Tag Archives: Zimbabwe

The tragedy of Zimbabwe’s policy making: Dokora’s education for Goats = Antoinette’s let them eat cake:

25 Apr

In Zimbabwe, the past few weeks have been animated with jokes and memes poking fun at Zimbabwe’s Minister of Education, Sport and Culture, Lazarus Dokora’s  pronouncements that school fees can be paid using goats. Indeed, these kinds of pronouncements could not have been imaginable but …, well it happened. In the aftermath Dokora attempted to sanitize the whole issue and noted that he only meant parents and guardians could sell their goats (read livestock) to pay for school fees. This pronouncement is problematic on several levels:  It gives a very confused view of how the Zimbabwean economy is run and what Zimbabweans value as currency; what the government policy is with regards to access to education and how this pronouncement affects peoples’ livelihoods especially those in Zimbabwe’s rural areas. I will focus on a simple matter with regards to how this seemingly laughable and innocent matter has the potential of disrupting the resilience of rural communities’ livelihoods all in the name of wanting to send their children to school.

That Zimbabwe strives to have a well-educated population is not in dispute. However, with the strained and poor economic conditions bedeviling the country it has not been easy for the government as the service provider and parents/guardians as the customers of this service to pay for the goods delivered. Government has tried all sorts of mechanisms under its Social Welfare grants and schemes but this never seems to be enough. Children dropping out of school or failing to write their final examinations now seems to be the order of the day in most parts of rural Zimbabwe and other urban areas. Faced with such challenges, citizens have tried to look up to the government for solutions through policy interventions. As sure as the sun would rise, government through Lazarus Dokora came up with the pronouncement that parents struggling to pay school fees for their children could use goats as a form of payment.

I would like to give the Honorable Minister, the benefit of the doubt and think that goats were a figurative expression. I’m trying to convince myself that he meant well as he has tried to defend himself in his latest pronouncements. However, I still find even his rejoinder problematic.

Since time immemorial, Zimbabweans have used livestock to engage in barter trade as well selling it for cash to pay for their other needs. Government and other civil society groups have had numerous projects of enhancing income in most rural families by ceding make and female goats, cows etc. so that they can rear them and increase their resilience to shocks and generally can look after themselves. Thus, the pronouncement by Dokora was and cannot be news at all. There was nothing genius about his pronouncement if for any reason he thought that he was saying something outside the box meant to relieve the pressure from parents who are currently struggling to pay school fees for their children.

In fact, Dokora’s pronouncement is dangerous to the extent that it encourages poor households to strip their assets so they can pay for school fees for their children. Taking the goats for example, it is a fact that most rural folk no longer have such assets after the last drought in 2015. Moreover, because of the economic hardships most families in the rural areas have sold these assets to cater for food needs mostly. So, it would be interesting to know from Dokora who exactly he will be referring to when he says these folks can use or sell their goats to pay for school fees. For those that have the goats (read livestock), I’m sure they get milk which is used to feed children etc. Selling off such vital sources of food to pay school fees does not look intelligent and exposes families to malnutrition unnecessarily. The same goats need to breed and produce more offspring before someone can think of selling them and making money out of them. This encouragement coming from such a high-powered government official is quite forceful as it is misleading. The real risk that those who have such livestock will be tempted to sell their “only” livestock to pay for their children’s school fees is too high.

Dokora and the government of Zimbabwe need to come up with a solid policy and sustainable action to deal with the rising problem of parents failing to pay for their children’s’ school fees. Such a cavalier mentality and attitude to the rights of millions of Zimbabwean children’s right to education by senior government officials is unwarranted and reckless. Dokora needs to realize that the problem is not simply a matter of raising money. The Zimbabwean economy has been in the doldrums for years in the meantime, depleting peoples’ sources of livelihoods and resilience to poverty. Pushing for such a policy written or otherwise will only lead to entrenched poverty among Zimbabweans especially those in rural teachers all in the name of trying to send their children to school. Dokora needs to think more about the possibility and dangers of a lost generation, that will lose out from school because their parents could genuinely not pay for their school fees is unimaginable.

This goat business, is not going work. Period. The pay for education with goats pronouncement is as arrogant as the supposed Marie Antoinette’s “let them eat cake” stupid pronouncement and as hair brained as Mugabe’s utterances in 2005 that if Zimbabweans didn’t have food they could as well eat potatoes.

