Tuesday, August 20, 2013

(HERALD ZW) Quest for local political legitimacy
July 25, 2013
Reason Wafawarova

contesting parties. When such violence occurs it is the side unfavoured by Western support that is often tainted with guiltiness, especially when this side happens to win the election.

It is not exactly accurate to make the commonly accepted assumption that electoral assistance from the so-called mature democracies lead to the ultimate expression of popular participation and democratisation. Often it is far from it, if not the exact opposite.

It is quite evident that the international community’s focus is often limited to the event of elections, and rarely is any attention given to long-term solutions for nation building, or even to the actual needs of local populations.

Democracy does not come or even begin by merely carrying out a violence-free election described as free and fair by whoever cares to say so.

There must be full attention to paradigmatic differences between liberal-style democracy and local concepts. Zimbabweans are faced with a situation where voters are supposed to elect between the high-sounding glories of liberal-style democracy and the popular concept of indigenising and thus democratising the country’s economy.

Zanu-PF is pushing the popular economic empowerment policy on the one end, and Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC is importing liberalisation rhetoric through its JUICE policy — solely focused on creating employees out of the Zimbabwean population — the very way colonisation externalised the continent’s wealth through our own employment.

The telling question is whether Zimbabweans have the stomach to endure the challenges involved with going against the liberal forces of global politics, or are instead prepared to continue playing pliant victims of imperial hegemony where at the very best success can only be measured by employment rates. Tsvangirai believes African success is by definition limited to impressive employment rates and he makes his point very clear at his campaign rallies.

Since the Cold War liberal-style democracy has become the basic model of international interventions, many times with disastrous consequences as seen in Iraq’s 2003 invasion, the aggression against Afghanistan in 2001, the 2011 Nato massacres in Libya, and of course the ruinous economic strangulation of Zimbabwe after the popular 2000 land redistribution programme.

The murderous illegal Western-imposed sanctions left the country so devastated that a violent clash between local sympathisers of liberal-style democracy and proponents of local concepts became inevitable — leading to very high levels of polarisation, itself manifesting through political violence, and even degenerating to attacks on minor members of families of political opponents.

Some people had their children killed for the political beliefs of their parents, while some children studying in Western countries were barbarically persecuted and expelled in a blatantly arbitrary way — all because they happened to be born to parents whose political beliefs did not coincide with the beliefs of politicians in their host countries.
With a legacy of the stolen generation, it appears Australia still has no problems meting ruthless measures on minors, as was seen in 2007 with the expulsion of children born to Zanu-PF members.

In the eighties the disasters of liberal-style democracy interventions were quite devastating on Latin American states, and of note was the Allende violent ousting of 1974 in Chile, the ruining of millions of lives in Nicaragua, the deadly US invasion of tiny Grenada, the Haiti blood-shedding, and many such examples as Cambodia.

Not only have liberal-style democracy interventions been used as regime change tools by Western powers; they have also been used to provide post-conflict solutions, and many times such solutions are hijacked to coincide with the imperial interests of those offering post-conflict electoral assistance.

We saw this with our own independence vote in 1980 where liberal-style democracy glaringly backed Abel Muzorewa’s UANC and was in subtle opposition to the liberation parties Zanu and Zapu.

This was the same scenario with the Namibia independence vote in November 1989, followed by the February 1990 UN supervision of the post-conflict Nicaragua election, and the ill-fated referendum on the independence of Western Sahara in 1991, as well as the 1992 Cambodia intervention.

The problems associated with these interventions could not be ignored by President Mugabe’s Government and this is precisely why UN electoral assistance was turned down for the July 31 election.

No sane revolutionary would want to facilitate the manipulation of his people by forces serving the interests of foreigners over the country’s economic resources.
Increasingly elections have become a tool of international intervention and also an exit strategy in conflict situations. The 2001 East Timor elections were an exit strategy for the Indonesian occupying forces, and even our own independence elections were largely seen as a face-saving exit strategy for the defeated Ian Smith and his Rhodesian forces.

The model of liberal-style democracy elections is quite simple. It includes registration of voters, codes of conduct, information campaigns, voter education and a subsequent secret ballot. The model is more procedural than it serves the pragmatic interests of locals.

The model does not always work out well and it is not in itself an assurance that power will be transferred from losers to winners. In Egypt the winners have been forced to surrender power back to the losers through the barrel of the gun, and there is tacit American support to that travesty.

Freeness and fairness of elections is measured by simple criteria such as the amount of violence, and we are supposed to abide by such limitations. Rarely is electoral assistance for democratic elections evaluated as a tool for influencing the opinion of voters, or as unfair to the unfavoured contestants sidelined by the providers of such assistance.

When one is looking at the evenness of the political playing field, such factors as the illegal sanctions imposed on some Zimbabwean politicians cannot be overlooked. It is not sensible for the EU to apply for accreditation to observe elections involving contestants the organisation has excluded from the list of credible human beings. You cannot make a fair judgment of an election which in your eyes pits human beings and a set of beasts.

This is precisely why only those who believe that the Zimbabwean election is between equal contesting human beings have been allowed to observe the election.
The labelling of Western enemies as tyrants or murderous monsters is largely a disenfranchising tactic to sway opinion against people seen as a threat to imperial expansionism, and Zanu-PF is undoubtedly the targeted Western enemy in Zimbabwe — purely because the party is nationalist and so hard focused on empowering its people through independent nationalism.

A revisit of most of the countries where electoral assistance has been deemed to have produced “free and fair” elections will show that these countries have not necessarily turned into well-functioning democracies, even by the controversial standards of proclaimed success stories like the United States — a country that publicly seeks to kill its own citizens for daring to inform the world that the US government spies on almost every individual in the world.

The short-term focus on the conduct of elections does not in itself present a reliable tool for genuine democratisation — especially the long-term democratisation of the economy.

It is simply myopic to assume that by merely securing a label of credibility for this year’s election Zimbabwe will suddenly become a democratised society. A democratised society is not merely a country carrying out free and fair elections to the satisfaction of all others.

Rather it is a country whose political, economic and social settings are all democratised and in the hands of the local people.
There is no such thing as democratisation without the indigenisation of all political, social and economic processes.

There is simply no way a short-term international involvement can ever create a permanent system of political legitimacy, and this is precisely why non-Western societies cannot be democratised by liberal-style Western standards.

Non-Western societies are often based on a strong independent political culture that is incompatible with Western values and interests and, as such, will have to be tamed for imperial interests to prevail.

In Zimbabwe we have local interests currently focused on the economic empowerment of locals, and people are greatly inspired by the significant success of the 2000 land reform programme, especially through the immense success of tobacco farmers.

The only political legitimacy that can be described as democratic and acceptable is that which falls within the confines of land ownership and economic empowerment by the indigenous people.

There is diminished interest in the belief that only foreigners can create employment for locals, and this is precisely why President Robert Mugabe is having a far easier task campaigning than the IMF-obsessed Morgan Tsvangirai.

Fundamentally the difference between indigenous political legitimacy and the international democratic concept raises more questions than answers. Is Jacob Zuma’s South Africa democratic simply on the basis of his ANC persistently winning elections that are deemed free and fair by those enjoying the benefits of the natural resources of the country?

Or is it truer democracy for Julius Malema to seek equality for South Africa by advocating for the nationalisation of land and mineral resources?
It is rather presumptuous to assume that people have a free choice by simply participating in an election rated as free and fair by foreign observers. The underlying paradigmatic constraints cannot be ignored or wished away.

Our democratic choice as Zimbabweans was limited to the political sphere since independence in 1980, and the 2000 shift towards economic choice has enhanced the path to the fullness of democracy in the country.

In Zimbabwe there is this sharp contrast between the application of internationally accepted paradigms and the local population’s idea of political legitimacy.
We are in a country where political legitimacy is derived from a number of superseding factors, chiefly identification with the liberation legacy, indisputable belief in nationalist sovereignty, patriotic support for the land reform legacy, and unwavering support for the indigenisation of the economy.

Not even Tsvangirai himself believes that there is political legitimacy in preaching the virtues of the IMF or that of Western influences.
At his best all Tsvangirai can say about the West and his adored IMF is “our rich friends” from the international community. He cannot name these entities by name in public. That would be political suicide, and he knows it.

All he can say to convey the message that his backers want the land reform reversed is “we will have to revisit the land redistribution programme.”
These veiled and vague utterances clearly show where political legitimacy lies in Zimbabwe, and there is no doubt that Morgan Tsvangirai himself is aware that his political agenda fails to coincide with the diktats of political legitimacy in the country.

Zimbabwe we are one and together we will overcome. It is homeland or death!

Reason Wafawarova is a political writer based in Sydney, Australia.


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