Smoke & Mirrors, Lessons from the elective congress that wasn’t.

The much-hyped ZANU PF elective congress finally took place last week in Harare from Tuesday to Saturday and there was no shortage of fireworks throughout. With the frenetic talk of factions in recent months many expected a showdown like never before but in a move to preempt this the outgoing politburo recommended that rather than elections the First Secretary appoint the new politburo and this was approved by congress. This gave President Mugabe sole discretion to appoint his two vice presidents and second secretaries, the national chairperson, the heads of departments of the politburo, the committee members of the politburo and the deputies to the heads of department.

President Mugabe was expected to announce these appointments on Saturday night but in another move to possibly keep the peace he said:

“I could not rush to choose people. I would want time to look at the new names, new people that have come into the central committee and see which hands we could put to the politburo,”

“…I haven’t seen what the provinces gave us. I don’t want to rush it, so be patient. By mid next week, by Wednesday or Thursday, we will make an announcement. We will let you know because we cannot go far. We will have to choose the two vice presidents and the chairman, and the secretary, one who is in charge of our secretariat, the job Mutasa was doing.”

In a week where everything seemed to be going right for the first couple as they secureed their leadership positions in ZANU PF and in effect Zimbabwe, this would have brought finality to internal strife that has gripped the party in recent months. There is much speculation as to why he did this ranging from his advanced age to him wanting to enjoy the extended grovelling by those seeking appointments. I have another theory.

The President now effectively has sole control of ZANU PF’s decision-making structures which means the party’s fortunes rise and fall with him now more directly than before. Once appointed every politburo member can now rightly claim they have been directly appointed by the President and that they speak on  his behalf. As they are no longer voted for who is to say that anyone else’s authority beside’s the President’s will be adhered to going forward? The politburo itself may now be of little meaning as a decision making body. President Mugabe may be wondering if, by appointing the wrong people to key positions how will he control them considering the alleged coup plot that has caused such ructions in the party? This may explain why throughout his speeches on Saturday President Mugabe continually emphasised service to the party and the nation saying at one point

“I want to say thank you. I know I am not greater than people. As a leader, I am your servant, . . We must treasure and take care of Zimbabwe.”.

Maybe realising the delicacy of the task President Mugabe said he needed more time to consider politburo and presidium candidates. Now I am not sure, but I assume the ZANU PF constitutional amendments do not allow for the central committee to review politburo appointments made by the President. ZANU PF has guidelines for who is eligible to contest which post based mostly on experience but this has been rubbished by the unopposed election and subsequent appointment of Grace Mugabe as Secretary For Women’s Affairs without her having held any prior position in the party. This is not to mention her vicious attacks on various senior members in previous months without being challenged whilst she was still an ordinary member. This apparent suspension of the rules can only make the pending appointments more difficult and less predictable. President Mugabe is famous for taking his time to make seemingly key appointments and I would not be surprised if come Friday there is still no decision on the politburo, presidium and the vice presidents, remember second Vice President John Nkomo died in January 2013 but his replacement is yet to be announced.

It is not unreasonable to think the events of the last week have left an old man drained and he needs time to come to terms with the fact that he has, amongst other problems,  a potential constitutional crisis on his hands with a Vice President he has publicly accused of treason but has taken no action against. These events have also brought about the realisation that he is surrounded by people who no longer take his word as gospel but now merely pay him lip service. Considering how he went on at length about the liberation struggle only to be passed a note from his wife saying he should wrap up, is President Mugabe now realising just how out of touch he is with the relative youths in ZANU PF leadership? The liberation struggle was such a simpler time, you were either with or against the movement, nowadays there are factions within factions and unparalleled intrigue.

It could be too that the purges of the last two months finally took their toll on him. Despite the lack of blood so far, these events remind me of Stalin’s Great Purge of the 1930s where family members accused each other of treason and the allegations got more fantastic by the day. Jacob Mudenda took the allegations against Vice President Mujuru to new levels with this gem

“This plot involved some among us, under the leadership of then Vice-President Joice Teurai Ropa Mujuru and her cabal of senior politburo members, who had been enticed by the Americans and some Europeans with promises that they would pour billions of dollars into Zimbabwe once they succeeded in allying with the opposition formations to oust Zanu PF and its iconic President and first secretary from power.”.

Not done yet Mudenda went on in classic purge mode to encourage the accused to repent and ask for forgiveness before evidence is produced against them. The accused are yet to respond.

With power games at such a high level it is not unusual for the protagonists to continue communicating via back channels whilst in public they excoriate each other. Consider that Vice President Joice Mujuru has only made one public statement and along with her co-accused did not attend congress. Whilst President Mugabe and others publicly heaped scorn on her throughout the congress it is significant that she is not currently in jail considering the seeming seriousness of the allegations against her and others. I would wager that the President is weighing his options as any punitive moves against VP Mujuru may weaken his position. President Mugabe is a master of isolating threats and the best way to do this right now would be to retain Joice Mujuru whilst whittling away her perceived support base effectively making her a lame duck VP.

Being the obedient party cadre that she is, VP Mujuru has kept a disciplined silence and not challenged the first family on their allegations against her. My guess is this is part of a plan for a post-Mugabe white knight campaign for the presidency. As others fall over themselves to make accusations, denials, threats, insults, retractions and counter-accusations, she is the only one who has not descended to this level, making her relatively clean. I imagine VP Mujuru sees the current situation as unsalvageable and could wait out the next few years till elections whilst those who have hounded her tear each other apart. It is much easier to fight a battle on one front against a tired enemy than the current situation where brazen attackers and accusers abound. Already the ranks are thinning out with some perceived candidates for the vice presidency retiring from the race.

President Mugabe may have won this round but the battle for the presidency is far from over and time is not on his side. Despite ZANU PF and the state media’s declarations as to his abilities and inferences to his immortality, the signs of age were there for all to see on Saturday with him making a number of notable gaffs. If the congress taught us one thing it is that the race to state house will be won by the one who bides their time, not by shock and awe tactics which fizzle out into hot air.

To Kill An African Dream

Dreams do not die in an instant, once they start to fade they linger for a time as the dreamer struggles to keep them alive, denying the inevitable. When they do die it is not with the intensity of the death of a thousand suns but the flickering of a candle wick drowning in what once gave it life, it’s own wax.

Recently I was reminded of Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s ascendancy to the Chairperson of the African Union when she garnered more votes than Gabon’s Jean Ping after a very tough voting process in 2012. Most in South Africa’s delegation celebrated this as a victory with dancing and singing once the final vote was in to the dismay of other delegates who thought this behaviour bordered on hubris. Maite Nkoane-Mashabane, South Africa’s Minister of International Relations, was at pains to explain that this is how things are done back home and this was not meant to be disrespectful of the outgoing Mr. Ping or other delegates, unfortunately the damage had already been done. Rumblings about South African arrogance and unsportsmanlike conduct in the AU Chairperson electoral process were rife and even today these sentiments have never quite abated.

On Sunday South Africa’s ruling African National Congress held their final rally before Wednesday 07 May’s general election. It was billed as a victory rally, oddly enough, for an election yet to happen. I come from a school of thought that dictates, no matter how sure a sure thing is, you don’t pop the champagne till the deed is done, it appears the ANC of today does not subscribe to this. Whilst it is plausible to argue that an ANC majority in the general election is a foregone conclusion, should it be seen as a win & if the result is in their favour, should this be celebrated as a victory? If indeed it is a victory then it stands to reason that there is at least one loser and if so who is or are the losers & what have they lost? I will return to this later.

In 1990 when Nelson Mandela was released from prison an entire continent breathed a sigh of relief. I was in high school in Zimbabwe and 11 February was declared a public holiday in honour of the momentous occasion. As I grew up and started to better understand the political legacy of my country and the continent, I began to grasp the enormity of the expectation placed upon the world’s newest democracy at the time. In Mandela was a chance for a nation to change the African stereotypes of institutionalised corruption, intransigent leadership, human rights abuses and selective application of democratic principles. As everyone knows this was for the most part South Africa under Mandela and that after him the rainbow started to tarnish ever so slightly.

