Thursday, 18 December 2014

A New Look at Zimbabwe-USA ‘Tortuous’ Relations via the CIA.

By Takura Zhangazha*

Zimbabwe is one among a number of African countries that assisted the United States of America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in its notorious rendition programme.  This emerged from a recent report that the USA Senate made public last week.  The role that our country is said to have played in these torture processes is related to transiting various terror suspects from Malawi and detaining them for a month before onward secret rendition to Sudan.

The scale of the operation is indeed shocking,  coming as it does from the worlds sole global superpower which claims to respect the rule of law and human rights. 

What is even more shocking however is that our publicly shrill 'anti-imperialist' government worked in tandem with its long standing ‘enemy’ in secretly moving and detaining terror suspects without habeas corpus and with the strong possibility of turning a blind eye to their physical torture. 
In this, some components of the US Senate Intelligence Committee indicate that ‘lump sums’ of money may have exchanged hands.

Given the fact that our government has railed against sanctions and the agents of imperialism since the passing of the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA) in 2001  this yet to be disputed role it has been playing with the CIA is a very unpleasant surprise.

It would immediately mean that our ministries of foreign affairs, defence and intelligence have been publicly denouncing what is otherwise a country they secretly treat as an ally in the ‘war on terror’. 
While it is the language of international relations experts to refer to such insidious situations as being a case of ‘no permanent friends, but permanent interests’, it is difficult to fathom what Zimbabwe’s interests in this case are.

Even if we were trying to curry favour and get sanctions lifted,  the very fact that there was limited movement on the same in the last fourteen years means this was an exercise in not only futility but in violation of international human rights laws.

Moreover, the fact that  our foreign affairs policies have been predicated on giving the impression that we are not only Pan-Africanist, anti-imperialist and committed to preventing liberal interventionism especially in this age of the ‘global war on terror’, this report points to serious hypocrisy on the part of our government. 

It is no way consistent with pan-Africanism, let alone any serious attempt to prevent the global expansion of neo-liberalism and liberal interventionism if we participate in the secret rendition and detention of suspected terror suspects. 

The further fact that government has not responded directly to these allegations leveled against it by the US Senate Intelligence Committee’s report, indicates that perhaps there is something to hide.

Perhaps the government appears to have forgotten that it was the same CIA that was involved in regularly undermining liberation movements across the continent. In some cases it has been accused of direct and indirect involvement in the assassination of African revolutionaries like Lumumba of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

Analysts have written of how the contemporary Zanu Pf leadership has sought more often than not to project itself as ‘Pan-Africanist’.  Well this particular version is not in keeping with what many founding fathers and mothers envisioned.  We can cooperate with any other country on anything but torture if we are to keep the humanity propositioned by Pan Africanism in its truest noble sense.

In claiming to be Pan African, our government appears to have been ‘papering over the cracks’ of its opportunistic foreign policy.  If we want to assist the ‘war on terror’  we still have and had the option of the Unitied Nations, the African Union and even SADC. And in this, to do so in tandem with public accountability, respect for the rule of law and human rights. 

Whatever ‘moral authority’ the government of Zimbabwe felt and feels it has in standing up to imperialism is lost. 

Until such a time there is a public denial together with attendant evidence put before a competent court of law or Parliament, we would be forgiven for thinking that all along our government has been working with the United States of America, contrary to claims of the latter’s  ‘imperialist machinations’.

 *Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com) 

Friday, 12 December 2014

Zim’s New Vice Presidents: Between a Rock and a Hard Place.

By Takura Zhangazha*

President Mugabe’s recent appointment of two male deputies in his party in the aftermath of its 6th Congress had long played out in the media in relation to succession politics. Now that the media speculation, support, denigration of the various contenders to these two (and other posts) in the ruling party has generally reached its peak, it would be necessary to assess the key realities that these two new deputies face. 

Particularly where it also concerns their roles as the President’s  deputies in government even though their dual roles in their party is the basis of their impact on the former. 

