The African Regional Organization of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-Africa www.ituc-africa.org ) calls for your urgent intervention with the Government of Zimbabwe to bring an end to the alarming and dangerous situation faced by the leaders and members of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) for taking peaceful protest action against steep fuel prices that have worsened an already unbearable high cost of living in the country. The ZCTU called for a three-day ‘Stay Away’ from 14 to 16 January 2019 demanding an end to the economic crisis faced by the country and a reversal of the over 200% increase in fuel prices announced by the government.
On Monday, January 14 2019, police and security forces violently attacked peaceful protesters by opening fire on them, injuring many, with reports of eight killed and over 200 arrested. The fierce crackdown has continued with reports of heavy military and police presence on the streets and security forces arbitrarily assaulting citizens, including entering homes to drag out and beat people in an effort to instill fear and to clampdown on dissent. Furthermore, cell and landline communications, the internet and social media were blocked for two days to prevent access to information.
The Government of Zimbabwe has clearly reneged on its duty to ensure that the country’s social climate is free of violence and fear. It is violently attacking protesters on the streets and individuals in their homes instead of protecting and guaranteeing their safety. Workers have the right to express their views on the government’s economic programs, including through peaceful demonstrations in an atmosphere free of fear, intimidation, coercion, repression and violence.
ITUC-Africa therefore requests your immediate intervention with the Government of Zimbabwe to demand an end to the violation of the right to freedom of association and to call for the safety of all protesters as well as the immediate and unconditional release of those arrested. The government must accept the call of the ZCTU for social dialogue in order to address the economic woes of the country.
We also call for an independent judicial inquiry into the excessive violence against protesters to be instituted without delay in order to punish guilty parties and to prevent the repetition of such rights violations.
General Secretary, ITUC-Africa
Federation condemns forceful nature in which govt of the country is responding to legitimate protests
COSATU Solidarity Statement against the clampdown on legitimate protests and attempts to silence the growing frustration in Zimbabwe
17 February 2019
The Congress of South African Trade Unions [COSATU] is deeply disturbed and concerned by the blatant disregard for human rights in Zimbabwe, and the level of violence ordinary people are exposed to. This systemic abuse of power and repression against leaders and members of the trade union movement led by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions [ZCTU] as well as the opposition should be condemned.
We condemn the forceful nature in which the government of Zimbabwe is responding, following legitimate and legal protests organised by the ZCTU and its affiliates. We have watched with dismay as the legalised repression unfolds in Zimbabwe.
These protests were organised based on legitimate demands about salaries, fuel price hikes, deteriorating economic situation, living conditions and general affordability of essentials for ordinary Zimbabweans. The Government of Zimbabwe was given the demands with the ultimatum for them to do away with the fuel hike in particular.
We applaud our sister federation the ZCTU in the unwavering determination to represent the working class and poor even in such conditions. The Federation took care to avoid violence by calling for a stay-away protest to avoid violent clashes but, instead of a formal response to their demands the government unleashed the army and the police on people.
In an attempt to cover up the awful and unlawful suppression of human rights by the Zimbabwean Government ,particularly unleashed on the people mainly residing in townships, the Zimbabwean government suspended the Internet on the 15th January 2019 around 7 am; which was confirmed by Twitter and that the shutdown was as a directive from Zimbabwean Government.
This act clearly was meant to silence the growing frustrated voices and limit communication on the subsequent clampdown today against leaders, workers, and members of the community who are involved in the stay-away since Monday, 14th February 2019.
It is reported that the police and the army have been raiding homes dragging everyone outside, forcing them to go to work and beating them up and also arresting others. It is said no one is spared this humiliation, people as old as 60years old, women included are being dragged from their homes and beaten while others are taken and their whereabouts unknown.
A number of activists have been taken and these include Pastor Evan Mawarira known for the #thisflag campaign and the Organising Secretary of the MDC Alliance, Amos Chibaya one taken by police and the other by soldiers. We call for their immediate release.
It is deplorable that live ammunition has been used on citizens, with more than 27 cases of multiple gunshot wounds and fatalities reported, as well as more than 1600 people reportedly injured and seeking medical care from Doctors without Borders.
