18 December, 2014

Zimbabwe: ZANU PF Congress 2014

by Shamiso Marange

Joice Mujuru’s fall from grace leaves yet another dent in the political history of Zimbabwe. Ms. Mujuru, 59, the first female Vice President in the country, along with eight ministers aligned to her faction found themselves displaced in an effort by President Mugabe to purge factionalism from his Zimbabwe African Nationalist Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU PF). A first in the 51 years of party’s existence.

Prior to Robert Mugabe curtailing Mujuru’s influence in the politburo of the ruling party and sacking her and her comrades from their government positions, Grace Mugabe had gone on a whistle-blowing crusade, verbally-attacking Mujuru and instigating contempt towards the former freedom-fighter.

It is now evident that, the first lady had been unleashed to lay the the foundation to vanquish the Vice President and her faction on behalf of her husband. All Robert Mugabe had to do was step on the podium at the 6th ZANU PF Congress (or should we say, Con-Grace?) and hammer the final nails in the coffin. By the time the convention had begun Mujuru had been turned into a villain. She had been exposed and the knives to stab her in the back had been drawn. Her squeaky clean image as a hardworking heroin dedicated to the ruling party, was dragged through the mud. She was made out to be a thief, a traitor and a simple-minded character relying on witchcraft in an attempt to unseat the ‘messiah’.

A few days before the congress Mugabe set up a kangaroo court and made amendments to the ZANU-PF constitution, granting him powers to directly select his deputies and anoint his successor. An indication of the lack of genuine democracy within the ruling party structures. Before the changes to the ZANU-PF charter, Mugabe and his two ZANU-PF deputies had to be elected by members from the country’s 10 regions. The deputies automatically took up the same posts in government.

Mugabe set his snare in a timeous fashion, creating a well-orchestrated exit for Mujuru. She was check-mated and outmanoeuvred before she could make her move of superseding the nonagenarian leader from the party. In the end she never attended the congress and it would have been improvident if she had presented herself for her own guillotining. Only time will tell if she can make a comeback because a sizeable number of influential ZANU PF members were ousted along with her. But then again, because Mugabe has instilled so much fear in his followers, it is very likely that she will not rebel, and this could signify the end of her political career. Bullying, intimidation and violence are a part and parcel of the ruling party and not even its members are immune to these ailments.

New appointments
ZANU-PF’s other faction leader, former freedom fighter and security strongman also known as the Crocodile, Emmerson Mnagagwa, 68, replaced his rival Mai Mujuru as Vice President.

The new VP: Emmerson Mnagagwa

The crocodile (a name earned for his ruthlessness in the liberation struggle) was so gleeful with his new appointment that he knelt in front of Mugabe when he was appointed VP of the ruling party and state. It would appear he is having the last laugh as he was elevated and his nemesis, Mujuru, was reduced to being an ordinary card-holding member of ZANU PF.

Mr. Mnagagwa, the justice minister was named as Mr. Mugabe’s first deputy, whilst Phekezela Mphoko a small-time former diplomat, was named as the second deputy. As a high-school student in the 1960s, Mr. Mnangagwa was imprisoned for arson charges and it is whilst in jail, he met Mr. Mugabe, a political prisoner during the Rhodesian era. This is where the father-son bond between the two was created, as Mnagagwa looked up to one of the masterminds of the Zimbabwean liberation struggle.

After he was pardoned from a death sentence because he was under 21 years old and later released from prison, Mnagagwa went on to train as a lawyer in Zambia, and after graduation, he received military training in Egypt and China. By the late 1970s, he had climbed the ranks within ZANU PF and was appointed Mugabe’s special assistant.

Since then, Mnagagwa is rumoured to have been in charge of the security and intelligence operations for ZANU PF. He was head of internal security in the 1980s when Mr. Mugabe ordered a brigade of soldiers to be trained by North Korean in an operation called Gukurahundi (the early rain which washes away the chaff before the spring rains). Several thousands of civilians, mainly supporters of Joshua Nkomo of the opposition party Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU), were murdered.

However, now that Mugabe has purged the factionalism from within ZANU PF, and the succession issue within the party is somewhat transparent, the question arises - why did the nonagenarian choose Mnagagwa over Mujuru?

The Mugabe dynasty is arguably the principal reason. The president needs to ensure that his family and his business interests will be safeguarded upon his death. This is where ‘Gucci Grace’ enters the arena, many believe that whoever has her ear has Mugabe’s favour. Mnagagwa wants power, Grace wants to preserve her dynasty. Her whistle blowing gambit was meant to clear the path for her apparent ally, Mnagagwa. Although she might have obtained the leadership of the ruling party’s Women’s League, the appointing of Mnagagwa dampens the supposition that Grace would take over from her husband. It is very doubtful that she will be able to play an influential role in politics or take control of ZANU PF when her spouse is gone. However, if she succeeds in attaining influential power within ZANU, then she can be credited for having created a new phenomenon now being referred to as the ‘bedroom coup’.

