Saturday, 25 January 2014

The National Constitutional Assembly’s False Departure and Lost Compass.

By Takura Zhangazha*

Every major journey is always initially determined by the nature of the departure. Whether one has a motor vehicle or bicycle determines how one plans to proceed, for example, from Bikita to Mutare. The journey may change in the long run, but the fundamentals of agreeing on a route, mode of transport, number of travelers and final destination must be determined before departure. When challenges are met along the way, some travelers stay the course, others decide to change route or the mode of transportation.  Others might decide to change the end destination of the journey altogether.

It has been the same with the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) since its formation in 1997. Its journey had the intention of arriving at a people driven and democratic constitution in Zimbabwe. A journey yet to end or be arrived at in the aftermath of the highly politicized and undemocratic COPAC constitutional reform process from 2010 to March 2013.  

While the intended destination of the NCA’s journey has remained ostensibly the same, the routes and the participants in the journey have not remained the same, but have expanded beyond the initial alliances of budding civil society organizations, labour and student unions in the later half of the 1990s.This saw the NCA joining forces with the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and the Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) to form the now divided Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). 

It has also been a journey that had as landmarks, not  only the initial ‘no vote’ victory in 2000,but also the formation of an inclusive government, with its attendant undemocratic Article 6 constitutional reform process that former fellow colleagues wrongly  felt to be an  ‘arrival’.

The NCA, unlike the former, thought it had not reached its journey’s end. This was confirmed at the Second Peoples Constitutional Convention in 2009 that was held in Chitungwiza . The road to the intended destination had become more complex, and any new routes or strategic stops had unfortunately taken on a much more political tone. This was particularly the case when it came to the political party led dishonest ‘yes vote’ campaign at the March 2013 referendum.

On the basis of democratic principle, the NCA thought it better to stay the path of a people driven constitution, even against the backdrop of literarily being financially resource-less, against the donor driven behemoth that was COPAC.

The NCA 2013 ‘no vote’ campaign vote count was however to demonstrate both a national presence as well as an indication that despite all the politics of the MDCs and Zanu PF, there were and are at least a quarter of a million Zimbabweans who are amenable to a third way in our national politics.  Even if this came through a referendum and not a direct electoral poll. 

Following the holding of the July 2013 elections  which resulted in a two thirds Parliamentary victory for Zanu Pf, it was a special congress of the NCA, in September of the same year, that was to resolve to continue this same said constitutional reform journey by expanding the mandate of the organization into one that was to seek political power.  

The destination of this journey, instead of being just a people driven and democratic constitutional reform process, became one that was to appear like arriving at a metropolis, where  the endgame becomes not just singular but holistic.

The NCA had chosen the harder path and for historical reasons. This path was for it to become  a different political formation, given the fact that it has had the latitude and leeway along its journey to see the mistakes and stops of others.  In fact, politically, the NCA could only get better or at least be better than its new rivals in relation to how it was now to continue the political stage of its journey. 

If anything, the NCA had reached what one could call a historical moment, which required a conscientious and nationally conscious leadership.  This entailed a necessary leadership understanding that the country needs much more conscientious leadership than that being demonstrated either by the ruling party or by its longstanding mainstream opposition. This in two particular respects.

Firstly, by demonstrating beyond any reasonable doubt its commitment to full intra-party democracy as a departure point, and demonstration of difference from what we have had as political parties and political leaders since our national independence. This would have included, establishing all of its formal structures, leadership, policy propositions and ideological premise before embarking on any electoral contests. Unfortunately and as it turns out, the NCA has thought otherwise by contesting in by elections with neither matters having been resolved. Even if it were to be victorious in these or other council or parliamentary by-elections, such a victory would remain Pyrrhic.

Secondly, the NCA’s decision to pursue a path of political expediency, with regards to electoral contest by way of local government by-elections ,may come to mean that this is what its new journey represents-expediency over and above principles and values.  It is a marked departure from the original reasons why the NCA chose its initial 1997 formative journey, its 2000 and its 2013 ‘no vote’ campaigns. 

Being a political party does not mean you suspend principles or values. Neither does it mean you create cult symbols or politics in a fashion akin to Zanu Pf and the MDCs. It is perhaps this particular point that the recalcitrant NCA leadership is refusing to come to terms with. Where the journey’s premise changes, so does the travel plan, especially if you think you have persons and organizations that are trying to prevent you from getting to the final destination.

From a personal perspective, the NCA remains an organization that had history thrust upon it.  It had to ride the specific tide of managing the pragmatics of social democratic principles with those of raw populism.  In doing so, it imbued a lot of Zimbabweans with belief in politics, purpose, values and democratic principle.  Especially where it went against the grain and spoke truth to power (and wannabe power) in the inclusive government by campaigning against the COPAC constitution. 

Where it turned itself into a political party, again it had history thrust upon it. The only unfortunate thing is that it has failed to understand the same said historical significance of where it is placed today.  It was intended to be different and not immediately demonstrate an intention to acquire power for power’s own sake. It was intended to have a different signature to the democratic future of our country. In short, to lead us to a much more serious, less materialistic and less simplistic but democratic politics. In this historical task thrust upon it by time (and probably the ancestors), it unfortunately has failed by way of departure on what would have been a revolutionary phase of its journey and its eventual destination. 

One can only say good night and good luck to the NCA by quoting the late African revolutionary, Amilcar Cabral who in 1969 said, ‘we are all necessary to the struggle but no one is indispensable... Today, I am proud because I am certain that, given the work that we have done together, if I went, left, died or disappeared, there would be others in the party capable of continuing the struggle. If this were not the case we would not have achieved anything yet. A man who has achieved something which he alone can continue, has achieved nothing.’ 

*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Billion Dollar Diamond Fields, Basins and Politicized Economic Blueprints

By Takura Zhangazha*

In a lead story that appeared in a local weekly , Deputy Minister of Mines Mr. Fred Moyo  was reported as confirming that there has been a somewhat recent discovery of a potentially vast diamond fields stretching from East to south Eastern Zimbabwe.  These fields are thought to be the equivalent to the size of one of our SADC neighbours, Swaziland.  They have also already been placed in what the deputy minster referred to as the as Umkondo Basin. 

Admittedly, revelations of such a profound nature and potential economic impact for the country, must be taken very seriously. Both by the government and all Zimbabwean citizens.  Especially where it relates to our perennial political and economic controversy that is diamond mining.

As it has turned out, it’s a revelation that appears more intended to promote government’s  ZimAsset programme, before any tangible measurement of either the extent of diamond or other mineral deposits therein or any effective development of a state minerals exploration company

Furthermore, the immediate reference to the diamond mining companies already in Chimanimani as probably getting first preference in relation to exploration indicates that the government is acquiring its information from the same corporations. 

While the news story has a rather sensational headline, ‘Billion dollar Diamond Fields’, it does alert us to a number of matters concerning our governments attitude toward mining, minerals exploration and economic progress.

Key among these would be that the government is seeking to claim economic success on the basis of speculation or unmeasured potential.  And sensationally so.  This is regardless of the fact that prior to the cited interview given  by Ministry of Mines officials,  it has been in the public domain that there has been unexplained diamond explorations in Bikita which falls in the same Umkondo Basin. 

Add to this the unaccounted for diamond mining in Marange and there is enough evidence that the problem lies deeper than claims of the discovery of new ‘billion dollar diamond fields’.  It then becomes a question not of ‘lessons learned’ but ‘problems unaddressed’.

Desperation to make ZimAsset a success on the part of government should not be allowed to cloud real issues. Let alone to make sensationalist claims to the media without outlining either a comprehensive plan with a specific time frame. Or at least a socio-economic assessment of what any such diamond exploration in the Umkondo Basin will have on peoples’ lives. Both in the regions in question as well as nationally. 

What also comes into view and question is the nature of the relationship between the government and the mining corporations that have tended to know the country’s minerals resources more than the former.  An important question would be the extent to which the government intends to set the pace of both exploration and eventual mining.

This being done without falling victim to the desperation it has exhibited in order to makes its economic blueprint, ZimAsset, palatable to the people of Zimbabwe.  As is tragically the case with the Chiadzwa diamond fields, government and the people of Zimbabwe are the ones who have been led and shortchanged by mining company interests.

And as always, this begins with exploration as was the case with De Beers which has been accused by government of dishonesty about what it knew.  Naturally the government might be smarter or less complicit in aiding secretive private mineral exploration its leverage is however limited to that elephant in the room called ‘investment and technology’.  Both of which the government is having a hard time acquiring. 

A final and even  more important perspective to the Umkondo Basin sensational announcement is that it does not explain the issue of what the import is for the millions of people who live in it. Particularly the majority of those who live in its rural areas.  Both in the short and long term. 

It is inadequate to generalize about the ‘nation’ when one has talked about a basin the size of Swaziland in which not only mining becomes a significant factor but the dramatic changes that will be seen occurring to peoples livelihoods. That is, from mainly subsistence and semi-commercial farming to having potential monoliths of mines with attendant  changes to environmental and even political landscapes.  

These are phenomenal considerations that the Mining ministry officials’  reported comments in the media initially do not seem to be cognizant of.  In fact, it may be a case of an underestimation of the serious import of such a national matter for the purposes of ill contrived political expediency.