Reports from the ground are that the numbers of those who have died since this morning have reached double digits and may increase as people regain the ability to communicate through the internet again.
We call on SADC to stop treating the issue of Zimbabwe lightly, there needs to be a stronger and more sustainable response to normalise the situation in that country, a solution that will include improving the lives of the citizens of that country. Change needs to come urgently.
The Zimbabwe Diaspora has sanctioned a march to the Zimbabwean Embassy on the 26th January 2019 in Pretoria in Solidarity with ZCTU and we call on all to join the march in solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum will convene a meeting on 17th January 2019 to develop a formal response to the situation currently unfolding in Zimbabwe and COSATU will be part of this.
COSATU remains resolute as a strong partner of the ZCTU in its struggle for human and trade union rights, social justice, economic and political freedom.
Issued by Zanele Matebula, Deputy International Secretary, COSATU, 17 January 2019
A SERVING top military official and a police officer were yesterday unmasked as leaders of the deadly protests in the Epworth dormitory town, which led to the death of civilians and looting of shops.
BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE/ XOLISANI NCUBE
This came as more Zanu PF officials were exposed for their riotous role during the three-day mass stayaway organised by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and social movements to protest the sharp fuel price hikes announced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa last Saturday.
Lieutenant Morrosi Carnage of Inkomo Mounted Regiment, who was arrested together with other 60 protesters, appeared before Harare magistrate Francis Mapfumo yesterday charged with public violence.
While opposing bail, Epworth police officer-in-charge Peter Mangwende told the court that Carnage was one of the leaders who led the violent protesters from the front.
Mangwende also told court that a member of the Zimbabwe Republic Police, Ignatius Zuze, was also shot while leading the protesters.
However, Zuze could not be located at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, where he was supposed to be under treatment.
Carnage and his 60 alleged accomplices are represented by members of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights — Kossam Ncube, Marufu Mandevere and Nontokhozo Dube-Tachiona.
The lawyers took the State to task after prison doctors failed to treat and examine the suspects, who were severely assaulted by the police and some had visible injury marks.
Mandevere, however, successfully filed for the accused persons to be examined by private doctors, saying the court should have granted the order to have them treated.
“The court cannot just watch. These accused persons were severely assaulted and some have visible injury marks. The suspects cannot lose dignity or human rights because of the arrest. This can happen to anyone. The court needs to maintain the accused person’s rights,” Mandevere said
The defence applied for bail pending trial, but the State opposed, saying they must proceed to trial.
Mapfumo postponed the matter to today for continuation.
Eight other Zanu PF youth leaders have appeared in court facing allegations of public violence and looting after they allegedly burnt a Zupco bus along the Harare-Bulawayo Highway before they looted a shop belonging to Chegutu East MP Webster Shamu (Zanu PF).
Zanu PF Harare provincial youth league boss Godwin Gomwe was on Wednesday night also reportedly assaulted by soldiers for leading a terror group that was attacking suspected MDC supporters in Budiriro as well as participating in looting under the guise of restoring peace.
Yesterday, a subdued Gomwe had promised to discuss the issue with NewsDay later in the evening, as he claimed to be with “certain important people” discussing important matters.
“Can I call you later. I have your mobile number. I am with important people here, talking something very important. I will call in 30 minutes time,” Gomwe said in a hushed tone.
After 30 minutes, Gomwe was not picking up calls. He also did not respond to messages sent to his mobile phone.
But Zanu PF insiders said the youth league boss was leading a gang of 70 youths that went on a rampage in Budiriro and other residential areas, assaulting known MDC supporters, accusing them of having participated in the protests before he unleashed his troops to loot some shops.
“He was using a fleet of 20 unmarked vehicles and he terrorised people, but luck ran out when they were stopped by the military, who wanted to know what they were doing and who had sanctioned their actions. He ignored them and went away. But the soldiers followed him to his residence, where he was assaulted together with members of his gang. He was left at Harare Central Police Station,” a senior Zanu PF official said.
The ruling party and government have blamed the opposition Nelson Chamisa-led MDC for orchestrating violence during the three-day national strike, to force the administration to address the economic decay bedevilling the country.
During the three-day stayaway, junior military officers, who were earlier reportedly moving around high-density suburbs beating up people for participating in the national strike that turned violent, were seen engaging residents, telling them to exercise their right peacefully.