On the other hand, Mnagagwa is considered to embody Mugabe’s leadership ethics. He is deemed a hardliner that is unlikely to adopt liberal democratic practices. He has been in the game for too long and has observed, learned and assisted Mugabe in his reign as President. In terms of security and intelligence, Mnagagwa will continue to offer Mugabe a safe environment from anyone or anything that is deemed as a threat.

Can an individual with such a ferocious background be trusted to uphold the rule of law or respect human rights if he succeeds Mugabe? The manner in which he superseded Mujuru makes one wonder how dignified of a leader he will be once at the throne.

Furthermore, the recent shake-up on the political scene in Zimbabwe has nothing to do with improving the lives of the 13 million plus citizens of the country. It is the typical tale, the legacy of self-serving leaders that take advantage of the vulnerability and helplessness of their people, which is unfortunately not new to sub-Saharan Africa.

12 December, 2014

Political Will Versus Political Entitlement: The Left-Right Political Spectrum of Lesotho

by M. K. Mahlakeng

On the 18th November, Prime Minister Tom Thabane and his coalition government partner and leader of the Basotho National Party (BNP), Thesele Maseribane went AWOL after missing a crucial meeting with South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. Ramaphosa is acting in his capacity as the facilitator of the peace process under the banner of SADC, whom is expected to ensure the possibility and stability of the upcoming snap elections proposed for end of February 2015.

Thabane and Maseribane’s unhappiness towards Ramaphosa includes concerns of his mediation process citing unsatisfactory judgements by Ramaphosa in favour of the “opposition” (also known as the left-wingers). This includes the allied Congress parties and Metsing, who is also a Deputy Prime Minister in the coalition government and a leader of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), but has since shared the sympathies of the opposition regarding the reign of Thabane.

Facilitation talks: Cyril Ramaphosa and Lesotho minority opposition (Photo: GCIS)

Many in the opposition have viewed this stance by Thabane and Maseribane (right-wingers) as a means, among many others, to sabotage or delay the unfolding satisfactory status to hold these upcoming elections. This, as history serves, is what distinguishes the left-right wingers of Lesotho. And this distinction has always been marked by a sense of political will versus political entitlement.

On the one hand, commoners or those perceived to be commoners (i.e. ordinary people who are members of neither the nobility nor the priesthood), throughout history, used their political will to influence political and socioeconomic decisions. And on the other hand, those perceived to have a degree of nobility or relations to such would be entitled and/or feel entitled to a role in decision-making. The right-wingers for instance, favoured nobility and/or priesthood and therefore used the chieftainship, the Britons and the Catholic Church to curtail popular freedom, while the left-wingers wanted more freedom and liberty and therefore advocated that the role and influence of these institutions be reduced.

History serves that, in a society where party A (i.e. a tribe, clan, parties, positions or ideologies) prohibits party B from contesting power through political will and/or popular support (i.e. the ballot), it leaves the former with a sense of entitlement thus making them hostile to elections, while the latter develops a basis of political reason.

In contrast to political will which advocates freedom and liberty, political entitlement on the other hand incorporates sabotage, use of excessive force etc. This is relevant to, for instance, the “1970 state of emergency” by Chief Jonathan Leabua (founder of the BNP and then PM) when he refused to cede thus denying the Basotho Congress Party (BCP) power after winning general elections; and the notorious “Order Number 4” of 1986 introduced by the Military Government of General Justin Lekhanya (then chairman of the Military Council and leader of the BNP) to prohibit political activity and thus legitimised repression. It is events such as these that have chiselled the current political landscape of Lesotho since independence, thus leaving Lesotho’s right-wingers (Nationalists) with political entitlement and left-wingers (Congress) with a sense of political will.

09 December, 2014

Another Landslide Victory for SWAPO in Namibian Elections

by Hussein Solomon

Namibia became the first African country to adopt electronic voter machines in its November 2014 polls. This technological innovation at e-voting however was not without its problems with technical glitches experienced with both electronic voting machines and handheld scanners to verify voter cards and fingerprints of voters. A subsequent report from the African Union’s Electoral Observer Mission made it clear that these were less technical glitches and more the result of electoral staff not knowing how to use the equipment. Unsurprisingly, the AU called on electoral staff to be properly trained in these new technologies.

