Prof. Chan’s views are ‘provocative, contradictory and inadequately informed’

I beg to differ with Professor Chan’s views as expressed in his opinion article ‘Changing international views on Zimbabwe’ (see below) because they are unnecessarily provocative, contradictory and inadequately informed.

New Zimbabwe.com 

While, he has written a book about Mugabe, it is not clear how Professor Chan has drawn so many controversial conclusions about Zimbabwe which are unempirical and open to question. For example he refers to ‘the lacklustre performance of Tsvangirai as Prime Minister’.

However, there is a contradiction when Professor Chan recognises the ‘dominating capacity of Zanu-pf’ which should explain why the PM can’t do much. While this is no apology for the PM, everyone knows how Mugabe grabbed nearly everything meaningful save for finance in the GNU including police, prisons, justice, foreign affairs, defence and security and ensured he was the head of government. What was then left for the Prime Minister, Tsvangirai to do when he has even been locked out of Zimbabwe House?

Professor Chan claims ‘What the West would like to see is of course an MDC government. It would like this in the full anticipation that it will be an incompetent government which will become corrupt quite quickly’. Why Professor Chan sounds so insensitive boggles the mind. What about the people of Zimbabwe? Are their views not important? What would they want to see in their country? What type of democracy is Professor Chan propagating?

It looks like Prof Chan is prematurely drawing conclusions based on the subjective views expressed in some of the cables released by Wikileaks. Zimbabweans resent being seen as if they are incapable of articulating their own independent positions. In fact, some powers have been disappointed by some Zimbabwean leaders’ reluctance to go for hook, line and sinker on certain positions.

Professor Chan claims the West and China would prefer another coalition government in Zimbabwe ‘preferably fairly elected and if not fully fairly elected, cleanly elected, i.e. without violence and naked rigging’. What a bizarre suggestion being made for us thousands of miles away by non-Zimbabweans? We have no huge appetite for coalition governments. Thank you very much.

Professor Chan may need to refresh his memory by reviewing a report by London-based think-tank, Africa Confidential just released which indicates that former opposition leader, MDC President, Morgan Tsvangirai "clearly beat Mugabe" in the first round of voting in March 2008 but was denied power after a plan to steal some of his votes allegedly hatched by Zanu-pf military junta in connivance with South African officials (The Zimbabwe Mail, 26/01/11). In other words, the current coalition government was not the primary desire of Zimbabwean voters and we have no wish for another coalition no matter how preferable it may be for some outside observers.

Another contradiction in Professor Chan’s article is when he says ‘Europe, as a result, will start doing business with Zanu-pf in 2011’ despite noting in a preceding paragraph that ‘Zanu-pf has clearly no interest in fiscal probity, fiscal transparency, developmental equity, financial dissemination or facilities for development except as acts of patronage and of course, purchasing of votes’. I wonder if that is the official view of ‘Europe’ as expressed by Professor Chan.

He then says that there is ‘much conjecture that the EU will contemplate some form of lifting of sanctions’ because ‘they have not worked in any way to curtail or reduce the dominating capacity of Zanu-pf’ and ‘if isolation and sanctions have not worked, some form of engagement might’. It’s not clear what makes Professor Chan draw such hard and fast conclusions which go against the practical reality as we all know. .

If isolation and targeted sanctions had not worked, why would there be such a Zanu-pf outcry as demonstrated by Mugabe’s perennial calls for them to be lifted? Why did SADC presidents led by Jacob Zuma of South Africa join the anti-sanctions crusade in vain? Why has Zanu-pf launched a multi-million anti-sanctions petition if the sanctions have not worked?

Professor Chan seems to know more than we do by claiming ‘there has been a modest increase in contacts between British governmental and other actors and senior Zanu-pf actors’. As if to buttress his point that targeted sanctions have not worked, Professor Chan says, ‘Even some figures named on the sanctions list, and normally thereby off-limits, have been included in what are, at this stage, conversations about conversations’. So what? Where Professor Chan forgets is that those Zanu-pf officials are only able to access Europe by view of the flawed Global Political Agreement and the coalition government.

We remain to get the official UK Government’s position on Professor Chan’s claim that ‘The UK would accept, in some ways even welcome, the triumph of the technocratic wing of Zanu-pf’.

In the meantime, Professor Chan should not underestimate Zimbabweans’ desire for genuine change and the right to self-determination. It is important to recognise the unpredictability of political situations even in hither-to ‘stable and peaceful sunshine holiday destinations’ as we have seen of late in North Africa e.g. Tunisia, Egypt and beyond.

Factors other than geo-politics which will shape the Zimbabwean politik include events like the following:

‘Zanu-pf sets up bases around Harare’, Daily News, 26/01/11;

‘Villagers forced to sign anti-sanctions petition’, RadioVOP, 27/01/11;

‘Mutasa admits soldiers’ role in politics’, The Standard, 15/01/11;

‘State spy agents trying to hack into COPAC Data’, Radio VOP, 25/01/11.

Clifford Chitupa Mashiri is a London based political analyst and regular columnist for The Zimbabwe Mai, he can be contatcted at zimanalysis2009@gmail.com