In Dzivarasekwa and Mabvuku, the soldiers ordered residents to stay indoors and exercise their right to stay away peacefully by not barricading roads or attacking each other.
“The suffering you are going through is shared by everyone. But let us not be violent. Don’t barricade the roads, especially with big stones and logs, try something which is not violent. Do the stayaway in peace,” a soldier at Dzivarasekwa 4 said.
“Do whatever you want, we are supporting you, but don’t be violent. We had to beat you because you were being violent. We don’t want violence,” the soldier told the residents.
Earlier in the day, the military had subjected most men in Dzivarasekwa to beatings for allegedly barricading the roads to block traffic from getting into town or offering transport to anyone who wanted to get into town.
In Mabvuku, according to residents, soldiers summoned all men in the neighbourhood after they had clashed with them in the morning for allegedly blocking traffic.
“They told us that they were not against the idea of the stayaway or protests, but barricading of roads and destruction of property. They actually said they sympathised with ordinary citizens,” a resident told NewsDay.
Contacted for comment, Zimbabwe National Army spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Alphios Makotore requested that written questions be brought to Josiah Magama Tongogara barracks.
The Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum is deeply concerned about the escalation of violence in
Zimbabwe. The level of frustration and anger amongst citizens who feel excluded and
alienated by the successive economic and political attacks carried out by the ZANU PF elites has clearly reached a boiling point. The spark of a callous 150% fuel price increase has ignited the fires of years of political manipulation, the failure of elections to provide a legitimate set of leaders, deteriorating economic conditions and the growing sense that the government of Zimbabwe has no interest in the living conditions of ordinary citizens.
The closing down of social media and the restrictions placed on access to the internet, the direct result of collusion between private sector companies like Econet, and the Zimbabwean regime, are utterly unacceptable. This kind of draconian action is normally associated with despotic regimes. The actions by ZANU PF expose the ugly face of a militarised approach to governance and cannot be tolerated. The ZSF calls for the immediate and unconditional lifting of all restrictions on the use of the internet. We remain deeply concerned that this silencing of legitimate voices provides the pretext for state sanctioned violence and even more severe forms of repression.
The new government of Zimbabwe has a huge challenge of making economic and political reforms in order to resolve the deep systemic challenges facing the country. Some key changes are needed in various sectors and institutions to align with calls for economic reengagement and democratisation. Whilst much attention has been placed on economic reforms, political transformation needs to receive the same level of attention for Zimbabwe to garner domestic trust and international support. The role of South Africa and the region remains crucial in Zimbabwe’s democratisation process.
This workshop focused on the kind of political and economic reforms needed and the role the region can play in Zimbabwe.
Prof Brian Raftopoulos, Director of Research and Advocacy, Solidarity Peace Trust and Research Fellow, International Studies Group, University of Free State
Dr Godfrey Kanyenze, Founding Director, Labour and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe (LEDRIZ)
Ms Thoko Matshe, Country Coordinator Southern Africa, Olof Palme International Center
Dr Ruth Murambadoro, Researcher, Centre for the Sexualities, Aids and Gender, University of Pretoria
Mr Lucian Segami, Head of International Relations, NEHAWU and SALO Board Member
Motorists queue to buy petrol in Harare, Zimbabwe, October 8, 2018. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo
THE hope that was generated by the removal of Robert Mugabe from power in the November coup in Zimbabwe was always provisional and tainted by the persistence of Zanu PF’s legacy.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s hope that the 2018 elections would deliver the legitimacy he so desired was marred by the shortcomings of the electoral process, the post- election violence on August 1, the continued lack of recognition of his victory by the opposition and the critical reports of international observers.
The Government of Zimbabwe’s planned political and financial re-engagement strategies, much-touted in the presidential narrative since the November coup, continue to face the hurdles of deeper economic and political reform that have been the precondition for such re-engagement.
Predictably, the continuing crisis of the economy immediately grounded any post-election optimism in the ruling party. The indicators of the crisis were patently apparent. These include: A long-term currency crisis that has resulted in cash shortages; a major budget deficit estimated at US$3,3 billion in 2018 as a result of largely unaccountable state expenditure; rapid price increases and accelerated inflation; the large-scale use of Real-Time Gross Settlement payments in the economy chasing a small supply of US dollars and fuelling a parallel currency market; a massive accumulating foreign and domestic debt of US$16,9 billion.
