Thursday, 30 August 2012

Not that it matters, but I disagree on COPAC, Mr. Prime Minister

By Takura Zhangazha. *

On Tuesday, 29 August 2012, the Zimbabwean Prime Minister held his monthly press conference. In his statement, the PM touched on a number of issues related to political developments in the country. His pronouncements were given, perhaps as they should be, with an aura of finality. This was particularly apparent when he addressed the contentious matter of our current constitution making process. To quote the PM directly, he informed the media and in the process, the nation that,

 ' Article 6 of the GPA is clear that the Constitution-making process should be driven by Parliament. Some of us have no wish to revise that position and in any case, the Principals cannot renegotiate a document agreed by those with our delegated authority. We cannot negotiate in perpetuity. This Constitution is a product of years of hard work which included sourcing the views of the people and negotiations between the political parties. So we say no to any attempts to dedicate more time in a process where the country has already committed huge resources and time. It is time the people made a decision through a referendum and political parties should refrain from pretending to speak on behalf of the people when the people reserve the right to speak for themselves in a referendum.

Such words from the PM appear somewhat persuasive, or even 'principled' to say the least, but in effect, the PM is not being as honest as one would expect. By saying this, I am aware that some of my own colleagues may get 'angry' on behalf of the PM at my 'daring' to question such a statement for various reasons. Top of the list of such  reasons would be that there is a general understanding (arguably so) that  most colleagues in  civil society  do not query or challenge positions that are made with an air of finality by leaders in the inclusive government. From my own personal vantage point as a Zimbabwean citizen, I will however depart from what has come to be viewed as the 'norm' of towing a political party line and state that on the important issue of the constitution,   I respectfully disagree with the PM Tsvangirayi (not that it may matter to him or his office).

My disagreement is premised on a number of factors but for brevity I will focus only on three of them. The first being that the PM is not being politically honest where he seeks to claim finality with the phrase, 'we cannot negotiate in perpetuity' on the constitution when in fact, the entirety of COPAC has been perpetual political party negotiation and sadly will be concluded in the same manner. Similarly the reference that is made about 'refraining' political parties from speaking on behalf of the people is ironic.

The inclusive government has been exactly just that, and it is unfortunate that after the COPAC process has come to a full undemocratic circle, the PM wishes us to bestow him with the credit of taking an undemocratically (with or without Zanu Pf amendments) arrived  at document to the people. In any event, even if the PM's arguments were based on the need to save resources, a cost-benefit analysis of COPAC logically leads to the fact that what has been spent and is still intended to be spent far outweighs the real output.

The second reason why I disagree with the PM's recent statement on the constitution is that while he insists on going to the people for a verdict, the end product of such brinksmanship is obviously a popularity contest between Zanu Pf and the MDC-T. To explain further, this would mean what the country would be faced with is not a vote on a constitution, but a preamble to a Presidential election based on President Mugabe and PM Tsvangirai's opinion on the same document. Not that it would be a bad thing in itself, but it would be an extremely deceptive and unfortunate pretense at 'democracy' by seeking  evidently partisan means to establish a people's charter.

The PM also states rather controversially that, " A new Constitution is central to elections and to the reform agenda in Zimbabwe and if this process is collapsed, it will spell doom to the prospects for a credible, free and fair election". The truth of the matter is that Parliament recently passed the Electoral Ammendment Bill and a number of other Bills which have been part of and approved as the inclusive government's  'reform agenda'.  Perhaps the constitution would be the sum total of these Bills, but to argue that the COPAC draft (in whatever form) is the only route to elections, is unfortunately to ignore the very matters that have given credence to the 'incremental change' arguments of both the MDCs and components of civil society.

The third and final reason why I hold a different opinion from the PM is that I am certain that given the usage of a huge amount of resources for COPAC and the involvement of SADC, negotiations will be the PM's only option (not that it will make the process or the draft anymore democratic). There is no real reason why the three political parties, who have been in the inclusive government for over three years will not be made to agree on another version of the draft by SADC or even after the extensive Monday meetings of the political principals. So perhaps the PM's statement is one that is intended to call Zanu PF's bluff and drive some sort of hard bargain or at least appear to be doing so. But it will potentially all come full circle, back to another negotiation and the re-representation of an undemocratically arrived at constitution to the people of Zimbabwe.

Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Southern African Implications of The Marikana Lonmin Mineworkers Shooting Tragedy

Southern African Implications of Marikana Mine Shooting Tragedy
By  Takura Zhangazha *

The tragic and fatal shooting of 34 mineworkers in South Africa has sadly brought back memories of the violence of the apartheid years. And because memories of apartheid are not only limited to South Africa, the killing fields of Marikana must also be viewed as part of the Southern African narrative of repression, violence and the historical de-humanisation of the African. And this, even in the aftermath of the liberation of the continent from colonial and settler minority rule. This point on its own is a controversial but necessary one. The reason why it must be raised is because parts of the Southern African media debate in the tragic aftermath of these shootings has mistakenly centered  around the assumed failures of the leadership of the African National Congress (ANC) as well as general derision of South African 'exceptionalism' on human rights observation in the region.

Some debates have gone so far as to argue that had such a tragedy occurred on Zimbabwean soil, there perhaps may have been an immediate invoking of the Responsibility to Protect liberal intervention doctrine that has been used in parts of North and West Africa in 2012. That too is an argument that misses the meaning and full implications of the dreadful shooting of the miners. In other circles, others are arguing (including some South African labour unions) that  because the Marikana miners actions are said to have led to the murder of at least two police officers and that the strikers were also armed, the South African police were acting in self defence. That is an even more controversial argument but one that still skirts the serious meaning of the Marikana shooting tragedy.

In fact, there must now be a distinction that is made between the tragic event as it occurred and the broader and much more important underlying causes to these most unfortunate of incidences. If not for just this one tragic event but also in order to prevent further such from occurring again.  I am sure for the nation of South Africa, this may be a task for the Commission that has been established by President Jacob Zuma.

 For Southern African citizens this tragedy however must be viewed with the utmost seriousness and examination of our collective regional history as it relates to mining operations, the de-humanisation of migrant labour and finally the emergence of new resource extraction oligarchies that are generally acting in collusion with many of our governments in the region to extract/mine without attendant democratic socio-economic accountability. In effect, such an analysis, given the unaccountable state of affairs in mining and resource extraction in most (if not all) of Southern Africa, a 'Marikana' can unfortunately occur anywhere else in the region, if it has not silently occurred in worse formats in countries such as Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This is before we even begin to discuss the processes that are unfolding in Tanzania and Mozambique over gas, coal and potential oil discoveries by international mining companies.

It is therefore of importance that we see the borderline heinous shooting of striking miners in South Africa as a tragic but now necessary wake-up call for all of us to reflect on how issues of mining and mineral wealth discoveries are being handled by our own governments and the regional body SADC. In doing so, we must however, unlike most of our governments, place emphasis on the necessity of prioritizing the people's welfare and above all, tackling with finality, the repressive legacy of colonial mineral and labour extraction in our post-independence societies. This would entail a reflection on how initially most of the workers at big or small mines were mainly migrant as well as chibaro (forced labour) recruits from across the entirety of the Southern African region. We must also examine whether it is the same 'colonial' frameworks and attitudes that inform the structure, function and profit of our contemporary mines. Questions such as to what extent do most mines or extractive mineral operations retain the structure of the oppressive colonial past and the extent to which our contemporary leaders are acting as 'replacements' for colonial governments will be critical for such an appraisal.

Further still, we must begin to examine the entirety of the Marikana tragedy, not only from the purview of the state (inclusive of the South African Police Service) but from its most 'human rights' and 'humanity' related angle. This would be from the point of view of the mine workers, their families and their socio-economic circumstances. This not only for South Africa but for the entirety of the region.  In this there should be no exceptionalism. Whether one is discussing the controversial diamond mines in Eastern Zimbabwe or the revived copper mines in Zambia, a key question must resonate, 'where in this do we find the people's socio-economic rights?' Even if the investor appears to make the central or provincial governments in our respective countries happy, we must measure whether there is no deliberate elite cohesion in extractive wealth accumulation for the few at the expense of the poor majority.