 

The art of bathing in dirty water: Joice Mujuru and land compensation in Zimbabwe

12 Oct

The theatrics to take over after the geriatric President Mugabe kicks the bucket or calls it quits (honestly I don’t see him leaving office on his own volition anytime soon) seem to be reaching a crescendo in opposition quarters. What with all the drama last week from former Zimbabwe Vice President Dr. Joice Mujuru when she announced that she met with the white man whose farm they grabbed or got “reallocated to” by ZANU PF when her late husband was still alive. At the least I find the whole thing unfunnily theatrical and at most cheap propaganda trying to sway the international community (read white people) to believe she is a repentant former ZANU PF zealot. I am convinced that her theatrics were not even meant for the general Zimbabwean audience. This is just trying to take a shower in dirty water, IT CAN’T!

I am not getting it. Joice Mujuru says she wants to compensate this man, this former white farmer whose land she alleges they “grabbed”. My understanding is that ZANU PF policies and laws that were enacted at the time the land was taken from most white farmers and redistributed to black people converted all that land into state property. So if the land belongs to the state, how then will she be able to compensate this white farmer when the land does not belong to him and purportedly never belong to him?

Maybe, Joice Mujuru wants people to believe that she wants to work out an arrangement that she will compensate him for “developments” made on the farm. Maybe she wants to compensate the former “landowner” for his machinery and or crops they “looted” at the time. That would in a sense be understandable but still it would be interesting to see how they will reach an agreement on the compensation rates. Of course, whoever lost his property would have an inventory but I’m really interested in seeing how the values for these properties/machinery etc. will be calculated.

This same Joice Mujuru who pleaded bankruptcy in recent court processes after her alleged step – children stepped in to claim their inheritance from their dead father is the same person who is claiming she can compensate people? Okay?

Cheap, very cheap, miscalculated propaganda I say!

One might want to see racism in these questions. However, I am of the opinion that the land question that Joice Mujuru wants to fiddle with cannot be used as a backbone for her attempts to get back into politics. There is no question that the majority of former white farm owners inherited from their ancestors this land that was stolen from black communities that were in Zimbabwe at that time. Joice Mujuru now wants to ride on a charade that seeks to trivialize this matter. She of all the people cannot forget that the liberation struggle was fought for among others to retain this same land from the erstwhile colonizers.

That ZANU PF is rogue and could have made mistakes in handling the land question does not mean that Joice Mujuru can try to downplay the need for land to be repossessed and be utilized by black Zimbabweans. The argument that white people were “very good’ and were good farmers is just unacceptable hogwash that should be told as folktales in faraway lands. It is a fact that most white families benefited from cheap bank loans, protected markets and so on such that they became “profitable farmers’. The new farmers in Zimbabwe who have been given that same land need to be given the same chance. There is nothing special about being white and neither is anything wrong with being black.

If there is one issue that will break Joice Mujuru’s attempts at the Presidency in Zimbabwe’s future it will be the land question and how she proposes to deal with the land redistribution process from the controversial “Third Chimurenga”. There are questions of principle on the much delayed and botched land redistribution process as well as questions about black empowerment and the need to possibly compensate the white folks who lost “their farms”. For her to conflate and confuse these issues with her attempts to renter politics is just mere political suicide and puerile propaganda which will not fly or win her the hearts of Zimbabweans! In any case, it is not these folks who will vote in 2018, if her recent theatrics are about looking for votes.

Compensation! Compensation for what purpose, to who and how much is the question she has to answer!

Who will tame Zimbabwe’s CABS and ECONET and Others from fleecing citizens through bad services?

27 Feb

It can be challenging to distinguish whether it is a company providing sub – standard services or the bad service is a result of the general comatose economic situation in Zimbabwe. Nevertheless, it is also challenging to continue with silence when one’s hard earned money is fleeced by corporations in scandalous ways and they remain quiet about it. For now I will raise my issues with two corporations: the bank: Central Africa Building Society (Commonly known as CABS) and the cellphone network provider: ECONET. At the least one would expect the Zimbabwean government and its power wielding regulatory bodies to look into these matters as a matter of regular monitoring and provide much needed protection to consumers. I have been into contact with a number of service providers and have found their service provision sub – standard. In instances, where there have been apologies, this has become so regular to be ridiculous. I am of the view that while most companies would plead other excuses, the general conditions are scandalous to the extent that at least they are deliberate and at most ignored in a bid to fleece unassuming Zimbabwean consumers of their hard earned money.

