No, Mandela did not sell out, each generation must fight its own demons.

Growing up in Zimbabwe, politics was a pastime activity for the mature and the old. A dangerous pastime so to speak. In those days, people with divergent views from the party and government did not discuss politics in the public, if they did, at least they did not dare express their honest opinions.

Even in the privacy of one’s home, politics was discussed in hushed voices. Maybe not true for all Zimbabweans but in our cramped ghettoes people could not risk being overheard by some overzealous Zanu PF party members, as back then they seemed to be everywhere.

But even during that time when most people were afraid to speak their minds in the public, the civil society led by a militant workers’ union and the vociferous student movement, successfully fought against the introduction of a one-party state. Then, workers and students were a true van guard of our democracy, as they stood for much more than their selfish concerns. A generation that heard a calling and responded accordingly.

A decade later, Zimbabweans from all walks of life responded to yet another call. We came together once again and through the Movement for Democratic Change almost brought an end to Zanu PF’s hegemony. Unfortunately, we have so far failed to realise this change we so desperately yearn for. Now, like a broken record we are stuck, we keep chanting change but are unable to move the country towards it.

Pointing to mistakes by our leaders in the opposition is quite easy, blaming them for our failure even easier. Instead, we must accept our responsibility, it is this present generation’s collective duty to rid our country of this thieving, corrupt and murderous Zanu PF regime.

Building on from last year’s momentum, which saw a rise in prominent and youthful activists such as Mawarire, Mkwananzi, Dzamara, Zvorwadza and Masarira among many others raising their voices, echoing our cries. They showed a glimpse of their potential, our collective potential at a time when the main stream opposition parties when consumed by internal squabbles.

But to be honest young people rising and stepping up to the plate is a two-way street. They are already  speaking up but what is now required from the seasoned opposition politicians is to give them room and allow them to blossom into their full potential. I know politics is a selfish game, no one is truly expected to create room for others but this is where we need our ingenuity, we must create an environment that enables renewal and the injection of new blood into the mainstream body politic.

The Chinese learned from Mao’s reluctance to step down

The Chinese leadership under Deng Xiaoping learned a vital lesson from chairman Mao’s reluctance to step down. They came to understand that if the communist party was to stay in power for a very long time and if their country was to develop and be able to compete in the fast-changing world they needed to constantly renew their leadership. Thus, they introduced reforms, no new member could be elected into either the central committee or the politburo after the age of 70 anymore and a president could no longer serve more than a maximum of 10 years.

Mandela did not sell out

The ANC has been able to survive for over a century because it understood the need for leadership renewal early. Mandela not only did he continue with that ANC tradition of leadership renewal but he extended it to the state too, avoiding a crisis that confronts most of Africa.

It is unfortunate that there is a section of the population that accuse him of selling out. I content that it can only be this lazy generation that accuses Mandela of selling out because it expects to be handed down everything on a silver platter. Where else could it get the temerity to accuse Mandela of selling out? How did these people expect Mandela to reverse 4 centuries of colonialism and white domination in only five years that he ruled South Africa? He was not a super human being, he was flesh and blood like all of us.

Comrades, that is not selling out, it is called sharing responsibility with the next generation. Theirs fought the liberation struggle, got political power and handed it to the next generation. Now that political power is in the hands of the people, it is this generation’s duty and privilege to push the decolonisation agenda forward. Knowing that freedom is a struggle and that a struggle is a never-ending process as noted by Rousseau in his social contract when he said ‘a man is born free and everywhere he is in chains’. Each generation has to keep breaking those chains and pushing further the frontiers of freedom.

In Zimbabwe there is no succession planning.

Unfortunately for Zimbabwe, be it in the ruling party, opposition or civic society, the tradition is ‘abaiwa ngabude’ loosely translated to mean that if you harbour leadership ambitions, just break away and form your own party or organisation.

The concept of leadership renewal is alien. Robert Mugabe as frail and old as he is, he still wants to go on for another term. If he was doing a sterling job, we could easily find it in our hearts of hearts to forgive him but the economy has been in tatters for the past two and half decades and there is no respite in sight.

In 2013, Tsvangirai pledged to step down, if he lost the previous elections, but all we ever got were excuses on why honouring his pledge would be a betrayal of the people. Forgotten is the fact that he had already served 13 years as the leader of the MDC. In 2006, Lovemore Madhuku had to change the National Constitutional Assembly’s constitution in order to quench his insatiable thirst for power. Fast forward to 2011, another Lovemore surnamed Matombo caused a split in the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) by attempting to cling on to power after the expiry of his two five-year terms.

