Brian Kagoro says deal might be biggest hoax Zimbabwean politics has ever endured

SW Radio Hot Seat Transcript interview: Violet Gonda: My guest on the programme Hot Seat is political commentator Brian Kagoro. Hi Brian.

Brian Kagoro: Hi Violet how are you?  

Gonda: I am fine thanks. Zimbabweans have become impatient over the delay in the talks and there are mixed reactions about what people want to see happen. There are some who say the power sharing agreement is a step towards stabilising food security and a step towards

 

Dr Alex Magaisa

 

stopping the complete destruction of the economy, but others say the deal is becoming irrelevant and it is not possible to build trust between the rival parties. In your view what is good for Zimbabwe now?

Kagoro: Well what would be best for Zimbabwe is for Zimbabwe to go through an internationally mediated, supervised election to exclude violence and Zimbabweans choose leaders of their choice. That would be the ideal. The deal on the table does not adequately address the human rights question. It has no clear process for addressing the economic question and in particular the endemic poverty and impoverishment of our people; the high unemployment rates, as well as the market distortions. It also doesn’t have any clear agenda for dealing with long term issues such as national justice questions, truth and justice issues.

So in a sense I am not sure that this deal in its present formulation will achieve much more than a ceasefire. And it’s not really a ceasefire because much of the violence was targeted at one party by the other so it will simply allow those who have benefitted from the status quo to continue benefitting without the fear that they might face prosecution or some other form of justice.

Gonda: You said the ideal would be to have an internationally supervised election. Do you think Mugabe will agree to something like this and also what can practically happen?

Kagoro: I think several global factors makes certain things possible. The one is the global economic downturn which means even countries like South Africa will experience some shrinkage in the economy. It means countries like Botswana , Mozambique , Zambia and Malawi as well as the European, American and Australian destinations where Zimbabweans have found solace will now experience shrinkage or are already experiencing shrinkage. And so there will be no new safe havens and the levels of tolerance and patience that were previously shown to Mugabe and the regime in Harare will decline. I think that countries are going to be more inward looking, more self serving especially those that have stood as allies of Mugabe.

But also I think options for Zimbabweans who could go out of the country as economic and political refugees are going to shrink even further, so there is going to be a lot less patience. I don’t think we should focus more on whether or not Mugabe will agree or not. I don’t think he has any particular choice at the moment. I don’t think that his African colleagues within SADC and the African Union broadly are going to be tolerating a lot his gamesmanship that we have seen.

Gonda: What about the historic election victory of Barack Obama as America ’s first black President. Obviously he has so many problems to deal with in his country and the rest of the world but what sort of implication would an Obama presidency have on a country like Zimbabwe ?

Kagoro: I think it recreates hope that has long been lost in electoral democracy, liberal democracy. Liberal democracy of course does not always result in economic redistribution. So in a sense I think what the Obama victory does is the symbolism and creates the impression that you don’t necessarily have to have war credentials to run a country, because America like Zimbabwe had been fixated with this war veteran issue.

Secondly, Obama is fairly young and so it begins to push parameters of the need for the youth of the continent and of Zimbabwe to enter politics and play a critical determinant role.

And the third issue of course is that there will be a renewed focus on the end to tyranny, despotism, dictatorship and human rights violations and many are going to find themselves pretty lonely if they do not comply with these increasing global expectations. And we don’t just see it as an Obama victory we see it in its symbolic form as a history being made for the entire black race.

So one can celebrate the Obama victory – be cautious of the limitations of structural economic change. But structural economic change has often relied and dependent on the energising of a people and creating the impression that their potential can be tapped towards a positive end. Presently the potential of Zimbabweans has been dissipated and the positive energy required to recreate a country – a country’s vision and a country’s impetus towards its self development has been squandered by cheap politics and sometimes just bad management, corruption and brutality

Gonda: Do you see him implementing the same policies as President Bush where Zimbabwe is concerned – you know the sanctions or do you see him intensifying the diplomatic effort with the African Union or SADC to apply more pressure on the regime?