Central Africa Building Society (CABS)
In the month of February 2016 alone, I have been to several Central Africa Building Society (CABS) ATMs in Avondale, Westgate, Bond – Mt Pleasant and the city center and have found the machines “out of order”. This can be quite distressing especially if this is on a weekend when the bank halls are closed and there is “nowhere else” to get cash. One has to end up making phone calls to look for cash from other people or having to cancel whatever plans one had that particular day. I don’t even want to imagine what happens to those people who have to buy medication or pay for goods in the highly cash operated economy in Zimbabwe. The inconveniences are just too much.

But that is beside the point. My argument and observation is that the bank in this instance (CABS) is benefitting unfairly from such a situation where its ATMs are perennially “out of order”. Firstly, when an ATM is “out of order” one is either forced to go back home or use other banks’ ATMS. The use of “other” ATMs automatically attracts a service charge. Secondly, when the ATM is “out of order” one has the option to wait until its working or go into the bank where a set service fee will be charged. On both occasions, the customer has to pay for these charges and also endure any other connected inconveniences. I do not think that this is tenable in a situation where the bank’s ATMs and their systems are always out of order.

I contend that the CABS is making a hell lot of undeserved money and the “out of order” ATMs have actually become a source of revenue for them. The amounts involved can be very small depending on who is talking and affected but a mere crunching of the numbers of people who go through the banks’ counters when ATMs are “out of order” will reveal that the banks are earning more than they deserve. This is pure fraud and a sort of “organized” fleecing of clients by the banks. Either the Minister of Finance and or the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe needs to note such anomalies and crack the whip on the banking industry.

Recommendation:
My recommendation would be that if the ATMs are not working, banks should be forced to serve their clients free of charge inside the banks until they restore services or their systems. The argument by banks that they are not responsible for power cuts or the internet fluctuations cannot hold water. Zimbabwe has experienced power cuts for so long and internet services have never been that good anyway. By now the banks should have invested in companies that offer better services for their internet services to work and to push that power is guaranteed so that the internet grid is always working. This situation is untenable and should now be seen as corporate fraud of some sort.

ECONET
Besides the internet and calling costs on the mobile networks being so expensive in Zimbabwe, the service is fraught with numerous problems ranging from poor connectivity to not being accessible at all in a number of instances.

The experience with ECONET over the past few weeks has been hellish to say the least. On a number of occasions I have had tried to use the WhatsApp calling service with little luck at all. The network always tries to “reconnect” after 7 seconds of initiating a WhatsApp call to wherever I will be calling.

To put all this into perspective, ECONET has a number of promotions for their internet services and one of them expires on a daily basis. Now, considering that most Zimbabweans use this particular service it is important to note that the company is unfairly benefitting from such a service/product. When a customer buys for example, the data service for a $1/day the time starts ticking as soon as the purchase and confirmation is made. This is devoid of whether the internet service is good/bad; connected/unconnected and unavailable/available.

The experience with this ECONET service has been that the data is so slow that it takes time to open browsing pages; the WhatsApp calls never go through as the network is always “reconnecting” and even just refuses completely to even download emails.

So even after this “terms and conditions apply” $1/day service has been purchased, ECONET still enjoys the pleasure of taking one’s money even when the service paid for is not performing up to standard. I’m sure it would be difficult to measure when and for how long the service would be down however I also believe that a serious investigation by government regulators or even the company itself would reveal other information useful to inform how they can tackle such problems.

Recommendation:
I am thinking that the ECONET technicians can see on a daily basis how much data has been purchased and how much is used and also be able to gauge when their internet is down or performing slowly. The Post and Telecommunications Minister/Ministry should also be monitor and receive complaints about such issues. It cannot be that such big corporations operate in a vacuum and there is no one to watch how they operate.
In such instances where customers make genuine complaints the company should be able to reinstate or compensate what has been lost by the customer.

Conclusion:
The need for corporate responsibility and making sure that private corporations do not benefit unfairly in Zimbabwe is important. Big corporations cannot continue to riding on the back of monopolies, weak government inspections, government regulatory inaction and or poor customer agitation unabated.

Where services are deemed to be poor corporations must acknowledge and be able to compensate customers. The profiteering attitude exhibited thus far by most corporate service providers in Zimbabwe cannot continue unabated.

They must just do the right thing and provide good services!

