Nkosana Moyo in Zimbabwe’s Politics of Opposition: The Pigeon thrown among the cats!

13 Jul

On 29 June 2017, Nkosana Moyo launched his bid for Zimbabwe’s Presidency thus throwing himself into the fray of opposition politics in Zimbabwe. His pitch and tone is that of a person who has really thought about this new journey and is ready to stand in the ring with Robert Mugabe as one seeking to defend his tenure and on the other side the opposition political parties calling him all sorts of names for being allegedly divisive and potentially splitting the vote against Mugabe. Well, some have called him an opportunist who is after the fame and glory of being a presidential aspirant in Zimbabwe. Others have accused him of either being too delusional or overconfident to think he can snatch the presidency from Mugabe. Yet others have accused him of wanting to siphon the millions of hard cash that come in from donors whenever election time is around the corner. Call him whatever they want, I think the guy although very brave, well qualified and all, he is at this juncture almost turning the old idiom “throwing a cat among the pigeons” upside down and he himself can be characterized more as “A PIGEON THROWN AMONG THE CATS”. Pigeons are not known to scare cats and neither are cats known to fear pigeons. I say this for several reasons which I will discuss below, save to just say that this guy has no chance whatsoever against Robert Mugabe in the 2018 elections, unless he is in this time just to test the waters for another chance after Mugabe is gone.

Nkosana is like a pigeon thrown among the cats for now because I do not think that he can turn the tables against Mugabe in next year’s elections. It is not possible! It cannot be done. It’s already water under the bridge. Give or take the rigging allegations by Mugabe’s party, I do not think that Nkosana necessarily has and will be able to build the connection that is needed with the almost resigned Zimbabwean voter at this moment. Mugabe knows god willing that if his batteries do not run out, he will be the President of Zimbabwe after the 2018 elections.

That Nkosana has chosen to run for the Presidency as an independent candidate is most laudable. In the current politics of Zimbabwe where politicians continue to be recycled offering no new ideas, it is better to have something and someone new: –  Anything! The opposition in Zimbabwe is failing to understand the simple logic that you cannot continue knocking one’s head against the wall. Others must be given a chance where your strategies have failed. Alas, all you hear is that “nzizi dzese dzinoyerera dzichipinda muna Save”. Fair and fine. If that is the case, Nkosana go it all alone! – all the way and do not even turn your back to any whistles! (usacheuke miridzo). That Nkosana, this pigeon who has stirred the dirty waters of Zimbabwe’s opposition politics will be derided and thrown of course by the opposition is in no doubt. The opposition in Zimbabwe has the masses. It will be more than difficult for him to convince die hard supporters of the MDC or any other opposition force to ditch their parties for him. All the same, the politics that Nkosana has played here by refusing to join any umbrella is most welcome. The fallacy that Mugabe can only be defeated by a large umbrella of political parties is now tired. It would be better to have a Mugabe with his two VPs than to have a whole bunch of hooligans in suits calling themselves the new government fighting and dishing out nonexistent posts in government all because they contributed to Mugabe’s ouster at the ballot.

Another point that Zimbabwe would want to know is the who, what, when, how and why of Nkosana’s politics. That he has this pigeon label on him is in no doubt. The masses will look at him and feel that he is just trying his shot at a game he cannot win. For instance, without knowing those people who are standing with him (besides Fadzayi Mahere), without knowing who his family is, without knowing who is funding his activities, without knowing his ideas and recruitment bases (young people, farmers, old people, workers etc.) it will be difficult for this pigeon to scatter the cats that are already sitting in the ring for the 2018 Presidential elections.

For Nkosana to want to run as an Independent presidential candidate he must have thought well about the fact that even if he were to win he would not have a majority in Parliament. He would not be able to form or run any government as it were. The trick could be that he wants to avoid infiltration through political party structures by the CIO. Good move, but in the end, it will not lead Zimbabweans anywhere. Therefore, Nkosana needs to lay his cards on the table. The years when politicians would tell voters that just vote me in and you will see what I will do are long gone. He must make it clear how will pass and skip past such hurdles first. Zimbabwe must know what he is selling and if it can be bought. Otherwise he will remain in my eyes a pigeon thrown among the cats.

That Nkosana has stood up to challenge his yester-year boss when he was Industry and International Trade Minister is laudable. But so many have taken this path and not gone anywhere with their projects. Edgar Tekere, Simba Makoni, Joyce Mujuru just to name a few struggled and their projects suffered still births. Nkosana needs to convince Zimbabweans by showing us that he has a plan that will work. To just say that he will be able to change Zimbabwe’s politics is not good enough. The issues are very contentious. Thus, for anyone to come and say that when we return to the rule of law all will be well is not good enough. Others see a return to this rule of law as bequeathing power to our erstwhile colonizers. Others think that a return to this “rule of law” will be the end of ZANU PF and a chance to reverse ZANU PF’s policies around land reform and natural resources empowerment. The questions are daunting. Nkosana must be able to stand up and share his vision with more vigor and have a national presence. Otherwise Mugabe will have the last laugh saying that Nkosana ran away only to come back to run away again. Otherwise known as a pigeon thrown among the cats.

 

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Islamic fundamentalism is not JUST any other African problem!

20 May

So the past month has been awash with comments on the abducted 276 Nigerian Chibok girls and the ever increasing terrorist attacks in Kenya. These attacks have been carried out by two notorious groups connected to the Al Qaeda: the Al Shabbab outfit based in Somalia and the Boko Haram based in Northern Nigeria. The attacks and abductions have been merciless and vile to say the least. Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta and Goodluck Jonathan have been criticized left right and center by citizens and other observers who argue that they can do more to end these attacks and improve security in Kenya and Nigeria. President Jonathan was further criticized in the media for attending the security Summit called for by Francois Hollande in France instead of visiting Chibok. While the two Presidents can be found wanting in other areas, I contend that these two Presidents are hamstrung and the best they can do for now is align more with the West to get assistance in the form of weapons, intelligence and finances to fend off these groups.