As it is, the lessons of Marikana may appear specific to socio-economic and political developments in South Africa. Some may have even chosen to view them in relation to the internal politics of the ANC as well in order to falsely claim that all 'African' politics remain the same. The truth of the matter is, Marikana is indicative of a continually emerging and re-emerging Southern African problem around resource extraction, elite collusion against workers and families and in the same process, an active lack of democratic frameworks around resource extraction in the region.

*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Becoming heroes of our own time

By Takura Zhangazha*

Each year Zimbabwe has correctly set aside a public holiday in August to remember the heroes of our national liberation struggle.  The conferring of hero status upon individual Zimbabweans however remains a contentious issue given the fact that it is Zanu Pf that decides on the matter. In fact, there was an occasion where President Mugabe spoke at the funeral of one national hero where he stated that the Warren Hills Heroes Acre in Harare essentially belonged only to those that went to the liberation struggle. He added that should anyone else who was not in that struggle directly or indirectly seek to be interred at the same venue, he or she might as well find their own hillside elsewhere and  build one for themselves. 

There have been many other debates about who and what it is to be a Zimbabwean national hero especially after the passing on of a prominent national political leader or popular celebrity who had/has no direct link with Zanu Pf.  It is however unfortunate that hero status is normally conferred upon only those that will have passed on. There is rare conferment of hero status on those that are living (young or old) who have served the country in varying capacities inclusive of but not limited to the liberation struggle or post-independence politics. 

It is this latter point that is perhaps in need of expansion.  We have,  as a country and in the last thirty plus  years correctly made it a priority to honour the comrades that passed on in the course of the liberation struggle as well as those that participated in it and are with us today. This has however been politically contentious with each passing year and especially in the aftermath of the establishment of an inclusive govermnent which to all intents and purposes was/is a sure sign of weakening Zanu Pf political hegemony. (Hence the regular contestation by political parties around hero status)

The primary issue however is that where we have remembered our national heroes of the liberation struggle we have failed to remember that though their heroism led to the founding of the nation, it is primarily a heroism that was intended to create further heroic deeds in the name of the struggle and the revolutionary values that established the country. And this is the primary challenge for all Zimbabweans today. It is not so much to hold the gun like our freedom fighters but to demonstrate the same commitment and purpose in understanding our society better and charting principled democratic way forwards that are remembered for posterity and emulated by generations to come.  

The heroic deeds of the armed and political wings of our liberation war movements were also undertaken with a specific intention to ensure that while the war was inevitably necessary and tragic, the struggle itself required that their conduct be consistently revolutionary, honest and principled on key democratic values that served the best public interest of all Zimbabweans.

With time, it has become evident that those that led us after independence and those that lead us today have failed to understand the need to be conscious and stay on the right path of  a continual and democratic people's victory. In most instances and of their own volition, our contemporary leaders have sought more self aggrandizement than democratic national leadership and have tended to function out of sync with the democratic intentions of the liberation struggle. They have departed further and further from democratically conscious leadership and are patently failing in becoming revolutionaries of their own time. 

Instead of being conscious not only of the liberation struggle and sticking to democratic values and principles, our leaders are increasingly involved in elitist cohesion and are functioning in part as though the country were personal property or belongs to three political parties. They have further found comfort in believing that all of their actions should be defined by ‘compromises’ in order to acquire or retain political power as an end and without the necessary social democratic clarity. In the short and long term, the effect of these tendencies has been inept politcal leadership of government and elite cohesion around covering up each other’s weaknesses. I fear that perhaps they too have missed their ‘heroic’ moment despite either having been jailed or tortured at the hands of  then oppressors. 

And this is why perhaps all Zimbabweans must discover the hero in themselves and in activities outside of the political mainstream. By doing so, perhaps we can be heroes and democratic revolutionaries of our own time. This is regardless of whatever vocation one finds him/herself in. We must act with clarity and appreciation of how our own contributions to our society can be heroic with or without the approval of politicians and politicized matters.  This must however be done with the spirit and intent of those that fought the liberation struggle conscientiously and with belief in democracy, social and economic justice and the necessity of performing their generational duty for posterity and not self. 

*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his own personal capacity (