These indicators are reflective of a government policy which in Tony Hawkins’ assessment has resulted from a combination of currency overvaluation, government overspending and credit creation to finance budget deficits.
Moreover, as economist Godfrey Kanyenze of the Labour and Economic Development Institute of Zimbabwe (Ledriz), which is affiliated to the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), has noted, there is not just a liquidity crisis in Zimbabwe, but a major leakage of state funds due to weak state accountability.
Since the Mugabe years, a great deal of state funding has been funnelled into certain enclaves of the state elite away from any long-term developmental investment. Moreover, the practices in the private sector have also fed into the crisis. As a Ledriz briefing on the 2017 Commission of Inquiry into the Conversion of Insurance and Pensions Values from ZW$ to US$ reported, the accumulation of profits by pension companies as a result of the removal of 25 zeros during the between 2006 and 2009, resulted from “insurance companies technically extinguishing their obligations to policy-holders and pensioners without actual payments”. As a result, “assets that were supporting insurance companies’ pension liabilities were transferred to shareholders of insurance companies or became surpluses in some defined pension benefit funds”.
Among the first responses from the new technocratic Finance minister Mthuli Ncube was to place an increased tax on the working people of Zimbabwe. This amounted to a payment of 2 cents on every electronic dollar payment of over $10. Ncube also announced plans to reduce the public sector budget and the privatisation of parastatals. The immediate response of the ZCTU was to call for national protests against the 2 cents tax, a call that was greeted with widespread pre-emptive arrests of trade union leaders by the state.
In the face of these challenges, the Mnangagwa government has been desperate to move the discussion with the international financial institutions forward. However, the international players are finding it difficult to make progress on this issue. On the one hand, countries in the European Union (EU) are keen to move the re-engagement along and to avoid any further deterioration of the Zimbabwean economy. In their view, a further weakened Zimbabwean state would not be in their interests. On the other hand, the EU has reiterated its demands for both political and economic reforms before any further economic re-engagement can take place.
The final report of the EU Observation Mission made it clear that while there had been progress in the pre-election campaign period, in the end the right to an effective legal remedy was not adequately provided for and the lack of equal suffrage and “shortcomings in the registration of voters compromised universal and equal suffrage”.
This judgment, combined with the continued Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act legislation in the US means that there is unlikely to be any major movement on international financial assistance to the Mnangagwa administration in the medium-term. In this context, the international forces understand that they have substantial leverage on the Government of Zimbabwe but it is pressure that also has limits which they are not keen to push too far. They would prefer their diplomacy to encourage the government to intensify its actions on the reform agenda while also understanding the costs of failure. They also understand how quickly the defensive language of national sovereignty, with regional and continental support, will confront any more explicit political conditionality.
Already the pressures on the present regime are leading to tensions in the ruling party. Old guard Zanu PF officials who were moved out of Government into the party machinery after 2018 have started accusing the new Finance minister of not consulting the supreme structures of the ruling party on the new policies. We should expect more such attacks. The factionalism that has plagued Zanu PF for much of its history and intensified after 2014 and in the lead up to Mugabe’s removal has not gone away.
The close outcome of the 2018 presidential election as opposed to the strong parliamentary results of the ruling party left Mnangagwa with little doubt about the precarious nature of his presidential position. The coercive response to the planned trade union protests could also be indicative of Zanu PF’s return to more coercive politics in the face of unrelenting economic decline.
In response to the current conjuncture, Nelson Chamisa’s MDC Alliance has maintained its refusal to accept the legitimacy of Mnangagwa’s presidential election victory. In pursuing this objective, the opposition has adopted a dual strategy: a combination of protests and the hope of international pressure. The thinking behind this strategy is that the cumulative economic crisis and international constraints will force the Mnangagwa regime into conceding to their demands for a renegotiation of power. There are several problems with this approach.