The visit by Goodluck Jonathan to France to meet with the EU countries and the neighboring African Presidents was necessary. It is a clear fact that these African countries do not have the necessary human resources to collect vital intelligence to fend off these Islamist groups. By visiting the Northern city of Chibok, the President of Nigeria would have just paid a solidarity which would not have achieved much except to raise the villagers’ expectations for nothing.

America, UK and France including the rest of the EU have significant knowledge of the operations of these Islamist groups from years of sophisticated intelligence gathering. The West also has the financial and military resources to alleviate this crisis that seems to be slowly engulfing Africa. It will not pay for any African to continue clamoring for African solutions to African problems in this instance – Islamist fundamentalism is not an African problem per se. What is happening in Kenya and Nigeria is a mere shifting of battlefields from the West to Africa by the Islamic militants.

A clear mapping exercise will reveal that most of the attacks that have occurred in Kenya and Nigeria started as targeting European, American and Jewish interests in Africa. Talk about the 2013 Westgate attack in Nairobi, talk about the 2011 UN suicide bombings in Nigeria and many more. That these groups are now attacking local citizens such as the poor girls in Chibok and Kenyans on public transport and vegetable markets in Nairobi are just sick diversionary tactics. Their main goal is to score major victories on the UN compound and the US Embassy in Nairobi. What they are looking for is a score like they made in Libya when they killed the US Ambassador Chris Stevens. In Nigeria clearly they want to instill fear in the government by invoking religious feuds so that they can have their way in the economic and political structures of the country. Al Shabbab would definitely want to rile Kenyan citizens and push for the withdrawal of the KDF from Somalia. This is unrealistic and has to be opposed with all might by the African Union and the UN.

Enter the West’s hypocrisy

Due to the might of their intelligence gathering mechanisms the West has managed to bolster security measures in their own backyards and their interests in Nigeria and Kenya. Recently travel bans were issued in Kenya and even evacuations back to the UK and America for citizens on holiday from Kenya. While there is nothing wrong in the West protecting its citizens, one can also understand the frustrations of the Kenyan and Nigerian governments that the West is now playing into the hands of the Islamist groups and also fuelling the platforms for these groups to continue with their terror activities. For instance, when the American, British or Israeli intelligence officers acquire credible information, do they share it with the Kenyan government to apprehend the suspects? The West has been found wanting in this instance because just in the same week the Chinese Premier was in Nairobi, threats for the attacks spiralled to unprecedented levels in Kenya. Of course everyone knows that the Chinese are bringing loads of investments into East and West Africa and the West is lagging behind. Al Shabbab and Boko Haram are fully aware of these dynamics and they want to sow seeds of fear and uncertainty in the countries. The West therefore cannot condone this by sitting on information and not assisting the two governments on the basis that they want to appease their egos over their geo political and economic fights with China.

So what should Africa do?

The arguments raised by Goodluck Jonathan that he could not visit Chibok because of security fears were justified. Some years ago, I saw live on TV Al Qaeda militants attacking Hamid Karzai whilst he addressed a rally. What will stop these Boko Haram militias from doing so in Nigeria? All the same, the situation raises questions on what the Nigerian government is doing enough to secure such vulnerable areas as Chibok – citizens who vote and pay taxes live there daily and they need protection. To argue that government officials will not go there because of insecurity will not hold water forever.

More importantly, the two governments of Kenya and Nigeria need to review their government systems. Corrupt Kenyan Immigration officers allegedly continue selling travel documents to many Somali young people linked to Al Shabbab. Nigerian borders are so porous that terrorists find it so easy to move between Chad, Benin and Cameroon. The police and military services need to be strengthened and more collaboration established between the different African countries.

The African solution to some of these problems will NOT come from the Kenyan government attacking each and every Somali national they bump into in Mombasa and Nairobi. In the same manner extrajudicial shootings of suspected Boko Haram suspects will not end the attacks in Nigeria. What are needed are more robust intelligence gathering mechanisms by the two countries working in tandem with the Western countries. The Kenyan and Nigerian nationals especially religious and community elders who live amongst some of these rogue elements in Al Shabbab and Boko Haram need to play an active role.  They also need to help the authorities and not continue to be quiet while the two countries burn from economic stagnation, stigmatization and more deaths and misery.

In the end one will find that although not appealing and looking strategic in the eyes of the African, President Goodluck Jonathan needed to go to France and consult with his fellow African statesmen just to get things moving. There is no point asking 3 or 4 besieged and clueless African Presidents to meet in Africa to find African solutions to a perceived African problem when we know clearly that the problem is not African per se. The African countries whether by omission or commission do not have the financial wherewithal and the necessary intelligence gathering technics to tackle such problems.and the Western countries need to know that no amount of travel bans to African countries will end terrorism. They must not mix up their long held battles with China and Kenya and lump them up with the terrorism problems Africa is facing.

After all is said and done, Goodluck Jonathan went to France and came back with threats to annihilate Boko Haram from the face of the earth. How about a report back to ECOWAS or to your African brothers in Addis Ababba, Mr Goodluck on this unAfrican problem?

26 June: Remembering Zimbabwe’s torture victims and the role of the Zimbabwe National Peace and Reconciliation Commission

27 Jun

On June 26, Zimbabwe joined the rest of the world in commemorating the United Nations Day in Support of Victims of Torture. This commemoration is important in reminding perpetrators especially those aligned to the state that the crimes committed will not be forgotten just like that. On the other hand, it serves to remind victims, survivors and their families that their pain and suffering will not be forgotten until they receive justice.

In Zimbabwe, much focus has been placed on the work of the constitutional body that is the Zimbabwe National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC). Lately there has been a lot of publicity on its work vis a vis violence prevention in the upcoming 30 July Harmonized elections in Zimbabwe. This is important and commendable. While this work continues, I would like to note a few points related to the work of the NPRC, past victims of torture and how the NPRC can contribute further to the achievement of sustainable peace in Zimbabwe.

