Regime change now coming to a dictator somewhere near you

OPINION – Arguments that Egypt style revolution is improbable in Zimbabwe are very unconvincing and unscientific as they have confused stay-aways with well co-ordinated revolutions.

Stay-aways not revolutions

First and foremost Zimbabweans are not docile or cowardly because that assessment is neither scientific nor reliable. It is incorrect to compare stay- aways with revolutions as the two have different aims and are probably organized differently. Although stay-aways would be instrumental in a revolution, it would be misleading to draw any strong similarities between the two social phenomena

Secondly the brutality of the security forces is not confined to Zimbabwe as the Jasmine revolutions have clearly demonstrated. Fortunately, the pessimists have no examples of failed revolutions in Zimbabwe save for a few skirmishes here and there. It might be worthwhile to note a message left on an internet forum saying, with the way things are going, ‘regime change is coming to a dictator somewhere near you’.

Why did people revolt?

According to Matilda Willows, the masses of Tunisians protested over the corruption and tyranny of the government and his family which resulted in the president Ben Ali and his family fleeing the country. Of cause the revolution was sparked by the death of a young Mohammed Bouazzizi, who set himself on fire in front of a government building due to sheer frustration and despair (Helium.com, /27/01/11).

In Egypt, people revolted against Mubarak who kept a ‘lockhold’on power for 30 years and accused him of squandering billions on palaces, a pampererd military and an inner circle of family and business cronies while ignoring the citizens’ most basic needs (cbsnews.com, 29/01/11)

Corruption and soaring unemployment

Young people in Yemen say they are angered by corruption and soaring unemployment. A third of the people face chronic hunger and 40 percent live on less than US$2 a day (BBC, 18/02/11). According to the World Bank, Libya’s Gross national income per head is US$12,020 much higher than that of Yemen.

Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Djibouti to call for President Ismael Omar Guelleh to step down holding banners reading "IOG out" and "No to a third mandate". Mr Guelleh’s family has governed the Red Sea city state since independence from France in 1977.The constitution was last year amended to let Mr Guelleh seek a third term (BBC, 18/02/11).  

Down with autocracy’

In the kingdom of Morocco demonstrators shouted slogans calling for economic opportunity, educational reform, better health services and chants of "The people reject a constitution made for slaves", "Down with autocracy!" (Al Jazeera.net, 20/01/11).

In Zimbabwe there is disquiet about devolution, corruption, poor governance, disrespect for the rule of law, botched land reform, violation of human rights, the use of torture, lack of political reform, increasing political violence, legitimized looting, inadequate freedom of expression, impunity and suspicion that Mugabe may be planning to revert to the old constitutional order minus Amendment No19 if the Global Political Agreement (GPA) collapses.

By stalling on the implementation of the GPA and frustrating the writing of a new constitution which is a prerequisite for free and fair elections, the rulers could be inadvertently sowing the seeds of a revolution.

Disaffection within Zanu-pf is evident in the growing snubbing of burial at the heroes acre by war veterans, a move that has been rubbished by a top party official saying interment at the national cemetery is voluntary. Black empowerment has been exposed as insincere political campaigning which has only helped to scare away investors at a time when unemployment is around 85%.

Inviting trouble

As pointed out by Professor John Makumbe, the call for elections in 2011, when the country is not ready for such a mementous task is a sure way of inviting trouble for its major perpetrators (The Zimbabwean, 16/02/11). Indeed people power is invincible. You only need to recall Tahrir Square and look at what is happening in Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and so on to understand that.

Zanu-pf’s aim in pushing for an early election by August could be its own undoing because its plans to split votes in Matebeleland may actually see the party lose the one or two seats it had in previous elections as people a protest vote against violence and political manipulation with food aid and farm inputs.

Claims by Justice Minister, Patrick Chinamasa that the establishment of a new anti-corruption commission has been delayed because of a contentious recruitment exercise that has been going on for more than two years is as unconvincing as it is mischievous because its statements like that which fuel public anger.

Catalysts

In Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, Morocco, Iran, Djobouti young activists have used and are using social-networking sites, specifically Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, SMS, Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP).

Zimbabweans have not shied away from the cyber world, with a survey revealing a 2 percent increase in internet use in the last 3 months (Lance Guma, SW RadioAfrica, 18/02/11). The research by Zimbabwe All Media Products and Services Survey (ZAMPS) showed that twenty-four percent of adults living in urban centres are now using the internet while Facebook is the most popular among Zimbabweans. The survey also showed that overall there has been a nine per cent growth in readership of all newspapers, thus demonstrating an interest in current affairs.

What makes a revolution succeed?

Dr Roxane Farmanfarmaian affiliated lecturer in the Department of Politics and International Studies at Cambridge University argues that: revolutions take time; entrenched regimes don’t leave quietly; the army is not reliable; strikes are key to success and state-controlled media drift is an important accomplishment (AlJazeera.net, 14/02/11).

Examples are Iran, Tunisia and Egypt while others are in the making in the Arab world. In Libya, the army has shown that it is not reliable in the sense that more than 200 people are said to have died, with 900 injured in protests against the rule of Col Muammar Gaddafi who has been in power since 1969. There are also reports that a military unit has defected to the side of protestors and claimed the capture of Benghazi.

It would be very unwise for rulers of undemocratic regimes to think that their people’s moment will never come. Similarly, pro-democracy activists would be very naïve to think that a revolution is like going on a picnic by Lake Chivero! Nobody knows which dictator is the next one and when. History has shown us that ‘entrenched regimes don’t leave quietly’.

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