Their appointments to their coveted posts are essentially the sum total of Zanu Pf factional politics. And their functions will be informed by the same.  Whereas previous second and third secretaries have been acclaimed, after provincial nomination, at  √©lective’ congresses, Messrs Mnangagwa and Phoko are appointees who were then presented to the party’s central committee meeting.  It is only their principal who was presented before congress, making it fairly apparent where power in the party resides.

So for all the national constitutional provisions given to Zimbabwe’s two vice presidents, the new occupants of the same office will not be able to give any unique leadership character to these roles.  They essentially function at the pleasure and borderline mercy of the President.

In interviews after the announcements to the ruling party’s ‘presidium’ both men have expectedly indicated that they are not in doubt of the latter point.

Apart from their constitutionally mandated roles as vice presidents of the country (not the party), they will also carry out further functions.  Vice President Mnangagwa will remain Minister of Justice while second vice president will be in charge of national reconciliation. 

For Mnangagwa this means he remains leader of government business in Parliament.  With the combined powers of his new position and the old one, he is essentially a de facto prime minister. Albeit under the watchful eye of his principal.  He however does not have a difficult task in leading government business in the legislature given his party’s two thirds majority in the same and the ability of his principal to fire any MPs that refuse to tow the party line. 

He will however not be in a position to define this leadership role in any way that deviates from the collective responsibility of cabinet or the political intentions and authority of his principal.  This means if anything, he will have to follow through with the stalling economic blueprint ZimAsset as of old and cannot introduce any new measures to build new or better expectations of the current government by the Zimbabwean public.

Second vice president Mphoko has what is evidently an easier role to play.  Like his immediate predecessor he has been tasked with dealing with national reconciliation.  While he may not have a co-minister from the opposition to contend with, it is least likely he will proceed in any spectacularly different fashion. Especially given his principal’s wariness about the long standing allegations of genocide in Matebeleland during the 1980s. 

In representing the Pf Zapu side of the presidium, he will try to spearhead projects in the southern parts of the country but only with the express permission of the President.  So his vice presidency will largely be muted and function more on the basis of towing the president’s line to the letter while watching out for any new signs of those that may differ with the latter. 

The two Vice Presidents however face greater challenges in relation to managing their public and political profiles to progressive effect.  Being second in command by way of appointment is normally not in any way preferable for a political career.  At some point one needs national electoral legitimacy to hold such a post as important as a vice president. Be it at party or government level.  So while the two new deputies may have been  the beneficiaries of not only factionalism but also the benevolence of the President, they have their work cut out for them to be leaders in their own political/electoral right.

In the event that President Mugabe leaves office between now and 2018, VP Mnangagwa as first vice president (and second secretary in Zanu Pf)  is most likely to be his successor both in government and in the ruling party. He will however have to go through the motion of leading his party in the elections scheduled for the same year, 2018. 

And that does not work by way of appointment but by way of the electoral will of the people. A development that will occur within the context of his party continuing to be divided at grassroots levels while at the same time facing a stubborn, though weak for now, opposition.

As it is, I do not envy the two new vice presidents. Whatever they do, they can only do under the aegis of their principal who appears keen on control and continuity in his direct leadership of party and government.  And who will also not evidently hint at succession. Simultaneously, they have to become leaders in their own right within their new positions. They are between a rock and a hard place.

Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)  

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

On Being 'Simplistic' in Zimbabwean Politics.

 By Takura Zhangazha*

On the eve of his party’s 2014 Congress, President Mugabe described his deputy, Joice Mujuru as simplistic and lacking in ‘statecraft’ . The latter term can assumedly be deemed to be the opposite of the former.

Apart from the mirth that his statements induced in the new Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association executive members present at the meeting, there are other innuendos that come to the fore.

The first being that of the meaning of the term ‘simplistic’ in politics.  In universities across the world, students of political science grapple with this term especially where and when it relates to the necessary qualities of good political leaders.  For example, how educated must one be to become a president? Or alternatively, how educated but ‘simple’ must one also be in order to meet the pre-requisites of being a leader of political processes? Or to even win elections. 