The issue of human rights investigations – the NPRC looking for an elephant standing in front of them

The NPRC has since its formation carried out wide consultations across the provinces and communities in Zimbabwe. I cannot speak for them on what they have achieved thus far but certainly there are issues that they might want to consider as they carry out the work of reconciling Zimbabweans. Firstly, it is important for the NPRC and its sister institution the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) to acknowledge that the information about who was violated, by who, when and how is largely known to most Zimbabweans. Minor details might be missing but most of this information is held by reputable human rights and civil society organizations in Zimbabwe and at the international level. It would be at the least time wasting and at most preposterous for the NPRC to want to go on a frolic purporting to be investigating past human rights violations when they can as well approach most of the human rights organizations that have carried out this work before for information and clarifications if need be.

The need to attend to the mental health issues of victims and their families

Secondly, it is a known fact that Zimbabwe has in the past experienced very serious levels of human rights abuses by state security agents such as the police, the army, the intelligence as well as other private organizations working with the acquiescence of the state especially during election periods and other significant national events. Most of the victims and even their families have suffered major post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) leading to mental health challenges. These challenges are well documented and known in communities. While families might have challenges in identifying such issues as clinical problems it is important for the NPRC to take this matter up and decisively deal with it. Zimbabweans are a traumatized people coming from years of abuse by the Mugabe regime. Our traditional beliefs where people suffering stress disorders are easily considered to have been bewitched or plain crazy are very real and play a detrimental role in perpetuating the plight of victims of torture who suffer from PTSD or mental health issues.

The NPRC could do well by articulating a policy to government where it requests government and its financiers to avail funds so that mental health programs are implemented countrywide free of charge. One program that could be implemented is that of having “mental wellness clinics” in most major hospitals and other safe centers with dedicated staff to cater to the needs of such patients. What would be most critical in such a policy and program is to ensure that no questions are asked to the victims and even the perpetrators but generally just ensuring that those who feel they need help are assisted by the doctors and mental health experts deployed to the hospitals and the other “safe zones”. The NPRC could work with the Ministry of Health as well as mental health practitioners at home and abroad for the finer details of implementing such a program.

Government’s failure and refusal to pay damages/compensation to victims

This issue has been discussed at length in Zimbabwe but never seems to get solved no matter how much noise is made about it. The Government of Zimbabwe has managed for a very long time to dodge paying damages for crimes of torture and other human rights violations committed by its agents citing inability to pay and a weak economy. While at face value this argument seems to hold water, it is largely absurd and needs to be held with all the contempt it deserves. The Government of Zimbabwe has also managed to rope in the State Liabilities Act and continues to abuse such legislation to their advantage. While this strategy of refusing to pay by pleading poverty looks “clever”, it simply looks arrogant and treacherous to the victim and their families who would have lost breadwinners and loved ones.

The NPRC and even the ZHRC by extension cannot argue that they are bound by what the law of the country says when such matters arise. If anything, by now the NPRC should have gone to the High Court or the Supreme Court to ask for an opinion on how the Government of Zimbabwe’s refusal to pay damages for crimes committed by its agents should be handled.

Neither the NPRC nor the ZHRC are extensions of the state – they are independent institutions set up to serve the people of Zimbabwe. To remain quiet without even trying to question the government on such an important issue is to abrogate a very important constitutional mandate. The refusal by the government of Zimbabwe to pay compensation/damages has an added negative effect of touching on issue of accountability.

The question that the NPRC and the HRC must be asking themselves is that: If the Government of Zimbabwe and its agents cannot be asked such important questions who else will be able to hold them accountable to anything?

The problem of crimes that just fall away because of time – Prescription

On numerous occasions one hears victims of torture and past human rights violations lamenting that they failed to report or act against their perpetrators on time. The Prescription Act in Zimbabwe gives elaboration on the time periods to report violations which is usually 3 years for civil matters and 20 years for criminal matters.

This is highly problematic and fundamentally wrong. While the law could have been made with the purpose of wanting to ensure the swift administration of justice and preventing fraudulent claims against other people or the state, this law is no longer fit for purpose considering our circumstances in Zimbabwe.

The NPRC and the ZHRC know fully well what has happened in the past with regards the reporting of human rights violations at police stations. It is important to note that reports abound of victims being arrested when they had gone to lodge their cases; it is known that several case files were destroyed by the police during the 2008 election violence and most evidence was destroyed.

Now, when faced with such scenarios – it is difficult and unrealistic for the Government of Zimbabwe, the courts or anyone in his or her right state of mind to argue that cases of torture and related human rights violations can prescribe.

The suggestion here is that the NPRC and the ZHRC need to move from their comfort zones and deal with the hard questions of reconciliation and healing in today’s Zimbabwe. Part of the solution will lie in these bodies challenging laws that do not make sense or stand dead against reconciliation and healing in Zimbabwe.

It is ironic that the state in Zimbabwe can try to give Zimbabweans, the NPRC with one hand and then take away whatever the NPRC will give with the other. It cannot be right and this mentality and or policy by the Government of Zimbabwe will need to be turned on its head.

Pushing for law reform and standing for justice –

Such issues of changing laws or interpreting laws positively definitely need collaboration with the Parliament as well as seeking the advice of the judiciary in certain instances. The NPRC and the HRC need to elevate their work to a higher ground where they discuss the moral fiber of society, where they talk about the software of the microcosm that is the individual Zimbabwean and ensure that our values as a people are respected by all who live in our country. A new parliament and senate will be in force by August. It would be important for the NPRC to also have its legislative agenda set for the next few years so that they deal with some of the issues if at all this is something they regard as critical.

In this regard, the NPRC besides carrying the mundane tasks of investigating human rights violations now needs to more actively confront some of the ugly issues bedeviling healing and reconciliation in Zimbabwe. This kind of work does not need people who toe the line and want to be people pleasers.

Parting shots

There was a time during the early years of South Africa’s independence when most of the country clamored for the death penalty because of high levels of crime. The courts were confronted with this matter but ultimately, unanimously decided for different reasons that the spirit of ubuntu which everyone had fought for needed to be respected. Killing perpetrators was vengeful and did not represent the true values of a society running away from such an ugly past.