As somewhat of an outsider on the inside, as I spend a lot of my time here, I agree with the view that in the years following Mandela’s retirement in 1999 fractures began to appear in the South African rainbow. Some Afro-pessimists said South Africa would quickly go the way of all other African countries because there was really nothing special about the transition to democracy, that once Mandela died the country would burn. Whilst nothing as extreme as that has happened since Mandela passed on in December, events of at least the last five years have brought to the fore the fact that South Africa has significant governance shortcomings and it’s ruling party have adopted some of the unsavoury traits of stereotypical African leadership.

In the run-up to tomorrow’s elections allegations of the conflation of party and state by the African National Congress have become increasingly concerning with state resources allegedly used by the party in its campaigns culminating in a story this morning of an ANC election agent being found with ballot papers in his home, allegedly for safekeeping. All this whilst the Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) Pansy Tlakula has been embroiled in allegations of impropriety which simply won’t go away.

All this has contributed to tarnishing the dream that was South Africa for the rest of the continent. Whilst there is some truth to the claim that Africans in general aspire to South Africa’s level of economic sophistication it is also true that many Africans aspired to the dream of 1994 of an exemplary nation that made respect of the rule of law and protection of all who live in it paramount. This  is where South Africa has failed Africa, killing the dream of hundreds of millions leaving us to grapple with the disbelief that if the dream is no more, what hope is there for the rest of us? If South Africa with all its resources, global goodwill and the best constitution in the world can get so caught up in “African problems” what hope do the rest of us have with our leaders’ lack of appreciation for democratic principles?

This brings me back to the ANC’s “victory” rally on Sunday. Whilst elections are about raising emotions as politicians look to keep their jobs, ruling parties are often prone to developing a sense of entitlement treating elections as a slight distraction from business as usual. I for one hoped this fate would not befall South Africa but it has. For a party to declare the result a foregone conclusion so blatantly reminds me of ZANU Pf’s star rally in Zimbabwe’s 2013 general elections on the last Sunday of campaigning at a packed National Sports Stadium in Harare. This was not my dream for South Africa.

An election is a chance for the people to make their voices heard by voting into office those who can best represent their interests. An election is a chance for elected officials to account to the people for what they have done with their mandate. This is no longer the case instead you have career politicians who put themselves and their needs ahead of the nation and allegiance to a President above all else. This presents the danger that those who did not vote for the ruling party and do not adopt its views run the risk of being marginalised from state resources, already such claims have been widespread at local government level in municipalities not governed by the ANC or where communities have expressed displeasure with the party. When a political party has a victory celebration before a single vote is cast in the country what message does this send to the citizenry?

The Freedom Charter, one of the founding documents of the country drawn up by leading minds of the fight for democratic rule in June 1955 under the umbrella movement the Congress Of the People, proclaims “South Africa belongs to all who live in it”. One wonders just how this will be possible in the current political climate, how will the interests of those who do not support the ruling party be protected? It is one thing to have the best constitution ever written but it is quite another to live by it every single day. If they can disenfranchise their own citizens how will this government protect the interests of migrants who can’t vote but have made a life in this country? The selective application of tenets of this supreme law is what has left many an African nation broken. This has seen Botswana rise as a moral beacon replacing South Africa, in my view a much more significant setback than being ranked the second biggest African economy after Nigeria. Inappropriate comments about other African countries by the President and ministers in his cabinet do not inspire confidence.

The greatest achievement of apartheid was to separate the South African mentally from Africa by creating a fear of black Africa which is pervasive across all races to this day. This fear has become even more entrenched since 1994 and is unfortunately not taken seriously by any political party. It is this fear, not arrogance, that causes South Africans to project themselves the way they do across the continent and it continues to entrench a horrible apartheid legacy. As South Africa goes to the polls tomorrow I wonder how many citizens realise just how important this vote is to Africa and the immense consequences their actions will have throughout the continent. I honestly hope I am wrong and the dream is not dead, that South Africa will find its moral compass and restore its position as a true African success story, dragging all of us into the light that is unfettered democracy and real economic freedom.

 

An inconvenient Prayer

It is generally agreed that Zimbabwe is a deeply Christian country although I’ve never been convinced of the veracity of this. These days the lines between Christianity and traditional beliefs have become increasingly blurred, just go to a Catholic mass if you don’t believe me. My wife who grew up going to churches that adhere to strict Catholic doctrine was surprised at the unfamiliar songs language and drums at last Easter Sunday mass at Christ The King in Bulawayo.

