30 August, 2016

The End of the Road for the Mugabe Regime?

by Hussein Solomon

2016 might well be the year which marks the end of Mugabe’s authoritarian regime. The portents do not look good for the world’s oldest president, Robert Mugabe, who at 92 has misruled his country for 36 years. A number of factors have come together to form a perfect storm around his tottering government. First, the Zimbabwean economy is fast running out of cash. In past economic crises Mugabe and his cronies were bailed out by the International Monetary Fund and the Chinese. Given the ongoing mismanagement of the economy and institutionalized corruption, there are no international actors who are likely to assist him this time. One indicator of this economic meltdown was that on 26 July the daily volume on Harare’s stock exchange plummeted to US $105, from US $1 million at its peak.

President Robert Mugabe (Photo: GCIS)

Without money, the ruling ZANU-PF’s patronage networks are crumbling with normally loyal allies turning against the leadership. Earlier this year a group of influential war veterans attacked Mugabe’s “dictatorial tendencies”. The cash crunch has also resulted in the government’s inability to pay the salaries of its bloated civil servants. Elements in the security services are already threatening to join protestors should their full salaries not be made timeously. In an effort to maintain their control given the threat from the security services, ZANU-PF said it will deploy its youth wing to crush any protests. However, following last week’s protests, ZANU-PF’s Youth League could only muster 500 of its members and were compelled to shelve their plans to crush political dissenters.

The ongoing drought has also added further impetus to the economic crisis. Four million Zimbabweans currently have insufficient food. This too has strategic significance. Over the past two decades, ZANU-PF has lost the support of its urban cities with the rural areas becoming the stronghold of the ruling party. Given the lack of assistance from the government in responding to the drought, there are indications that dissatisfaction against Mugabe’s rule is also spreading to the countryside.

The urban opposition meanwhile is more united than ever. At the end of August leaders of 18 opposition parties, including a former prime minister, vice president and finance minister, met to forge a coalition against Mugabe’s ZANU-PF. These are further supported by civil society groupings such as Tajamuka and #ThisFlag. Last week’s demonstrations were among some of the biggest in the country with security forces being overwhelmed by protestors and being forced to retreat. The fact that the peaceful protests were given the green light by Zimbabwe’s High Court to go ahead and that despite this the police brutally attempted to crush the protestors demanding urgent electoral reforms ahead of the 2018 poll particularly riled demonstrators. The mood amongst demonstrators was uncompromising, “Beat us all you want, but we shall not yield”, they defiantly roared on the streets of Harare.

To compound matters for Mugabe, his own party is deeply divided. One faction is led by his wife Grace who sees herself as Mugabe’s natural successor and is supported by Higher Education Minister Jonathan Moyo and Local Government Minister Saviour Kasukuwere. Another faction is led by Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa who commands the support of the security services.

As Zimbabwe burns, as UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon expresses his concern, the rapidly deteriorating situation in the country does not attract the attention of either the African Union or the Southern African Development Community.

11 August, 2016

Lesotho: Dilemmas of a Coalition System of Governance

by M. K. Mahlakeng

Since 2012, Lesotho has been characterized by coalition systems of governance. Post 26 May 2012 elections, Lesotho witnessed its first ever coalition government. This pact comprised of 3 political parties i.e. the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Basotho National Party (BNP) and Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD). This coalition government collapsed after only 2 years in office as a result of poor leadership, and tensions and misunderstandings that occurred between coalition partners (especially between the ABC and LCD). This collapse of government led to the 28 February general snap elections which resulted in a second coalition government comprising of 7 parties, i.e. the Democratic Congress (DC), Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP), Basotho Congress Party (BCP), National Independent Party (NIP), Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC) and Popular Front for Democracy (PFD).

Coalition governments are political pacts formed in times of crisis in which it becomes evident that a certain action cannot be achieved and/or avoided by working separately. Moreover, coalition governments are a result of splinter parties and/or groups that affect the possibility of one party claiming total majority in elections subsequently forming a government on its own.

