Zimbabwe: No Middle Road and No Cairo Moment, Unless…

Takura Zhangazha reminded us on the Zimbabwe Reporter that it is already 11 years since the historic ‘No’ Vote" to Zanu (PF)'s attempt to impose constitutional changes. It was indeed a turning point in Zimbabwe when the people claimed their power through the combined efforts of the National Constitutional Assembly and the MDC.\r\n

We beg to differ with his view that the MDC is now faltering in bringing Zimbabwe to a social democratic, people-driven and economically just state. In fact he gave no evidence for that, except to say the MDC is involved in "elitist polices in fields of health, agriculture, constitutional reform, education and trade…"

We would only refer him to Theresa Makone, the MDC Women’s Chair’s honest assessment that her failure to implement certain changes in the Police Force result from inadequate powers – though she is Minister of Home Affairs, only the President can order the Police Commissioner take particular action. All she can do is propose policy – which must be approved by Cabinet.

This need for democratic constitutional changes permeates almost all aspects of the inclusive government – making it necessary for MDC Cabinet Ministers and MPs to be very creative if they want to implement any meaningful changes.

And even where they are very creative, the policies can be blocked at Cabinet if their interests do not coincide with those of Zanu (PF). That is the nature of a coalition government, and so far we are stuck in it.

The only way out was provided in the Global Political Agreement, which is to have constitutional changes and move on to a referendum and free and elections which would produce an elected government.

If Zhangazha was saying that the MDC had not done as much as it could to prioritize constitutional changes and elections as soon as possible, we might be tempted to agree with him, though we must also consider that Zanu (PF) has been manipulating the process to buy itself more time in power.

MDC Cabinet Ministers have been busy trying to improve what they can in their government portfolios – e.g. Tendai Biti in Finance, Nelson Chamisa in Information Technology Development, and many others like Samuel Sipepa Nkomo in Water Resources & Development, but everything that they do has to have the approval of Cabinet.

For these ministers it might have been easier because their portfolios are more to do with service delivery or infrastructure development; e.g. Zanu (PF) can easily be whipped to support a finance bill because they want the budget to pass so they can have access to money.

But those in ministries where they might find themselves undoing Zanu (PF) systems of patronage and control of the masses might find it more difficult if not impossible, cabinet and unco-operative civil servants to deal with.

For the MDC to begin to implement its own social democratic programme as envisioned in its own manifesto, it would have to be in government – an eventuality which Zanu (PF) is doing everything within and outside its constitutional power to work against.

Zimbabwean civil society, including the NCA, played a critical role in getting the No Vote which got the momentum for change going, but it is now in danger of assisting Zanu (PF) with its agenda of staying in power.

Instead of being united to achieve the removal of Zanu (PF) from power, Zimbabweans are being fractured into power-hungry splinters, with civil society also abandoning its traditional role and trying to take a political role.

Zapu president, Dumiso Dabengwa, admitted that he joined Mavambo Kusile Dawn (MKD) only in order to stop the MDC gaining a majority – a great disservice to the people of Zimbabwe which he should be condemned for, but we still see people congregating around him. They must think carefully about whether they are not being manipulated.

If he had not gone on his “braai-stick” policy , the MDC would have had the majority and there would have been no need for the inclusive government. So they are putting their own political ambitions ahead of resolving the suffering of the people under the Robert Mugabe dictatorship.

The same also applies to MDC (M or N) which is now being openly manipulated by Zanu (PF); Arthur Mutambara now depends on President Robert Mugabe to stay on as deputy Prime Minister – which means he is now on the Zanu (PF) payroll.

Welshman Ncube is also having to negotiate with Mugabe to try and get into the deputy prime-minister’s office, which also means he may well be asked to carry out one or two missions, and make a compromise here and there for Zanu (PF) – which means sabotaging the change agenda.

This has been the traditional role of the splinter MDC group and they are now only being asked to openly acknowledge that they owe their political survival to President Robert and Zanu (PF).

It is true that the constitutional process has been manipulated through the violence which happened during the consultation stage and is still going on, so it may not reflect the will of the people of Zimbabwe.

But rejecting it may mean buying more time for Zanu (PF) in power, and there is no guarantee that Zanu (PF) is not going to use that time to consolidate its dictatorship.

Patriotic Zimbabweans will have to judge the proposed constitution by whether or not it provides an opportunity to have elections that are free and fair, or at least allow people to express their will.

If COPAC produces such a draft constitution, then we must all support it so that we can have free and fair elections and also any of the progressive changes that will be in the constitution as soon as possible.

That way our country and nation might start moving towards constitutionalism, democracy and development. The MDC has already promised a more thorough constitutional process when it gets into power. We have no reason to doubt it.

