Saturday, 13 September 2008

Zanu-PF: Chekumirira hapana!

Zanu-PF: Chekumirira hapana!

Much worse than being a failed state — which is what the western world wishes us to be — is being a postponed state. The latter is needless truancy, and thus more culpable. Since June 27, we have been without a government, although we have had ministers, deputy ministers and ministries.

And of course lately we have acquired a howling Parliament whose legislative trajectory seems defined by howling honourable hooligans. Has all this been necessary? Frankly not, if you ask me. Has it been lawful? Again frankly not, if you ask me.

We have held on to a tenuous clause in the law which exhorts the outgoing Cabinet to hand over to an incoming one. And since there has been none coming in, there has therefore been none to hand over to. This is the tiny skin of lawfulness and legitimacy on which the whole ponderous weight of Government today hangs. But that clause only carries the form — the shell — of Government. It does not carry the hefty weight of its pith.

With no forward-looking Cabinet in place, with no functional Parliament to approve budgets — themselves instruments for realising public policy — precious little is happening inside the State, which means nothing is flowing to the governed by way of goods and services. This in a year of fierce hunger, and thus a year of greatest need, of greatest expectations in respect of the state which must stand in loco parentis? This when clouds begin to gather, skies clearly dimming for the rains? Where are the inputs? How are they going to be procured without the necessary budgetary motions? A-ahh, I fail to grasp this one.

Optional Government?

I state it boldly: panga pasina chekumirira apa; chekumirira panga pasina! Is it being suggested that a needy citizenry can wait, can starve, stare ruin, die even, while politicians size one another, shadow-fence, fortify their intransigence, fumble and find good sound-bites to make such lethal dilation read clever and learned? People can go for so long (with prospects of much longer) without a government they have voted in; services they require and are entitled to? In other words government is optional, not the proverbial necessary, unavoidable evil which it has been known to be in history, itself hotly consequent upon completion of an electoral process? I should have gone to court to press for my constitutional right to be properly and adequately governed.

"We hold the key"

Until Thursday, I was very angry, very angry with the ruling Party, Zanu-PF. It faced a real risk of coming across as either too anxious for peace or, what is worse, as self-doubting. I could be even un-kinder: the ruling party was viewed as beginning to believe that it depended on MDC’s collaborative goodwill for its own legitimacy, never on the people of Zimbabwe who gave it the mandate to form the next government on June 27.

For a party long condemned in the West, one wondered whose goodwill it was angling for. In the estimate of the West, Zanu-PF does no good, fullstop. Was it hoping for approval by the West? Which is what made its open-ended posture soon after June 27 quite frustrating.

The open-ended posture allowed the MDC propaganda space they never dreamt they would one day wield and enjoy under an austere, no-nonsense liberation movement that Zanu-PF has always been known to be. And MDC wasted no time in providing fillers to this ill-gotten hiatus. It means Zanu-PF cannot get anywhere without us; we hold the key; tongai tione, were some of the boasts from little boys in the MDC, mane fully erect. And you cannot run away from this unremitting truth: the MDC froze this country for nearly three months!

Indeed, Tsvangirai showed capacity to harass two powerful presidents, exhibiting a cockiness which invited and got zero retribution. Quite the contrary, it appeared to stress his centrality to settlement. MDC would dare Zanu-PF, goad it as if the once feared and fearful Zanu-PF had become the proverbial anthill hole that once housed a much feared viper, now too shallow even to house chikumbwemuroyi: that harmless singing summer cricket. They dared Mbeki, called him names even, all with loud ululation from across Europe and America. Haa-a! Ironically Tsvangirai may have got and exercised the executive power he needed before the signing. And expended it too. After Monday, he will begin a lonely journey into oblivion.

A change agent called MDC

But these were the obvious dimensions of the contumely. There was much worse. The hiatus became long and uncertain enough to pass for an interregnum, a transition, to use MDC’s favourite political monosyllable. This, added with the hype around the so-called inter-party dialogue, created a national climate that was oppressively foreboding.

With Government at a standstill, social conditions worsening and Tsvangirai playing hard to get, Zimbabweans grew quite desperate for anything that suggested respite, any respite. And they knew that respite could not emerge from the status quo. It implied change, itself another of MDC’s political monosyllables. That foreboding atmosphere was enough good politics for MDC. It created a good psychosis for their politics, with Zanu-PF’s seemingly endless and unconditional accommodation appearing to confirm that change was necessary and would come through a change-agent called MDC.

Thank God, those political purblinds at MDC did not know how to turn this psycho-advantage into decisive, upsetting political capital. Only on Wednesday did the ruling party decide enough was enough, loudly and irreverently threatening "option two" whose content was not difficult for the MDC to guess. And even in Bulawayo, it was clear from the President’s address that Zanu-PF was beginning to mobilise for an aftermath of a no-deal situation.