In answers to these questions there are mixed responses but the final assessment is always that whoever leads a country/state, must generally have their mandate deriving from the democratic consent of the governed. With or without simplistic notions of leadership.

The second would relate to defining sophistry and leadership. What immediately comes to mind are the Sophists of ancient Greece who were the professors and teachers who used to pose as public intellectuals.  They are also to be found in Plato’s Socratic ‘Dialogues’  as being intellectual functionaries that seek more self aggrandizement than they do ‘truth and justice’ in the public arena.

The third consideration is that of the pressures of running government or ‘statecraft’.  

In referring to it, President Mugabe is probably aware that it means the special ability to manage the affairs of government extraordinarily well .  It would also include reference to statesmanship which refers to the ability of a leader to always appear above the somewhat petty political fray and taking responsibility in the most trying of circumstances in order to take the country to greater heights or at least emerge victorious in trying political times.

These terms are no doubt key to any assessment of past, present and future Zimbabwean politics.  They are however in need of specific contextual application. 

In all of our country’s constitutional reform processes (by way of referendums , SADC mediation or just Parliamentary actions) queries on the qualifications of political leaders have been never ending.  Should the Presidnet have a degree, should a Member of Parliament have five Ordinary Levels, should a councillor have the same as an MP and so on.  Traditional leaders have however not been the subject of such debate since their leadership is deemed hereditary among other cultural considerations. 

The assumptions of such questions have been based on a quest to have ‘sophisticated’ leaders who are not only educated but ‘world wise’.  In fact I would hazard to add that these leaders would hopefully be charismatic because of their ‘sophistry’.

The reality of the matter is that most of our past and contemporary political leaders did not always have such qualifications. Especially prior to being elected leaders.  Their primary qualifications were those of being willing to serve the people of Zimbabwe in varying capacities.  Some more than others, but all the same, it was initially ‘virtue’ (the pursuit of truth and justice)  as defined by Plato  that qualified them to lead.  That they acquired degrees in prison, government or elsewhere is not enough. 

So the simplicity that President Mugabe talked about in defining his long time subordinate turned enemy is probably of limited consequence to the future of our politics.  It is the people that decide on what simplicity is or is not when electing their leaders, warts and all.

In most cases where leaders have sought to be sophisticated they have removed themselves from organic linkages with the people.  From the heady ideological post independence days of ‘scientific socialism’  through the neo-liberal years of structural adjustment our departure from ‘simplicity’ in politics is what has led to the inorganic hegemonic malaise we find ourselves in.

Our leaders must know how to lead, agreed.  But not on the basis of mere educational training.  It must, in the final analysis be on the basis of democratic values and principles that are derived from the people democratically and organically.  Our leaders should, whatever party they belong to, be the sum total of the cultural intentions of the people that select them to lead them.  Sophistry helps, but it is not the sine qua non of leadership. It never has been.

So where one returns to the President’s reference to political ‘simplicity’ it may have been in the moment of expressing a personal opinion about his deputy and that is his right to do so. But in our collective polity and politics, simplicity based on democratic values, principles that are equally democratically and organically derived from the people  brings better leadership value.  And that would be true ‘statecraft.’ 
*Takura Zhangazha writes in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com) 



Thursday, 27 November 2014

Zimbabwe’s 2014 in Early Retrospect: Struggles Without the Struggle

A Presentation to the Mass Public Opinion Institute (MPOI) Public Seminar
Thursday 27 November 2014.
New Ambassador Hotel, Harare.

Cde Chairman,
As is tradition and courtesy, let me begin. by thanking you for inviting me to share my views with the respectable Douglas Mwonzora, recently elected Secretary General of the MDC-T and the respectable Goodson Nguni of the ruling Zanu Pf party.
 
I have titled my presentation Zimbabwe’s 2014 in Early Retrospect: Struggles Without the Struggle for a specific reason.  In 1999, the late renowned academic and human rights activist, Professor Masipula Sithole, who is also a founder of the organisation that has brought us here today, the Mass Public Opinion Institute (MPOI) wrote a personal note for me in his celebrated book, Struggles Within the Struggle. 