As the political and economic troubles of the country have continued two places have seen a dramatic rise in patrons, churches and drinking places, though serving diametrically opposed communities both attempt to offer their patrons a chance to forget their problems and a moment of solace. I will not debate who does a better job of it but am reminded of a certain communist and his views on the masses and their opiates of choice.

In recent times I have come to question the religious fervour that has swept up so many Zimbabweans regardless of where they are in the world. This is evident on social networks which allow a window into how we relate as Zimbabweans across the globe, I doubt you can go through five “Twimbo” profiles without seeing some religious reference. An often heard and read refrain when people discuss issues Zimbabwean is “Mwari pindirai”, meaning “God intercede”. When your team loses a game you see it. When a politician says or does what politicians say or do, you hear it. When a taxi/combi driver does what taxi/combi drivers do, you hear it. A banker, lawyer, butcher or priest steals from ordinary people, you hear it. A major corruption ring is exposed, you hear it.

You hear it in just about every situation, sometimes sincerely, sometimes comically. It is the equivalent of “I give up” and I have come to believe that’s exactly how people mean it, especially when it comes to our seemingly never-ending crises. The recent exposés about ridiculous executive pay at parastatals and urban councils has seen “Mwari pindirai” take on even greater prominence in everyday language, both spoken and written. I’ve even read it in reference to the new white pressure group Zimbabweans Against Sanctions who have been met with much suspicion online.

I am tired of hearing this refrain because it is a symptomatic of a new culture of giving up, it is a copout. People abdicate their responsibilities with a well-timed but inconvenient prayer and will insist that “now it is in God’s hands there is nothing else that we can do”. It is symptomatic of a people who increasingly convince themselves that there is nothing they as individuals can do to change their lot. It is tempting to forgive Zimbabweans for being this way after so many years of all kinds of crises, or plagues if you prefer, but I am not about to do that. People continue to utter “Mwari pindirayi” as they go about their daily lives as if waiting for someone from somewhere to come and solve all their ills. This expectation of an unknown saviour has opened a space that has been quickly occupied by charismatic pastors promising any miracle you can think of, as long as you believe, and tithe of course.

A people who defined themselves by their work ethic and go anywhere attitude are now at the heart of Southern Africa’s pastorprenuer culture. Is this really what we want to be about? Are we so intent on ignoring our problems that we will take any way out that presents itself? One day we will wake up from this collective stupor and realising just how much we have given up will collectively call out “Mwari pindirai” only for a voice to answer back “but what did you do for yourself?”.

The Fifth Beatle (Syndrome)

I am no music aficionado but I am sure many around the world have heard of the Fifth Beatle. Various versions of this legend exist, however, I want to use one as an analogy for the quandary that many Zimbabweans find themselves in.

The Fifth Beatle is a title used to describe the member of a group who drops out just before that group hits the big time. You know the story, wife/husband leaves spouse for greener pastures because things are tough only to find the grass is not greener and the abandoned spouse finally finds success. It’s like that other guy from Boys 2 Men or the other girl from Destiny’s Child that nobody remembers. Sound familiar now?

The just concluded elections, like any since 1980, was billed as the precursor to a new era in Zimbabwe. All candidates took on the role of messiah promising political and economic emancipation to the electorate, yet, here we are again, back to a life where the abnormal has become normal. The realisation that things are not any better than on July 30th has been cause for many, who are able, to reconsider whether they should stay in Zimbabwe or they should go on to greener pastures.

I have been one of those who has struggled with this for years and events since July 31 have been cause for much review, despite that I have long been apprehensive about the election process that brought us here anyway. That said, what do I do now?

Do I continue to stick it out and hope for the best or do I pick up sticks, sell what I can and emigrate? In the last decade I’ve had my share of feast and famine, however, I am no longer the youth I was then. Because of that I pay a lot more attention to political rhetoric and it’s impact on my decisions, economic and social.

I know now how the decisions by those in authority affect me and those immediately around me. I’m smart enough to know what my bank managers means when he or she says their interest rate is high because it includes a political risk component. I’ve heard so many acronyms for mostly failed business funding initiatives that my head spins at the thought. I understand what the Reserve Bank Governor means when he says the country is in the midst of a crippling liquidity crisis. I can see the holes in the government’s indiginisation policy and the dangers inherent in it’s implementation. I know what it means to foreign investors when the industrial index loses 10% in one day and 14% in a week and the government makes statements contrary to economic development.