Rejecting a constitution which allows for free and fair elections because it is not perfect, or was not arrived at perfectly would be tantamount to throwing out the baby with the bath-water, or as we say in chiKaranga chinya chegugwe or chinya chegurwe – to spite oneself like the cricket which kicks off its own legs out of anger.

The 2000 “No Vote” was actually not as non-partisan as Zhangazha suggests; it was not just “indicative of the ability of the people of Zimbabwe to demonstrate their disaffection at the manner in which politics was being conducted by the then government.," as he says.

It was in fact an anti-Zanu (PF) vote and therefore an affirmation of the the MDC, because the MDC was then the only substantive opposition challenging Zanu (PF).

So while the NCA might be able to go around canvassing for a “No Vote” in the current constitutional exercise, it must not forget that most of its members are also MDC members and they would want to vote “yes” so that the elections might take place and the MDC get into power sooner rather than later.

In fact prolonging Zanu (PF)’s time in power will not bring about the outcome that Zhangazha wants; it will only give Zanu (PF) more time to transform itself and try to hoodwink Zimbabweans that there is no longer any reason to remove it.

The so-called reformists in Zanu (PF) like vice-President Mai Mujuru are only being so reformist in order to protect their ill-gotten privileges which they know would be swept away in the event of an outright MDC victory. And Zhangazha is proposing to assist them.

While one might sympathise with Zhangazha’s position that Zanu (PF) will be asking Zimbabweans to vote so that it consolidates its continued stay in power, or the MDC may want them to vote to give it a chance to get into power, with none focussing on “arrival at a democratic society”, the obvious question to ask is: ”So which would you prefer?” There is no middle road.

He says his choice may not matter, but we beg to differ; it is clear that the constitutional process has been politicised, so one cannot vote for a neutral position – it’s either support for the MDC position and the democratic forces for Zanu (PF) and the repressive forces.

Yes, civil society might want want the vote to be purely a constitutional matter conducted by neutral civic-minded people, but it should not be done at the expense of giving relief to people of Zimbabwe right now – relief from a paralised government that is not able to take us out of the mire.

Any vote that is based on the fact that the process was not neutral enough may well as well be a spoiled vote; but a spoiled vote which will help Zanu (PF) to stay in power.

If the MDC missed any “potential ‘revolutionary’ moments” it was because of lack of support of the likes of Zhangazha who could have contributed to emboldening the people and demanding that Mugabe Must Go.

This would be better than sitting on the fence, pontificating and waiting to criticise, while dreaming of a Cairo Moment which will never come without an organised popular movement – supported by workers, peasants, students, intellectuals and politicians.

Last Updated ( Sunday, 06 February 2011 )

We beg to differ with his view that the MDC is now faltering in bringing Zimbabwe to a social democratic, people-driven and economically just state. In fact he gave no evidence for that, except to say the MDC is involved in "elitist polices in fields of health, agriculture, constitutional reform, education and trade…"

We would only refer him to Theresa Makone, the MDC Women’s Chair’s honest assessment that her failure to implement certain changes in the Police Force result from inadequate powers – though she is Minister of Home Affairs, only the President can order the Police Commissioner take particular action. All she can do is propose policy – which must be approved by Cabinet.

This need for democratic constitutional changes permeates almost all aspects of the inclusive government – making it necessary for MDC Cabinet Ministers and MPs to be very creative if they want to implement any meaningful changes.

And even where they are very creative, the policies can be blocked at Cabinet if their interests do not coincide with those of Zanu (PF). That is the nature of a coalition government, and so far we are stuck in it.

The only way out was provided in the Global Political Agreement, which is to have constitutional changes and move on to a referendum and free and elections which would produce an elected government.

If Zhangazha was saying that the MDC had not done as much as it could to prioritize constitutional changes and elections as soon as possible, we might be tempted to agree with him, though we must also consider that Zanu (PF) has been manipulating the process to buy itself more time in power.

MDC Cabinet Ministers have been busy trying to improve what they can in their government portfolios – e.g. Tendai Biti in Finance, Nelson Chamisa in Information Technology Development, and many others like Samuel Sipepa Nkomo in Water Resources & Development, but everything that they do has to have the approval of Cabinet.

For these ministers it might have been easier because their portfolios are more to do with service delivery or infrastructure development; e.g. Zanu (PF) can easily be whipped to support a finance bill because they want the budget to pass so they can have access to money.

But those in ministries where they might find themselves undoing Zanu (PF) systems of patronage and control of the masses might find it more difficult if not impossible, cabinet and unco-operative civil servants to deal with.

For the MDC to begin to implement its own social democratic programme as envisioned in its own manifesto, it would have to be in government – an eventuality which Zanu (PF) is doing everything within and outside its constitutional power to work against.