If the Mines ministry was seeking to come across as organized and honest as regards the immediate past of repressive, disorganized exploration and extractive mining of diamonds in the region, such statements  attributed to it do not help its intentions.  And given such evident political expediency, we are obliged to ask the question, ‘what came first,  ZimAsset or the Umkondo Basin?’

*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Tsvangirai’s Generation has Failed Us (Nothing Personal)

By Takura Zhangazha*

Four years ago, at the advent of the inclusive government, I once had an animated conversation with a lawyer and a businessman. Both were avid MDC- T supporters.  They were both old school opposition activists.

That is to say, they had been there when the first University of Zimbabwe demonstrations occurred against the one party state in the late 1980s. They were also there when the second major opposition(after ZAPU) to Zanu Pf hegemony, the Zimbabwe Unity Movement (ZUM) was formed.

And they have been pioneers  of civil society movements that eventually led to the formation of the Movement of Democratic Change that was formed in 1999. Primarily through the Zimbabwe Human Rights Organisation (Zimrights), Zimbabwe Congress of Trade of Unions (ZCTU), or the the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA).  

These two comrades were our leaders and are of our former Prime Minister Tsvangirai’s generation.  Both by history and by way of generational genesis.  They were representatives of our intentions at  leadership renewal and hope for a future in which we were or are still to have a part.

In the aforementioned conversation, I advised the comrades that politically their generation, given its leadership status, had to prove it was able to take us and the country forward.

Primarily because we had accepted and actively supported their leadership. But also because they had laid claim to leading Zimbabwe to a better democratic future.  Given the fact that these two comrades were involved in the negotiation that led to the establishment of the GPA under Thabo Mbeki’s mediation, I advised them that they were in their last chance motel, as the Americans say.

 They had a generational obligation to ensure that what they insisted they were leading us to was to become a reality. In the event of their failure we would not be at fault to call time on them.  As it turns out, they have failed both electorally and politically.

Tsvangirai and his peers  are at fault in four respects. The first being their inability to navigate the post Cold War discourse on democratization and free market economics organically. Instead of applying knowledge that they acquired by way of experience and education to local context they chose the easier but impolitic  path of mimicry. 

While they correctly chose to oppose repression in the form of Zanu Pf they erred in pursuing international recognition as a priority beyond local recognition. Where the agenda of the struggle for democracy in Zimbabwe was organically social democratic, with time they changed it to a neo-liberal one. And it is for this that they continued to ascend the ladder of global recognition.  They were given international awards, including nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize, yet still they could not demonstrate commitment to a cause beyond their own personal interests.

Secondly, this particular  generation of leaders has sought a simplistic understanding of our coutry’s political economy.  Like the Bernard Chidzeros’ of the 1980s, they found solace in prescriptive solutions to our country’s economic woes without learning from the past or from the experiences of other countries in similar circumstances. 

They were enamored more to the Bretton Woods Institutions and external knowledge production systems before they understood their own local contexts. Hence they have been unable to effectively chart an organic economic way forward for the country.  Instead their opposition to Zanu Pf major fault of disastrous economic management became more akin to representing global capital than representing the masses.

Thirdly, in their opposition to Zanu PF, they assumed electoral politics to be largely event and personality based.  It has never been about a specific national cause. It was all about Robert Mugabe, his age and his repression without the articulation of clear democratic alternatives beyond the latter’s personality.  Where they got an opportunity via the inclusive government to demonstrate their alternative, they fell back into the mode of rationalizing the economy on behalf of global capital. 

Where they undertook, in tandem with Zanu Pf, a constitutional reform process, the sought their own personal and political imprints on the  document to the extent that it has ended up being no more than an elitist and sharing of the spoils aggregation of state power. Even if Zanu Pf now governs alone.

Fourthly and finally, Tsvangirai’s and his peers mad e the mistake of assuming messianic tendencies where and when it came to political leadership. Like their rivals in Zanu Pf, they have presented themselves to the public as the only ones who can bring us to a political Canaan. They have held on to leadership positions even in the face of evident failure and have in some instances sold their souls merely to hold on to positions within the opposition movement. In this, they have come to mimic Zanu Pf and have unfortunately affected the ability of subsequent generations to learn how to lead.

  Even after their Waterloo on July 31 2013, they refuse to be judged on the basis of their failures and are hoping for a miracle to resurrect them politically.

As it is, Tsvangirai’s generation has refused to demonstrate an iota of contrition for their failures.  While they taught us how to oppose repression, they have failed to lift us out of it. Indeed they were pioneers in bravely opposing the dictatorial hegemony that is Zanu Pf but even pioneers pass on the baton stick. It is no longer enough to claim to be a founding member of a cause. It is the cause not the personality that must carry on.

*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (