Saturday, September 17, 2011

(NEWZIMBABWE) What US cables reveal about Zimbabwe politics

What US cables reveal about Zimbabwe politics
17/09/2011 00:00:00
by Ibbo Mandaza

THE most obvious of all the implications that flow out of the WikiLeaks revelations is the extent to which they provide an insight into the nature and content of contemporary Zimbabwean politics. All this notwithstanding the fact that what is being revealed confirms, at least to those familiar with the Zimbabwean political process, the most obvious.

Otherwise, the biggest casualty of the WikiLeaks saga is, of course, the United States, exposing as it does the superpower’s foreign policy operations in Zimbabwe –– and the world over –– during the period since March 14, 1988. This has opened a rare window through which to study US foreign policy, however inadvertent such an opportunity has presented itself.

Ordinarily, there would be little or nothing at all untoward about such revelations; this is the normal order of operations in any diplomatic mission: namely to scour and scrutinise, in the greatest detail possible, the nature and pulse of the country in which it is stationed.

Indeed, both the efficiency and effectiveness of any ambassador –– or his/her key functionaries in the mission –– is judged on the extent to which he/she can render the country as much an open book for those who are thereby better-placed for the design of the appropriate policy option back home.

So, as the Zimbabwean case refers, Washington has been obsessed with the exit of President Robert Mugabe from the political scene, albeit through a peaceful process in which Zanu PF insiders themselves would be the catalyst.

This is what the official propagandists in Harare have termed "regime change" (which may assume a new meaning and usage after the WikiLeaks exposé).

[The official propagandists for which government? - MrK]

But it is an obsession that has pervaded almost the entire international community (West and East), the African continent in general, and the Southern African sub-region in particular, including former presidents Kenneth Kaunda, Nelson Mandela, Joaquim Chissano, Thabo Mbeki and Benjamin Mkapa –– all of whom have, in one way or another, tried to plead with Mugabe to retire from politics.

As it is now, there is unlikely to be a single head of state in the region who believes that Mugabe should remain another day in office.

As the WikiLeaks revelations testify, almost everyone in Zimbabwe, not to mention Zanu PF itself, wherein, from the Vice Presidents, throughout the politburo and central committee, and even among ordinary functionaries, the call, albeit in whispers, has been that Mugabe must go, not now but yesterday!

[Obviously the ZANU-PF and the people of Zimbabwe don't believe any such thing. However, it is generally accepted outside of the MDC and some voices within, that Morgan Tsvangirai is unfit to lead the nation. - MrK]

The question that ponders even now is how and why Mugabe has so far survived such a universal disapproval. This is an attempt to answer the question against the background of the WikiLeaks revelations and in the context of highlighting some of the poignant issues that characterise Zimbabwe’s politics today.

As I have already intimated, there is nothing new in these WikiLeaks revelations for those of us who have been writing and speaking openly on the country’s political process over the decades since Independence in 1980.

First, the gradual erosion of the political, ideological and organisational fabric of the party of liberation, to the point wherein Zanu PF is in disarray; this is the main import of all that the WikiLeaks has revealed through the alleged utterings of all the Vice Presidents departed and current, a cross-section of politburo and central committee members, a variety of ministers and MPs, academics and businessmen associated with the party, and, allegedly even the First Lady and such of the president’s close confidantes as Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono.

Now, it is doubtful that there is anybody in the party’s leadership who can confidently assume the moral high ground in this regard; not even Didymus Mutasa and his inane threats of disciplinary action against alleged "sell-outs".

Likewise, my brother Jonathan Moyo and his call (as part of his vain attempt to clear his name) "for the nation to remain united and move forward under the leadership of President Mugabe" (The Herald, September 13) does not have the moral high ground to do so. His remarks are as hollow as they are likely to be interpreted as grossly false when all is said and done; not even he believes that!

For the reality is that Zanu PF, under the current circumstances, is unlikely to survive the post-Mugabe era, unless and until the real comrades, many of whom have been marginalised by a party increasingly identified with the person of Mugabe, can re-organise and coalesce around a new vision, profound enough to infuse the younger generation with the hope of a better existence after Mugabe’s exit.

Second, Mugabe’s Zanu PF –– and the state with which it has been conflated –– has yielded a schizophrenic political class which sings for its supper during the day, but connives and conspires towards the earliest exit of the “Great Leader” during the night. In this regard, Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC are only marginally better off than Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF, with all the indications that, once in the real saddle of power, they could find themselves fatally afflicted by the same disease, one borne out of the twin pillars of the contemporary Zimbabwean state: violence (or the threat of it) and patronage.

These twin pillars account in large measure for Mugabe’s survival so far; and as long as state-related violence (or the threat of it) and state-sponsored patronage remain so institutionalised in Zimbabwean society, so, too, will the Great Leader syndrome remain with us, on the back of a schizophrenic political class that is clearly a product of these twin pillars of the state.

Therefore, there is an urgent need to address the current political pathology, through the systematic restoration of our national institutions, at least to the level they were at Independence in 1980: as non-partisan, efficient, of sound and tested leadership, conscious of the national interest, nationalist, and thereby not given to corruption and political sycophancy.

Hopefully, the current constitution-making exercise will also attend to the main task of providing the framework through which we can begin to restore our national institutions, de-couple the party and state, institute a limited term (at most two, if not one!) for the CEO of the State, and provide the strictest possible separation of powers.

In the meantime, it would be advisable for the Zanu PF leadership to embark on a reality check, not least Mugabe himself whose political legitimacy has been openly questioned, thanks also to the WikiLeaks revelations.

Surely, it is long overdue for him to have called it quits and allow both his party (or whatever is left of it) and the nation to turn a new leaf. To continue to contrive a critical mass around the politburo and central committee on a monthly basis will henceforth appear as farcical as the WikiLeaks revelations have confirmed.

And the forthcoming Zanu PF national conference in December should be the occasion for one or two of the party heavyweights to stand up and be counted (like the late General Solomon Mujuru, Simba Makoni and Dumiso Dabengwa tried to do in the run up to the Zanu PF extraordinary congress in 2007) if, as is likely to be the case on the backs of those still given to the political sycophancy that has helped him to survive thus far, Mugabe himself does not call it a day by the end of 2011.
Mandaza is a Zimbabwean academic, author and publisher. This article was originally published in the Zimbabwe Independent



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