Sunday, April 13, 2008

Zimbabwe News Update: No Crisis Say Mbeki; Build on Independence, etc.

No crisis in Zimbabwe

Sunday Mail Reporter

SOUTH African President Thabo Mbeki has said there is no crisis in Zimbabwe as "everybody" is waiting for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to announce the results of the presidential elections.

He said the Zimbabwean law clearly stipulates that in the event that no candidate garners a clear majority in the presidential race, an election re-run will be held. This pours water on the claims of victory by the MDC leader, Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, who is saying there is no need for a run-off.

Speaking after a meeting with President Mugabe at State House yesterday, President Mbeki said what is happening in Zimbabwe is a normal electoral process according to the laws of the country.

When he was asked whether he believed that there was a crisis in Zimbabwe, the South African leader said: "No, there has been an electoral process taking place. We are waiting. Everybody is waiting for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to announce the results that are outstanding.

"Of course there is the matter of the court case to rule, I understand on Monday, and if nobody wins with a clear majority in terms of the presidential election, the law provides that there should be a run-off and that’s what is happening and I wouldn’t describe that as a crisis. It’s a normal electoral process according to the law of Zimbabwe."

He said the summit in Lusaka, Zambia, was called for by the chairman of Sadc, President Levy Mwanawasa, who thought that the regional leaders should meet to look at the electoral situation in Zimbabwe and "see whether we could say or do anything".

At the time of going to press the Sadc leaders were still locked up in the conference hall and were expected to issue a communique after the deliberations.

The summit was attended by eight heads of state namely Sadc chairman President Levy Mwanawasa, Presidents Mbeki, Hifikepunye Pohamba (Namibia), Jose Eduardo dos Santos (Angola), Armando Guebuza (Mozambique), Bingu waMutharika (Malawi), Joseph Kabila (DRC) and Ian Khama (Botswana).

Zimbabwe was represented at the top table by the Minister of Rural Housing and Social Amenities, Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa.

The leaders of Mauritius, Lesotho and Tanzania sent representatives.

Mr Tsvangirai and his entourage were also at the summit, but sat in the public gallery.

Speaking to journalists after the meeting in Harare, President Mbeki said Mr Tsvangirai had first called him saying he would participate in a re-run, but was now saying there was no need for a re-run as he had won in the presidential race.

"Indeed he came to give his own assessment of the situation in Zimbabwe. So I listened to what he had to say. He had called earlier to say to me that if there were to be a re-run, though they believed that they had won, they would participate.

"Then when he came to see me now, he was saying they were certain that they had won and therefore don’t see why there would be need for a second round because they think they have won. But of course, as I was saying earlier, this is a matter for the body authorised to release the elections. We must wait for them to release the results," said President Mbeki.

Speaking after the meeting with his South African counterpart, a relaxed President Mugabe said he had not gone to the Lusaka summit as he had appointed three ministers to represent him. He said he received the invite to the summit on Thursday.

Asked whether he had snubbed the summit, President Mugabe said: "We are very good friends (with President Mwanawasa). We are very good brothers, but sometimes we attend and sometimes we don’t because we have other businesses that hold us back."

Commenting on utterances by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown that "the world is losing patience with Zimbabwe", President Mugabe said: "If Brown is the world, sure, the world is losing patience, but I know Brown as a little tiny dot in this world."

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has ordered the recounting of ballots cast in 23 House of Assembly constituencies in last month’s harmonised elections following

complaints which candidates from Zanu-PF and the MDC raised over the polling process.

In an interview yesterday, ZEC chairman Justice George Chiweshe revealed that his commission had "reasonable grounds" to believe that the votes in the constituencies had been miscounted and would affect the election results.

He said all votes that were cast in the presidential, House of Assembly, Senate and council elections will be recounted on Saturday this week.

He highlighted that observers, party representatives and election candidates would be allowed to witness the process, which will be conducted at designated constituency centres.

"We are going to give notice because the parties and candidates should be part of the process just as required in an election," he said.