Besides commitment to family and this being the country of my birth, what else keeps me here? I must acknowledge there is an element of fear of missing out on Zimbabwe’s recovery when it eventually begins. Paradoxically, the longer this recovery takes to come, the greater this fear becomes and the greater the lost opportunity becomes in one’s mind. The fear of the unknown and regret over the journeys not taken can be paralysing. Am I the only one who is going through this? I don’t think so. To those in the same situation I wish you well, your decision is your own, as for me, it’s time I risked being the Fifth Beatle.

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It is My Right To Be Mad About The Zimbabwean Elections

Anyone who says those complaining about the elections must just get over it & put Zimbabwe first are hypocritical opportunists of the first order and should stop poisoning political discourse with their ill-founded ideas.
Know that questioning the electoral process is the right thing for all Zimbabweans to do regardless of party affiliation. The constitution is for all of us & any politician who disregards it is not worth my vote nor yours.

The right to a free, fair & procedural election is simply not yours to give away at the altar of political expediency. It is our collective right as Zimbabweans and the politicians owe it to us to respect that and make good on the laws they have broken in their mad rush to the ballot box.

Those who say the majority have spoken and I should sit down are equally misinformed and should take the time to understand what it is about this process that I and others find so wrong with it. This also applies to the rabid “Friends of Mugabe/Zanu PF” in the diaspora who seem to be on a social networking mission to share their new found love for their leader and party. I highly doubt citizens of other countries who are saying the same would accept it if their politicians conspired to ignore their constitution so they could secure their political futures in an irregular election far from free and fair.
As at today, whether your candidate won or lost, you are the loser because the winning candidate has no respect for the Constitution so can hardly be expected to respect the electorate’s wishes.

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Below is a link to a page detailing the constitutional violations leading up to the Zimbabwe elections of July 31 2013 and beyond.

https://www.facebook.com/david.coltart/posts/10151603092262613

When Political Wills Trump The Peoples’ Will.

We Zimbabweans like to make much of our high literacy levels as a towering achievement in our development as a nation. Detractors like to remind us that this high literacy is exactly the reason why we are where we are, we Zimbabweans are simply too clever for our own damn good. I have resisted blogging about the events of the last week until the results of the elections had been formally announced and judging by the torrent of news and views out of and about Zimbabwe, I was not missed.

President Mugabe will rule over Zimbabwe for another term whilst Morgan Tsvangirai must now spend probably the next five years in court fighting for that same right. He will not win. If we’ve learnt anything from the Zimbabwean legal system, it is that it is uniquely attuned to the political whims of the ruling party so even if Tsvangirai and others do get a day in court, barring extraordinary circumstances, this case will be dragged out till it’s outcome is irrelevant. If the complainants win, it will be another pyrrhic victory to add to a long and unimpressive list.

That said it is a sad realisation that Zimbabwe’s people have once again been used for political gain by the few who’s only desire in life is to rule over us. This last election was typically Zimbabwean, campaigns of little substance focused on the character flaws of opposing candidates, their family members and their parties, devoid of political or economic substance along with manifestos filled with promises no party has any intentions of fulfilling.

What has become clear to me is that the entire electoral system is broken. The candidate selection criteria and processes in every single political party were fraught with problems from the outset. Claims and counter-claims of imposition of candidates by party leaders abounded leading to an unprecedented number of independent candidates running in the elections having been disillusioned by back-room politics in their respective parties. Some former MDC-T independent candidates even went to court for the right to use Morgan Tsvangirai’s face on their campaign material.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and the Registrar General’s Office (RG) are the key institutions in Zimbabwe’s electoral process.  The RG is responsible for registering eligible Zimbabweans as voters, producing and maintaining a current, credible voters’ roll. The voters’ roll is probably the single most important document of any election anywhere as it contains vital information for determining the credibility of the election process. Fact is, without it, an election is simply not possible.

ZEC is responsible for carrying out the actual processes of an election, producing ballots, demarcating constituencies, assigning polling stations, accrediting observers, ensuring the security of the entire process, ultimately tabulating and certifying the results of the poll.