This very same phenomenon has also occurred in organisations such as Zimrights, Zimbabwe Union of Journalists and many others. This failure at handing over power or rather the failure to handle succession is the chief reason that has led to the multiplication of political parties and civil society organisations in the country. The sooner, we all understand that no matter how charismatic leaders are, they come and at some point, they must go, the better for our country and organisations respectively.

It is one thing for these individuals to not want to handover the power but is another thing for us not to take corrective action. Zimbabwe, handing over power to your successor is not an act of cowardice and neither does that bring one’s masculinity into question. Instead, it is a brave act and a mark of true leadership. As they say the primary role of true leaders is to produce more leaders not followers.

Zimbabweans, young people in particular, the time is now, for you to amplify your voices and reclaim your destiny. For how long should Zimbabweans be constantly reminded by Zanu PF to cherish peace they brought through the barrel of the gun? Peace and tranquillity that we enjoy in our own misery.

Rousseau says its force that is used to make someone a slave but it can only be their cowardice that perpetuates their condition. Yes, Zanu PF has used violence in the past to intimidate and cow us into submission but we must throw away that fear and face Zanu PF head own.

What else have we got to lose but our chains? Have we lost our desire for a New Zimbabwe, where dreams and aspirations are fulfilled?

Young people, now is the time, 2017 is the year, change must come in Mugabe’s lifetime.

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Tsvangirai must listen to the unspoken words and read between the lines: Coalition Talks

There can be no doubt that Robert Mugabe’s grip on power is slipping. The so called one centre of power can longer hold Zanu PF together. Even after expelling a whole faction led by Joyce Mujuru, factionalism remains rife in the party.

Not only is Zanu PF riddled with factionalism but 2016 has also seen a rise in public discontent marked by public sector strikes and street protests. Bond notes have come, they might be able to cure symptoms like cash shortages and bank queues in the short run but rest assured they will not be able to resolve Zimbabwe’s underlying economic problem. At some point in the near future the country will not be able to finance its ever-growing import bill. Which will in turn cause high inflation, shortages of basic goods and the re-emergence of the black-market.

Not so good news for the ordinary person but in all intents and purposes a conducive environment for the opposition to thrive going into the 2018 elections. In spite of this promising prospect, the opposition in its foolishness has turned its knives towards one another.

No, we will not allow them to kick the ball into the woods (kurovera bhora musango) when the goal is gaping. Their minor squabbles will not detract us from the task at hand, change is too an important objective to forgo on account of a few inflated egos.

Whether or not to participate in 2018 elections without reforms.
As we all engross ourselves with preparations for 2018, the opposition must make its position on 2018 clear. We need to know if they will participate in the next general elections or not. What we know is that Zanu PF is most unlikely to institute further reforms. Common sense tells us, they will not reform themselves out of power.

I hope no one thinks that the opposition is capable of forcing these reforms through Zanu PF’s throat. Remember, all it took to stop the NERA demonstrations was a single police order issued by a little known Chief Superintend Newbert Saunyama who commands the Harare district.

We therefore, must expect a flawed electoral playing field going into 2018. Never the less, an election boycott is still unacceptable, a no brainer at least in my humble opinion. Timing is everything in politics. In 2013, boycotting the election made sense. Then, the opposition had leverage, even the SADC mediation team advised the opposition to boycott the election. Not only that, the world’s eyes were on Zimbabwe and more importantly, Zanu PF was in desperate need for legitimacy after the sham 2008 election. Unfortunately, boycotting the next general election is not different to closing the stables when the horse has already bolted. The boycott will certainly make headlines for a couple of months but will be soon forgotten, just like how we have forgotten crises in Burundi and Ethiopia.

A case for a coalition
If we are to participate in the next general elections, then we must draw lessons from the opposition in Seychelles and Gambia who recently won elections against authoritarian regimes in their respective countries.

Seychelles’ opposition having boycotted the 2011 elections, demanding electoral reforms, came together and formed a coalition which contested parliamentary elections this year. The coalition won a majority in the parliament for the first time since the country returned to multiparty democracy in 1993.

In Gambian for the first time in two decades, the opposition came together and formed a coalition, rallying behind a single candidate who ran against president Jammeh. They were able to bring president Jammeh’s 22-year rule to an end by re-energising their support base in the face of intimidation and other underhand tactics employed by the former president.