Firstly, as we have seen in other parts of the continents crisis authoritarian states can maintain their rule for long periods of time through minimalist state forms of rule that combine a control of certain extractive forms of revenue with command over the central means of coercion. Moreover as Paul Nugent points out such states can combine coercive, productive and permissive forms of rule involving varying relations of coercion and consent and different episodes of negotiations and conflict between states and citizens. The reductionist view that economic crisis will deliver what the election could not is extremely precarious.
Secondly, the social base of the opposition, particularly in the now largely informalised urban sector, is likely to be further weakened by a deepening economic crisis. This is unlikely to result in more protests and a strengthening of the opposition presence in the public sphere. It could lead to a further retreat into individualised forms of survival and already well supported religious structures and their more optimistic ethereal futures.
Thirdly, the international pressure that the opposition is counting will not take the forms of more open political conditionality in favour of the opposition. At present, key players in the international community are more concerned with keeping Zanu PF on the reform agenda than with any more open or surrogate support for the opposition as in the past. For many countries in the EU the stabilisation agenda in countries like Zimbabwe remains a key factor in the face of all the changes in European politics, particularly around the massive migration issue that is currently dominating European politics.
Moving forward, there is clearly a need for a new national dialogue, including but not just limited to, the major political parties. It should also include a broad range of civic interests. In the recent past ,there have been calls for such a dialogue from Concerned Citizens and Churches. Even if Zanu PF is not yet ready for such an initiative, the need for it is increasingly clear.
While there are clear differences between Zanu PF and the MDC Alliance, the parties have moved closer together on their neo-liberal economic agendas. The TINA (there is no alternative narrative) position of the Thatcher/Reagan years has become the common sense of both parties. As it stands, it is the terms of this macro-economic stabilisation programme as well as political reforms that could be the start of such a national discussion.
Hopefully, this could also lead to a serious critique of this currently shared economic policy.
Raftopoulos is director of research and advocacy at Solidarity Peace Trust and a research fellow at the International Studies Group, University of the Free State, South Africa.
File Photo: A Burundian protester runs through smoke raising from a burning barricade during an anti-government demonstration in the capital Bujumbura, Burundi, 22 May 2015. The Burundi crisis started after an announcement from the President Pierre Nkurunziza that he intended to run for a third term mandated in the upcoming elections. Photo: EPA/DAI KUROKAWA Less
The important lesson for Zimbabwe’s opposition from what happened in Burundi in 2010 is that participation is key. Despite what may look like injustice, it is good for the Zimbabwean opposition to stay within decision-making institutions such as the national assembly in order to counter any move that would otherwise lead to devastating consequences such as an untimely change of the constitution.
The optimism raised by the relatively peaceful elections held in Zimbabwe on the 30 July 2018 was quickly dashed by the sudden eruption of post-electoral violence.
Following the announcement of the victory of Zanu-PF in parliamentary elections, supporters of the MDC Alliance took to the streets in Harare protesting what they viewed as a rigged vote. They blamed the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) for delaying results of the presidential vote – a move that was perceived as a tactic for electoral fraud. The delay by the ZEC stirred anxiety among voters who seemed to have lost trust in the possibility of a fair election – one of the reasons behind the street demonstrations. To restore order, armed forces were sent in and around the capital Harare. Their subsequent deployment on the streets to counter the demonstrations have been criticised for using excessive force in a crackdown that left six people dead.
Amid the rising contesting voices, President Emmerson Mnangagwa is faced with difficult choices to ensure that the country remains stable while proving that the real objective of the elections was not only to legitimise his regime but to effectively start a new era for Zimbabwe. The establishment of a genuine Government of National Unity is one of approaches that could facilitate the emergence of an important platform upon which to rebuild the social trust across the country in the post-Mugabe era. However, this approach cannot succeed without the effective involvement of the opposition, especially the MDC Alliance and its leadership. Therefore, the attitude and decisions made by Nelson Chamisa and other leaders of the opposition will equally determine how stable will Zimbabwe be. Based on electoral results, it is obvious that the MDC Alliance remains a force to reckon with. But this position entails certain responsibilities.