MDC had overplayed its hand and the situation was now drifting back to hard knuckles.

Bragging by powerful godfathers

Thankfully, the MDC quickly read the situation, and correctly too. They backed down and in a matter of minutes, the deal had been done. It may be puzzling to many why a deal came too soon, so unexpectedly. Frankly from the beginning MDC was always skating on very thin ice, made thinner by the searing September heat. Outflanked in Sandton and non-existent in the countryside, MDC’s powers had been pared down to a single string on its bow: external western support.

To the man, the MDC boasted its influence with the sanctions-imposing western powers, stressing a Government without them would be "a sham", would be without "international" recognition. The brag went further: the economy would not improve, in fact would deteriorate. And their threats were backed up by another round of sanctions measures by Canada which, even though more symbolic than real, still underlined MDC’s powerful godfathers. Until quite late in the whole debate, no one in MDC stopped to reflect on the implications of their argument.

In reality, MDC was indicting itself. It was accepting and proclaiming to the suffering public that it brought and sustains sanctions against the Nation. It was in other words accepting culpability for the widespread suffering endured by every Zimbabwean. While its officials could skim politics out of that suffering, the electorate could not afford to be that abstract and academic. Then on, the psychosis became an odd against the MDC.

Indeed this showed quite abundantly at its Gweru anniversary meeting. In spite of the fact that this was for them a nationwide event and gathering, the party only managed a little more than ten thousand attendees, the majority of them politically diffident. It became clear that the sanctions were generating serious distraught within MDC’s own support base. Add to this the lasting grip Zanu-PF retained after June 27, then you begin to understand why MDC, seemingly at its zenith, in fact was at its most vulnerable.

Better than the cat of nine lives

There was much more. What had given MDC an edge over Zanu-PF in March was the confusion and divisions within the ruling party. After March sobriety returned to Zanu-PF, with even its treacherous ones realising how vulnerable they had become politically. The accommodation they had hoped for from Tsvangirai was no longer forthcoming. Tsvangirai had led and in haughtiness, would not speak to them.

The ability of the ruling party to turn around a trenchantly adverse situation in no time and outside of formal structures of the enervated party, clearly indicated that Zanu-PF stood admired even by the cat reputed to have nine lives.

Here was an extraordinary reconfiguration of organs in ways that no one had even dreamt of, let alone prepared for. And the lesson was not lost to MDC and its western allies: if Zanu-PF can mobilise so quickly so widely, what stops it from fighting forever? Which is why the whole propaganda effort of the West shifted to security structures in the double sense of undermining them or winning them over. And when it came to initial appointments, the President showed he would not entertain rebels and political double-dealers. Let us face it: the initial views which MDC-T was bringing to the negotiating table came from within Zanu-PF, from this rebellious group. Once it was neutralised and consigned to the margins of both Zanu-PF and MDC, the only other external dynamic was that from the West. Attempts by its fake war veteran arm dressed variously, never got anywhere beyond a stupid letter to President Mbeki which the South African President only responded to out of politeness.

This faction within Zanu-PF had promised to pacify and control the security structures for MDC, a promise whose appeal to MDC only served to underline the MDC’s mortal fear of the liberation ethos it could not placate, let alone harness.

Unbridled ambitions,


The other source of the delay owed to MDC-T’s internal dynamics which seemed to grow by the day, feeding into a needless stasis. That outfit has raw, unbridled ambitions, ambitions that will not hesitate to impose needless costs on this society to be appeased. Regarding executive powers, you have the original plan of a prime minister underpinned by two deputy prime ministers from the two MDC formations. That plan came from MDC-T.

Inexplicably, you have a counterproposal to that, again coming from people who made the proposal in the first place! They now wanted two deputy prime minister posts, both to themselves, none given to MDC-M! Don’t you know that Mutambara is mad, they would intimate to Zanu-PF. In fact the MDC-T people make it clear they would rather trade off that offer with a third deputy prime minister from Zanu-PF. The talks were drifting into the terrain of vindictive politics emboldened by little ambitions. History will one day acknowledge that the two formations of MDC badly needed Zanu-PF to save them from each other. People were negotiating with themselves in mind and someday I shall reveal more about who sought what through the dialogue.

An unhappy emperor

Well, we now have some agreement which shall be signed on Monday, hopefully. But the emperor is unhappy and his initial reaction has been cold. In fact Pocock is fuming. He cannot understand why he is out of the loop on this one. In desperation, the British made overtures to the Mutambara group which handled them with coarse African hands. The British have been at odds with the Americans on whether or not Tsvangirai should sign.

The British wanted to ensure their interests are guaranteed by the Government to emerge from the talks. That Government had to undertake to rescind land laws, reverse the land reform process; that Government had to undertake to restore to British companies mining claims already ceded to Russians and Chinese; that Government had to bury the indigenisation and empowerment laws. For the British, it was a matter of intimate interests; for the Americans one of reciprocity and honour. Expectedly the Americans were a bit flexible.