The same is true for Zimbabwe. The time is now for mindsets to change. The government cannot send its security officials to torture citizens. Private organizations affiliated to the state or ruling party cannot be allowed to victimize fellow citizens. The scourge of impunity and corruption that has seen most perpetrators walk scot free from the jaws of justice cannot be allowed to reign supreme in Zimbabwe. The idea that a whole government can refuse to pay for damages through its Ministers and hide behind the fat finger of the state should be long gone. Zimbabweans are a broken society from years of abuse. The evidence is there and we all know it. Zimbabweans need healing and reconciliation. Part of that healing will come from an NPRC that fights for the repeal of archaic legislation that prevents victims of torture and other human rights violations from claiming damages. Part of that reconciliation will come from the efforts of an independent and impartial NPRC that questions government and the legislature about senseless prescription laws.

The silent and dangerous patriarchs of our times: Nelson Chamisa’s boob about Zimbabwean women is not on!

7 May

Nelson Chamisa is in London meeting with the Zimbabwean diaspora community. He traveled there on Sunday 6 May and is scheduled to hold several meetings and rallies while on his tour. At the UK meeting he spoke about the values of the nation but he also did not shy away from making some very controversial statements. I want to focus on the one he made when he  apparently “pledged” his 18-year-old sister to Emerson Mnangagwa if ever the “Ngwena”  wins a “fair and free election” in the upcoming Zimbabwe general elections. As usual such kinds of statements arouse a lot of debate and attention from diverse Zimbabwean communities with some cheering him on while others question such. I am not too amused and think that Nelson Chamisa blundered in his reference to the “pledging of his young sister” in a bet over who will win the next election.

Calling out culture

It cannot be right that in this day and age where Nelson Chamisa speaks about “spaghetti junctions” and “rural airports” he still has the audacity to quote from old days’ cultural innuendos about how women can be pledged in a bet. Those who do not think what he said is offensive to women argue that the expression was an idiom used in Zimbabwe and it is part of our culture. But that cannot be right! Those who have defended him want to speak as if culture is some static thing that cannot be questioned.

No!

The idea of talking about women as if they are some commodity are long gone and if Zimbabwean culture condones such then it must be called out. Chamisa needs to be the first person to do that.

Perpetuating patriarchal nonsense

Chamisa was circumspect when he was making his speech and noted that this sister he referred to had just turned 18 and was looking for a husband. Chamisa is a lawyer and he is a public figure. He knows that what he says will be scrutinized at any given turn. It was no coincidence that he mentioned the legal age of majority. He knew he would spark an ire of criticism if he had not mentioned this but in his mind, he wanted to make a lasting “joke” of sorts to his audience.

Well, while people will cheer him on, what is left to be read after the speeches and when he has departed the UK is that Chamisa is a young man who is amenable to the idea that as soon as a woman reaches the age of 18 she can be married to any man who can even be suggested by the males in the family. These kinds of behaviors and thinking are not new to Zimbabwe – very patriarchal, backward and have caused many a young woman especially in rural Zimbabwe to be married off when their male counterparts are sent to university, go to work etc. Chamisa cannot be the one to perpetuate such kind of patriarchal nonsense. He can do better!

Do not make stupid jokes about women – it’s not on

To want to dignify what Chamisa said with any justification is just pure nonsense. One cannot make embarrassing and demeaning statements about women and try to pass them off as jokes or by the way kind of statements. Women in Zimbabwe and the world over deserve better and it is their male counterparts who should change the way they look at them and not out of pity or as a favor. It is not on to make stupid jokes and sexist innuendos about women. Chamisa should know better.

One thought made me ask if he should have used his wife or mother as an example, but then again it still would not be right.

What message does this send to his wife, his female relatives, and women who look up to him as a leader in Zimbabwe? Chamisa knows he can do better and he must do exactly that. How can someone even joke with the idea that an 18-year-old woman can be married to a 75-year-old man. It could have been a jibe, others will argue, but I will contend also that those jokes must be kept far away from us. They are sick jokes and they are not funny.

Find other things to politick around: Not women

Whatever was said yesterday has come and gone and people might even have forgotten about it. However, statements like these are reflective of how society thinks and regards women. From that perspective what Chamisa said becomes political and a dangerous position that seemingly sits in his head. Chamisa cannot want to hold the pole position as the spokesperson of such archaic thinking.

If ever he should politick, let him play with other things – run around and talk about bullet trains, spaghetti roads, rural airports and what have you but not refer to fellow human beings in degrading ways such as suggesting that they can be traded for marriage, they are only good to be given as bets in political battles and that their male patriarchs can trade them off.

The values of the nation that should form our software as Zimbabweans and give us a break from our “broken” past with Robert Mugabe should be a deep sense of respect for each other as Zimbabweans and human beings be it women, men, boys and girls.

Maybe it is high time that Zimbabwe started a conversation about a Female President in 2023.

Bring back the #Confidence4 girls back to the University of Zimbabwe

23 Apr

Confidence-UZ2-W

Social media was abuzz all of last week after a video emerged showing a group of University of Zimbabwe (UZ) female students beating and scolding #Mr Confidence Thomas a UZ undergraduate student who was reported to have impregnated two of them while also dating the other two. The video and images of the fracas on campus were shared extensively across social networks. Memes and jokes were made from the whole saga. However, no one expected the rather unfortunate, rash and arbitrary decision from the University of Zimbabwe authorities. News is that the four young women have been suspended from the UZ for two years. This is an unacceptable and chauvinistic behavior from the University of Zimbabwe and the decision must be rescinded with immediate effect.

Due process questions

The first question that I would like to ask is whether the four young women were accorded due process in the determination of this case. The charge would be clear I guess – probably it read as follows: “disturbing the peace at the Campus ; violent behavior; assault on a fellow student OR something like – complicit in bringing the name of the University into disrepute”. I am just making up these charges because I do not have information on the exact charges that were brought against the four young women. Be as it may, I argue that whatever charge/s would be preferred against them it should not and cannot amount to the ludicrous two-year ban from their studies.