Zimbabwean civil society, including the NCA, played a critical role in getting the No Vote which got the momentum for change going, but it is now in danger of assisting Zanu (PF) with its agenda of staying in power.

Instead of being united to achieve the removal of Zanu (PF) from power, Zimbabweans are being fractured into power-hungry splinters, with civil society also abandoning its traditional role and trying to take a political role.

Zapu president, Dumiso Dabengwa, admitted that he joined Mavambo Kusile Dawn (MKD) only in order to stop the MDC gaining a majority – a great disservice to the people of Zimbabwe which he should be condemned for, but we still see people congregating around him. They must think carefully about whether they are not being manipulated.

If he had not gone on his “braai-stick” policy , the MDC would have had the majority and there would have been no need for the inclusive government. So they are putting their own political ambitions ahead of resolving the suffering of the people under the Robert Mugabe dictatorship.

The same also applies to MDC (M or N) which is now being openly manipulated by Zanu (PF); Arthur Mutambara now depends on President Robert Mugabe to stay on as deputy Prime Minister – which means he is now on the Zanu (PF) payroll.

Welshman Ncube is also having to negotiate with Mugabe to try and get into the deputy prime-minister’s office, which also means he may well be asked to carry out one or two missions, and make a compromise here and there for Zanu (PF) – which means sabotaging the change agenda.

This has been the traditional role of the splinter MDC group and they are now only being asked to openly acknowledge that they owe their political survival to President Robert and Zanu (PF).

It is true that the constitutional process has been manipulated through the violence which happened during the consultation stage and is still going on, so it may not reflect the will of the people of Zimbabwe.

But rejecting it may mean buying more time for Zanu (PF) in power, and there is no guarantee that Zanu (PF) is not going to use that time to consolidate its dictatorship.

Patriotic Zimbabweans will have to judge the proposed constitution by whether or not it provides an opportunity to have elections that are free and fair, or at least allow people to express their will.

If COPAC produces such a draft constitution, then we must all support it so that we can have free and fair elections and also any of the progressive changes that will be in the constitution as soon as possible.

That way our country and nation might start moving towards constitutionalism, democracy and development. The MDC has already promised a more thorough constitutional process when it gets into power. We have no reason to doubt it.

Rejecting a constitution which allows for free and fair elections because it is not perfect, or was not arrived at perfectly would be tantamount to throwing out the baby with the bath-water, or as we say in chiKaranga chinya chegugwe or chinya chegurwe – to spite oneself like the cricket which kicks off its own legs out of anger.

The 2000 “No Vote” was actually not as non-partisan as Zhangazha suggests; it was not just “indicative of the ability of the people of Zimbabwe to demonstrate their disaffection at the manner in which politics was being conducted by the then government.," as he says.

It was in fact an anti-Zanu (PF) vote and therefore an affirmation of the the MDC, because the MDC was then the only substantive opposition challenging Zanu (PF).

So while the NCA might be able to go around canvassing for a “No Vote” in the current constitutional exercise, it must not forget that most of its members are also MDC members and they would want to vote “yes” so that the elections might take place and the MDC get into power sooner rather than later.

In fact prolonging Zanu (PF)’s time in power will not bring about the outcome that Zhangazha wants; it will only give Zanu (PF) more time to transform itself and try to hoodwink Zimbabweans that there is no longer any reason to remove it.

The so-called reformists in Zanu (PF) like vice-President Mai Mujuru are only being so reformist in order to protect their ill-gotten privileges which they know would be swept away in the event of an outright MDC victory. And Zhangazha is proposing to assist them.

While one might sympathise with Zhangazha’s position that Zanu (PF) will be asking Zimbabweans to vote so that it consolidates its continued stay in power, or the MDC may want them to vote to give it a chance to get into power, with none focussing on “arrival at a democratic society”, the obvious question to ask is: ”So which would you prefer?” There is no middle road.

He says his choice may not matter, but we beg to differ; it is clear that the constitutional process has been politicised, so one cannot vote for a neutral position – it’s either support for the MDC position and the democratic forces for Zanu (PF) and the repressive forces.

Yes, civil society might want want the vote to be purely a constitutional matter conducted by neutral civic-minded people, but it should not be done at the expense of giving relief to people of Zimbabwe right now – relief from a paralised government that is not able to take us out of the mire.

Any vote that is based on the fact that the process was not neutral enough may well as well be a spoiled vote; but a spoiled vote which will help Zanu (PF) to stay in power.

If the MDC missed any “potential ‘revolutionary’ moments” it was because of lack of support of the likes of Zhangazha who could have contributed to emboldening the people and demanding that Mugabe Must Go.

This would be better than sitting on the fence, pontificating and waiting to criticise, while dreaming of a Cairo Moment which will never come without an organised popular movement – supported by workers, peasants, students, intellectuals and politicians. – ChangeZimbabwe