Both the RG’s Office and ZEC have acknowledged they failed to meet their mandates citing various logistical and financial constraints. The whole world now knows they failed, what is yet to be proven is just how extensive their failure actually was and what impact it had on the elections, early indications are that it was extensive and severe. Some yet to be adequately substantiated allegations include:

  • Video footage of allegedly under-age voters with registration slips bussed in to cast votes at a Mount Pleasant, Harare, polling station.
  • A million people in urban areas unable to register to vote due to a difficult and short registration process.
  • The bulk of the 750 000 voters turned away were in urban areas.
  • A rural constituency purportedly processed voters at the rate of two per minute over a twelve hour period in 15 polling stations without a single spoilt ballot.
  • The voters roll contained over 6,4 million registered voters in a country of less than 13 million people and a majority population under the age of sixteen. A glaring statistical anomaly.
  • The voters’ roll has more than 350 000 registered voters over the age of 85 and of these 109 000 are over 100  with one former soldier aged 135.
  • Various constitutional requirements for the carrying out of an election were simply ignored making the entire exercise illegal in terms of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. Notably the period between proclamation of the election day by the President and the registration period for voters and public inspection of the voters’ roll.
  • The Southern African Development Community (SADC) did not want this election to go ahead but were powerless to do anything when the party principals insisted on going ahead as each was certain of victory.
  • As at today Zimbabwe still does not have an independently verified voters’ roll.

Considering all the mounting evidence of irregularities, how can anyone hide behind the claim that “there is no such thing as a perfect election” as the SADC and African Union observer missions did on Thursday and Friday last week?

I may not be an electoral or constitutional law expert but one does not need such expertise to tell that this election was neither procedural or fair. The politicians failed Zimbabweans by ensuring such a flawed process go ahead. Zimbabwe has been here for over thirty three years and is not going anywhere, so, whose interests are best served by a rushed and flawed election? Certainly not the interests of the entirety of Zimbabwe, this was political expediency at it’s absolute worst.

The politicians wanted to get rid of their competition in parliament after five years of a fractious forced marriage mischievously called the government of national unity. SADC and the AU want to be rid of the Zimbabwean crisis and needed an election to achieve this. Is it a coincidence that the AU’s head of mission, Nigerian former President Olusegun Obasanjo is one of the early architects of attempts to resolve the Zimbabwe problem along with the current AU chair Dr. Dlamini-Zuma who was then South Africa’s foreign affairs Minister?

If as according to today’s City Press SADC tried to convince the MDC-T to not participate in the elections why did they not go public with their reservations? Instead Lindiwe Zulu, a member of the SADC facilitation team to Zimbabwe, was publicly rebuked for airing her reservations about the Zimbabwe election process days before votes were cast. I doubt President Zuma or any other SADC leader would survive if they conducted an election in the same manner that they have allowed it to happen in Zimbabwe

It is my view that anyone who thinks this is in any way a resolution to the Zimbabwe crisis, considering all that has happened is a fool, it has simply prolonged the misery.

My hope is that when Tsvangirai and the MDC-T go to the constitutional court to file their grievances over the election, the whole world will come to know what really happened here and the people of Zimbabwe will never again allow themselves to be used for selfish political purpose. In the meantime the MDC-T would do well to come clean to the nation on their role in this “farce” as they have called it because by participating in the election they accepted there was a certain level of “farce” they were willing to go along with.

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Some useful links: 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NjDzqU-itgA

http://www.thezimbabwean.co/news/zimbabwe/67465/zim-election-official-resigns-over.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4I1elpcO_4&feature=player_embedded

http://zimbabweelection.com/tag/voter-roll/

http://www.zesn.org.zw/images/statements/ZESN_2013_Harmonised_Election_Preliminary_Statement_01_August_13-1026hrs.pdf

http://www.citypress.co.za/politics/sadc-told-morgan-tsvangirai-to-withdraw/

Done It Again by Eddie Cross. http://www.eddiecross.africanherd.com

 

The Kansas City Shuffle

The Kansas City Shuffle is a confidence trick or con. The perpetrator creates a big enough diversion to distract their intended target so they can can carry out their mission. To pull off  a proper Kansas City Shuffle though, you need a body, a dead body.