In that note he urged me, as his former student, to hopefully pursue writing my own version of ‘struggles after the struggle.’ I suspect his intention was to have me participate in a project that helps to outline what happened to the former liberation movement, in which his brother was once upon a time president, in the aftermath of independence. 

Contrary to his written expectations, I have decided to call this paper, struggles without the struggle.  The main reasons being that we have all had collective amnesia about why we do our politics.  Social democratic values, principles have long been discarded in order to promote personality cults (across the political divide), mimicry of assumed global universality in political and economic trends. 

Struggles without the struggle therefore refers to a year in which we have come to tragically accept that our politics is not only shallow, non-revolutionary and elitist at a time  when our country urgently needs the exact opposite.

I will return to the issue of struggles without the struggle later.  In order to assess the ups and downs of the course of the  year  2014 in Zimbabwe, it is necessary to access the political, legal, economic, civil society and social placement of the country as the year progressed. 

In the course of the political year and given our obsession with politics, there have been no major positives to talk of.  We have probably scored a historical first as a country where a ruling party is literally fighting within itself even after a shocking, but disputed, electoral victory over a year ago. 

Simultaneously, an opposition which should have been taking the year to reflect, re-organise and refocus in the wake of its stunning defeat in general elections, finds itself not only divided but floating in the political abstractions of personality cults as thought to mimic and compete with the ruling party. 

Newer political parties, in the wake of their formation or at least announcements of being formed, have found themselves pursing political office without any new ideas or propositions on the political future of the country.

So as it is, our national political score card is next to zero.  We have not achieved anything politically in the last eleven months.

Legally, the new constitution has sought to give us a glimmer of hope over the course of the year.  Unfortunately it is neither widely known let alone appreciated.  Even after millions of dollars were spent crafting it and putting it to a referendum.  It has had no immediate impact on the political consciousness of the Zimbabwean populace primarily because its end effect now appears to have been a power brokering arrangement between political parties, and in the run up to the Zanu Pf congress, managing presidential succession.

Our new bill of rights has not seen any changes in the attitude of government.  Over the course of the year, the right to housing, shelter and viable livelihoods have been violated in Mazowe, Manyame, Chitungwiza, Chiadzwa, Tokwe Mukosi, Gutu and Chisumbanje.  I am sure that in Lupane, the same story of displacement of citizens will emerge with the unfolding reports of gas exploration. 

This brings me to the important point of the performance of the national economy over the course of the year.  Government launched its five year economic blueprint, ZimAsset last year amid much fanfare and media hype.  It has turned out that this document is largely about government giving the impression that it has a plan.

In essence the blueprint is no more than a political manifesto and not a government programme of action.  It meets the global prerequisites of capitalism and neo-liberalism, albeit in similar fashion to the Chinese, Russian and Angolan economic models. 

These being steeped in state capitalism where it is the political elite who, like the oligarchies in the aforementioned countries run the entirety of the economy while simultaneously repressing revolutionary political dissent and giving a veneer of permanence or inevitability to the political and economic state of affairs as they obtain. 

 Let me return to the concept of struggles without the struggle.  Our political economy over the last year, and needless to say since independence have suffered from a tremendous lack of application of political and innovative mind to context.  Our actions have tended to be motivated more by a desire for personal and international recognition via mimicry without a consistent intention to address the needs of the people.  This is against the grain of the values of not only our liberation struggle but all struggles for the furtherance of democracy in Zimbabwe and elsewhere.

We have lost the heart, spirit and important placement of democratic values as was the case in the liberation struggle. 

So if we want to have a better 2015 we must become more organic and holistic in seeking to solve the country’s challenges.  This would entail a return to the organic ideals and values of the liberation struggle beyond retention or acquisition of power as is the case with our current crop of political leaders.  It would also entail that we embrace the functional democratic principle of leadership for posterity and not for the  moment. We need to embrace broad social democratic ideals that put the welfare of the people at the centre of political and economic thought processes and policies. 
Thank you.








Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Beyond Factions, Zim Political Parties Clandestinely Share $US 3 million

By Takura Zhangazha*

In the midst of ruling political party factionalism, congresses for the main opposition party and endeavours toward unity of  breakaway opposition factions of the MDC, there is the sharing of electoral spoils.  In terms of the Political Parties Finance Act, the Finance Minster has allocated US$3million to all political parties that have at least 5% representation in Parliament.  These parties are namely Zanu Pf and the MDC-T. 

According to media reports earlier this year, Zanu Pf will get or has already gotten its US$2,2 million while the MDC-T will get a total of US$ 800 000.  Reliable sources tell me that the MDC-T quota has been split into two. 

 So far, it is said that the MDC-T and MDC Renewal have each received at least US$250 000, meaning that they are still to share a further US$300 000.   I don’t have any speculative figures for Zanu Pf but given the fact that it is literally constructing a temporary conference centre for its elective congress next month (with a new tarred road) on the open grounds behind the Magistrates Courts in Harare, I am sure it has received a significant portion of its expected US$ 2,2 million. 

There are a lot of opinions on the issue of political parties getting assistance from the government.  Especially where it comes to direct funding.  Where it is done with broader accountability it makes democratic sense to assist in the institutionalization of competing political organisations.  An opinion by the ElectionsResource Centre argues that there is need for greater fairness, transparency and accountability in the fiscal support given to political parties. 

The key question that emerges however is twofold.  Firstly is the challenge of broader public accountability to the taxpayer as to what exactly the money is going to be used for by the political parties.  Secondly, internal party accountability as to the usage of the money. That is , whether party members and supporters are aware of what the money is being used for and whether it is not actually going into the pockets  of political party leaders.

The issue of public accountability in the current case of the US$3 million that will be received by the two (three) political parties in parliament is key.  None of the parties have a legal obligation to state what exactly they use the money for after receiving it.  They will fight tooth and nail to get their allocations, but they ensure there is no further debate as to what they eventually use the money for. 

Whether they use it to purchase a new car for their leader or to pay salaries, its really up to them.  In fact this has been one of the major reasons why some politicians have stayed in the game for so long.  Especially after the promulgation of the Political Parties Finance Act in 1992. 

Their motivation has been to at least get a significant presence (over 5%)  in the national parliamentary vote count. Once you get that, then there is the certainty of income.  If one were to do a material audit of the manner in which these allocations have been used over the last ten years, it will be evident that it was most certainly not to build the institutional capacities of recipient political parties.   Obviously part of the money has gone into campaigns given the fact that we have had at least four national elections in the last decade but this alone cannot be what the funds allocated can only be used for.

There is an urgent need for legal regulations that ask parties to not only account for the funds but also stipulate that some percentage of the money be used for specific capacity building projects within parties.  For example there is evident need to develop youth leadership training activities or in the current context of the country having a new constitution, training and education programmes related to constitutionalism.

There is also need to have specific obligations on internal accountability processes of political parties that qualify for this funding.  It is necessary for there to be some stipulation as to compulsory audits and reports as to how the money was used.  This would mean that there would be legal obligations for treasurers or administration secretaries to table financial reports before their congresses or conferences as to how allocations were utilised. 

The challenge however remains that our political parties now have a sense of entitlement to the funding.  It gives the impression of being just reward for the political campaigns.  That is why none of them have gone public with a report as to how they have utilised the money.  Nor have they been wont to announce that indeed the money is now reflecting in their bank accounts.  Where perhaps the initial intentions of the state financing of political parties may have been to prevent foreign funding,  it has had the end effect of leading to a lack of accountability by parties. 

*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Pre-Paid Metering's Six Undemocratic Steps to the Privatisation of Water


By Takura Zhangazha*


Last week the Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BUPRA)  held a march, together with its civil society partners, against the proposals by the Bulawayo City Council to introduce prepaid water meters. The mayor of the city, Councillor Martin  Moyo, was reported in a local daily as saying he had no choice but to implement central government’s directive in order to fundraise for water treatment  chemicals among other things.  