Inauguration of PM Mosisili, 2015 (Photo: DoC)

Coalition governments have their own strengths and challenging weaknesses. What is advantageous for coalition governments is that, having to share mandate leads to broader representation and greater scrutiny of policy-making. However, disadvantageous to this form of governance is the conflict that may occur due to conflicting ideologies leading to policy standstills thus affecting the stability and functioning of government. One complex and detrimental issue in coalition governments is dependency which subsequently creates a “one size fits all” way of life, meaning “your problems and worries become my problems and worries”. This disadvantageous dilemma is true for Lesotho as it was evident in the collapse of the 2012 coalition government, and has resurfaced to challenge the current coalition government.

The major partner in the current political pact (i.e. the DC), is faced with issues threatening the stability of the party itself and of the government as a whole. The issue that is currently accumulating pressure on the stability of the party and government is central to the leadership of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili and his grip to power. Despite his grip to power resulting in infightings in his party, however, the PM has shown little signs of relinquishing power, a common notion across the African continent. Undoubtedly, his display of arrogance emanates from him being more than a decade in power. Mosisili has been a PM for 14 years (as the then leader of LCD before its split in early 2012 leading to the formation of the DC) from May 1998 to June 2012 before his defeat to the ABC-led coalition government. It is however important to note that, what has also added to his long stay in power is the ineffectiveness of his deputies (starting in the LCD and now in the DC), at the face of endorsement by a majority of party members, to stand out and outright contest the position of leadership.

His grip on power has resulted in vicious factions within the party mainly characterised by succession quarrels. On the one hand, one grouping has made calls for him to step down opting for his deputy in the DC, Monyane Moleleki, to be his successor. While on the other hand, another group is standing firmly behind him. This infighting, although not intensely evident at the moment, places immense pressure on the stability of the DC, but more importantly, on the stability of the governing coalition. Having led two governments to-date, it is easy to argue that he can become a key source of advice to the administration of his party and of government even after his resignation.

One thing is certain. With his continued arrogance, he will face a motion of no-confidence in his party resulting into a political marginalization of him and his loyalists thus affecting, among others, patronage. What is left to be seen however, is whether he will attempt to split once again from the DC, one usual stunt in Lesotho and one of his common traits perhaps inherited from the former PM Ntsu Mokhehle. For instance, in 1997 Ntsu Mokhehle, founder and leader of the BCP since 1952, initiated a split from the BCP, facing pressure from within his party (this split resulted into the political turmoil that witnessed a fumbled South African-led intervention in 1998 commonly known as “Operation Boleas”), thus leading to the formation of the LCD. Mosisili later took the leadership role of the LCD and similarly split from the LCD in 2012 to form the DC also facing pressure from within the LCD. This clearly overrides the illusion that individuals are loyal to their parties to a point of accepting defeat. However, if a split should be the case, then the current governing coalition won’t see the light of day.

08 August, 2016

Local Elections…National Repercussions: A Brief Look at the 2016 South African Local Government Elections

by Willem Ellis

Like all other cities in South Africa (SA), my city Bloemfontein has been festooned with local government election banners and posters for the last few weeks. The faces of the leaders of political parties beaming down at us from lampposts with slogans promising us to trust them with transforming society; giving power to members of all communities; fighting for our rights; bringing economic freedom in our lifetime and one party that merely said…trust us!

The local government election circus of 2016 has come and (almost) gone and now the time for analysis has arrived. Commentators, academics, experts and fellow citizens will analyse the results to death – leaving no bone unpicked or statistic untouched. I know my students will ambush me for an opinion in our next class…so here is my penny’s worth of opinion. For me the election results are mostly about three parties and two issues.

Photo: HelenOnline

For the African National Congress (ANC) the election results must have been like a bucket of cold water in the face! For the 1st time since 1994 the party’s general support has waned below 60% of the national electorate (±54%). Its apparent loss (depending on ongoing coalition talks between all parties that has won seats) of the previously held Metropolitan Councils (metros) of Nelson Mandela Bay (centered around the city of Port Elizabeth in the ANC heartland of the Eastern Cape province); Tshwane (centered around the city of Pretoria, the administrative capital of SA) and Johannesburg (the economic hub of SA) is a staggering result for the ANC and an apparent loss of faith in the ruling party by the urban electorate. Yes, it might seems that the swing away from the ANC could have been influenced by voters staying away rather than voting for other parties in a form of protest (also against the scandals surrounding President Jacob Zuma), inclement weather or a ineffective election campaign marred by violence…but the votes have been counted and it seems the fat lady has sung!