Old men wielding power against defenseless young people

The young ladies most likely faced a whole machinery of the University of Zimbabwe Disciplinary body presided over by some old men who wield so much power the girls would have trembled and stammered just at the sight of such people. The question that begs answers is whether these young female students were accorded their right to legal representation when they appeared before the disciplinary committee that presided over the matter. If they did not, then the decision cannot be valid. On those grounds alone it should be rescinded barring that it should not even have been passed in the first instance.

The need to resort to alternative dispute resolution mechanisms

The next question that any sane person would ask is whether the University’s Disciplinary body ever considered alternative methods of censure for the supposed trespasses by the four female students. The girls could have been made to pay a fine; they could have been asked to do community service either on the campus or after their case was reported with the police they could have been given a warning as first offenders. Deliberations could have been held with professional counselors to deal with the trauma that each and everyone one of the five parties involved have gone through because of the relationship that they were all in at the hands of this Confidence Thomas boy. There is just too many alternative dispute resolution mechanisms under the sun to consider. The University of Zimbabwe should have considered other methods of censure for the four female students because the two-year suspension just does not make any sense at all.

The fallacy of Heroism for the boy child who has sex with all the girls

In Zimbabwe there are always cases of young girls who get impregnated by their “young boyfriends”, resultantly sent away from school and endure the agony of caring for the child alone while the father of the child remains in school. The case of the University of Zimbabwe reeks of the same mentality by a patriarchal society that prefers to punish the girl child for having sexual relations with their male partners before marriage. This young man called Confidence Thomas dated all four young women at the same time without them knowing. He has become a sensational hero of sorts on social media for his exploits. When the young ladies found out about his wayward ways they confronted him and a brawl ensued. No one is talking about Confidence Thomas’ philandering behavior. If he had been #Confident and man enough he would have informed all four of his decision that he wanted to be in a “polygamous” relationship of sorts with all the four girls. He chose not to do so. In my view Confidence Thomas is as responsible for this mess as the rest of the girls.

Reversing and going against the tide of girl child empowerment

Word has it that Confidence Thomas reported the case to the police who arrested the young ladies on 20 April and they spent the night in detention at Avondale police station?. This is all within his rights and he was right in doing that. If the girls were charged by the police and dealt with by the courts, would that not have been enough punishment for the girls?  For the University of Zimbabwe to then send the four female students home without considering Confidence Thomas’ contribution to the whole saga is preposterous and should be condemned with all the contempt it deserves. The world over, everyone is talking about protecting girls and young women from prejudice and ensuring that they are brought to par with their male counterparts. Such kinds of administrative actions as the decision passed by the University of Zimbabwe goes against the spirit of the SDGs and other global initiatives to support the girl child. What will the University of Zimbabwe achieve by barring the four young women from the institution for two years? The girls must just be brought back to school.

The hidden political hand – the fear of the youth

The decision passed against the four female students was rash, arbitrary and harsh. Rather than being just a disciplinary decision, the decision reeks of politics. The University of Zimbabwe is a political hotbed and authorities in and outside always struggle to control students leading national discourses or protests. Could the situation of the four young women and this Confidence Thomas have provided an opportunity for the University to show power and flex some muscles for any would be protesters or “trouble maker” at the University of Zimbabwe? I say yes. Zimbabwe continues to have this or that strike and elections will be held soon. There isn’t a greater need and time to want to control students and showing them the mighty hand of force than now.

Double standards and inconsistency by the University of Zimbabwe

This same University had problems dealing with Grace Mugabe’s fake PHD degree and it took ages to respond to calls for redress by the public and even the courts of law. However, all of a sudden they have woken up, have the nerve and all the time in the world to descend on four distraught young women and a young man who were involved in a matter that could have been handled differently. This situation could leave them prejudiced of their education and have their dreams deferred by another two years but who cares to evaluate all that.

Zimbabwe is a broken society in need of healing – a call to civil society

The country is a broken society. After years of misrule by Robert Mugabe a lot of the social fabric was and has been damaged. How Zimbabweans treat each other and deal with social problems is reflective of a broken people who have lost touch on how to be compassionate, reasonable and adapt to a changing world where the past can no longer deal with the present. When calls for national healing are made, these are some of the issues that need to be discussed. Questions touching on: How as a nation we handle young women and men’s sexual relationships, how our society deals with the abuse of social media by young people etc should be key. National healing cannot just be about dealing with past human rights violations but it should also be about mending the broken software that is our social fabric. This then calls on civil society organizations working on women’s rights issues, legal rights organizations and even men’s organizations as well as educators in Universities to come together to start discussions on the Zimbabwe we want to see going forward.

Recommending a more accommodating approach to problem solving

The University of Zimbabwe needs to consider with immediate effect reinstating the four young female students back into the University. My call is not to condone violence and untoward behavior by allowing students to take the law into their own hands. However, the University of Zimbabwe must ensure that the atmosphere at the campus is that of a zen place conducive for learning, sharing ideas and innovating. They must with immediate effect start implementing programs that build characters of young men and women who can be Zimbabwe’s future leaders as well as beyond our borders. Sexual health programs administered by the University to help young men like Confidence Thomas understand the dangers posed by STIs and HIV/AIDS will be essential. The Government of Zimbabwe is grappling with the HIV/AIDS public health challenge. Is this not an opportunity for the University of Zimbabwe and other institutions of higher learning to institute programs that impart information on the dangers of having unprotected sex and even having children too early in life. The University of Zimbabwe cannot be like a prison where the administration is just there to command and commandeer students – it is a place of learning – if students were experts at everything they would not need to be there. One might argue that the University is not a Sunday School, Scripture Union or Social Club but the argument remains that for the University to produce capable, quality alumni they must invest in the social good and well being of its students. That will have to start with Confidence Thomas and the four young women who were his “girlfriends”. The #Confidence4 need to be back in class!

The farce of Pensions for Mugabe and Tsvangirai: As if they were for the whole of Zimbabwe!

