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.

Masarira was right, we are a nation of cowards

I would like to take this opportunity to wish you a Merry Christmas and a prosperous 2017. This is a line I have recited year in year out. However, this year I have found it difficult to recite this common but beautiful line. How could I not feel the emptiness in those words when I know fully well that a big part of our Zimbabwean family is going to go to Christmas unpaid?

Our wise government decided to pay nurses and the security sector on the 21st of December, teachers on the 28th of December and the rest of the civil service on the 3rd of January next year. I am just trying to imagine a married couple, both civil servants. What kind of festive season are they going to have? A bleak Christmas, that I can tell you without reserve.

However, this mistreatment of civil servants is nothing new, their salaries have been below the poverty datum line for the past two decades now. Basically, they are national servants, like literally servants, unfortunately unappreciated servants. Trust me I know what I am talking about, I am a son of two retired civil servants, both educators by profession. Guess what, even after retirement, these senior citizens still get a raw deal.

But let’s rewind a little bit, help me understand, why did the government chose to pay nurses and the security sector earlier than others? I am sure you can agree with me, paying everyone a fraction of their salary before Christmas and the rest later sounds more sensible, right? At least this would have been fair to all civil servants and more importantly it would have ensured that all civil servants were going to have a decent Christmas with their families.

I am pretty sure that this is what a government that pretends to care for its citizens would have done. But of course, that does not make political sense. It’s called divide and rule fellow Zimbabweans. This is what a regime that is only concerned by power retention does, especially when elections are less than one and half years away. It’s not like we did not know that the Zanu PF regime regards certain civil servants more equal than others. In this current climate, were public dissent is fashionable, a strike or disgruntlement from the security sector can have far reaching consequences. This is why the regime had to send a clear and unambiguous message to the security sector, saying that even though we pay you peanuts we still have your back.

mugabes2

Yes, it is official the president’s spokesperson told us that the president was off to the far East, on his annual leave together with his family. It’s probably too much to ask for, but one would have thought that a caring president would forgo a holiday with his family in solidarity with the unpaid civil servants. But forget that, Mugabe is way past pretence, he does not care what we all think anymore. Besides it would be unfair to his family, they have diamond loot to spend and very limited time with Mugabe considering his age.

This brings me to a post I saw on Kudzayi Kadzere’s Facebook wall a couple of days ago, he was asking how we Zimbabweans have allowed ourselves to normalise the abnormal, how we have come to accept the unacceptable. Is it not amazing how the country is relatively quiet, we are only hearing whimpers and growls in beer drinking places and on social media when a majority of civil servants are going for the festive season unpaid? Oh, cry beloved Zimbabwe, how have we allowed ourselves to accept the unacceptable? Men and women spend sleepless nights in bank queues and are only allowed to withdraw measly amounts from their accounts, normalising the abnormal, haven’t we?

zimbabwe-sleepover

Last week Linda Masarira sparked a storm in a tea cup online, the entire week was spend discussing tribalism and how unfit Linda was to lead a protest movement in Zimbabwe. That very same week Mugabe gave a state of the nation address and Chinamasa presented the budget for 2017 and all we could do was talk about Linda. How did we become so good at majoring on minors? We are so easily distracted maybe we need blinkers as a people. If we are not careful, we will end up fighting each other instead of Zanu PF the real enemy of progress. As the optimists say, there is a silver lining to every dark cloud, at least we now know that we still have tribal tensions that need addressing, I presume a job for all of us in the new Zimbabwe.