The minister of Environment and Water Savious Kasukuwere weighed in with what appeared more a declaration than a measured response by saying that there is no going back on prepaid water meters as a broad government policy even in the wake of demonstrations by Bulawayo residents.

The intention of government is to privatise water.  Not, as the mayor of Bulawayo assumes, to merely fund raise in order to get water treatment chemicals. The truth of the matter is that the mere act of placing a pre-paid water meter on every household in Cowdray Park and  Hlalani Kuhle as ‘pilot projects’ is an act that seeks to exclude the poor from access to water. 

But this needs further explanation.  Government, in this case, the Ministry of Environment and Water and the Bulawayo City Council, are using a model that has been proven to be a failure across many parts of the developing world.  In these models, the government decides to outsource water supplies to private players. So this generally takes six undemocratic and profit driven steps. 

Step Number 1: Government starts with pre-paid water meters.  These will be supplied by (most likely South African) private companies  to government at a cost. The latter will work out a payment plan with the private company depending on its ability to charge specific rates that cover both the actual costs of supplying water and purchasing the prepaid water meters.  So the cost of installing of the  prepaid meter will be the burden of the residents and ratepayers. 

Step Number 2: These are just the initial stages.  In the aftermath of the purchase and supply of the prepaid water meters, government then argues it cannot maintain these meters.  It sub- contracts the same or another private company to maintain them while again passing on the cost to the resident and taxpayer.

Step Number 3: At this stage the resident and taxpayer now has a triple cost.  Firstly , that of paying for water as was always the case, secondly that of paying for the prepaid meter (which can be once off- or negotiated payment plan) and thirdly that of paying, in levied form, for the maintenance, repair of the prepaid water metering system.  Put more simply, the initial assumptions that pre-paid water meters lead to cheaper and more readily available water for ordinary residents, will evidently become the myth that they are. 

Step Number 4: The fourth stage that normally follows is that government then decides that it wants to privatise the water supply system (pipes, reservoirs etc). It approaches companies to lay pipes in what it calls public private partnerships and these companies then get first call at actually maintaining or owning the pipes.  That cost is factored into the levies and commissions that are deducted every time a resident pays for water. The cost per unit increases and families begin to ration water.

Step Number 5: the entire billing system and maintenance of clean water supplies becomes the preserve of the rich and well off with costs being determined solely for profit.  Government will be getting its commissions/levies and taxes from the private companies who in turn pass on the cost to the resident and ratepayer in order to maintain their profit levels. Prepaid meters stop getting ‘juiced’ for lack of income and water becomes a commodity and not a right.

Step Number 6: Majority urban poor turn to unclean sources of water, ‘’bootlegging’’ water and in the final analysis will no longer be able to ask their neighbours for a free glass of the life- giving liquid.


*Takura Zhangazha writes in his individual capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com) 

Thursday, 13 November 2014

The Imperative Need to Decriminalize Freedom of Expression in Zimbabwe – Pitfalls and Opportunities for Reform.

A presentation to the MISA Zimbabwe Stakeholders Meeting on Decriminalising Freedom of Expression in Zimbabwe. 
13 November 2014
Amber Hotel, Holiday Inn
Mutare

The contentious issue of criminalization of freedom of expression/ criminal defamation in Zimbabwe has been at the forefront of the overall struggle or quest for democratic media freedom in Zimbabwe.  It is the arrests, detention and comparatively few convictions of journalists since our national independence that has led to many of our citizens, media organizations and some policy makers remaining consistently opposed to it. 

The new constitution’s incrementally progressive provisions on media freedom, freedom expression and access to information signify a potential departure point to what has been obtaining in relation to  criminal defamation.[1]  The state now has the obligation of ensuring media freedom in a much more specifc manner than was the case in the past. 

Such an assurance will mean a review of criminal defamation laws in order to meet the spirit and letter of the new constitution of the country.

