa has in the past one month demonstrated a seriousness of purpose in organizing Government that those born at independence have never seen before. I covered some of the positives in my article “Mnangagwa's First Seven Days In Office; read (https://thelmachikwanha.blogspot.fr/2017/12/mnangagwas-first-seven-days-in-office.html).
There are the low hanging fruits. The Police are off the roads and no longer harassing people. It is not substantive but it has meaningful symbolism and real relief for the motoring public. He has iced this cake by relieving the unpopular Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri who had overstayed his welcome. Mnangagwa has also shown a determination to deal with matters of corruption. During the ZANU-PF Congress, he threatened to name and shame those who have externalized funds and gave them a Moratorium until end of March 2018.This was unheard of during the Mugabe era. Symbolisms of frugality and business mindedness were seen in the slashing of time and budget of the ZANU-PF Congress, and the mergers and reductions in the size of cabinet.
Then there are promises being made to the outside world, promises to re-engage, promises to hold credible elections, promises to make Zimbabwe a safe home for investments and investors. If fulfilled, we have to give credit to Mnangagwa for this, as Mugabe would never do it.
But promises are not the same as reality. Politicians are known to speak with forked tongues. But in the case of Mnangagwa, the world is watching. He needs to understand that the doubts by the opposition and even the international community are understandable, and founded on his past record and the behaviour of his party.
Can Mnangagwa be the F. W. de Klerk of Zimbabwe?
While we approach the Mnangagwa era with bated breath and an abundance of caution, it is in line with the desires and hopes for change that we give him the benefit of the doubt and hope for the best. History has shown that sometimes the most radical of change can come from within. In South Africa, Frederik Willem de Klerk who served as President of South Africa from 1989 to 1994 undid all the apartheid laws and led the negotiations that resulted in the release of Nelson Mandela, and the elections that resulted in black majority rule in 1994. Yet he came from the same Nationalist Party that brought in apartheid. He was humble enough to serve as Deputy President for two years between 1994 and 1996.
In Russia, it was the reforms initiated by Mikhail Gorbachev since assuming power in 1985 that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. This was a Union that had been in existence since the Russian revolution in 1917. He initiated glasnost (political openness) and perestroika (economic restructuring).Yet Gorbachev came from the all-powerful Communist Party that ruled the Soviet Union.
History tells us it can be done. It only takes the will to do it.
The buck stops with Mnangagwa
What this all means is that it is people rather than institutions that change things. ZANU-PF is just an institution, and it takes men of will and resolve to change even institutions, and these changes are most enduring if they come from within. This is why the removal of Mugabe has been smooth. It came from within ZANU-PF.
If you look at ZANU-PF now, the lot who are in it looks like sheep looking for a shepherd. Not long ago they all parroted Mugabe’s destructive policies, and started every meeting with “Pamberi na President Robert Gabriel Mugabe”. As soon as he fell, they were all lampooning his very actions, and are queuing to sing praises of Mnangagwa and sloganeering in his name.
Mnangagwa can transform ZANU-PF if he wants to. The question is, does he want to? If the change fails to come to Zimbabwe, I for one will not put the blame on ZANU-PF as a party but on Mnangagwa himself. He is riding high right now and can dictate to the party the direction and culture he expects the party to adopt.
Will he be our F W de Klerk? Will he be our Mikhail Gorbachev? We will know in the coming nine months.
In the meantime, you are better advised to sleep with one eye open.
And, By the way
Did you follow the happenings at the ZANU-PF Congress when both Chinamasa and Simon Kaya Moyo, stood up to address crowds, and in turn said, “Pamberi na President Robert, Gabriel……. Ahhh na President Mnangagwa.”? This happened in front of Mnangagwa himself. Two of those big men making the same mistake. Goes to show how effective parroting is.
I see this worrying tendency towards hero worshipping a leader will never leave ZANU-PF. The party regalia now bears the face of Mnangagwa. Can he be different and stop this personification of power and leadership?
There is a brother (by the name Hlomenkuku Mnondo Mgijima) who wrote an article pleading with ZANU-PF to end the “pasi na xxxxxx “in its sloganeering. I want to say Amen to you brother! It is alleged that Oppah Muchinguri even said “Pasi na Joice Mujuru”. Seriously!!! A whole Chairperson of ZANU-PF? I raised the same in one of my previous articles. This is not democracy, and it doesn’t further the spirit of nation-building.
This has to STOP. And it should start with the President, with his perceived Mhanduuuuuu in our midst.
AND finally finally!!.
I wonder what Madam STOP IT is up to these days.