With this positive message coming from across Africa, that it is possible to defeat these tyrants, it is sad to hear all this bickering in the opposition camp. More so, when they all believe that a united opposition stands a much better chance of unseating a weakened Zanu PF from power. Only through a coalition can the demoralised voter be re-energised. Joining hands shows a serious intend of purpose and has the potential of exciting the new voter, creating a momentum that has been lacking ever since that election in 2013.

As I have highlighted above, I am no fan of boycotting the 2018 elections. But assuming there were no reforms and the opposition were to boycott the election, would it not be better to do so collectively under the banner of a coalition?

An indictment on Tsvangirai’s leadership
In the midst of verbal insults and bickering, great leaders have the ability to read between the lines, to listen to the words unspoken. If only Tsvangirai could listen, listen not only to his kitchen cabinet, I am sure he would hear the smaller opposition parties begging for his leadership.

The only reason why smaller parties and outsiders took the initiative to set the Cape Town talks is because Tsvangirai has failed to provide that much required leadership. If 2018 is going to mean something then he must step up and take responsibility, time is not on our side. After all the objective of the coalition is to try and rally behind his candidature against Robert Mugabe in 2018.

There are those who do not want Tsvangirai to join hands with anyone, saying the MDCT is big. Of course, it is true that Tsvangirai leads the biggest opposition party in the country but what honour is there in leading an opposition party that never gets power? History is awash with so many forgotten opposition leaders. He must be reminded that he stands to personally benefit from working with his former colleagues. Even in elementary politicking one is taught to work with their enemies to achieve their objectives. We cannot afford to miss another opportunity in 2018, its totally unacceptable considering how vulnerable Zanu PF is at the moment.

Decision time
Politics is always a game of imperfect choices, decisions are never completely right or wrong but never the less they must be made. All we demand from the opposition is clarity. They must come clean with the people of Zimbabwe who have placed their hope for a new Zimbabwe in them. They must tell the people whether they want to form a coalition or not and whether they will participate in 2018 elections or not.

The people have a right to know the options on the table, 2018 is too important an election to walk blindly into.

Why Mugabe and Malema are heroes to some

The death of Fidel Castro, one of the world’s most iconic leaders of 21st century last week was received with mixed feelings. And rightly so, he was a man of contrasting contradictions as one Chofamba Sithole put it. A polarising figure, even in his death. Regarded as a champion for the poor by some and a ruthless dictator by others.

For us socialists, Cuba is a living testimony on the virtues of socialism. Despite harsh and spiteful sanctions by the almighty powerful United States and her allies Cuba managed to provide quality health care, education and public transport free of charge to all its citizens.

Lest we forget, Cuba is only but a tiny island of about 11 million citizens but its contribution to Africa’s liberation struggles is solid and impeccable. Even during this post-colonial era Cuba has remained our friend, with some African countries benefiting from the health services provided by Cuban doctors visiting on a rotational basis.

The Paradox

However, being a social democrat, my love for Fidel Castro who was an autocrat by any definition is by itself a paradox or rather an oxymoron. I am sure many other social democrats are at pains trying to explain away this contradiction. For fear of being too simplistic, I will not join in this Castro bashing bandwagon. That would tantamount to throwing the baby out together with the bathwater. Fidel Castro had his flaws, he was human after all but to look at his flaws and ignore what he achieved for his country is nothing but reactionary.

For all his flaws, he cannot be faulted for not having a genuine concern for the poor, the underprivileged and the oppressed unlike some thieves, we erroneously address by some fancy titles such as presidents and prime ministers here in Africa. All they are good at is just talk, they preach the virtues of socialism by the day and practice their crony capitalism by the night.

These thieves and murderers, masquerading as revolutionaries surprise me, they too have a strong following and support base like the iconic late Fidel Castro. I must admit, I have struggled to grasp this paradox for a very long time. I just could not understand how an incompetent, corrupt, murderous thief like Robert Mugabe, could be so popular on the continent more so considering the state of affairs of Zimbabwe and its citizens.

Dear reader, if you are a Zimbabwean I know it is a hard pill to swallow, but yes, Robert Mugabe is actually received to wild cheers at international gatherings across the continent. They sing him praises and even glorify him as the true champion of black people.

These praise singers have no desire to acknowledge Gukurahundi, the murderous military campaign he carried out in the provinces of Matabeleland and Midlands in the early 1980s. Their so-called champion of black people is actually a murderer, but do they care? It does not seem so. Have they not heard about his glaring incompetence and corruption?  Yet they remain unmoved, Robert Mugabe is their champion and their hero doing a sterling job, ruining and transforming our beautiful Zimbabwe into the mess it is today.

During my stay in Europe, I have encountered a lot of Africans who see Robert Mugabe in a positive light. In the beginning, I always tried to offer a counter narrative, pointing them to Gukurahundi and how the country was run down by his incompetence and corruption. But I quickly learnt that no one was buying into my narrative. Thus, I began to speak my mind less and listened more to what they had to say.

During that process, I gained some valuable insight into this paradox. If you will allow me, I want to share them with you. They might not be profound, but they can help explain why these thieves have a solid support base and can be at times very popular.

We are creatures of habit

We are told human beings are by nature creatures of habit. I was reminded of this truism a week ago, when a friend of mine was celebrating Obama’s legacy on his Facebook wall. He was expounding how much he loved and admired Obama. Being the eager pan African I am, I sought to expose Obama’s imperialist credentials and put his legacy into a different perspective. I commented on my friend’s post with a website link to Obama’s drone policy record in Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia, where 90% of the several thousand killed were civilians. Mind you that Amnesty International and several other human rights organisations have even suggested that the US drone strikes could be classified under international war crimes. But no sooner had I shared my link than I received a harsh rebuke, I was told in plain terms that anti Obama sentiments were unwelcome on his wall.

When people fall in love with a political party, a politician or a demagogue, logic becomes secondary to their emotions. Never expect these people to be rational, like a woman in an abusive relationship they will make excuses for their party or leader. Just like my friend who did not want anti-Obama sentiments on his wall or the American people who elected Donald Trump, when people are in love with their party or politician they are unwilling to listen to facts, they are in a ‘post truth’ bubble, the truth does not matter to them.

The same bubble had to burst for the former vice president Joyce Mujuru and her party members to see how Mugabe and their Zanu PF they adored so much had destroyed our beautiful country. If it was not for their expulsion we can only but guess that today they would still be in Zanu PF, glorifying Robert Mugabe.

In the land of the blind the one eyed is a king/queen

malemamugabe

The average African citizen has given up on the leadership on the continent. Poor leadership is ingrained in his/her subconscious, he/she does not expect much anymore. Despite Mugabe’s many faults and shortcomings Africans regard him as their hero. They respect him for standing up against the ever bullying and patronising West. This is because leaders in their home countries share Mugabe’s many faults and weaknesses, but they do not have the spine to stand up to the West. Surely in this land of the blind the one-eyed Mugabe appears as a king.

The same goes for Malema. I do not need to work in the South African public protector’s office to know corruption when I see it. Everyone knows he was a ‘tenderpreneur’ benefiting corruptly from his ANC association. Yet Julius Malema is the most popular politician across the continent under the age of 40. It is because he is bold enough to talk about the difficult questions that South Africa cannot afford to ignore. Another one-eyed king in the land of the blind.

In as much as one might despise Robert Mugabe and Julius Malema for their lack of integrity, one cannot disagree with their views on land and our natural resources. For Africa, cannot begin the serious talk of decolonisation without addressing the land question and the exploitation of our natural resources.

Young people Arise

When ordinary people celebrate mediocrity, it is a clear sign that there is dearth of leadership on the continent. But as long as young men and women of integrity shun away from politics, from speaking about Africa’s natural resources, from standing up to the ever bullying and patronising West, Africa will forever be held at ransom by these fake revolutionaries.

A new generation of leaders must arise, leaders who will speak to these Pan African issues and more importantly visionaries who will fulfil Africa’s full potential.

Tendai Biti’s National Transitional Authority is nothing but a distraction

The so much hyped American election has come and gone. Who would have known that the people were so much dissatisfied with the American establishment? They voted for Donald Trump showing their contempt for the establishment.

‘One cannot disregard the people’s concerns, taking their lives for granted for over a very long time and expect them not to react.’

This should have been the message the Zimbabwean opposition got from the American election. Unfortunately, our opposition and civic organisations are far more concerned about their funding which is threatened by a Trump presidency.

We must embrace and rephrase this anti-establishment rhetoric sweeping across the western world. Make it suit our local context and re-energise our support base. We can and we must win elections against the Zanu PF rigging machinery. It’s not like we have never been there before, we beat them hands down in 2008.

Zanu PF is vulnerable and it knows it. There is too much infighting and a glaring lack of cohesion within the party and its hierarchy. We must utilise this moment, 2018 is not far, elections are upon us and boycotting is not an option. We boycotted all the by-elections and neither did that stop the sun from rising nor did the AU or SADC lose any sleep over it.

We must wake up and make hay whilst the sun shines. Zanu PF is already preparing for 2018 elections. It has realised the impact and implications of its fight with the war veterans, which is why it is now frantically trying to woo them back by splashing $20 million on new vehicles.

Contrast this with the opposition which is still in disarray. It’s less than two years before the next elections and the opposition does not have a plan. Instead of concentrating on making the coalition a reality which is supported by nearly everyone, some members within the opposition are throwing new ideas up for discussion. This proposed National Transitional Authority (NTA) has become nothing but a distraction to the opposition. I have no doubt whatsoever that Tendai Biti and his party have good intentions but we must not forget that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Since this idea is already in the public domain the sooner we can conclude this discussion the sooner we can start concentrating our energies on the creation of the coalition.

What is NTA?

For the Benefit of those who may not be aware of what this NTA is, I will recap just a few pointers so that we can be on the same page. Tendai Biti, his party and a few other intellectuals are saying that Zanu PF cannot be defeated through elections under the current conditions. They also think that the opposition is too weak to demand electoral reforms or to mount a credible challenge against Zanu PF 2018. Thus, in their view the only viable way to ensure free and fair elections in the future, is for all political players and civic actors to negotiate and create an authority that can manage the economy and the transitional period. The NTA is to be comprised of apolitical technocrats and guaranteed by AU and SADC.

Why would Zanu PF Give Up and Accept this Transitional Authority?

This whole proposal hinges on Zanu PF’s willingness to give up power and capitulate to this new authority. Forgive my ignorance but I have tried and failed to understand what magic trick would be used to force Zanu to agree to this arrangement.

I have asked leading and prominent members of PDP the very same question but no answers were forthcoming. How then do they expect ordinary citizens to buy into this idea when they cannot answer this primary question?

Of course, this is nothing but my simple logic at work here, if at all Tendai Biti and company can devise something that can compel Zanu PF to give up power, why not use that something and force Zanu PF to accept free and fair elections?

AU and SADC are the Guarantors of this NTA

Expecting the AU and SADC to play a significant role in this NTA is contrary to reason. I thought Tendai Biti at least learned something during the Global Political Agreement negotiations which were facilitated by the AU.

Let me put it bluntly, the AU and SADC are neither interested in democracy nor in regime change. Their philosophy is plain and simple ‘they believe in the sovereignty of each individual state and in the case of conflict within the state they believe in peace at whatever cost’.

As far as they are concerned, Mugabe won democratic and peaceful elections in 2013. The AU and SADC no longer have the will nor the desire to take on Mugabe on this issue. Mind you South Africa which is one of the most influential countries within both the AU and SADC is facing its own challenges. There is massive social unrest in South Africa and Zuma is battling for his own survival in the ANC.

I so much doubt that the South Africa government would want to add anything on its plate at the moment.

The legitimacy of the TNA

Tendai Biti attempted to answer this question in some video that was posted online. In his view, this question was a non-issue, he said the NTA could be treated in the same way the Global Political Agreement (GPA) was treated in 2008.

I find this response quite surprising coming from a democrat, how can the issue of legitimacy be a non-issue in any political discussion? Is he forgetting that the political parties that negotiated the GPA derived their legitimacy from the March 2008 elections which were deemed free and fair by everyone?

So, if we are not going to have elections in 2018, where would those who are going to negotiate this NTA derive their mandate from? If the mandate is to be derived from the 2013 election, then Zanu PF has got almost all the political bargaining chips in its hand. In any case, this presents legitimacy issues since the parliament’s term of office will be coming to an end.

Mugabe will not be negotiated out of power

To visualise Zimbabwe’s present day dilemma we must borrow from Antonio Gramsci who said ‘Our crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born’.

There is no doubt in anyone’s mind in Zimbabwe that Mugabe and his Zanu PF are an impediment to the country’s progress and development yet so far we have been unable to organise ourselves and build momentum to force them out of power.

Mugabe will not be negotiated out of power, he is so much preoccupied with a strong desire to die in power. He is not even prepared to hand over the reins to one of his lieutenants. When are we going to wake up to this truth? We know it in our hearts of hearts, if Mugabe is going to leave it is because we have pushed him out of power.

We must show our seriousness in our quest to remove Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF from power by coming together without fail. The opposition must sign a memorandum of understanding with one another and start organising and leading protests, demanding clearly stated electoral reforms. The united opposition must go into Zanu PF’ stronghold areas campaigning vigorously on Zanu PF corruption, exposing the lavish lifestyles Zanu PF leaders are living at the expense of the rural folk.

Let no one be fooled, removing Mugabe and Zanu PF from power is not be a stroll in the park, our recent history has shown but this is not a fight we can afford to shy away from.

A new Zimbabwe is possible.