31 Jan

The new President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa has in the last two months made moves that seemingly will forever endear him to the local and international publics. In their militarized Operation Restore Legacy it would seem part of the Mnangagwa strategy has been to skirt around any inkling of possibilities that a military coup happened in Zimbabwe. Part of this strategy involves ensuring that former President, Robert Mugabe is not embarrassed or hounded in any way. To throw an extra perk – Mnangagwa offered Mugabe a hefty pension which has been subject to serious speculation at home and abroad. As if ZANU PF had now embarked on a scorched earth policy of some sort, Mnangagwa went on put into law the pension and other emoluments for the ailing Former Prime Minister and leader of the Opposition, Morgan Tsvangirai. References have been made to provisions in the constitution of Zimbabwe conveniently in my opinion to support such moves. This stance taken by Mnangagwa is a political farce that is very problematic on several levels not least of all that the policies as they stand are a smack in the face of millions of Zimbabweans who lost their pensions through the Ponzi scheme economics prevailed upon by Robert Mugabe, Gideon Gono, and the rest of the ZANU PF government in the period around 2000 – 20008. What is more worrying is the constant disregard of such economic rights violations in discourses that seek to deal with the past in Zimbabwe.

Constitutional façade

Mnangagwa has been at pains trying to convince whoever will care to listen that he is “just” following the dictates of Zimbabwe’s constitution and doing what anyone in his shoes would have done anyway by giving Mugabe and Tsvangirai hefty pensions. It all does not add up and I dare say if he wants he can as well go ahead and quote verses from whatever holy book he wants to justify such moves. The same constitution that he is keenly referring to also protects every other citizen of Zimbabwe. If Mnangagwa cannot see anything wrong in his knee jerk policies of giving out hefty sums of money and property to these two former leaders at the taxpayers’ expense and ignore the same taxpayer who lost his pension and money during the times of hyperinflation then he certainly is being hypocritical.

The polititricks of annihilating the opposition (read Morgan Tsvangirai)

Morgan Tsvangirai is not well. Some allege that his finances are not in good shape. Clearly any overtures to rescue him financially would be well received. Mnangagwa saw it fit to capture an opportunity to annihilate the opposition and Morgan Tsvangirai by pretending to peddle these values of “unhu” – visiting Morgan Tsvangirai at his government sponsored home and then offering him a pension. Mnangagwa succeeded in nailing Tsvangirai and parading him as a sick, weak and finished political opponent. The gazetting of Tsvangirai’s pension and referrals to the constitution are all just a facade to placate him. What irks though is that the MDC leader is buying into this whole charade. At what point will Tsvangirai discuss the lost pensions of millions that were eroded in the hyperinflationary era? At what point will Mnangagwa ask and or address the same question as well?

Managing the international audience

At the recent African Union Summit in Addids Ababa, Mnangagwa “informed” the rest of the African leaders that their colleague Robert Mugabe was safe. Of course, this is all in a bid to show that there was no military coup in Zimbabwe. It is fair and fine – but the same question can be asked is that after taking power and in the hope of Restoring Legacy – why is there no discussion about Zimbabweans’ lost pensions, wealth and property due to the mismanagement of the economy by ZANU PF – a party he led, leads and lived under for so long. It is all well to inform the international community that Mugabe is safe and he has a luxurious pension but what about the rest of Zimbabwe who lost their pensions and have been ignored for ages?

The farce that was the  Pensions Conversion Commission

On 25 July 2015 President Mugabe set up a Commission of Inquiry to probe the process used to convert pensions and insurance benefits following the dollarization of the economy in 2009 (https://tchabvuta.wordpress.com/2015/07/28/pensions-conversion-commission-zimbabwe-tinkering-with-justice-for-past-economic-rights-violations/). This Commission worked for close to twelve months requesting term extensions periodically in the process. It is reported that a report was produced and submitted to President Mugabe. The contents of this report have never been known to the public. This has been the strategy of the Zimbabwe government since time immemorial. However, while it is difficult to release such a report to help deal with such important issues of the past, Mnangagwa found it very easy to work out “according to the constitution” how much money was owed to Mugabe and Tsvangirai. Mnangagwa could rise to the occasion and prove himself a man of the people and possibly Restore Zimbabweans’ Legacy by having this long-held report released in a bid to address the issue of the lost pensions.

The need for Transitional justice mechanisms to deal with Zimbabwe’s past economic rights violations

It would seem in Zimbabwe more focus is placed on civil and political rights violations and their redress over economic rights violations . Of course, the idea is never to try to compare such violations with those of an economic and or social nature. However, it is critical for Zimbabweans, civil society and other stakeholders to ensure that there is no silence around human violations of an economic nature. ZANU PF under Robert Mugabe managed to trample on people’s rights, bankrupting them, looting national resources, shutting down banks that held peoples’ deposits/savings and pensions that were devalued by inflation while they prevailed over their Gideon Gono Ponzi scheme economy. No one was ever held accountable for such egregious crimes and some of them continue to serve in Mnangagwa’s government. It would not make sense for Zimbabweans to forget such rights violations while Mugabe and Tsvangirai apparently get “compensated’.

The strategy for Mnangagwa since he got into power has been to play clean and to the gallery. Sympathies have been sought and won. It almost seems that Mnangagwa is doing Zimbabweans a favor by being in power. But this is all wrong – he is the President of the country. He must work and deliver! Part of his work will have to include him prevailing over the now defunct Pensions and Conversions Commission so that the report they drafted is produced and presented to Parliament. More importantly, he as the President must see to it that economic rights violations committed by ZANU PF technocrats and kleptocrats against Zimbabweans who lost their pensions when the economy was dollarized are compensated.

“Operation Restore Mugabe Legacy”: The Catholic Way

1 Dec

When Robert Mugabe, a staunch Catholic finally resigned after 37 years in power as the Head of State in Zimbabwe, it was with a sigh of relief not just for Zimbabweans but for the whole world. What has been confusing though is the way Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabwean war veterans and the rest of the military in Zimbabwe have been insisting that Mugabe’s legacy needs to be kept intact. The government has reportedly proposed that Mugabe’s birthday “21 February” be declared a national holiday. In all this hullaballoo, one figure stands out so much not only for his body size but in the manner that he has been defending and sanitizing Mugabe’s resignation as a voluntary process done through Mugabe’s own volition.  It is rather interesting that this man, Father Fidelis Mukonori in interviews with the BBC and local media is telling a narrative that seeks to protect Mugabe’s legacy in a positive way when the truth is harkening him the other way. Father Mukonori noted in the interview with the BBC that “Mugabe’s face glowed and … was not weeping unless there were some angels weeping elsewhere …“ after signing the resignation papers on 21 November 2017. What could be the interests in peddling such a narrative which amounts to some sort of nonsensical religious propaganda whitewashing the fact that Robert Mugabe was forced out of office?

