Historic week raises hope, eyebrows

January has been a month full of surprises. It is the month before President Robert Mugabe’s 89th birthday.

From the Editor’s Desk with Nevanji Madanhire

From February 22, he will begin to wave goodbye to his octogenarian years; a year later he will become what is called a nonagenarian. Only a handful ever achieve that feat.

The death last week, aged 79, of Vice-President John Nkomo must have been, to him, a stark reminder of that reality. Nkomo’s three predecessors all fell short.

On January 16 a headline in the official Herald hit the nation in the face: “We’ve put aside our differences”. Two days later headlines proclaimed that Mugabe and the other principals had approved the draft constitution.

The nation must have heaved a sigh of relief. President Mugabe told visiting outgoing African Union chairman and Benin President Boni Yayi Zimbabwe would this year hold peaceful and friendly elections as Zimbabweans have realised that they have a common destiny despite their differences.

“In my country, yes, we have also had divisions, political divisions, but I am glad that we all appreciate that whatever political affiliations we belong to, we are Zimbabweans.”

This is by any measure a historic statement coming from Mugabe! For the first time he is looking ahead to “a common destiny”, an outlook he has not accentuated in the past, choosing  instead to talk more about “our history”.

If it comes from deep down his heart, the statement changes the playing field altogether. What have our difference been? They have mainly been founded on the thinking that this country belongs to those who actively participated in the liberation war; the whole liberation movement had been reduced to a single facet — participation in the liberation war, preferably as a fighter.

This thinking had rendered all political affiliations not directly related to the 1970s’ war, at best irrelevant, at worst counter-revolutionary.

It had led to a chorus from the uniformed forces, most of them former liberation war fighters, that this country would not be ruled by anyone who didn’t participate in the war.

Such pronouncements, particularly from the military, had become the single biggest threat to our country’s endeavours towards a common democratic destiny.

On the common destiny, Mugabe had this to say: “That is the understanding. That is how we have groomed ourselves into that kind of understanding and I think our elections are going to be very friendly elections in the sense that they will be a political fight but it will be a fight in the knowledge that we belong to each other.”

These words must have left the country incredulous and wondering what the old fox was up to!

But when 48 hours later he, with his political rivals, approved the draft constitution, every Zimbabwean must have been given some relief.

“We are glad to say that we have now come to the conclusion of the exercise [drafting the constitution] and all parties are agreed. Sure there will be some t’s to cross and i’s to dot but we are generally agreed and the finalisation of the draft has now been made.”

But describing the road ahead as crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s is obviously an understatement. There are too many positions too deeply entrenched in Zimbabwean politics, particularly in Mugabe’s own party, to underestimate the potential for strife.

We have a ruling elite which has been in power the whole duration of our independence. For them, a future where electoral democracy takes precedency over the politics of patronage, poses a lot of challenges and a younger generation lurks on the touchline to take over. The old guard don’t want the status quo to be rocked.

Zanu PF’s “Young Turks”, most of who are in the disciplined forces, wish to take over not only the party leadership but also the leadership of the state. They know a transparent democratic process stands in their way and are prepared to fight to achieve their ends. These will very likely be the major purveyors of electoral violence. They have seen political violence work in the past and are inclined to try it again.

Mugabe’s call for a common destiny will therefore be his last great fight: it begins in his own backyard; it begins with security sector reform! As indicated above, the security sector is the single biggest obstacle to democratic processes in Zimbabwe. In the past decade or so this sector had, for political expediency, been highly politicised.

The line between Zanu PF as a ruling party and the state as an apolitical living form was blurred to such an extent the military and the police saw the party as being bigger than the state. Their service was to the party first and to the state second.

Army generals and police commissioners began to see their natural path as leading first to senior party positions and later into politics or to the leadership of state enterprises, the parastatals.

The barracks had become the springboards to parliament and to the corridors of power.

But how does Mugabe change that without upsetting the very people who have kept him in power? His fix is telling his closest allies, “Guys, let’s get into elections which you’re likely to lose.”
So, of all reforms demanded by the Global Political Agreement, security sector reforms will be the toughest, but without it, we can’t have a common destiny. All other reforms, though very important, are ancillary to this.

The message that the Benin president carried from Mugabe is very interesting: “We need to strengthen democracy in our countries. We need to strengthen good governance. We need to strengthen the peace and stability and unity of our countries.”

Contrary to popular belief, this message indicates that Mugabe has not been blind to events taking place in other parts of the African continent. He has seen the Arab Spring and how it led to the demise of some of his staunchest allies.

He has seen the effects of war in many African countries, be it in Sudan, the DRC, the Central African Republic and now in Mali. In Nigeria, Islamists are waging their own holy war while civil war rages in failed states such as Somalia.

All these events point to the message President Boni Yayi got from Harare: We need to strengthen the peace and stability and unity of our countries!

Such wisdom comes with age, even if it takes 90 years!

7 Responses to Historic week raises hope, eyebrows

  1. Wilbert Mukori January 20, 2013 at 7:53 pm #

    This Copac constitution will not deliver free and fair elections – many voters will find their names are not on the voters role, there is no free media in the country (even Tsvangirai has admitted he is yet to appear on ZBC TV), etc., etc. but most important of all the electorate are being subjected to brutal political violence. The result of the elections therefore will never be the reflection of the true free political will of the people. What then is the point of going through such an election process risking life and limb when the result is a mockery of democracy and an insult to the people?

    Tsvangirai and MDC are the ones taking a very active role by lying to the people about the whole charade being democratic and therefore acceptable. They are talking the people into accepting having their basic right to free and fair elections systematically denied again!

    The tragedy is the people themselves do not even realise this. Indeed MDC this is one of the consequences of the country’s highly partisan large public media and muzzled tiny private media.

    The people are being asked to vote YES to a constitution they would reject if they were allowed to know the truth. They are being misled the very individuals they risk life and limb to elect in 2008 into political nightmare like sheep to the slaughter!

    Just as Mugabe and Zanu PF have betrayed the people after independence, now it is Tsvangirai and MDC who are betraying the people by lying to them about Copac delivering free and fair elections and the all the democratic changes they have been fighting for.

  2. squarebasher January 20, 2013 at 8:10 pm #

    Hope this is going to be a turning point in Mugabe’s career.A look at his former in-laws country and will he perhaps take a leaf or two on how democracy.Ghana the country of his deceased ex-wife has become a torchbearer of good governance,non-violent and democratic elections in Africa. Where in Africa do you find a sitting President agrees to hand over power to the winner,even after losing by a mere 25000 votes?

  3. Alex Manyonde January 21, 2013 at 6:31 am #

    This is a good start. Previously the slogan was ‘Pasi naTsvangirai’, maybe the old man realises that disagreement does not mean we have to kill each other.There is hope for us.

  4. Wilbert Mukori January 22, 2013 at 12:12 am #

    @Alex

    Do not be fooled by Mugabe’s calls for peaceful elections!

    The day all those with the blood of over 30 000 innocent Zimbabweans murdered by Mugabe and his thugs are arrested is the day people will take Mugabe’s call for peace serious. He is the murderer here; he cannot be the judge, the jury and executioner too!

    When the hyena calls for a peace conference in the middle of the night; it is blood not peace it is after!

  5. wepa Gongwa January 28, 2013 at 8:17 am #

    Yes we did welcome the endorsement from all the parties involved.But the problem with the old fox he indicates left and turning right.so this free and fair elections is a complete mockery.We need reforms this year and elections next yr.Why rush for elections when political field is not even.There is something being cooked by our former ruling party,i suspect.

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