2010 – The year when Zanu pf failed to bury the bad news

OPINION – Despite being in denial for a long time and wallowing in hopeless propaganda throughout 2010, Zanu-pf failed to bury the bad news.

It was not all good news in five areas: democratic reforms, indigenisation, foreign investment, land reform and targeted sanctions apart from the group dynamics of the former liberation movement. According to one of the cables on Wikileaks a Zanu-pf official allegedly "likened Zanu-pf to a troop of baboons incessantly fighting among themselves but coming together to face external threats".

Democratic reforms

One of the several admissions made by Zanu-pf’s central committee at the party’s conference held in Mutare in December 2010 was that it embarked on a nationwide exercise to coach people on how to contribute in the constitutional outreach programme by articulating the principles of the controversial Kariba Draft Constitution. The other incredible admission was that "Zanu-pf finds itself in a paradoxical situation where it claimed to have staggering membership, yet facing exponentially declining subscriptions." According to the Zimbabwe Independent of 30th December 2010 this ‘tallies’ with reports that people have in the past been intimidated into buying membership cards while others have bought them to protect themselves against harassment, violence and intimidation.

Even the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) rank and file allegedly want Mugabe to go. For example, in April 2008, middle and junior-ranking CIO officers reportedly said several of their colleagues working for the "2008 elections assignment" emphasised that intelligence reports suggested Mugabe had lost support even of his key allies in Zanu-pf, except a radical clique which was urging him to fight another day, mainly because they were eager to protect their wealth (The Zimbabwean, 23/04/08).

The central committee’s admissions confirm what was already known that the constitutional outreach process was seriously flawed and unlikely to come up with a constitution which reflected the people’s views. By deploying legislators, the army, war veterans, youth militia and CIO operatives to intimidate supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Zanu-pf ‘interfered’ with the democratic reform process.

The violation of human rights and of the freedom of opinion, of association and of peaceful assembly in Zimbabwe continue to compromise the good governance e.g. following the reported deployment of soldiers at Morgan Tsvangirai’s village and the door-to-door election campaign in Gutu, Masvingo by soldiers threatening villagers to vote for Mugabe and Zanu-pf in the 2011 elections. Similarly, press freedom is under threat.

The international press freedom watchdog, Reporters Without Borders has condemned Grace Mugabe’s US$15 million libel suit against the Zimbabwe Standard saying it is aimed at undermining the paper. Cyber activists outraged by Mrs Mugabe’s lawsuit have ‘retaliated’ by bringing down government’s gta and zimtreasury websites. Zimbabwe is one of the top eight countries with the worst human rights records in the world according to the Human Rights Risk Atlas 2011 published by British risk analysis and rating firm Maplecroft.

Indigenisation law

The controversial Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act which came into force in March and states that foreign –owned companies must give up more than half of their shares to locals is seen as Zanu-pf’s answer to western targeted sanctions. However, the law was quickly put on ice early in December when it dawned that it was more counter productive and ill-conceived than previously thought.

For example, the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE) Chief Executive Officer Emmanuel Munyukwi is quoted as saying 2010 could have been ‘a much better year’ compared to 2009 had it not been for the indigenisation regulations. "In April we raked in about US$5 million while months before that we were raking in more than US$20 million a month. Since the regulations were gazetted, we have seen a negative impact on trade," he said (Zimbabwe Independent, 23/12 10).

Moves to occupy ‘white owned’ businesses started in April 2001 when four Harare factories were invaded by Mugabe’s mobs. One particular case study that upsets me is that of Lobels Bread Ltd where as a boy in the late 1960s I enjoyed going to buy Lobels biscuits, bread, scones, cream buns, candy cakes and doughnuts at their bakery in Beatrice Road now Simon Mazorodze Road when we lived at 11 Mwamuka Street, Mbare, Harare before we relocated to Mufakose.

According to the Daily Telegraph, 80 men stormed Lobels factory with the help of the police. Mark Prior, the white managing director, was reportedly harangued before the workforce, and the gang said all whites would be forced out of Zimbabwe and they would run the business from "now on" (Zimbabwe Situation 08/04/01). The company which was founded over 60 years ago and diversified into confectionary was later sold to a consortium of black businesspersons.