Self-serving interests to feed VIP status ego

First, it seems the interests for Father Fidelis Mukonori to continue peddling a narrative that Mugabe finally capitulated on his own accord is purely personal and individualistic. Fidelis Mukonori has played a prominent role in Robert Mugabe’s life as his spiritual leader having met each other in the 1970s. There is no doubt that Fidelis Mukonori is an important figure in his church and his relationship with the Mugabes makes him a Very Important Person (#VIP) in Zimbabwe and among his social circles. Not so many people knew this man until the day he was first in the pictures standing behind Mugabe. To continue denying what reportedly happened during the time Mugabe resigned keeps Fidelis Mukonori in the driving seat of this narrative. In a society full of people who want to be seen to be “important and relevant” this works well for Fidelis Mukonori. WhatsApp chats in Zimbabwe swarmed with all sorts of reverence about Fidelis Mukonori’s powers as a member of some Catholic Jesuits grouping. His participation in the Mugabe ouster negotiations only adds to this mystification and  his supposed importance.

Positioning the Catholic as a VIP Church and player in Zimbabwe politics

Second and closely linked to the individualistic reason above, this narrative being pushed by Fidelis Mukonori seemingly places the Catholic Church in Zimbabwe at the center of Zimbabwe’s difficult politics. His involvement in the negotiations whether invited or not makes the Catholic church a seemingly VeryImportantPlayer (#VIP) in Zimbabwe’s politics. As mentioned above, Zimbabwe is a society that thrives on this misguided notion of VIPs (persons or political players including the church).

The Catholic Church can try all it wants to be a VIP in Zimbabwe’s politics and is entitled to as much as any other Zimbabwean. However, it should never be forgotten that the church was also instrumental in quests for democracy battles against Mugabe for a long time. One case in mind was during the height of the economic breakdown and the Catholic faithfuls would walk out of the Roman Cathedral in Harare whenever Mugabe and his family walked into the church for Sunday Mass. Robert Mugabe reportedly ended up attending Sunday mass in his rural home, Zvimba to avoid further embarrassment. For Fidelis Mukonori to try to present a narrative that Mugabe left power voluntarily is to demean and trample on the Catholic faithfuls’ wishes who for a very long time hated and prayed for the dictators’ downfall. Fidelis Mukonori, cannot peddle the narrative that Mugabe left voluntarily innocently like that and get away with it.

Coup not a coup – serving the military narrative

Third, it is most likely that Fidelis Mukonori swore to secrecy that he would not reveal what transpired at the Blue Roof (Mugabe’s personal residence) during the takeover period. A deal might have been struck between him, the military and ZANU PF officials that he tells a certain narrative that Robert Mugabe “sighed” showing huge relief after he had signed the resignation papers. This sort of narrative serves the military and the new President, Emmerson Mnangagwa very well. The narrative that has been peddled has always been there was no coup in Zimbabwe to depose Mugabe. For Fidelis Mukonori to say anything else would go against this much-desired narrative. Thus, he sticks to his guns that Mugabe was so happy to “voluntarily step down”. That line cannot be true. The correct narrative is that Mugabe was forced out of power and he resigned kicking and screaming in a process that took almost a whole week to complete. Tweets and media interviews from Mugabe’s inner circle and his nephews show that Mugabe would not have resigned because he intended to stand for elections in 2018. If Robert Mugabe was ready to stand in 2018 why would he happily step down before the elections? Fidelis Mukonori is being economical with the truth and by doing so is trying to sell Zimbabweans and the world a narrative that is incorrect and self-serving for him, Mugabe and the new rulers in Zimbabwe.

What is the concern with father Mukonori’s narrative?

The issue is over and done with. Mugabe is now history and no longer the President of Mugabe. His true legacy is of a man who led Zimbabwe through the first few years of his reign with magnanimity after the liberation struggle, significant development in education, health etc. He is a man who can be credited for standing strong against Western imperial forces during his heydays. Robert Mugabe is a man who will always be credited with pushing for and executing the long-delayed land redistribution exercise. What happened afterwards in that process can always be questioned but that is a story for another day.

However, Fidelis Mukonori, cannot possibly say that Mugabe left power gracefully. Robert Mugabe ceased to be the people of Zimbabwe’s choice at least by 2008 or even earlier. Catholic faithfuls in Zimbabwe were among the people who wanted him to step down and the sentiments would not have changed now. Presenting a narrative that Robert Mugabe left with GRACE is a complete lie and misrepresentation of facts and history.

If no other Zimbabwean will question this narrative, the Catholics in Zimbabwe and all over the world need to question this. The same church where one goes to pray for peace cannot be seen to be protecting a broken legacy of a man who broke the spirit of a nation and his fellow Catholics in Zimbabwe.

This is not a call for personal and image attacks on Robert Mugabe or Fidelis Mukonori. However, if there is nothing else to say, the Catholic Church in Zimbabwe should probably say “NO COMMENT” when asked about Robert Mugabe. The church in Zimbabwe cannot continue to be used/abused to suppress the wishes of its faithfuls because of the need to maintain a VIP culture for individuals and religious institutions in Zimbabwe aligned to politicians and their political parties.

Robert Mugabe full immunity – so now he goes scot free?

26 Nov

via Robert Mugabe full immunity – so now he goes scot free?

Robert Mugabe full immunity – so now he goes scot free?