"All votes cast for each election in the respective constituencies will be recounted since it is the same process that resulted in the complaints that were raised."

Justice Chiweshe said the queries were raised within 48 hours of the elections as stipulated by the Electoral Act. Zanu-PF disputed polling in 22 constituencies while MDC-Tsvangirai is contesting Goromonzi West.

He pointed out that his commission had considered the objections at a later stage, as it was not bound by the same deadline.

The affected constituencies include Chimanimani West, Mutare West, Bikita West, Bikita South, Bulilima East, Zhombe, Zaka West, Zvimba North, Silobela, Chiredzi North, Gokwe-Kabuyuni and Buhera South.

Lupane East, Mberengwa East, West, North and South, Masvingo Central, Masvingo West, Gutu South, North and Central and Goromonzi West have also been enlisted for recounting.

Time to build on gains of independence

NEXT Friday Zimbabwe turns 28. It has been nearly three decades of self-rule. Emerging out of a protracted liberation struggle, Zimbabwe had to embark on a process of reconciliation and national healing and at the same time respond to pressure to deliver on the promises of the struggle.

Thus the first 10 years were years of rapid progress in socio-economic development. Schools and health centres were built. Technical colleges were built. Houses were built. Develop-ments too many to enumerate resulted from self-rule. It was inevitable that sooner or later the bubble would burst.

Zimbabwe could not just continue riding the wave of the artificial success brought by political independence without taking the bull by the horns and fighting for its economic independence. It had to embark on the land acquisition and redistribution programme, which was one of the outstanding promises of the liberation struggle.

Dubbed the Third Chimurenga, it has not been an easy programme. Just as in the Second Chimurenga, there has been a huge price to pay.

So much emphasis is unfairly being placed on the pain that this period has caused and not on the gain. Yet we all know that there is no gain without pain.

The strategy of our Western detractors has been to inflict pain on the people of Zimbabwe through economic sanctions and then focus their magnifying glass on the pain, so much that it is difficult to convince the faint-hearted of the gain.

The gain will probably only be seen with hindsight, many years to come. Hopefully, we will not do so with regret, having taken decisions that would have reversed the gains of the struggle or diminished them.

It was, however, to be expected that when going through such a phase, Zimbabweans would not see things the same way. A nation is a sum total of individuals, families, and communities as well as ethnic and racial groups with different interests, viewpoints and perceptions.

Political differences are unavoidable, hence the role of the opposition. What keeps a nation at peace and on the path to prosperity is the ability to manage these diversities, without compromising on core values and principles. A nation that succeeds in achieving unity in diversity has greater chances of succeeding than the one that polarises people on political, religious or tribal lines.

Sadly, Zimbabwe has failed this test. The last decade has seen greater polarisation, which has given the enemy a foothold on the country’s political and economic affairs. Because there is a certain group that still feels excluded from the citadels of power, they tend to find comfort in teaming up with foreign powers to the detriment of the country’s political and economic progress. The West’s divide and rule tactics remain entrenched in our political affairs.

Thus at 28, we find our national sovereignty threatened. We also find the gains of independence facing an uncertain future.

It is for this reason that we call for patience, caution and pragmatism as we try to end the political gridlock we are in. Again the way to go would be to skilfully manage the diversities that are before us.

The present challenges are part of the process of maturing as a nation. There is really no way Zimbabwe could have avoided dealing with the land question and still enjoyed peace.

With 90 percent of the land in the hands of just 4 000 white farmers, Zimbabwe was sitting on a time bomb. As it is often said, if you want peace then you must work for justice. Zimbabwe’s land reform programme was a painful way of bringing social and economic justice.

There will always be debates about whether or not it could have been done differently. Some argue it could have been more orderly. But revolutions are never orderly. It is when they are done that the process of bringing order must begin.

The difficult season has also helped Zimbabwe to not only begin the process of decolonising its economy but to also reduce its dependence on Western economies.