The contested results show that the MDC Alliance opposition leader, Mr. Nelson Chamisa, managed to obtain a significant number of the votes despite the claims on rigging. Chamisa polled 44.3% against the 50.8% for President Mnangagwa from the ruling Zanu-PF. These electoral results espouse the voting intentions observed during the pre-election survey conducted by the Afrobarometer in collaboration with the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation and the Zimbabwe based Mass Public Opinion Institute. According to this report, as of early July 2018 the voting intentions in the presidential election showed that President Mnangagwa was assigned 40% while Chamisa was in second position with 37% of the votes. The report also showed that that there were around 20% of potential voters who were not yet sure, whether they were going to vote for one of the main candidates of the other or not to vote at all. The voting intentions in the parliament elections showed a similar trend with the Zanu-PF getting 41% and the MDC Alliance gathering 36% of the total votes. These voting intentions and the actual electoral results indicate that the Zimbabwean electorate may well be divided. This is a delicate situation in which the decisions of the political leadership generally play a crucial role in preserving peace or in triggering violence.
Chamisa’s decision to declare himself winner ahead of the electoral commission announcement is a strategy used by many opposition leaders in Africa but in many cases, it is counter-productive, and it can be a serious catalyst of violence and heated tensions.
So far, the attitude of the MDC Alliance leadership has reflected the trending reaction from many opposition leaders in Africa. A similar scenario was observed in Kenya in 2017’s elections with Raila Odinga declaring himself a people’s president, in Gabon with Jean Ping saying he won, as well as the opposition leadership stance in Burundi, especially in the 2010 elections and the subsequent boycott.
The example of what happened in the 2010 elections in Burundi stands as a warning against mistakes that are so often committed by the opposition leadership who encourage the boycott of electoral processes or who refuse to participate in governing institutions.
After the announcement of the results of Burundian communal elections (the district level) on 24 May 2010, 12 opposition parties contested the large victory of the ruling party, the Council for the Defence of Democracy-Forces for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) and decided to boycott the presidential, parliamentary and local elections which were still to come. The boycott was followed by requests for talks or negotiations on the need to hold fresh elections. The ruling party refused categorically to adhere to this idea.
The 12 opposition parties were encouraged to use the legal means, specifically the Constitutional Court, to solve their grievances, which they refused to pursue. They were asked to show evidence of rigging which they also could not substantiate. Subsequently, the boycotting parties decided to create a new coalition group which they called the Alliance for the Democratic Change (ADC-Ikibiri). The mission of this new coalition was to ensure that the international community does not recognise the legitimacy of the May 2010 elections. Unfortunately, the report released by the Observer Mission of the European Union (UE-MOE) – which was then the major sponsor of the electoral process by the way – recognised that, despite some flaws, the election had been fair and democratic although tainted by some sporadic violence. Despite this clear position, the ADC coalition insisted on a continued boycott.
It is important to note that the main opposition party had garnered 15% of the national vote while the total votes of all opposition parties taken together was around 35%. Such a score was enough to give the opposition a stake in the government, in the parliament and senate and in the local administration. At the end of the election, the coalition refused to be part of the government and opted to stay out of the institutions.
The consequences of this decision were dramatic. Once the electoral process was validated by the Constitutional Court, the ADC-Ikibiri members found themselves outside of all of the formal institutions and without any leverage to influence any political process. Slowly, they gradually diminished in popularity and disappeared from the political scene. The absence of a counter-weight to the ruling party allowed the voting of some controversial law such as the law on media or civil society organisations.
More importantly, the non-participation in the governing bodies allowed the ruling party to consolidate and reinforce its grip on power even in parts which used to be strongholds of the opposition. The national assembly was in effect controlled almost entirely by one party. The absence of contradictory debates at the national assembly was one serious blow to the young democracy in Burundi. The domination of one party and the progressive entrenchment of an autocratic power led to the erosion of democratic foundations. This is not what the ruling party was necessarily looking for, but the absence of a counter-force and the new political context created a legislative imbalance in which there was no room for a counter-point to government agendas.
In the end, some civil society organisations gradually begun to occupy the vacuum left by the opposition parties. The coming of these unusual actors into the political realm complicated the matter as the civil society and political parties in general do not use the same methods when mobilising for civic action. In 2015, when the following elections took place the opposition leadership was extremely weakened that it had no real initiative on the ground. The street demonstrations that characterised the 2015 elections were led, not by political parties, but by civil society organisations. The opposition leadership had lost its influence on the electorate.