By September 2010, Lobels had stopped bread production due to cash flow and raw material problems that saw workers striking. An audit led to the dismissal of three of its top managers on allegations of misappropriating more than US$10 million thereby crippling the bread manufacturing operations. However, hopes were raised early December 2010 following news that Tiger Brands Ltd South Africa’s largest food company was in talks to acquire a 49% stake worth US$10 million in Lobels bakery in line with the indigenisation law. Hopefully, all goes well.

Foreign Investment

Zimbabwe is shooting itself in the foot because of irresponsible statements by Zanu-pf politicians such as Mugabe’s threat to seize foreign-owned companies if targeted sanctions were not removed. Although the country is rich in mineral resources and has the second-largest deposits of platinum, according to the Times, most miners are avoiding the country or have put their investments on hold. Rio Tinto, the world’s second largest miner said "it would not invest further until President Mugabe was gone" (Times, 25/06/08). It is a fact that the unresolved succession issue tends to ‘put-off’ investors.

The African Development Bank (ADB) notes that the public debt overhang of about US$6 billion (about 170% of GDP) constraints Zimbabwe’s access to international capital markets and discourages private investment. Poor financial results depressed the local stock market with December being listless in the wake of downbeat financial results for most of the companies. There are calls for an audit of the public debt.

The ADB says political issues of particular concern cited by donors include: politically inspired violence and abuse of the judiciary, including politically motivated arrests; continued farm invasions; delays to the land audit provided for in the GPA; unilateral imposition of partners to owners of private wildlife conservation; disrespect of Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreements (BIPPAS); and slow progress on a range of issues agreed by the parties to the GPA aimed at improving freedom of the media, governance, respect for human rights and the rule of law, and exploitation of natural resources in accordance with internationally agreed standards (ADB, Zimbabwe Country Brief, January 2010, page 9).

The recent announcement by Mines Minister Obert Mpofu that all licences awarded to the British mining firm African Consolidated Resources (ACR’s) which used to operate out of Chiadzwa will be cancelled managed to cause panic among investors. Although, a Zimbabwe-based shareholder has dismissed the Minister’s statement, saying only the mining commissioner has the legal standing to cancel licences, one foreign investor reportedly posted a message on the London Stock Exchange share chat saying:"Will it still be worth holding this share? What price Monday morning?" (Leonard Makombe, ‘Mpofu can’t cancel ACR licences,’ The Zimbabwe Independent, 23/12/10). The ACR says it has some 12 key projects in the country covering gold, nickel, platinum, copper, phosphate and diamonds.

Confirming points raised by the ADB, the Guardian noted that "Zimbabwe, is of course, more commonly known as a country where human rights are routinely violated; of extreme poverty and chronic food shortages; of forced slum clearances and land grabs; and of a dictatorial president Robert Mugabe who runs roughshod over opponents (23/08/10). The country appears on the countries of concern list compiled by Experts in Responsible Investment Solutions (Eiris).

Land Reform

The other bad news which Zanu-pf cannot be proud of is the fact that some new farmers have lost faith in land reform and view ‘land redistribution as a political weapon’ (Zimbabwean 06/10/10). Admittedly, some people have used the allocated land productively as noted by Magnus Taylor (2010) however, what is deplorable are ongoing farm seizures despite the formation of the coalition government and reports of some of the farms having fallen idle since they were given to ‘cell-phone-farmers’ prompting Agriculture Minister, Herbert Murerwa to threaten repossession. This followed revelations that at least 120 evicted white farmers have returned to their former properties through leasehold deals under which the parties share profits (NewZimbabwe, 29/12/10).

It is unfair for Zanu-pf to score political points over the land issue by frustrating the former white farmers in their efforts to obtain redress through the courts. The dismissal with costs by the Zimbabwe Supreme Court of an application by white former commercial farmers challenging the constitutionality of government’s compulsory land acquisition is regrettable.

The Chief Justice stressed that the Supreme Court’s decision was final and would not be bound or influenced by the SADC Tribunal, thereby shuttering hopes of a quicker solution. However, it does not make sense that Zimbabwe is relying on food handouts while experienced Zimbabwean commercial farmers are being denied access to land resettlement because they are black like me. It is scandalous, in the wake of revelations that Mugabe’s elite controls an estimated 5 million hectares of Zimbabwean land, much of it unutilised.