NB: Just to note as well that I have complained on several occasions verbally and with CABS, the bank tellers at the Westgate Branch apologized and noted that there was nothing she could about the “out of order” ATM but I still had to pay for the charges incurred for transacting in the banking hall. One bank teller at the Avondale branch told me that if I could not afford the “bank hall charges” I had to wait until the ATMs were repaired and she was not in control of how long that would take.

With ECONET, the attendant at the Westgate shop noted at first that there was something wrong with my handset, but after a while noting that the handset has worked well in the past she then said she would call their technicians to fix the problem. The internet problem persists. I am sure I can get another service provider but that is not the point. ECONET just needs to provide a good service worth the money paid for by its customers.

Zimbabwe’s fate or salvation does not lie in Morgan Tsvangirai, Joyce Mujuru or their touted coalition

1 Dec

I am writing this article in response to an article written by Alexander Noyes and published in the New York Times on 26 November 2015 (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/27/opinion/uniting-to-oust-mugabe.html?_r=0). While we are all entitled to our own opinions, I found the message in the article a bit misleading at best and at worst a misreading of what is happening with regards to the need for leadership change in Zimbabwe. The core message in the article suggests that for the opposition in Zimbabwe to win against Mugabe’s ZANU PF they need to be united and that ultimately this grand coalition will have to be consummated by Morgan Tsvangirai and Joyce Mujuru. This is problematic for a number of reasons.

Firstly, I am not too sure what prompted the research, but the assumption I have here is that the writer is a PHD student studying African politics. It is in this line that the article was written and of course it might add value to the debate around who and how Mugabe should be succeeded. However, the contents of the article serve more as a “faux provocateur” to the whole debate which do not provide any useful information for Zimbabweans who have been trying to dislodge Mugabe for the past 15 years or more.

I am worried about the kind of audience that will take time to read this story and even further engage the writer on this matter. In his article he encourages Western governments to quietly push for unity among different opposition political forces in Zimbabwe. I hope that they will not take the contents of Alexander Noyes’ publication wholesale without doing their own background research and scenario mapping. Uniting the current crop of Zimbabwean opposition forces will not be the panacea to democracy or bringing down Robert Mugabe’s overdue tenure. More of the same, is what Zimbabwe will get from such a charade. Zimbabwe needs a principled wide base party which appeals to people based on issues not anger or frustration at Mugabe.

The touting of Morgan Tsvangirai and Joyce Mujuru as the two leaders who will deliver Zimbabwe from Mugabe’s 3 decades rule is unfortunate and false. Zimbabwe has a number of potential leaders in both ZANU PF, in the opposition parties and in the private sector in Zimbabwe and abroad. That they might not have come to the fore at the moment does not mean that there is a dearth of leadership capabilities and Mujuru and Tsvangirai are the only option. Any merger between Tsvangirai and especially these people falling out with ZANU PF is scandalous and a spit right in the face of hundreds of Zimbabweans who have been made to suffer by these same people when they were members of ZANU PF.

The fixation on Tsvangirai as a political force is misplaced at this stage of his political career. He has been at the helm of the MDC for quite some time. He has played his part and he must actually be starting to consider retiring from active politics. He went into the Government of National Unity; scandals and blunders marred his reign as Prime Minister, not least the personal matters involving his marriage life. Who has ever measured how far his behavior alienated young Zimbabwean women and men from a man they looked at for leadership as a father, husband and national figure. Let’s not take things for granted and assume that he still controls a major support base in Zimbabwe. His colleagues under his watch reportedly plundered government resources, abused local offices and nothing much was done to them. One brazen example was a cheeky move to try to use National Social Security Funds to bail out a collapsing bank belonging to friends in Tsvangirais’ party which was later blocked by ZANU PF.

As for Joyce Mujuru, the odds for becoming the President in Zimbabwe are next to zero even if she were to contest in a free and fair election. The assumption that her war credentials endear her to most Zimbabweans is grounded on false beliefs. For starters, the good doctor is not ideologically stable. For example, the ideologies of the liberation war she stands for do not resonate with the new image of restoration of land to those white people who lost their so called land years ago which she is now touting. In any case, what does she mean that she will restore lost land right to its erstwhile owners? How will she do that, who is she, and what powers does she have in terms of the law? The time for sloganeering went past a long time ago while she was still supping with ZANU PF, no sane Zimbabwean will sit and listen to such rhetoric.