Help from the Frenchman

The Sarkozy visit to South Africa may have been the turning point. Once convinced MDC-T had got a reasonable offer, and one that echoed the French model on distribution of executive powers between President and Prime Minister, the French undertook to play a constructive role. Using their EU Presidency, they leaned heavily on MDC-T whose brag rests on reflexive EU support. And of course Mbeki had done lots of work on the AU.

MDC-T’s diplomatic space was threatened with shrinkage. So the deal has been struck against British advice and interest. It has also been struck against embittered ambitions within MDC-T, with a key figure in the negotiations threatening to resign over prime ministerial post. These are some of the little threats, little not from the viewpoint of the power of those behind them, but from the point of view of room for action. After Monday, Britain may have to play its hand more overtly, which is what Zanu-PF has always wanted Africa to see.

Learning to exist outside the State

The real challenge is with Zanu (PF). For a party which has always relied on Government for intellect and policy incubation, it now has to learn to govern in a new environment where the enemy is now within, well embedded. The West will now have an eager listening post, right up to Cabinet. There will be lots of policy pre-emption. Part of Government will be mortgaged.

The MDC struggle has been fought from huge borrowings which require repayments through favourable policies. MDC will push for that agenda. With a weak policy incubator outside of Government, Zanu (PF) could find itself overwhelmed by an avalanche of "expert" advice from Bretton Woods institutions and all those think-tanks that have given MDC ideational succour and dominance. There will be a proliferation and plethora of recovery models, all underlaid by deep interests and calculations. Zanu-PF may not be ill-equipped on overall vision; it certainly is very ill-equipped on policy that underpins its excellent vision.

It has no machinery to help the Politburo, itself the closest the Party has got to a think-tank. It has no international advisors who share its national sentiment. And MDC-T will use western goodwill to build support for its proposals. Secondly, to the extent that cabinet is no longer a political monolith, the notion of caucus has to extend to Government. That means the Party headquarters will have to assume greater role in generating ideas and harmonising positions to be enforced in cabinet. There is lots of institutional building and adjustment so direly needed, and in so short a time.

What colour is the donor?

But Zanu-PF must know and situate the present agreement in terms of its long-term strategic goals of transforming this society towards greater local empowerment. If it makes the fatal mistake of going for economic recovery by any means, by any donor, then it will soon learn that it really matters what colour the cat catching mice is. What has brought Zanu-PF to such a humiliating screech is that fact that it never used the past 28 years to change the economic status quo. In 2008, the "Zimbabwean" economy remains as British and Rhodes intended it.

We governed as if the British were going to be our life-long friends. When we decided they were our enemies, it was not difficult for the British to work on effective pressure points against us. They knew them; they ran them. What is more, they will seek to use this new arrangement to expand those pressure points for wars to come. After Monday what will matter is not foreign direct investment. What will matter is its colour, its identity, its politics. Will Zanu-PF have the courage to tell the hungry to be that deliberate and that selective, for long-term national security and defense?

Remember Amilcar Cabral

The place of the inclusive government is Zanu-PF’s overall ideological scheme of things will have to be clear, very clear. It may help if the ruling party were to re-read Amilcar Cabral’s essay on "Party Principles and Political Practice: Unity and Struggle", written in 1969 when the PAIGC was going through a crucial phase of transforming itself into a fighting machine. Cabral went out of his way to link unity with strength, itself the most obvious dimension. He went much further to link it to the overall purpose of prosecuting the armed struggle against Portuguese colonialism. But he also noted one important dynamic which purposive unity could achieve for the liberation movement. Noting the stratified nature of the social situation colonialism had created in Guinea and Cape Verde, he stressed that the colonial enemy was dividing the oppressed by raising false alarm and fears in privileged groups that saw a threat in the change brought about by Independence.

Invariably that weakened the ranks of those fighting for freedom, creating a whole stratum of blacks who saw safety in continued occupation by the Portuguese. Cabral clinched the point thus: "We posed the question of unity in our land, in Guinea and Cape Verde, in the sense of removing the enemy’s potential for exploiting the contradictions there might be among our population in order to weaken the strength of ours that we must pit against that of the enemy." Meles Zenawi made the point in Sharma el Sheik. Stressing his detestation of Tsvangirai, he underlined that he found the numbers that voted for him hard to ignore and shoring his depraved politics.

Why did Zanu-PF, itself a liberation movement with a spectacular history allow such a massive gain by a negative force? The British will seek to use inclusivity in Government to further their age-old interests. Is Zanu-PF ready and able to use the same vehicle to do exactly the opposite, namely to minimise divisions and contradictions among the oppressed and disempowered, to be better able to oust the British once and for all? Tisu anhu acho.



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