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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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

Don’t Call Me Mfana!

At 37 years of age I am still confused by the need older people seem to have to refer to me as mukomana or mfana, both meaning boy. Do they think it’s a term of endearment or do they feel some subliminal obligation to put me in my place, that being below them in the patriarchal hierarchy that is, for lack of a better term, African society. This happens in just about every kind of interaction imaginable and I can’t think of any situation where such a reference would be anything but derogatory.

I consciously don’t do it to men younger than I am because I know how much it pisses them off too. Where it is most irritating is when it happens in professional situations, there you are trying to get through a meeting, taking or giving instruction and it gets thrown in like some random slap in the face to wake you up from any illusion that you were being taken seriously. At what age does one graduate from being called mfana, does it ever happen? I grudgingly take it from my father and older relatives but beyond this family circle should I have to  tolerate it?

Time for real change

President Mugabe is on record referring to his cabinet and party executive as boys girls numerous times in both Shona and English. There are many stories of these same men and women literally grovelling at his feet, one minister has proudly acknowledged going as far as to sign his letters to the President, “Your ever obedient son Obert Mpofu”. Good for him if that works for him but is this really what or who we are? Recently Prime Minister Tsvangirai publicly castigated the MDC T youth leader Solomon Madzore for allegedly inciting violence, in warning him and the youth league, the PM said ” manje vapfana vangu . . ” (now my boys . . ). Now besides the fact that Madzore, in my opinion did no such thing, where does the man who claims to represent change get off referring to a senior party member as a boy, at a rally no less? Madzore has been in and out of jail for his party numerous times in the last two years and still has cases pending linked to party activities and this is the man you name and rebuke in public whilst calling him “mfana”?

With this kind of prevailing attitude from our political leaders its then no surprise that they may have limited appeal for many between the ages of 18 and 40. On January 28 this year Minister of Youth Development, Indiginisation and Empowerment Saviour Kasukuwere was in Bulawayo to meet the youth and talk to them about government initiatives to empower them. He did not have an easy time of it as they expressed their displeasure at government intransigence on these same initiatives very clearly. Is this lack of commitment to the youth symptomatic of the practices I alluded to earlier? I believe it is and with these practices so entrenched in our society what hope really is there for true youth development in Zimbabwe? Are the over 60s who run this country willing to change their ways or genuinely hand over power to a more vibrant  and attuned generation?

How to treat the youth (vote) right

Now I know this is an oft trotted out comparison but I believe it is incredibly relevant to this discussion. Barrack Obama’s 2008 presidential run is often cited as having changed the way political campaigns are done around the world. Countless analysts have identified the community organisation strategy as the secret weapon that won him the election. His campaign team composed of the greatest number of such youth volunteers ever assembled and they delivered. Recently whilst in South Africa President Obama held a town hall meeting at Johannesburg University’s Soweto  campus with youth from South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria, at no time during that meeting did I hear him refer to them as anything but young men and women or ladies and gentlemen. I am a keen Obama watcher and at no time since 2007 when he announced his bid for his party’s nomination have I ever heard him refer to his campaign team as boys and girls.

The mutual respect evident in that first campaign saw the youth volunteers come out swinging for President Obama the second time around ensuring a comfortable win and second term in office. This is non-existent in Zimbabwean politics and society at large, the youth are simply expected to do their duty. They are not seen by the politicians as a voting block who must be wooed despite making up the majority of the population.

Beware the ghosts of March

Whilst I don’t have the statistics, I would wager that those under 40 make up the bulk of Zimbabwe’s voters yet the messages coming out of the campaigns do not seem to be particularly relevant to them. For how long can politicians expect to continue with the same strategies every election and keep a dynamic electorate interested? During the Constitutional Referendum in March this year much was made about the poor voter turnout and many asked if Zimbabweans had not become disinterested in politics. I have not seen these questions being asked now that the elections are here despite the chaos of the voter registration exercise and the disastrous special voting for civil servant earlier this week. At the time of the referendum there was talk that the youth had not come out in their numbers and this voter apathy was a worry for the coming elections. Jump to two weeks before harmonised elections and what has been done to bring the youth to the ballot box? Very little from what I can see. Instead we have candidates continuing to treat them as their children and in some cases, private militia, moving through areas coercing people to attend rallies or to keep other politicians out of “their leaders'” constituency or ward. Youth voter apathy has not been properly dealt with and politicians might be in for a rude surprise come July 31, then again, I could be wrong.

In my ideal Zimbabwe no-one will manipulate the youth or anyone else for that matter in this way and mutual respect will reign supreme in all our dealings with each other. So Mr, Ms or Mrs Candidate, if you want my vote, don’t call me mfana!