Joyce Mujuru and her folks who were booted out of ZANU PF must not feign any false bravado and try to hoodwink Zimbabweans that they know what is best for the country. If they meant well, they should have led reform from inside a long time ago. I have heard a number of people saying that they must be commended for speaking out against ZANU PF. Well, yes, they are speaking out but for what reason. This is just a question of sour grapes! How have these people acquired all this wealth that they flaunt around and are using to challenge ZANU PF? Where were they when Zimbabweans were being butchered in politically motivated violence since the 2000s? Who doesn’t remember Didymus Mutasa telling hungry villagers to eat potatoes if they did not have maize? Dzikamai Mavhaire, Rugare Gumbo, Temba Mliswa – the John McCains of Zimbabwe – These people have been in government for as long as Zimbabweans can remember. Is it not time for them to give others a chance?

At best, Morgan Tsvangirai will become a Raila Odinga of sorts in Zimbabwe or even less – at least Raila has the economic wherewithal to wither any financial storms. Not President! Zimbabwe needs and deserves better. Morgan had his chance and it failed. Joyce Mujuru, she can try to revive her hopes in Mashonaland East, but to tout her as a kingmaker in Zimbabwe’s political arena is a bit far – fetched. Let her go home, manage her loads of money and retire quietly. And oh yes, hope that no cheeky victim or lawyer will ask questions about Chaona! Remember 2008?

With regards to Robert Mugabe, does it ever occur to anyone that in fact this man might actually be commanding a lot of support in Zimbabwe? Rigging, violence, corruption etc. have largely dominated and scarred his rule. I do not want to have another day under his rule. I think he now needs to just leave Zimbabwe to be ruled by other people. He is just too old to make informed decisions, I think. However, the land reform exercise will always remain one of his legacies. The man has also been principled with regards to how ZANU PF is run. If you cannot take the heat, you get booted out or you are reprimanded. To date, this has worked out well for those who believe in ZANU PF’s values. So why are these people crying foul? Writers should not just paint Mugabe with this brush – of dictatorial tendencies. More questions should be asked about these people who have flanked him for so long and have jived and fainted for him in public.

On the question of a united opposition – this is also very debatable. It might work only to get numbers against ZANU PF which in itself is an admittance that ZANU PF has a strong support base. However, there should be no prescriptions that people should unite for the sake of uniting. Sooner rather than later, one will realize that a big tent made of orange canvas, green plastic, red cotton, etc. will not “hold water”. Zimbabwe needs a widely appealing opposition leader not fragmented little parties coming together. There is nothing stopping that kind of an individual from emerging among the Zimbabwean populace at home and abroad.

Who exactly is defining democracy in Zimbabwe? When we talk about democracy in Zimbabwe, it has to be clear that the return of land taken from about 4 000 white people who owned almost 80% of all the fertile land will never amount to democracy. It can just lead to more anguish and fighting. Democracy will certainly not mean dancing to the tunes of Western governments when it comes to determining how the country should be run. Certain traits of order as human beings have to be respected universally, but the idea of prescribing wily nily what democracy should mean for Zimbabwe is untenable.

Indeed, as they say, “the beautiful are yet to be born”, but this is also because they might never be conceived. Zimbabwe has potential leaders all over the world. Hope cannot lie in having Joyce Mujuru and Morgan Tsvangirai as the only people who can deliver democracy in Zimbabwe.

Pensions Conversion Commission: Zimbabwe tinkering with justice for past economic rights violations

28 Jul

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. This is a welcome development which was long overdue. This process is essential in terms of addressing the mayhem caused to Zimbabwean workers and pensioners during the inflationary Zimbabwe dollar period. Thousands of workers and their dependents lost the real value of their pensions and this lacuna needs government intervention at the least. It would seem the corporate world took advantage of a lax system and benefitted unfairly. This matter raises 3 issues 1) questions on the part of the government of Zimbabwe’s responsibility to give protection to its citizens from rogue private corporate entities; 2) corporate bodies and fair business conduct and 3) the right to remedies for pensioners shortchanged in the process of converting Zimbabwe dollar pensions to the US currency.

The first thing to note in this whole discussion is to admit that the Zimbabwe Government and statutory bodies charged with regulating the Life Insurance and Pensions fraternity failed to “protect” citizens by intervening at the time they were needed the most – when the insurance companies started making unilateral decisions on what rate of exchange and value they would place on pensioners’ contributions. This given, it is important that the government of Zimbabwe realizes henceforth that there is need to come up with a proper plan in the event that problems arise again. This discussion would warrant stricter measures set on institutional reform in the insurance and pensions industry to govern such in the event of an economic collapse, company closures etc.