Photo: Electoral Commission of Namibia

The 28th November polls saw Namibians voting for members of the National Assembly as well as a President. Incumbent President Hifikepunye Pohamba is compelled to step down on account of constitutional term limits. The ruling South West African People’s Organization (SWAPO) retained their electoral dominance in the National Assembly, with SWAPO’s Hage Geingob succeeding Pohamba as president. What accounts for this SWAPO dominance? After all, SWAPO’s growing authoritarian streak, its mounting corruption scandals and its poor record at governance should count against it at the polls.

SWAPO’s political dominance can be explained by three inter-related variables. First, is demographics. 50 per cent of the population are Oshivambo speakers. These make up 90 per cent of SWAPO’s core supporters. This makes SWAPO one of the most ethnically based political parties on the continent. Second, and a concomitant of this, is that most of the other opposition political parties are also ethnically based but their respective population groups are in single digits, thereby preventing them from mass political mobilization in the same way that SWAPO can with the Oshivambo. Unless political parties can mobilize on political platforms other than ethnicity, they are bound to lose any future election. Third, SWAPO makes use of its vast patronage network – its parasitic relationship with the Namibian state – to co-opt critics and rewards sycophants.
Whilst SWAPO has won these polls, ordinary Namibians are the losers in the long run.

From 'Bethani' to Lindela: The Plight of Malawian Migrants in South Africa

by Harvey C.C. Banda

International migration of unskilled and semi-skilled labourers between Malawi and South Africa is a century-old phenomenon. In fact, for a long time on the one hand countries like South Africa and Botswana have been dubbed labour-receiving countries because of their strong economies. On the other hand, countries like Malawi, Mozambique, Lesotho and, of late, Zimbabwe are labour-supplying countries because of their faltering economies.

In this article, I reflect on the plight of Malawian ‘illegal migrants’ in South Africa in the wake of a recent South African court ruling regarding the treatment of detainees by Lindela Repatriation Centre. I argue that in spite of the High Court order in South Africa, the detainees’ constitutional rights will, in practice, continue being trampled upon. In my view, this is because the detention and consequent deportations are expected to deter repetition and to ward off potential illegal entrants.

Asylum seekers queue at Dept. Home Affairs (Photo: UNHCR)

For quite some time Malawian migrants have dominated the numbers of immigrants entering South Africa for purposes of taking up wage employment. This was particularly the case during the hey-days of mine migrancy up to the late 1980s. Alongside contract migration to the mines, a large number of migrants entered South Africa clandestinely, as ‘border jumpers’. The latter were categorized as illegal migrants since they entered South Africa without requisite documentation – travel passes and other identity documents.

However, towards the end of the 1980s and the early 1990s, mine migrancy entered a decline partly as a result of the process of internalization or localization in which the South African government preferred engaging South African nationals in the mines. In the case of Malawian migrants, specifically, as most people might be aware, the popular HIV/AIDS scourge debate between the South African and Malawian governments also played a significant role.

In the period up to the 1980s, all illegal migrants in South Africa captured by the police were sent in droves to work in farm prisons, one of which was the famous ‘Bethani’ prison. Most former Malawian migrants who once worked in such prisons have fond memories of the suffering and torture that they experienced, hence the popular ‘Bethani stories’. For instance, captives were forced to dig Irish potatoes using their bare hands.

Since the early 1990s a new wave of labour migration replaced mine migrancy: informal migration. Since then different categories of both men and women are involved in the migration process. What is also different is the fact that almost all informal migrants during the contemporary period enter South Africa with valid documentation in the name of passports. In this case, they enter South Africa as legal migrants. However, they are only allowed to stay for a specified period, for instance, thirty days. Since they purportedly go to South Africa to secure wage employment (i.e. fewer numbers enter South Africa for business purposes), they end up overstaying upon which they become ‘illegal migrants’ hunted down by police authorities.
With expired visas, they are arrested and sent to Lindela Repatriation Centre awaiting deportation. As can be depicted here, their illegal status is actually acquired during their stay in South Africa and not necessarily upon entry, as alluded to by the Malawi Human Rights Commission executive director, Grace Malera, in the media recently.

In my view, the Lindela sufferings nowadays are reminiscent of the ‘Bethani stories’ in the old days since captives have no room whatsoever to collect their property including monetary savings ahead of deportation. There have been reports of human rights violations of detainees at Lindela including deprivation of medical care. The situation is bound to continue in view of the xenophobic feelings of South Africans towards foreign migrants who, in their words, ‘steal jobs’ rendering nationals jobless.

Having seen deportees, locally called ‘madipoti’, looking frail and sickly alighting from ‘cargo planes’ from South Africa, and who have left behind hard-earned possessions in South Africa, it is not surprising to find some of the migrants resort to any number of means, including traditional medicinal beliefs, in an effort to avoid such Lindela sufferings and eventual deportations.