The important lesson to Zimbabwe’s opposition from what happened in Burundi, is that participation is key. Despite what may look like injustice, it is good for the Zimbabwean opposition to stay within decision-making institutions such as the national assembly in order to counter any move that would otherwise lead to devastating consequences such as an untimely change of the constitution. If there is a chance for Chamisa and the MDC Alliance to remain integrated into the governance processes within the country’s institutions, this would be an important opportunity to demonstrate the willingness to pursue dialogue and legal processes in order to introduce a different political culture within Zimbabwe.
The presence of the Zimbabwean opposition in the institutions of governance especially at the local government would surely play a determining role in preparing for the next elections and in convincing the electorate that the MDC Alliance can also govern effectively. Chamisa and his fellow opposition leaders should continue to pursue judicial redress and accountability through legal means and at the same time to strategise wisely for the next elections while remaining a relevant and ever-present actor in the current political dispensation. The opposition leadership can still play an important role especially as members of the national assembly by testing the proposition whether in fact Zimbabwe is on the cusp of a new dawn of democratic consolidation. DM
Patrick Hajayandi is a Senior Project Leader for the Great Lakes Region at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation based in Cape Town, South Africa
The Morgan Tsvangirai Legacy workshop held on 10 July 2018 sought to provide an insightful overview of Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s political life as well as his contribution towards democratisation in Zimbabwe. A number of perceptive and important concerns relating to the impact of Tsvangirai’s legacy on contemporary Zimbabwean politics were raised by both the speakers and participants at the workshop.
Government is caught between a rock and a hard place on whether to use force in quashing escalating anti-Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) protests or stick to its desire to project itself as a reformed administration, analysts said.
When President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration came to power via a de-facto coup in November last year, it immediately set out to win the hearts of the international community which had isolated the country in protest over then president Robert Mugabe’s angry mob policies.
Mnangagwa has particularly sought to project himself as a liberal by inviting foreign investors to come to Zimbabwe to do business with no strings attached under the “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra.
The opposition has thus been unleashing supporters into the streets, protesting an irregular playing field and Zec’s alleged bias.
MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa, who is due to meet officials from Zec today has threatened to disrupt the polls if he is not allowed access to the ballot paper printing, storage and its distribution.
Chamisa is set to start a one week vigil at the Zec offices in Harare until voting day — a development which could provoke escalation of tensions.
Analysts canvassed by the Daily News yesterday said pressure from the opposition has left the ruling party in a catch-22 situation, not so sure if it should continue with its soft approach to the MDC Alliance or go into its default mode of using heavy-handed methods to quash the protests.
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure said even if Mnangagwa wanted to retreat to the Zanu PF default mode of violence, he “entrapped” himself by marketing himself as a liberal of some sort.
“If he was not genuine when he sold a transformative image of himself, now he is in a catch 22 situation because he set in motion a gear that is not irreversible especially when he chose to invite radical foreign observers such as the European Union and the United States who will cast an eagle eye on the nitty gritties of the electoral process,” Masunungure said.
He suggested that while Mnangagwa might have hoped to regulate the observers in the long-run, “they seem to have outgrown his capacity to influence them because they were allowed in unusually huge numbers”.
That Mnangagwa is now viewed by many as a born again Christian has made it difficult even for him to relate with some radical elements within the ruling Zanu PF party who might not necessarily have met their Damascene moment, Masunungure said.
“He is keen on translating his rhetoric into practice and there is nothing he will do that will undermine the born again Christian tag that he has allowed himself to carry so he is compelled by circumstances to act in a certain way even when it doesn’t suit his power retention strategy,” he said.
Another analyst, Maxwell Saungweme, opined that the liberal image that Mnangagwa is projecting whose hallmark includes focusing on the economy, allowing opposition to access all areas including previously no-go-areas and inviting western election observers, was not genuine.
“He did all these to gain acceptance from within and outside and present himself as a departure from Mugabe but the long and short of it is that he is doing all this to retain power at all costs and if rigging fails he will go for violence and the bullet,” Saungweme said adding that “you cannot expect a man who rolled tankers seven months ago to remove a 94-year-old to allow a 40-year-old to wrest power from him”.