The process of indigenisation has taken place though not at the pace we had hoped for.

Zimbabwe has learnt to diversify its trade partners, as it was forced by circumstances to begin looking East. It has also diversified its donors and trade partners, miraculously going for almost a decade without significant aid from the IMF and the World Bank.

It has also learnt to diversify its investors, learning that first and foremost domestic investment is crucial and that investment does not just come from the West but can also come from the East in a win-win situation.

In the last 18 months we have seen Zimbabwe dealing with the challenge of technological backwardness in its agricultural system through an ambitious farm mechanisation programme spearheaded by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.

What all this means is that the country is in a position where it can completely end dependence on its former colonisers and be a competitive player in the global economy. It must seek to move forward building on the gains of 28 years of independence but this time fully harnessing its diverse resources, especially its people.

Whatever decisions that Zimbabwe takes in the next few weeks, months and years, it must never be a colony again. Instead it must seek to be a shining example of a sovereign, peaceful and prosperous country.

Women’s fight for political space

By Phyllis Kachere

"WOMEN can do it," but did they this time?

While for some the campaign by the Women’s Trust aimed at increasing the participation of women in politics during the recent harmonised elections has paid off, for others the number of women who have made it to the august House has fallen far too short.

Far too short for the initial Sadc requirement of at least 30 percent women participation in Parliament, which percentage the African Union has increased to 50 percent.

A combined total of 50 women from all the political parties (14 percent) would be in the House of Assembly and Senate for this Parliament. The House of Assembly has 210 seats while the Senate has 60.

Figures show that countrywide 919 women contested in the election at different levels (740 council, 118 House of Assembly, 61 Senate).

But for the Women’s Trust executive director Ms Luta Shabba, while the percentage of women who eventually made it is low, it was the high number (compared to the previous elections) who offered themselves for political office that made the difference.

"We are absolutely excited about the impact of the ‘Women Can Do It’ campaign. One of its objectives was to mobilise women to engage in the political process. And we are happy to say we managed to get a whopping 919 women participating as candidates in the harmonised elections compared to only 58 who contested for the House of Assembly seats in 2005," said Ms Shabba.

She conceded that while the number of women in the House of Assembly appeared to have increased, the increase is due to the increased number of seats that were up for grabs (from 120 previously to 210 this time).

Ms Shabba said while the 14 percent fell far too short of the AU 50 percent target, the fact that a significant 919 women offered themselves up for election could be attributed to the campaign.

"Previously, political office used to be a preserve of the original small group that made it to Parliament at independence. But the campaign managed to break that barrier and drew more women into the race.

"Most women used the ‘Women Can Do It’ campaign to lobby their political parties to reserve seats for them and for that we are excited. We mobilised resources for the women, a challenge that has always ensured that women remained behind in the campaign for political office.

"We also trained the women on leadership, which will be followed through with those who made it as we train them for Parliamentary debates, etiquette, and all that is expected of them now that they hold political office " said Ms Shabba.

But critics of the campaign say while the campaign was moving in the right direction, it came too late and could have done better if its activities had been co-ordinated and linked to other existing programmes like the Women in Politics Support (WiPSU) 50-50 campaign since they have similar goals.

"The Women Can Do It campaign could have done better if it had started earlier. That would have given more time to consult and campaign in constituencies of their choice. And if the campaign had joined hands with WiPSU 50-50 campaign, who knows, more women could have entered Parliament," said the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers’ Association (Zwla) director, Mrs Emilia Muchawa.

Mrs Muchawa said not only was the visibility of women contesting political office heightened by the campaign, but that political parties were forced to field female candidates as they sought to be in sync with the hype created by the campaign.

Unfortunately, said Mrs Muchawa, the stakes were too high in this election, that even the best women candidates lost because the electorate was voting on party lines and not for the candidates of their choice.

National co-ordinator of Women and Law in Southern Africa (Wlsa) Ms Slyvia Chirawu said while the campaign raised the visibility of women, it came too late.