Furthermore, it will be interesting to juxtapose this discussion on the conversion process and to see what rates will be used to determine the real value of the Pensions as at 2009 and the recently implemented rates used in the highly controversial (https://tchabvuta.wordpress.com/2015/06/30/what-exactly-is-this-animal-called-demonetization-in-zimbabwe/) demonetization process. There will have to be uniformity in purpose on the part of the government in terms of dealing with the lacuna of the wrongs of the past.

Secondly, this development will of course not go down well with business especially the insurance firms who have now been placed at the center of “inquiry”. For a long time after the dollarization process these companies in my view enjoyed undeserved profits from the unilateral conversions they made on pensioners’ contributions. In the event they are found wanting they might have to review their finances and pay out more and this will be contentious on the basis of what laws to follow, what rate to use and so on. However, I believe that this process calls for corporate social responsibility and moral accountability on the part of insurance companies to ensure that they “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar”. I am not an economist or finance expert but it honestly does not make sense that one contributes funds into a pension fund which then invests in high rise buildings, stocks and so on and then one day you work up to be told that your contributions have been reduced to half or are not even worth following up because INFLATION devoured the money. It cannot be right!

Thirdly on the part of pensioners, this discussion centers more on the need for redress of the wrongs of the past. To what extent this becomes a matter for transitional justice debate I would not be sure, but I definitely think that there is some merit in placing this issue under the myriad of issues being pursued on transitional justice in Zimbabwe. The matter whilst economic, requires some form of justice in the form of compensation for any losses incurred; it requires restoration of peoples’ confidence in financial institutions and their investments (Institutional Reform) and the need for the truth to come out on what exactly happened during the conversion processes.

The work of the Commission
The work of the Commission is clearly cut out for them and it will be interesting to see how they handle this one on a number of aspects. The statutory instrument establishing makes it clear that the commissioners have jobs for a period of 9 months which can be extended for another 3 months. I find this overly long but well I guess these people know better what and who they have to investigate to get to the bottom of the matter.

Legal Questions: The next question is on a question of operation. To what extent will the findings of the Commission be implementable especially in the light that the insurance companies might be found wanting. The government has advisors and they should have discussed the legal consequences of such processes by now. It will also be interesting to see if the assurance companies can be retroactively held liable if found to be in breach and generally how this will define government’s relationship with corporate bodies in future.

Transparency: Another issue relates to the transparency of this process. Previous Commissions set up to deal with investigations on human rights violations, football stampedes etc. have been a disappointment to the public. The deliberate ploys by government to ignore civil society and offer half – hearted overtures such as the defunct Organ on National Healing and the still born National peace and Reconciliation Commission to handle past human rights violations are well noted. Government has not even considered investigating the high levels of corruption at institutions like the Reserve Bank when senior officials were “burning” money and buying US dollars, the rampant theft of gold, how NGOs and Embassies forex accounts were raided during the peak of the economic crisis etc.

Integrity of the Commissioners: It will be interesting to see what will come out of this body. People like Dr. Kanyenze would be reminded to ensure they maintain their professional and personal integrity and deliver a good job. The 9 member Commission would be well advised as well to ensure that they will be able to live with the realities they will encounter in their investigations and be able to stand up to the “regime” and make the report public. In the event or likelihood that this will not be possible, they are better advised to stand down. Knowing Zimbabwe and the tough times we are in, a good Commissioner’s allowance is not easy to fend off though, so let’s see.

Interrogating Government’s own policies: It will also be important to see and get information on how the government has dealt with own staff and pension funds. This is information that should be in the public domain and government could begin their transparency by giving out such information.
The bottom line is that while the Zimbabwe government can be lauded for coming up with such a process, it would be much more important to have a national dialogue first on these matters to collect views from the nation and all stakeholders. A more robust discussion on transitional justice needs to be held at a national level to discuss what happened during the economic crisis in the years between 1999 – 2008 and a whole host of other pertinent issues is really delayed and must be convened.

The healing and reconciliation process in Zimbabwe cannot just be about the law!

24 Jul

The Zimbabwe government has been working on a process to set up a National Peace and Reconciliation Commission for obvious reasons which do not need further elaboration. A very necessary and overdue process which I am beginning to think is being started on false support structures. I will draw attention to one peculiar clause to the provisions setting up the commission – the one that requires the Chairperson to be someone who has been a legal practitioner for at least seven years in Zimbabwe. I find this clause/provision problematic in certain ways.

The national healing and reconciliation agenda in Zimbabwe cannot just be a legal matter. Unless if the proposed Commission is a legal court of sorts then there is absolutely no reason the Chairperson has to be someone with a legal background. There are so many aspects to the past human rights violations that have been committed in Zimbabwe which span across economic, political, social and legal matters.

Unless, if there are specific reasons which should be made clear in the enabling provisions to this Commission, anyone with a clear, sober and mature mind possessing psychology, religious, economic, political, medical, traditional leadership qualifications etc. should be able to lead the Commission. Any argument that legal matters will be brought up in the cases before the Commission is rather limiting and patronizing. If for any reason there will be need to interpret legal issues, the Commission must have provisions and systems in place that either some of its members or members of its Secretariat in the Legal Division have those qualifications and capabilities to advise the rest of the Commission.

In any case, 1) how many lawyers do we have in Zimbabwe 2) How many of those have the 7 years experience 3) how many of them posess the leadership skills to chair such a Commission 4) How many would be willing to work for the Commission even? Given all this and many more questions – the position by the government becomes rather short – sighted.

Different countries have approached these Commissions differently and the members or Chairpersons have not necessarily been lawyers or citizens from that country. Knowing Zimbabwe, issues of sovereignty and national pride will obviously kick in when it comes to foreign Commissioners. Any attempts to bring in foreigners especially whites will be vehemently discouraged. In the end though, what should matter is the expertise the different men and women who will sit in the Commission will bring to the table. It would have been more beneficial however, to have the Commission composed even of foreign nationals with the requisite economic, historical, and political and other relevant backgrounds.

There cannot be a false assumption that transitional justice matters are purely legalistic. Zimbabwe should not fall into the trap of solving every other national problem by the legal route. By imposing that the Chairperson has a legal background, the Zimbabwe government is falsely assuming that all matters reconciliation and healing have to be dealt with in a legal manner. There must be a very clear and logical explanation to the position of having the Chairperson being from the legal fraternity. I do not have anything against the legal profession in Zimbabwe and in general but Zimbabwe’s past problems cannot be solved by relegating all else to the law. Of course it will be necessary that all determinations/judgments made by this Commission be protected under Zimbabwean law but it doesn’t necessarily mean that lawyers have to have the final say. (if the directive be that the Chairperson has to have a legal background).

The drafters of these provisions most probably consulted a lot but I’m sure also missed a crucial point that the Chairperson of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission does not have to have a legal background for him or her to diligently exercise their duty. Unless, if this Chairperson will have some other unspecified roles which require legal training, the position should be given to any other qualifying Zimbabwean.

Compromised and Compromising Politicians: The tragedy of opposition politics in Zimbabwe

7 Jun

Since the 2013 July ZANU PF victory or theft or whatever you want to call it, opposition political parties in Zimbabwe have been in sixes and nines – not too sure how to respond to the loss. Calls were made to annul the vote because reportedly Nikuv had secured the victory for the wily Robert Mugabe. Most in the opposition MDC T went on to blame Morgan Tsvangirai for his lack of strategy during the election. Others have recently reportedly called for a Transitional Authority to run a caretaker government leading to new elections and a revival of the ailing economy. Unfortunately, the much sought after silver bullet to heal Zimbabwe from the pains of the ailing economy and democratic deficit will not and cannot be found in the proposed Transitional Authority. This proposition is a fallacy based on an arrogant and patronizing assumption that people like Tendai Biti hold the keys to the final solution because in my view they are too compromised by association and conduct which leads them to make serious compromises detrimental to the common Zimbabwean wananchi.

First and foremost – some evident truths are there for everyone to see. The government is broke, there is no money to pay for essential services, and industries continue to shut down. This cannot be news anymore, and so the so called wise men from the opposition should not continue breaking such information and behaving as if they have just discovered a new planet. Zimbabweans are not stupid – they know what’s going on.

The new calls for a Transitional Authority in my view would have been well meaning if Zimbabwe were in a different scenario. Post war situation or others of that nature. ZANU PF won the election rightly or wrongly last July and the nation must move on. The idea of wanting to keep the nation in a perpetual electioneering mode is unacceptable. The situation requires different stakeholders to now work towards resolving some of the challenges the nation is facing. Of course it is never going to be easy to work with ZANU PF. However, if any electioneering is going to be done, let it be done at party political level to streamline opposition party strategies. Let it be towards electoral law reforms, alternative policies, national dialogue(s) etc. and not any form of Transitional Authority. The opposition was given a 5 year chance to help the country transit from a state of paralysis to a stable one. They must be commended for pulling Zimbabwe out of the mud but we all know that such a type of government will be difficult to manage in the Zimbabwean context as long as ZANU PF holds executive powers through the office of the President.