Kagoro: I think that the dilemma of America politics is Obama only assumes real after the 20 th of January in 2009 and American policy shifts rather slowly – I think this is the burden of their democratic system. So there is unlikely to be a shift in the Bush policies at least in the immediate sense. But Obama as an individual has shown a disposition towards diplomatic engagement, subtle forms of pressure and also the ability to give due recognition to bodies such as the African Union and other actors who could actually bring about positive processes that might facilitate change in Zimbabwe.

I am opposed personally to foreign intervention of the Bush type but because of the dilemma within Zimbabwe that is why I have insisted that the African Union must act decisively – must take both a moral and legal position on whether or not the June election was legal. If it was an illegal election according to their standards then they must declare that there is no duly elected government in Zimbabwe . The premise for negotiations then becomes the election in which no candidate got the required 51% and then the only logical, legal conclusion would require a re-run. And the context of the June election tells us that such a re-run must be closely monitored and internationally supervised to avoid the will of the electorate being usurped or undermined through violence and thuggery.

Gonda: But Brian do you realisticallythink that SADC or the African Union can do more than what it is doing right now because critics say these two bodies don’t have the guts to confront Robert Mugabe and didn’t even have the guts to confront him on his appalling human rights and democratic record?

Kagoro: I think that diplomacy by its very nature is a limiting but also an empowering fact. The laws that govern relations between nations have two sets; the one that insists on non intervention in the internal affairs of a sovereign country. The second one is the agreed principle of the responsibility to protect – that suggests that humanitarian reasons and human rights reasons merit the limitation of sovereignty to a certain extent. The rules under which you actually get to limit such sovereignty are cumbersome and almost impossible to operate. So the seeming inaction of SADC is basically accepted amongst Heads of State, that you don’t speak to each other or shout at each other in the public sphere – that you’d rather express discontent, disappointment, and disapproval within the appropriate forum.

So SADC’s seeming inertia in dealing with the Zimbabwean issue could be understood both in the historical context but also I think we must pay due credence to the fact that SADC has made some moves rather belatedly by sending an observer team that actually said no conditions existed for the holding of free and fair elections and also that some within the SADC leadership have broken rank with this straight jacket of silence and begun to call for fundamental paradigm shift and change of practise and behaviour in Zimbabwe.

So I am hopeful and I think like all Africans should be that several changes on the continent point to the fact that if leaders do not intervene we will have para state groups that are not always constructive intervening and this is why I think SADC understands the precarious nature of the Zimbabwe situation.

Gonda: And Brian let’s look at the current problem. The political parties are fighting over the allocation of cabinet posts. Now obviously there has to be more to just agreeing to the sharing of ministries – there is the larger question of the performance of the ministries and the question of democratisation. In your view is there capacity and political will?

 Kagoro: To perform, I think the Zimbabwean parliament has a lot of capable people both with economic expertise, expertise in finance, expertise in law, political science. The expertise is not an issue but… (interrupted)

Gonda: But is there political will to implement the policies that will reverse the economic tide?

Kagoro: I think it’s much more than implementing the policies. Is there political will to include all shade of Zimbabwean political and civic opinion in constructing the policies because the implementation of policies alone will not turn things around unless there is ownership?

I don’t think political will exists. Political parties have functioned like a secret society.  The negotiations are transacted like a big secret on behalf of the people of Zimbabwe who are kept away from the secret. So it would be a surprise of sorts. There is also the issue of a bellicose state.

31 ministries is too much for a struggling economy and the apportionment of those ministries seems to be done purely on the basis of patronage and political consideration with no sensitivity whatsoever to the economic plight that Zimbabweans are facing.