"Women usually take time to decide and the late coming of the campaign did not help matters. Unfortunately some of the women candidates went into the unwinnable constituencies where they lost. Political parties should shoulder the blame as they also used women to frustrate other male candidates who would have been campaigning in particular constituencies they declared for women," said Ms Chirawu.

She said campaigning for political office was expensive and proved so for most women as they could not dish out resources to the public like their male counterparts.

Even though most of the women who stood for political office owned substantial resources, they might not be in full control of how to use them.

She said women in political offices should be willing to groom and assist new women into political office to ensure maximum participation of women in politics.

Mrs Muchawa, like Ms Chirawu, hoped that the campaign would be sustained and not wait to resurface come 2013 elections.

In concurrence with in-coming House of Assembly representative for Mutasa North Mr David Chimhini, Mrs Muchawa said the campaign should not only be reserved for entrance into Parliament but should ensure that women are positioned in all decision-making seats.

"Although women have failed to reach the AU 50 percent target in Parliament, the ‘Women Can Do It’ campaign should be used to lobby for equitable distribution of all decision-making posts in both the public and private spheres.

"But I don’t believe that men should create opportunities for women. Instead, women should be on the forefront to claim what is theirs. The campaign came too late but it should be commended for reminding the electorate that women can do it," said Mr Chimhini.

He castigated women who always moaned about the lack of resources and said these had nothing to do with being articulate about policies.

"Almost 30 years after independence, and with the age of majority, women should play their part in national and economic development. They should not play second fiddle to men although it needs to be acknowledged that the playing field for women in terms of education needs attention.

"We still have not addressed the real issues why we still have a whole school of nursing whose majority are women while in the engineering or other such fields men are the majority. Let’s put things right for women to excel," said Mr Chimhini.

Beitbridge Senator Mrs Tambudzani Mohadi said the low number of women in Parliament could be attributed to some cultural practices that discourage women from taking political office.

"While the majority of people in Zimbabwe acknowledge that women can get into politics there are still some dangerous pockets who frown on women taking political office. It is the influence of this small number that has a bearing on the low numbers of women participating," said Mrs Mohadi.

Mufakose House of Assembly representative Ms Paurina Mpariwa welcomed the "Women Can Do It" campaign for training and mobilising resources for women candidates.

"Both the major political parties made an effort to increase the number of women candidates for these elections. And the campaign helped boost women’s confidence although I think they were too neutral.

"I had hoped for them to print campaign T-shirts for the women candidates in their own party colours instead of the neutral ‘vote for a woman’ standard message. The election was more of a battle of the parties and because of that some of the best women candidates lost," said Ms Mpariwa.

Responding to queries of the readiness of the Zimbabwean electorate to vote for women politicians, Minister of Science and Technology Dr Olivia Muchena said it was ready although a little more time and resources were needed for societal attitudes to change.

She said while women lobbied in their different political parties to campaign in "winnable" seats, the allocation for seats was not democratic leading to better women candidates losing out. Some critics have accused women of trying to create an "industry" for them to loot donor funds using women, most of the women interviewed defended the campaign saying it ensured space for women to participate in politics.

"Whenever there are challenges to be addressed it is normal for the affected group to mobilise resources and strategies to lobby for the challenges to be addressed. And that is exactly what women have done," said Mrs Muchawa.

"There is nothing new in that accusation. We have heard it before and that should not discourage women to keep the pressure and maintain momentum on asking for what is rightfully ours. We will fight for our political space," said Ms Chirawu.

Opposition peddling lies on outcome of polls

AFRICAN FOCUS By Tafataona P. Mahoso

MDC-TSVANGIRAI’S Tendai Biti and Nelson Chamisa keep making unexplained analogies between the Kenyan elections of December 2007 and Zimbabwe’s harmonised elections of 2008. Biti has escalated this rhetoric even further by making unexamined rhetorical parallels between Zimbabwe in March 2008 and Rwanda in 1994.

