Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Zuma's second coming: Implications for Zim, SADC regional politics..

By Takura Zhangazha*
The resounding re-election of South African President Jacob Zuma at his ruling  African National Congress (ANC) party’s 53rd elective conference bears some significance for the turn of politics in Southern Africa and closer to home, in Zimbabwe.  This is not only because of the claim made by Mr Zuma in an impromptu speech just after his victory when he alluded to the importance of unity in his party and that it must lead by example because people 'watch us.’  Indeed it is not just the mainstream opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) and other South African political parties that  watch what the ANC does or does not do. It is also the entirety of political parties and players across the Southern African region and beyond that do so.  

It is this 'watching' of the rest of Southern Africa that is of importance in this article.  Particularly where one considers the ‘comparative learning’ (some of it reluctant given the democratic nature of the Mangaung election) from former liberation movements (FLMs) that are still in power in the region. And some of the FLMs key lessons from the ANC’s Mangaung conference will relate in large part to the technicalities of winning an election 'before' it is held.  And this by way of mobilising their 'registered' structures and ensuring that  where party constitutions do not have clauses that are specific about the ‘elective power’ of branches, they will most certainly be amended to do so.  If such clauses already exist in some of the constitutions, I am certain they will be vigourously reinforced in any run up to an national elective conference or congress in the short term.  
Beyond the FLMs, a second lesson for Southern African political players from the ANC's Mangaung conference, is that sometimes, events that affect elections, though reported by the media in the public interest,  may not really matter with a majority of party supporters/voters. These events may instead strengthen the incumbent candidates and their running mates.  And this is a key lesson to be drawn from the victorious return of Cyril Ramaphosa to the ANC top six as deputy president.  Even after some of his reported controversial emails in the wake of the tragic Marikana shootings earlier this year.  And an even much more significant example is that of President Zuma who was referred to as a ‘kept President’ after some brilliant investigative journalism by the Mail and Guardian unearthed an unfavourable audit report on his expenses.  This, it turns out, did not affect the conference election outcome. It would therefore appear that sometimes the voter will have loyalties that transcend some unpalatable 'truths' about their preferred candidates and as a result, the former will weather the ‘media storm’ all the way to the internal party ballot booth.  In effect, the key lesson would become that populism and hard campaigning can override questions of the ‘credibility’ of candidates.

To be specific to Zimbabwe however, there are more implications for the country via Zuma’s victory. These not least because the role of the South African President has, through the SADC mediation process, been to play ‘big brother’ to our own government.  Against the immediate backdrop of a resounding victory at Mangaung, Mr. Zuma will most definitely find it within his stride to flex some muscle over what have been referred to as 'outstanding issues' in the Zimbabwean Global Political Agreement processes. 

The main reasons for this would be that since this is the beginning of his definitive ‘legacy’ (and last) term as ANC president, and a key departure point for a distinctive one as President of South Africa, Mr Zuma would prefer to leave his own mark on what has been controversially referred to as the 'Mbeki engineered GPA project'.  This would entail Zuma upping the pressure on the three parties in Zimbabwe’s inclusive government on the same said outstanding issues and therefore a definitive conclusion to the SADC mediation process.    

And this will also include some in the Zimbabwean government seeking to cosy up to the SADC mediator as an acknowledgement of his newly mandated term  (and therefore power) in the coming six months before Zimbabwe’s constitutionally scheduled elections in June 2013.  In effect, if anyone harboured ambitions that Zuma would be distracted or defeated in the aftermath of the ANC’s  Mangaung,  the reality is that he will be bolder and more assertive on Zimbabwe’s leaders.

In the final analysis, Mr. Zuma’s second coming as ANC president cannot be faulted by those of us who are not South African or members of the same party. But we are permitted to observe and learn from what has come to be known as the oldest former liberation movement on the African continent. In relation to regional FLMs that are in power or close to power, the lessons on internal democracy are many as are those of weathering the storm of nationwide democratic scrutiny in the run-up to a conference or congress. For Zimbabwe, the implications are directly related to the end games of our inclusive government and the role Mr Zuma is expected to play in framing the election environment.  A role in which he will, no doubt, seek to demonstrate to both the ANC and the SADC region, that he is the correct and newly mandated man to be in charge. 

Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity ( 

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Toward a New Democratic Unity Accord for Zimbabwe

By Takura Zhangazha*

This December we commemorate 25 years of the 1987 Unity Accord that united two former liberation movements, ZANU Pf and PF ZAPU.  A number of leaders from the two parties were later to  have their views and roles in the Unity Accord's mediation process  published (via excerpts)  in a book edited by Zimbabwe’s first   President C.S. Banana entitled Turmoil and Tenacity, Zimbabwe 1890-1990.  In reading the book and the accounts, for example, over the disagreements as to what to call the new united party, it appears as though the Unity Accord was by and large an agreement between two parties and should essentially be left at that. The truth of the matter,with the benefit of political hindsight, is that in its occurrence, the Unity Accord was as historical as it was to be beset by numerous problems in its aftermath.

This, particularly so when we take into account the reported and documented killings of thousands of civilian victims of the dark period that has infamously come to be called ‘Gukurahundi’.  It is also a serious indictment on the signatory parties to the Accord that the book does not record any leader as apologizing  for these lives that were unnecessarily and tragically lost during and in between the seven years that it took to sign the agreement.   

Neither has there ever been an subsequent apology over the same matter a quarter of a century later from any of the leaders who now constitute the united ‘Zanu Pf’.  The closest that we have come to receiving an official acknowledgement of the fact that many lives were tragically lost  from government was when President Mugabe in 1999 referred to the same period as a  moment of madness that should never be repeated’. And for many a Zimbabwean this remains inadequate. 

Almost an entire  generation later, we have to deal with the reality of our immediate post Independence past through the act of a public holiday to recognize the coming to agreement of two former liberation movements. And with each successive commemoration, the Unity Accord may slowly be becoming a document and moment for historical record as opposed to one that, with the benefit of hindsight, should have signified a new departure toward, as its very name suggests, a united Zimbabwe. And this, not only in the written form or by way of identity documents, but by way of building an intrinsic and holistic sense of belonging to the territory between the Zambezi and the Limpopo rivers by all of its citizens. 

It is this particular point that must essentially be placed on the table for debate in 2012 and beyond because as the generation that was old enough to witness or even sign the Unity Accord passes on, so do newer and much more relevant reasons for keeping the country united emerge.  These more contemporary and organic reasons emerge within the context of how 25 years later, while we go on the commemorative holiday, we still have not addressed the issues of differentiated development across the many regions of the country and are still faced with the urgent need to atone for the atrocities against innocent civilians during the Gukurahundi period. 

But perhaps even more importantly, and due to the political contestations that emerged in the late 1990s we are now dealing with issues that are not only historical but have come to affect our contemporary politics. Whether one looks at the ethnocentric splits of our current major political parties or alternatively the politicized debates around devolution and emergent separatist movements, there is adequate evidence to point to the need for a new democratic and unifying narrative beyond the power acquisition oriented statements of our current political leaders.  

It is a task that will require that, unlike our former liberation movements,  we take the entirety of the national question into account. And this means that a new national unity must not seek only political compromises for seats at the table of power and resource distribution as sadly turned out to be the case after 1987.  While we must take into account the historical importance of 1987, together with its bringing to an end a direct but largely one sided conflict, we cannot afford to make the same mistakes as were made thereafter.   

A new unity would entail a redress of the past not only for its own sake or to spite the other, but in order to prevent any such negative pasts from recurring in the future.   In order for this to happen, the younger generations of Zimbabweans must take up the mantle and refuse to use the templates of the older generations to address the challenges that we face as a country. 

We must take up the progressive values that established our national independence (none of which ever fought for a bifurcated Zimbabwe) and discard the regressive ideas and replace those with ones that have a truly democratic and unifying ethos to them. This means avoiding simplistic ethnocentric understandings of our national political problems and embracing democratically tolerant and nationally beneficial ones which are based on people-centered holistic development needs.  We must also learn to accept that our diversity is not our weakness, but our strength and that the debating of ideas is the beginning of finding common ground to solving our national problems, together. 

*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (