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)