However, Linda’s message in politically correct language is that we are all cowards. In fact, we are a country of cowards, too timid and docile, incapable of standing up for ourselves. Forgive me for saying that, I stand to be corrected if I am proven wrong but can someone tell me, how did we (Zimbabweans) fail to fight back when our homes, makeshift industries and livelihoods were destroyed during operation Murambatsvina? I would like to think that if another man is able to destroy my home and I am not able to put up a fight against such provocation, then no amount of further provocation will ever force me to fight. No, not even sleeping at a bank queue or only being allowed to withdraw $50 a day or having one’s payday postponed, will make me stand up for myself.

murambatsvina

Is it not funny then to hear my generation, the born frees and those born during the height of the liberation war saying to the war vets, ‘you can take the country back to where you found it, we will liberate it ourselves.They believe that the only reason they did not fight in the liberation struggle was because they were either not yet born or old enough.

I am sorry but even if this generation was old enough it would not have fought in that liberation struggle. How could it? When it cannot fight this current oppressive system. I am not even talking about campaigning for the opposition in Uzumba-Maramba-Pfungwe or in the heart of Mashonaland central, where one’s life would be at risk. I am talking about simple things such as participating in a demonstration that has been organised by other people. If you cannot spare a few hours to the national cause doing simple things such as walking, singing and perhaps running away from the police then please forgive me, your words are hollow when tell me, you could have fought in the liberation struggle.

We must admit, we are a generation of cowards. For we have been successfully intimidated by the police baton stick, we are afraid to be choked by teargas and are traumatised by the mere thought of spending a few nights in the jail cells. Let’s admit we are cowards and the least this generation of cowards can do is to mobilise each other to register and eventually vote the regime out, at least in the voting booth there is no need to fear because your vote is your secret.

 

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.

 

Africa’s broken relationship with the International Criminal Court

To be or not to be is the question that Africa has begun answering in regards to the ICC. President Pierre Nkurunziza signed a decree on Tuesday the 18th of October 2016 signalling Burundi’s intention to quit the International Criminal Court. This came after its parliament had voted overwhelmingly to remove the country from the court’s jurisdiction.

Before the ink on the decree had dried, South Africa had already made a formal request to have its membership withdrawn from the ICC. Adding intrigue to this ongoing debate, Gambia announced its intention to withdraw its membership from the ICC too.

Initially it was easy for commentators to dismiss Burundi’s actions since the court had launched preliminary investigations into the country’s leadership. But South Africa and Gambia have made it abundantly clear that Africa’s threats to leave the ICC en-masse were not empty.

I probably agree on many issues with many of you, perhaps this is one of the few cases were my personal view is not in tandem with the so called pro-democratic forces. I support and respect the African Union’s position to leave the ICC and here is why:

The court’s neo-colonial agenda

We must never forget that the architecture of the international system was crafted by the victors of the second world war. Institutions like the United Nations, the World Bank and the IMF have been used by the powers that be to further their own neo-colonial agenda. Unfortunately, the ICC has become an extension of that global system.

To highlight my point, the Security Council can refer cases to the ICC despite the fact that three of its five permanent members with veto powers are not party to the Rome statute. Even more worrying is the fact that the Security Council has not always acted above board. For instance, the United States of America has on several occasions vetoed Security Council resolutions concerning Israeli war crimes on Palestinian territory. And so, has Russia and China vetoed UN draft resolution to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court.

It’s amazing that countries that do not want to be held accountable under the Rome Statute play referee, referring or blocking cases that can go to the ICC from the Security Council? We must not only wonder where the Security Council derives its moral authority from, but question why it is allowed to play such a role?

This whole system has been faulty from its origin. Even if we were to somehow accept the authority of the Security Council, are we Africans supposed to sit and smile when we do not have veto power in this council, worse in matters that affect African countries?

I do not think so. I hope this ICC crisis will act as a sign to the powers that be that all is not well. International systems need to reform if they are to live up to their promises and moral values.

Africa says peace over justice

African institutions like the AU and other regional bodies have an opinion in this thorny debate namely that pursuing justice can undermine peace negotiations. Many might not agree with Africa’s stance on this debate but its stance is clear, Africa believes in peace over justice.

The ICC obviously does not agree. It believes in justice at whatever cost to the affected country. This behaviour is not any different to how Western leaders behave or have behaved in the past. They have sought to get rid of leaders who are not subservient to their interests under the pretext of them being evil. This is not to exonerate that the condemned regimes, but it is simply to explain the Western hypicrisy, for it mantians cozy relationships with far worse regimes. The West under the banner of international community overthrew Gaddafi. Need I remind you dear reader that Africans were excluded in the deliberations on Libya, their advice utterly ignored. Now the country is ungovernable with even more human rights abuses. The international community chose expediency over peace and Libya reaped anarchy.

The ICC has taken this unfortunate direction, indicting sitting Heads of States, which obviously, the African Union disagrees with. The African Union’s view is to suspend justice in exchange for a possible end to a conflict. It has argued that prosecution or indictment poses a dangerous and unfortunate obstacle to any peace process. That is why the African Union viewed the indictment of Omar Bashir in 2009 as an assault on the peace process in Sudan. Justice must never be mande a hindrance to diplomatic efforts to establish peace.

Surely the Court could have delayed indicting any sitting Heads of State until they have left office. This small gesture would have resolved the conflict between the AU and the Court. Showing a bit of respect to African Institutions and their line of thinking is not too much to ask for. I wonder if the Court will ever attempt to arrest any Western sitting Head of State.

 The selective enforcement of the Rome Statute

The Gambian Information Minister Sheriff Bojang explaining why Gambia decided to leave the ICC had this to say: “this action is warranted by the fact that the ICC, despite being called the International Criminal Court, is in fact an International Caucasian Court for the persecution and humiliation of people of colour, especially Africans”.

Unfortunately, the sentiments expressed by the Gambian Information Minister are shared by many Africans across the globe, myself included. Why has Tony Blair and his army generals not been indicted by the court? This is a question we cannot ignore. Great Britain is a party to the Rome Statute thus their actions are within the court’s jurisdiction. The then United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan described explicitly that the Iraq war was illegal as it breached the UN Charter. Do the Iraqi civilian lives lost through this illegal war count for nothing? Or are Western perpetrators of war crimes above the law?

According to South African ruling party ANC’s head of International Relations Sub-Committee Obed Bapela, 66% of the ICC budget comes from the European Union (EU). It therefore does not come as a surprise that Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister, has not been indicted for war crimes during the illegal Iraq invasion in 2003. We know that he who pays the piper calls the tune. But we Africans are sick and tired for being second class citizens of this world.

Dr Milton Wolf says selective enforcement of the law is the first sign of tyranny. We as Africans are feeling the weight of this tyranny. In fact, we have always felt it. During our liberation struggle our heroes were labelled terrorists. Yet, yesterday’s monsters, those who murdered, brutalised and dehumanised our people during Africa’s colonization, are celebrated in Western cities. King Leopold the second is celebrated across Belgium but he committed a genocide in the Congo. As victims of the worst kind of racism (slavery) , we are very conscious of the existence of racism on the international scene.

Thus, we view this selective application of international law not only as a form of legal abuse but a threat to the rule of international law. What is good for the goose must also be good for the gander.

 A case for victims

The Africa Group for Justice and Accountability notes that the decision to leave the ICC has the potential to deprive the victims of human rights violations a recourse to justice. That is why I find pulling out from the ICC without a clear strategy on how to make our leaders account for atrocities they commit in their respective countries not only morally wrong but also foolhardy. It sends the wrong message about our seriousness to deal with these heinous crimes and our desire to see an end to impunity.

We cannot afford to forget the African victims in this intellectual discourse. Since Africa’s pull-out is no longer in doubt, the AU must establish its own independent African Criminal Court with the jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. We must all now be gripped with discussions around the modalities of establishing this Court.

Of course establishing the court will bring with it many challenges. Friends and foes alike  will question our court’s integrity but I sincerely believe that in the long run Africa will rise to the occasion.

We shall over come