Yesterday Zimbabwe watchers were shocked at the televised assassination of (the character of) Miss Lindiwe Zulu by South African Presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj. It was the proverbial accident in slow-motion you just can’t turn your eyes away from.

For those who do not know, Miss Zulu is President Jacob Zuma’s  international relations advisor and representative on the SADC facilitation team mandated to oversee the implementation of the 2008 Global Political Agreement (GPA), the founding document of the current political dispensation in Zimbabwe.

At the signing of the GPA Zimbabwe’s three leading political parties, through their principals, appointed chief negotiators who would represent their party interests in the GPA implementation process with South Africa as the facilitator. When Jacob Zuma became President of South Africa in 2009 he became the SADC facilitator and as is his right, assembled a team to represent him in the facilitation process, enter career diplomat Miss Zulu, already a senior member of the African National Congress, who by all accounts I have read, is well respected and liked.

As was to be expected the facilitation team have been lambasted from time to time by the parties but events and statements of the last two to three weeks escalated beyond expectations. It started with President Mugabe making a thinly veiled and insulting personal reference to Miss Zulu during a campaign speech. It was on a Friday so the weekend papers went into a frenzy over the statements. In an interview on Radio 702 the  following week Miss Zulu brushed the statements aside as a distraction from the work that was being done in Zimbabwe.

Miss Zulu continued to make statements on the situation in Zimbabwe on, we all believed, behalf of the SADC facilitation team and President Zuma. This did not please President Mugabe who on Friday, took aim at her again and in statements attributed to him asked for her to “just shut up” about Zimbabwe as she did not have a mandate to speak on the country. He went on to say only President Zuma could speak on Zimbabwe as far as the facilitation process was concerned.

On Saturday there were reports, to be denied the following day,  that President Zuma had warned President Mugabe to tone down his rhetoric as this could jeopardise SA-Zimbabwe relations in particular and SADC in general. The world went to sleep thinking all was well and balance had been restored to the universe but this was not to be.

On Sunday President Zuma issued a statement through his spokesman Mac Maharaj which effectively backed President Mugabe and apologised for Miss Zulu’s “unfortunate” statements regarding Zimbabwe’s readiness to hold elections. Being a watcher of South African politics I am used to Mac Maharaj coming out swinging as the Presidential hatchet-man but this was a shock and deeply disturbing. President Zuma’s spokesman followed this up with interviews on various news channels to make sure the message was well and truly heard. South Africa and by extension SADC, had capitulated to President Mugabe’s Zanu PF and offered up a sacrifice. It doesn’t help matters that there have been rumours for months that President Mugabe wanted Miss Zulu gone and even an unsubstantiated claim of an assassination plot. Could this be the endgame? ZANU PF showing that the entire SADC region dare not come up against it? The timing is indeed fortuitous for ZANU seeing as Zimbabwe is in the middle of an election campaign, suffice to say, time will tell.

However, assuming that Presidents Zuma and Mugabe are right in their assertions, a few questions come to mind.

If it is correct that it was not Miss Zulu’s place to make statements on behalf of the facilitation team since her appointment, why is it only being made clear now? She has been speaking on Zimbabwe for years.

If Patrick Chinamasa and Tendai Biti as chief negotiators for ZANU PF and MDC T respectively, can make statements on behalf of their principals and parties regarding the GPA why is Miss Zulu not extended the same privilege? It would be interesting to see Miss Zulu’s letter of appointment and terms of reference.

In the meantime the SA Presidency’s statement has touched off a firestorm on social networks with some questioning President Zuma’s support of women’s professional advancement,  in particular those who serve in or on behalf of his government.

I have little doubt Miss Zulu will come back from this, it’s the nature of politics, luckily for her, the GPA has run it’s faltering course and in less than two weeks Zimbabwe will, for good or bad, have a new political dispensation. Hopefully the era of political character assassinations will no longer be a hallmark of Zimbabwean politics.

Below are relevant links: 

South Africa regrets unauthorised statements on Zimbabwe http://bit.ly/129bs0s 

http://www.news24.com/Africa/Zimbabwe/Mugabe-urges-Zuma-to-silence-advisor-20130720