These allusions suggest that Biti and Chamisa want their viewers and sponsors to see them as the equivalents of Raila Odinga, Paul Kagame or even Frederick Chiluba of Zambia, but not Afonso Dhlakama of Mozambique or Moises Tshombe of Congo.

But an objective observer would notice that the real parallel is not so much between the Kenyan and Zimbabwean situations as it is between the two sponsored movements in those countries. This foreign regime change sponsorship means that the two movements receive more than just money from the alien imperialist sponsors. They also receive their propaganda methods and practices, which is why they spend so much time playing to the external gallery in the media.

One effect of the foreign Euro-American sponsorship of African opposition parties is that they are forced to adopt a "blitzkrieg" approach to election campaigning and propaganda. The "blitzkrieg" approach was developed by Adolph Hitler and the Nazis of Germany. It has been inherited by the new rightwing movements of the West who now sponsor regime change around the world.

A "blitzkrieg" approach requires big and fast lies or propaganda; it requires doing and achieving the regime overthrow "ka one", meaning fast and at once. Everything is done so big and so fast that most countries are unable to pick up the pieces or explain what has actually happened to them until it is too late. The Zambians are still not sure how they discarded former president Kenneth Kaunda and his United National Independence Party (UNIP) so fast. The Kenyans have found that everything fell apart so fast that neither a re-run nor a run-off could be undertaken.

The only thing that was possible was to forget the messed-up elections and go to the negotiating table. This is what the MDC’s sponsors had prepared for Zimbabwe in 2008.

Either the MDC would win an outright victory so fast that by the time everyone got over the shock all the evidence of dirty tricks would have been swept into the rubbish bins; or there was to be so much chaos and mayhem that it would not serve any purpose for anyone to investigate and explain what happened.

In terms of propaganda, dramatic announcements and assaults on the public psyche are supposed to be so big, so shocking and so fast that very few people are expected to have the means and the patience to relate them one to another and make sense of the entire onslaught. The result of the propaganda blitz is supposed to be shock or hysteria, not rational explanation or understanding.

This approach and its expectations explain why MDC-T and the opposition forces in general have made so many big and contradictory claims about Zimbabwe’s 2008 elections since the eve of the elections.

Let us summarise these big and contradicting claims, as follows:

The first big claim was made by opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his spokesperson Nelson Chamisa at the start of the elections to the effect that people should expect a Kenya scenario to unfold during and after the Zimbabwe elections. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission had to reprimand the MDC for appearing to wish on Zimbabwe the disaster which had befallen Kenya and for violating the code of conduct which all parties had agreed to abide by during the elections.

The second major claim was that the programmed activities of the incumbent President in the pre-election period constituted "rigging" because they made the incumbent look good in the eyes of the population and they therefore would influence the voters. This claim was also made on foreign TV channels and it seemed to suggest that the Government of Zimbabwe should suspend long-term and on-going activities and programmes until after elections, for fear that these would be construed as rigging.

This was an astounding claim because the MDC was a party to the drawing up of the laws and the rules governing the conduct of elections before, during and after the voting. There was nothing in the laws or rules to bar on-going Government projects, programmes and ceremonies for fear that they might be misconstrued as "rigging". Yet the MDC made so much media noise about these claims that one would think there was a massive crisis.

The third major claim was that the Government of Zimbabwe was massively recruiting and training "militias" to be used to intimidate and even liquidate the opposition and avoid defeat for the incumbent. The only mobilisation of security personnel which was taking place was consistent with the need to guard polling installations and to assist election officers, election monitors, election observers and voters.

Yet, over several days, the MDC continued to claim that there was an extraordinary and inexplicable mobilisation of security personnel and security recruits intended to enable the President to steal the election.

The fourth major announcement was equally big and fast. The MDC-T announced its own results to foreign media. It said it had won all the polls, including the Presidency. MDC members began to celebrate. MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai was duly congratulated by diplomats representing the sponsors of the opposition at Meikles Hotel in Harare.