26 Nov

The Zimbabwe “coup not a coup” came and went. Emmerson Mnangagwa is now the President of Zimbabwe taking over from Robert Mugabe who had ruled with an iron fist for 37 years. Mnangagwa has a lot to deal with: plans to secure the next election for his party and Presidency; a new Cabinet to run for the next 6 – 8 months among other key issues. The new President should be very careful how he maneuvers this period before the next election otherwise the voters will give him a shocker. In fact, he runs the risk of being the shortest ever serving President in Zimbabwe if he does not play his cards right. A more odious challenge will continue to haunt his reign: What to do with Robert Mugabe with regards his alleged crimes of human rights violations and kleptocracy. News has it that in the negotiations to secure his stepping down, Robert Mugabe was offered full immunity in Zimbabwe from prosecution for his family and himself. One sees political expediency on the part of Mnangagwa not wanting to be seen to be retributive after their Lacoste vs G40 factional wars in ZANU PF. However, this position is problematic as it seemingly does not respect Zimbabwean laws and neither the wishes of Zimbabweans who would like to see Robert Mugabe held accountable for his myriad of crimes committed during his reign.

In the interim the bigger question is on what should be done to Robert Mugabe and his cronies who plundered Zimbabwe and committed human rights violations.

Immunity – what immunity and who gave it anyway?

It is quite interesting to note that the news Robert Mugabe was given full immunity for wrongs committed during his reign is being given so much prominence in the news and elsewhere. The issue of immunity post Robert Mugabe’s Presidency has always been on the table for as long as anyone who has tried to convince Robert Mugabe to step down can remember. There are different views with regards this matter.

One can only imagine that the army and Emmerson Mnangagwa would have agreed to this deal because Robert Mugabe is one of their own. They would not want to be seen to be vindictive. More importantly, going after Robert Mugabe has the unwanted potential of unravelling issues about themselves as well with regards corruption and human rights violations (unotsvaga n’anga neinobata mai).

The question that begs answers and must be answered promptly is whether the said immunity granted to Robert Mugabe has any legal status per Zimbabwe’s laws? It cannot be morally or legally right whether for political expediency or national stability that a settlement be reached only by the army, ZANU PF represented by Mnangagwa and Robert Mugabe alone on his fate with regards such serious allegations of ill-gotten wealth and human rights violations.

This question now needs to be interpreted by the courts as well discussed by civil society groups in Zimbabwe to ascertain the legal status of such immunity. If indeed, the said immunity has any binding legal status, would it not need to be promulgated into a law consistent with Zimbabwe’s constitution.

Food for thought!

Sixes and sevens on Robert Mugabe’s immunity

Various interviews have shown opposition leaders such as Morgan Tsvangirai and Tendai Biti expressing opinions that Robert Mugabe should be left to retire in peace. While it is important that these leaders express their views on this matter, one hopes that they are personal opinions. Without a clear and transparent process of seeking the views of the people, political leaders cannot purport to give such stances on behalf of the people.

Robert Mugabe’s past is tainted with egregious records of human rights violations which were reportedly committed in his name as Head of State, Head of security services as well as ZANU PF party leader. State coffers were plundered left right and center by his officials using his name in most instances or by virtue of his perceived protection. It would be difficult for anyone to fathom a general immunity being to such a person.

Opposition forces, civil society organizations as well as the rest of Zimbabweans need to critically think about the implications of Robert Mugabe’s purported immunity. Moreover, people who were around Robert Mugabe will need to be held accountable. If as much as they implicate Robert Mugabe when they are under investigations or trial what will that mean for them being held accountable? The potential of any investigation being halted because it has encroached onto Robert Mugabe’s turf will be very real.

Who to hold accountable. Robert Mugabe the system or Robert Mugabe the person?

Robert Mugabe is old and almost senile. Chasing him will not yield much against his own person. However, it must be made clear that what needs to be held accountable is more of the system he prevailed upon. In the spirit of ubuntu it will make sense to argue that Robert Mugabe – the 93-year-old man should be left alone. However, for Robert Mugabe the corrupt and violent system, total immunity should and cannot be an option.

Civil society organizations and opposition political parties need to remain seized with this matter and take it head on. Arguments will be made that Zimbabwe needs to be rebuilt and the prevailing peace should not be derailed. One is of the opinion though that these arguments are defective and throw away principled reasoning. If ZANU PF through Emmerson Mnangagwa wants to give Robert Mugabe immunity then it should be a political party choice not a national choice that has legal implications barring the rest of the country from questioning Robert Mugabe’s past.

Infact, one would expect that by now that legal challenges would have started flowing to the courts to question the legality of this said immunity for Robert Mugabe. More importantly, those aggrieved should also even now start preparing court cases against whatever violations they have suffered because of Robert Mugabe.

Way forward

Mnangagwa did what he had to do with regards Robert Mugabe’s immunity. This should not however hold any other Zimbabwean back. The immunity granted to Robert Mugabe looks fickle and was meant only to subdue the old man Robert Mugabe, show a ruse of magnanimity to the international community and Robert Mugabe’s friends. There is no doubt that Robert Mugabe the old man needs to be allowed to rest. However, as Zimbabwe moves forward, one of the most important issues will be the question of accountability for past human rights violations including the country’s stolen wealth. It is critical that any stolen funds that Mnangagwa can lay his hands on be returned to the national vaults.

For instance, questions need to be answered about Robert Mugabe’s businesses. Have they been paying taxes to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority? Questions need to be answered about how the Robert Mugabes have secured all the money they flaunt around at home and abroad. If indeed it is genuinely theirs, then they still need to answer questions on whether they have given Zimbabwe’s Caesar her share.

This strategy should apply to the rest of the Robert Mugabe hangers on or as the “criminals around him” as coined by the military. Their activities need to be investigated. The stolen money needs to be returned to the fiscus and revive the ailing economy.

The charade cannot continue. Mnangagwa has an opportunity under very difficult circumstances to change the tide. Emmerson Mnangagwa can save his mentor Robert Mugabe’s skin for his wrongs but he can at least extract some of the money stolen by Robert Mugabe and his hangers on back into the Zimbabwe fiscus. Therein lies one path to the healing of Zimbabwe and possibly his path to being properly elected as Zimbabwe’s President in 2018.Robert-and-Grace-Mugabe-laughing

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