There is another factor Violet – the quibbling over Home Affairs. Everyone understands its significance, all rigging happens through the Ministry of Home Affairs, rigging happens through the registration of births and deaths, Ministry of Home Affairs is also responsible for the deployment of the police, investigating offences, undermining or facilitating the course of justice etc etc.

Zimbabwe ’s real problem at the moment is a structural economic recovery question. There has been very little focus on the economic ministries. First we know that the extractive sector which is mining and other forms of extractors is the only one in this global downturn that is likely to earn any form of descent revenue. There has been very little discussion about making it transparent, making sure it’s in hands that are capable to turn around and realise value for the nation and not for individuals.

Secondly, it’s the tourism sector. There is rapid recovery that is needed in that sector and there is no discussion at all in the tourism sector.

Thirdly there is the agricultural sector. I think agriculture will go back to ZANU PF with undertakings in the agreement that there will be no revision both of the appropriation and everybody accepts that land that was taken from commercial white farmers – for purpose of redistribution – should not be returned necessarily. But the issue of who got the land seems to me to be a contradiction; I have been assured by some that there is a land audit somewhere but it seems the agreement itself has a contradiction.

Therefore the construction of the ministry, where you have located the ministry shows you what progress you will make in the short run.

So if you take away the social services sector – which is education, health and co, these might depend on donor aid, these might get some injection of donor aid. So these will just be looking at whether the people that are there are competent. But the economic ministries – because Zimbabwe needs to again create employment, again to be able to raise domestic revenue – it seems to me very little attention is being paid to this because for the average Zimbabwean on the streets yes they don’t want the police to beat them, they don’t want people to abduct them and be killed but there is a genuine concern about employment, about livelihood and I am not hearing that debate and that’s why I am worried that this deal, this settlement might turnout to be the biggest hoax Zimbabwean politics has ever endured.

It might actually turnout to be a darker moment in our history than anything else we have ever experienced because citizens have invested hope in a lasting peace which they will not get because of the feuding, the suspicions. Citizens have invested hope in an economic turnaround which might not happen because everybody will be lining their pockets, government is so shoddily structured that it is unable to deliver. Citizens have invested hope in recreating value for themselves and this might not happen because the economy is not opening up. The policy space is not opening up.

Gonda : Just to add to what you are saying – do you see an interparty government being able to avoid the pitfalls of the ZANU PF regime where authority aggregated around the ministers themselves and not around the policies of the ministries?

Kagoro: Yes, the biggest case is the Kenyan example. The dynamism of the individual, the powers of the individual – individualism becomes a critical sector because of the precarious foundations of the government.

Secondly, the question of authority is so diffuse in this new arrangement; We have the Prime Minister, you have the President and their numerous Deputies and Ministers of course who have to take orders from these five individuals without any clinical sense of line management. But also with a worrying sense of competition – not of a healthy nature, but competition around political party silos as opposed to reaching across the divide and trying to build consensus. That means power will become increasingly personalised unless if we put in constitutional safe guards.

And presently the articulation of Constitutional Amendment No.19 will not discourage the personalisation of power. And its concentration, again in a few hands, will recreate a new dictatorship albeit decentralised dictatorship where it has polycentric power nods – some with the Prime Ministers some with the President. These silos of power will actually come to compete. Like they say Violet when elephants make love the grass suffers, when elephants fight the grass suffers, what matters is not whether they are fighting or making love but the size of the elephant and the size of the elephant we are creating with this new cabinet and its structure is likely to hurt the grass.

Gonda: And you know Morgan Tsvangirai’s rallies across the country, we have seen thousands of people attending these rallies. Are they really a report back meeting or a negotiating strategy to show strength because some say the contestation between the political parties is now more about who has a larger fan base? What are your thoughts on this?