The MDC’s announcement of outright victory was followed by supporting statements from other opposition candidates, including Dr Ibbo Mandaza and Mr Denford Magora, who represented independent presidential candidate Dr Simba Makoni.

The two claimed that President Robert Mugabe and the ruling party Zanu-PF had been completely eliminated from the Zimbabwean political scene. From that time onwards, the only important players in Zimbabwe’s politics would be Simba Makoni and Morgan Tsvangirai.

This big and fast announcement completely contradicted all the previous ones. If the election process was so flawed as to be unacceptable to the MDC, how come the same party was now celebrating outright victory and taking itself to be legitimate winner of a legitimate election through a legitimate process? If President Mugabe had already "stolen" the election before voting started, how did the MDC pull its victory in an election already stolen? Finally, where was the alleged Kenya-style violence?

The fifth big announcements was that both the MDC and Zanu-PF expected to go through a run-off election for the presidency because neither believed it had garnered the required 51 percent vote to avoid a run-off. This position was relayed to the Sadc convener of dialogue talks between Zanu-PF and MDC, South African President Thabo Mbeki.

President Mbeki proceeded to assure those foreign sponsors of the MDC demanding the results of the election that both Zanu-PF and the MDC were committed to a run-off election in terms of the law because they believed neither of them had garnered more than the 51 percent of the Presidential vote required.

But immediately after the fifth announcement there followed a sixth one which completely contradicted the previous one. The MDC went to court to force the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to release the result of the presidential poll as a matter of urgency.

When the court accepted the urgency of the matter but deferred judgment to Monday April 14, the MDC did not sit and wait for the judgment.

It proceeded to appeal both to the UN Security Council and the Sadc heads of state to intervene in Zimbabwe because it feared that the Government was yet again mobilising security forces and "militias" for the purpose of clamping down on the opposition. In Biti’s words, any delays in such international intervention would bring about a tragedy far worse than the genocide in Rwanda in 1994!

The seventh claim was that ZEC’s delay in announcing the results of the presidential poll was meant to assist President Mugabe to remain in office illegally. The President should step down. ZEC replied that the delay was now the direct result of the MDC’s rush to court which made the matter now sub-judice.

To the objective observer again, it was not clear how President Mugabe was supposed to step down without the Presidential election result and without a new President being installed. How was the President supposed to step down and still mobilise the resources and Government machinery to facilitate the run-off election?

What do all these twists and turns in MDC propaganda suggest?

First, they create a situation of dissonance.

In Perception and Misperception in International Politics, Robert Jervis writes about cognitive dissonance:

"The basis of dissonance theory lies in the postulate that people seek strong justification for their behaviour. They are not content to believe merely that they behaved well and chose wisely — if this were the case they would only have to maintain the beliefs that produced their (previous) decisions.

Instead, people want to minimise their internal conflict. This leads them to seek to believe that the reasons for acting or deciding as they did were overwhelming . . ."

Cognitive dissonance theory is therefore ideal for post-decision situations: that is, what followed the 2008 elections and what the MDC claimed about them.

"First, dissonance theory asserts that, after making a decision, the person not only will downgrade or misinterpret discrepant information but will also avoid it and seek consonant information." (Jervis, 1976: 382).

The sponsors of the MDC did not expect the situation of acute cognitive dissonance to arise because they expected everything to move with lightning speed. That is what the "blitzkrieg" theory assumes. As in the illegal and tragic invasion and occupation of Iraq, the "blitzkrieg" theory assumes that by the time the world knows that there never were any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq the game would be over and the invader would have accomplished its main goals.

So in the Zimbabwe elections, the gross inconsistencies and contradictions in the MDC’s big and fast claims were not supposed to become apparent because by the time they became so apparent there would be a new MDC regime and its Anglo-Saxon sponsors would already have congratulated and recognised it.

ZEC and Zanu-PF have done well therefore to slow the process a little bit. This has exposed the hysterical and incomprehensible demands and claims made by the MDC and its white sponsors.

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