Apart from the new constitution there have been three major developments that affect the status of criminal defamation law and policies in Zimbabwe.   At law the most important has been the June 2014, constitutional court ruling in the  case of  Madanhire vs Attorney General   in which the court found section 96 of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act to be unconstitutional in relation to Section 20 of our previous constitution.  Furthermore, the constitutional court found in another case in July 2014,  Chimakure vs Attorney General  parts of  section 31 of the same act to be in violation of the same section 20 (i) of the previous constitution. 

The second major development vis-√†-vis criminal defamation were statements made by the Minister of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services, Professor Jonathan Moyo in April this year. He was reported to have stated that  he was not keen on keeping criminal defamation in the statute books.  This was after the editor of the Daily News, Stanley Gama and a reporter for the same paper, Fungisai Kwaramba had been arrested for allegedly publishing a false story.

The third development is that the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, Emerson Mnangangwa has however been quick to inform Parliament that while government welcomes the constitutional court rulings against  criminal defamation, these have only been in terms of the old constitution.  He also went further to argue for the retention of criminal defamation in order to make journalists accountable and that until the said laws are struck down by the Constitutional Court in terms of the new constitution, government would continue to use them.

The three developments point  to a number of realities on the subject matter.  The first being that despite the constitutional court judgments outlawing criminal defamation, it is still a criminal offence to publish a falsehood, insult the President or undermine the authority of the security services.  This would mean sections that effect criminal defamation in terms of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act  and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), Official Secrets Act (among others) remain valid until, as Minister Mnangwagwa says, they are struck down by the constitutional court in relation to the new constitution.  Or until, in different circumstances, Parliament repeals the specific sections.[2]  

The second reality is the broader political context in which criminal defamation is functional.  The quantitative expansion o f the media (more newspapers and commercial radio stations) has meant that there is greater potential for media houses to get into trouble with the law on various stories they publish.  

Furthermore, the increasing usage of social media and the media has also led to a lot of potential for the use of criminal defamation laws against citizens who are not journalists.  The specific case in point here is that of the now infamous Madzibaba Chacha who paid a $100 fine for being a criminal nuisance after posting a photo of himself in police uniform. This was of course after the incident of the apostolic faith members who had attacked the police. It would be trite to note that Madzibaba Chacha is also of the same religious persuasion.

The emerging political role of the media in issues to do with succession has placed criminal defamation in the spotlight. I am certain that many an aggrieved politician particularly those in the ruling party would prefer to sometimes seek the arrest of journalists for stories that appear malicious or unfair.  The only catch at the moment is that it is the state controlled media that has taken a key role in determining editorial angles to stories and issues to do with the pending Zanu Pf congress. 

It is however a good thing that these politicians have not done so and this may portend a new trend where the media is only sued for civil defamation, as Vice President Dr. Joice Mujuru has threatened to do with the Herald. 

However, there are opportunities for the repealing of criminal defamation in existent laws.  These include the new constitution’s guarantee of media freedom and access to information.  Especially where there is the review and realignment of laws to conform to the spirit, letter and intent of the same said new constitution. 

Furthermore, the public statements of the minister of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services as to his aversion to criminal defamation are signs that government may eventually act on the issue.  But this is only if it is pushed to do so and that would constitute an opportunity even if the ministry of justice remains keen on retaining it.  As  Minister Mnangagwa has also indicated, there is the further option of testing the constitutionality of current criminal defamation laws with the constitutional court.

But perhaps the most important issue of all is to address the negative import of physical punishment by the state or an individual for expressing an opinion publicly.  We have to deal with it not only in terms of power and media dynamics but also in relation to the everyday opinions that are expressed publicly. Be it in good jest, seriousness or general banter, expressing oneself should not the spectre of a jail cell, wherever and whoever one is.  
Ends//






[1] Sections 61 and 62 of the new constitution’s Bill of Rights deal with Freedom of expression and access to information respectively.
[2] Please see MISA- Zimbabwe Advocacy Papers on Criminal Defamation, Censorship and Entertainment Controls, State Secrets and Access to Information for detailed summaries of the specific sections that effect criminal defamation in Zimbabwe.