Kagoro: Firstly let me commend whoever has been holding rallies particularly my friend Mr Tsvangirai – it’s useful that there be some semblance of reporting back to the people. But let’s demystify that. Reporting back to the people is not the same as consulting people and hearing their views because at a rally it’s not possible to hear the views of the people because it’s not structured in a consultative manner. It’s structured in a manner of sharing information. So it’s inadequate for purposes of generally hearing what the people have to say, what they are apprehensive about, what they do not want, what they would like to see. So what is needed is a structured process of consulting the people in organised formations of civil society, faith based institutions and labour and other formations.

Clearly rallies are also a negotiating strategy and there is political merit in shoring up your numbers, showing you have the numbers behind you – after all these are politicians. But beyond the politricks there is a need to look at the fundamental question of genuine consultation and genuine engagement. I think that ZANU needs to do it, MDC needs to do it. This consultation goes beyond their structures by the way, it goes beyond their formal party structures, to include others because the combined regime that is being proposed in the new deal will be a regime – whether it be for 18 months, 2 years or more – that will have oversight and leadership of all Zimbabweans and if it is to do so it must have the consent and consensus of all Zimbabweans. You can not arrive at consent and consensus without consultation otherwise it will be a Johannesburg import imposed by Thabo Mbeki.

Gonda: Since the deal was signed the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe has reached alarming proportions with the Zimbabwe dollar crushing spectacularly and shops no longer accepting payment in local currency. But those who suffer are mostly the ordinary people who have no access to the much needed foreign currency. What about the security forces, what will happen if the army and police demand payment in foreign currency?

Kagoro : It will dramatise the extent of crisis in the states and of the state because the battle in the present negotiations between the MDC and ZANU is to control the organs of state. So if the government is unable to meet that demand it will alienate itself from those sections of the military because what we are dealing with is the personal political economy of each soldier. I don’t think there would be an insurrection – the Zimbabwe military does not have a history of mutiny, not of the nature that we are talking about.

What we are likely to see is that the conduct where soldiers could be whipped into line to vote for particular individuals will quickly lose sway and if there is an election anytime soon and there is level of economic discontent and despondency is that the economy will vote against the incumbent. That you will have a politicisation of the military – not in the partisan way that we have see ZANU try to use power in government to politicise the military, but the military will of itself – by military individuals/soldiers, be politicised and take an interest in the goings on around themselves. They will begin to align with and be one with the rest of the suffering people as they themselves will be suffering. And there are not enough wars where you can deploy them to go and earn forex, even the Congo one is likely to be resolved at least through this mediation that’s going on.

And it’s not just the military Violet. It is the other arms of State such as the justice delivery system, the judges and magistrates and others who have been so central in the despotism that we have seen in our country. It will be the Central Intelligence organisations and other arms of government who have stood as allies and proxies and surrogates of oppressive forces within the Zimbabwean political class. You will see them now beginning to turn their attention, turning their allegiances towards pro-change politics, pro change agendas and pro change formations. We are likely to see a split occurring within the ruling party. There are already factions but we are likely to see a split because what has kept the ruling party intact is not only its the ability to oil actors within the party, but the ability to keep surveillance, supervision and some form of fear of God within those who serve it in the public sector and those who are members with official status in the party. But you know when you have those actors that are able to keep surveillance and supervisions and also instill fear of God in party faithfuls also becoming despondent and then the centre will not be able to hold and things will begin to fall apart.

Gonda: As you mentioned at the beginning of the interview not only do we have a political crisis but we have a financial, humanitarian and human rights crisis but what does this mean for economic recovery will this be resolved by a political deal?

Kagoro: No, the political deal is really not the conduit for this. The political crisis arises out of a lack of consensus and consent of the governed to be governed by those who are governing them. A political deal does not address the consent and consensus issue. It imposes a form leadership upon a people and it structures in a very narrow sense the selection process of leadership. It takes it out of the democratic domain into a very private domain were the leaders’ preferences determine what happens.