People must now start to learn to disabuse of themselves of the fallacy that ZANU PF does not have supporters and they out rightly stole the election in 2013. ZANU PF and Robert Mugabe have supporters who genuinely voted for them in 2013. There are Zimbabweans who believe in ZANU PF’s policies of land reform and so on. I do not hold any brief for ZANU PF but over the years a few of the Young Turks such as Kaukonde, Mandiwanzira, Kasukuwere, Mzembi, Nhema etc. whether through abuse of state resources or no have managed to campaign vigorously and retained the fortunes of the party. So people must not continue thinking that ZANU PF does not hold a brief for a huge section of Zimbabweans because unfortunately due to the ambiguous positions held by the opposition of certain sensitive issues such as land people have chosen to side with ZANU PF.

The biggest challenge that Zimbabweans in the opposition now face after having tasted political office at the highest level is that they are confusing personal interests with the national question. It is a fact that certain sections of the opposition leadership would of course want to go back to government. Could it just be nostalgic feelings really gone bad? Power is sweet, it gives you access to resources and just a feeling of invincibility. Well, it could be as well that these opposition leaders have the peoples’ issues at heart. But it is well that they can wait until the next election. If people really want to go back to government I’m sure they can talk to Gideon Gono, and Gideon can talk to Robert Mugabe and something can be arranged. Let this not be a matter of national interest, because it is not!

One other really disturbing matter that keeps cropping up is of the Western governments not willing to work with the corrupt and inept ZANU PF government when it comes to financial injections into the economy. Well, the country cannot continue and afford to be held hostage by people who are not sure of what exactly it is they want. The West knows fully well the idea of a Transitional Authority is just a phantom dream which cannot come into existence during the tenure of this ZANU PF government. The West must by now have engaged think tanks and policy gurus to find ways of engaging the Zimbabwean government in ways that can ensure that their resources do not necessarily get siphoned and end up in the pockets of ZANU PF officials. Infact, the West is better reminded that a Marshall Plan of some sort for Zimbabwe now without this thought of a Transitional Authority could help Zimbabweans move from this confusion wherein most people now view them as enemies and stalling Zimbabwe’s progress through sanctions.

If these so brilliant opposition leaders have alternatives then they should be brought up through Parliament or policy conferences where issues can be discussed. Does it really need someone to have a government position for them to be able to propose a reform to the banking sector or the provision of basic education, health and so on? Maybe I am being naïve, but I would suggest we see the alternative policies first – down to the last detail. Of course some gullible politicians will say that they do not want ZANU PF to steal their ideas. But I guess if the objective is to raise Zimbabwe out of the crisis it finds itself, and then let the policies be brought forward.

And the other sore thumb – civil society in Zimbabwe. Most organizations and leaders have rightly refused to take positions on important national matters and others such as the current succession and leadership wrangles in the MDC T and ZANU PF. Fair and fine, no meddling in internal party politics for civil society. But who are we trying to fool here. Most of the leaders because of their democratic right hold very senior advisory positions in the MDC T which compromises their positions when discussing pertinent issues that could affect the nation. Many a times, critical leaders have failed to comment on Morgan Tsvangirai’s reported and wanton abuse of his girlfriends and wives. The abuse of women cannot be a private matter! People failed to raise even their eyebrows when news surfaced that Tendai Biti had tried to raise funds to rescue a faltering private bank using NSSA funds. When Tendai Biti was reportedly representing Gideon Gono people felt it better to be quiet. But I contend that this is exactly what is messing up civil society and the opposition leadership. People in the opposition in Zimbabwe have become compromised and therefore are taking compromises when it comes to dealing with critical national issues in Zimbabwe.

Another GNU by any other fancy name such as Transitional Authority is not acceptable. In any case, I am going to give ZANU PF free advice. I think they would only be stupid to accept something like that. Zimbabwe must move on. Let us find national solutions to critical problems affecting the nation. Giving national and executive jobs to the boys is not a national question. The opposition needs to go back to the drawing board, strategize and launch a new chapter for 2018. Right now most in the opposition leadership are very compromised and will make compromise decisions detrimental to Zimbabweans.

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