For the sake of nation-building, civil society should urge government to amend the relevant Act of Parliament on which the court decision was based so as to remove any perceived or real racial barriers in land resettlement as long as the farmers are Zimbabwean citizens and have nowhere else to go. Justice and fairness should be seen to be done. Nobody denies that Zimbabwe witnessed terrible racism before independence. However, after pronouncing reconciliation in 1980, there was no point in going back on that policy 30 years later.

Paradoxically, Zimbabwe has in the past submitted itself to international arbitration over land disputes due to BIPPAS without a fight, for example, the appointment in December 2010 of an international tribunal to consider the case of a German family whose three farms which are protected by a BIPPA were illegally invaded by Zanu-pf members in June. In an earlier dispute, a group of Dutch nationals in April 2009 won its case after its BIPPA-protected farms were invaded.

According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Zimbabwe’s statistical indicators for health and education were once among the best in Africa. But the political and economic crises have brought rising poverty and social decline in its wake (ruralpovertyportal.org accessed on 31/12/10). To Paul Nyakazeya of the Independent, Zimbabwe’s agriculture remains fragile despite recovery signs. In his view Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector is however emerging from the intensive care unit after a decade which was characterised by political unrest, drought, shortage of inputs and fuel, declining economy, unreliable electricity for winter farming and absence of collateral to access loans.

Despite Mugabe justifying 2008 violence for defending the country from infiltration by non-governmental organisations and the West (ZimOnline, 18/12/10), Zanu-pf members have allegedly hijacked food donated by World Vision and Christian Care and are giving it only to their party supporters.

Targeted sanctions

The failed concerted international campaign for the lifting of EU and US targeted sanctions headed by SADC facilitator Jacob Zuma proved that the sanctions were hurting the right people – Mugabe and his 200 cronies, otherwise why would Zuma bother?.

The aim of the sanctions which have been extended every year since their adoption in 2002 is to "encourage those targeted to reject policies that lead to suppression of human rights, of the freedom of expression and of good governance" according to the European Union’s Council.

The targeted sanctions take the form of an embargo on the sale, supply or transfer of arms and technical advice, assistance or training related to military activities, and an embargo on the sale and supply of equipment that could be used for internal repression in Zimbabwe. Other measures are a travel ban on persons who engage in serious violations of human rights and of the freedom of opinion, of association and of peaceful assembly in Zimbabwe, and a freezing of their funds, financial assets and economic resources. About 33 entities mainly farms are also banned, however, the EU and US have continued to give humanitarian aid but not on a government-to-government basis.

In September 2010 the State Department said Zimbabwe must show greater respect for human rights and political freedoms before the US sanctions can be removed. Recently, the United States slapped visa and financial sanctions on Zimbabwe’s Attorney General Johannes Tomana as punishment for undermining democratic institutions and processes.

However, IDASA argues that the foremost weakness of restrictive measures is the ‘lack of international consensus surrounding their objectives and the unco-ordinated lists of targeted individuals and entities. British banking group Standard Chartered Bank has been accused of allegedly giving loans to Robert Mugabe’s allies through syndicated facilities offered by Non–European Union (UE) banks as a way of getting around d the targeted measures. According to Africa Confidential, Stanchart, PTA Bank and a Chinese tobacco trader were allegedly responsible for more than US$400 million in lines of credit, which went to 23 Zimbabwean companies in 2010 with the RBZ’s approval (SWRadioAfrica, 13/12/10).

Short of a miracle, Mugabe and his Zanu-pf will not have changed much by 20th February 2011 when the EU will review its targeted sanctions on the Zimbabwean leader and his inner circle. Accordingly, though not perfect, targeted sanctions should be retained for as long as there are human rights abuses, impunity, disrespect for the rule of law, disruption of the constitutional reform process and repression in Zimbabwe. Contrary to some doubting Thomases, targeted sanctions work. Proof is Mugabe’s threat to make it treasonable to call for sanctions on him for rights abuses as I have just done in this paragraph. Happy New Year!

Clifford Chitupa Mashiri, Political Analyst, London zimanalysis2009@gmail.com