Secondly, a political deal itself makes you negotiate based on the lowest common denominator as opposed to a people’s aspirations. In terms of economic recovery for example we know that following the same economic policies and models adopted by ZANU PF and sometimes imposed by international financial institutions that say ‘deregulate everything, private everything’ will not result in any fundamental change because it’s a deal of political parties. It’s not opening the question of economic democratisation to a discussion by the broad mass of Zimbabweans but also to a discussion by a broader array of Zimbabwean experts. It’s based on who is invited to the table.

Thirdly a political deal does not address in any significant way how to deal with non performing sectors of the economy of the state or of government. It doesn’t address the ethical questions around corruption, pillaging of the state. You know it’s a deal that you will stay together till death do you part. It’s a deal that says ‘I know you are a thief, I know you are a murderer, I know that you are all these other things, I know you have violated human rights, you violated law but for the purposes of making peace we will hug you even if you are a python.’

And of course we tend to forget Violet that hugging a python for the purposes of making peace is foolishness. Firstly a python is a constrictor. So it may appear non poisonous in the moment but a python does not kill by virtue of spreading venom, it wraps itself around you, crushes you and swallows you. So a deal designed to appease political power interests is unlikely to deal with the fundamental questions of structural transformation in the economy, the revolutionary transformation of the state and its role and its relationship with the citizens and citizen groups.

A political deal often results in the privatisation of the state. It is simply increasing the number of shareholders from ZANU PF private limited liability company; it will now include other shareholders – minority shareholders from the two MDCs.

So I don’t think Zimbabweans must celebrate this particular deal except for those who want us to celebrate the symbolism that some of our friends – and these are my very good friends – will now instead of being called stooges of the West they will be called Prime Minster, Deputy Prime Ministers or something else. And if those names and new titles, new houses, cars and body guards are what we have spent all these years fighting for since the inception of the NCA and even before when pro-democracy politics started then we have been nothing but foolish men and women.

But I believe we have been fighting for much more, much more than for our friends to be called big names and to appear and live big lives. We have been fighting that there be a common standard of decency of rights for the average person – that there be freedom in our liberated country. That every Zimbabwean must have the confidence of knowing that their own government will not terrorise them. That every Zimbabwean who wants to apply their entrepreneurial skills can do so without fear that they would be discriminated against because of the ethnic group they belong to, because of their height, their complexion or any other discriminatory consideration. We are fighting for a truly inclusive, democratic and accountable society and government and for me this deal doesn’t give me this.

Gonda: Brain there are those who say Morgan Tsvangirai should pull out of the talks as he can be swallowed up by this ‘python’ do you agree with this?

Kagoro : Firstly I think that he has gone too far to quit (laughs). If I had had the opportunity to give advice before, I would have said there is nothing to lose being in or out because the people of Zimbabwe know what you stand for and what you represent. Will he be swallowed by this? It depends on the speed with which he is able to manoeuvre politically. I have seen him manoeuvre several times and I think he is fairly gifted. But I think that this time the odds and the real likelihood of him being lumped together with his oppressors as failure, is very high. So if he really wants to survive the dirt that comes with associating with his oppressors he will have to have his policies clear. He will have to have his strategy and agenda of consulting the widest possible spectrum of Zimbabwean political and civic opinion clear. He needs to assemble a team around himself – not just friends and sycophants but a team of some of our most gifted people in economics, finance, development and other sectors. He has a lot of loyal friends like ourselves but he needs people who have competencies that we have not seen coming to the fore up to this moment within the MDC .

He needs to deal with not just the loyalty question; he also needs to deal with the efficiency and effectiveness questions. So there are three things to attend to: Dealing with resisting being swallowed, keeping the identity of a liberator instead of becoming part of the oppressive machinery and keeping the vision of a truly democratic Zimbabwe and from a mandate to govern based on a truly democratic election in which he wins the 51%; and keeping the logic and the reasoning that if our economy doesn’t turn around our democracy will never revive.

Gonda: Brian Kagoro thank you very much.

Kagoro: You are welcome Violet.