The Democratic Alliance (DA) could be seen as major winners looking at its big gains in areas that had previously been dominated by the ANC. Not only has it retained its dominance of local councils in the Western Cape (including the metro of Cape Town) and Midvaal in Gauteng, but it has really put the cat amongst the pigeons with its support in (and possible future governance of) the metros mentioned above. Even though the ANC still dominates the local government scene, the DA has grown its support in most councils across the country. Its message centered on its clean record of governance in the Western Cape seems to have found fertile ground across the country. The challenge will now be about proving their political and governance mettle in new untested and possibly hostile local municipal and metropolitan areas. The jury on whether the DA has been able to really grow its support among the black electorate exponentially is still out, but it seems that especially among the urban black electorate its message is finding sympathetic ears.

And then the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF)! The new kid on the block as far as local government elections are concerned have not been able to capture a single municipality but its strong showing in all of the hotly contested metro’s mentioned above has given it the really enviable role of kingmakers when it comes to the formation of coalition governments. As this is being written, frantic coalition talks are ongoing all over SA and the EFF holds the key to most of them! Before and during the elections, the EFF has gone on record saying that they will not enter into coalitions with the ANC – but we all know the 14 days municipalities are given to form their councils after the declaration of final results can prove to be a very long time in politics!

The two issues that really interest me are the forming of the local coalition governments and the reaction of the ANC to the results of the elections. South Africa does not really have experience of coalition politics and it seems that parties with vastly differing ideological backgrounds and agendas (the DA and EFF comes to mind) are considering forming coalitions…an experiment that could be doomed for failure! Even though it is being said that local government is about service rendering and not ideology, getting rid of socialist, capitalist, nationalist or whatever baggage is never that easy! Local government in SA is in a precarious state and our citizens deserve clean, effective and accountable government and service rendering – not bickering politicians!

That leaves us with the ANC reaction to it all…will there be introspection and realignment as promised or will we see instability within the party with President Zuma using the opportunity to purge political opponents - especially in the Gauteng metros, a province where voices have been going up against him recently? Were the elections also a bit of a referendum on the state of national governance? Will the ANC allow itself to be governed by others or will we see instability being fomented in “new” opposition-controlled municipalities and metros?

The 2019 national elections are closer than we think and with everything to play for, the gloves will come off soon…very soon.

So now the banners and posters come down and our lives return to normal…if ever there will be a normal in South African politics again!

01 August, 2016

Mozambique: Echoes of War?

by Hussein Solomon

The conflict between Mozambique’s FRELIMO (Front for the Liberation of Mozambique) and RENAMO (National Mozambican Resistance) ended two decades ago. Its legacy, however, continue to haunt the country with more than 100,000 dead and more than a million refugees. That war ended in 1992 with the signing of a peace agreement which allowed the RENAMO leader, Afonso Dhlakama, to participate in the first multi-party elections in 1994.

The possibility of civil war, however, has resurfaced in recent years. Part of the reason for this simmering conflict lay in the sense of marginalization that RENAMO and its constituency feels. Whilst Mozambique is one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, much of the economic development is occurring in the south as opposed to the central and northern regions in which RENAMO is active. To exacerbate matters this regional split also reinforces other cleavages – specifically that of ethnicity. Whilst Shangaans largely reside in the south, ethnic Ndau inhabit the central and northern regions of the country. The recent discoveries of energy resources is also set to exacerbate the competition for a larger slice of the economic pie whilst the growing corruption within the ruling FRELIMO party in power since 1975 is also set to cause further antagonism against the party and its resultant patronage networks.

Afonso Dhlakama (Photo: Adrien Barbier)

There is also a sense of political marginalization acutely felt by Dhlakama who is being slowly pushed off the national stage by a younger generation of politicians – both FRELIMO and RENAMO. Dhlakama is an old-style African politician with a strong belief in the “Big Man” syndrome. He refuses to tolerate any challenge to his leadership. When RENAMO member Devisso Mango proved popular as mayoral candidate for Baira, Dhlakama tried to stop his election. Mango, exploited his popularity with a younger electorate, and then won as an independent under the banner of the Democratic Movement of Mozambique. Small wonder, then, that one of Dhlakama’s demands from FRELIMO is that he gets to appoint provincial governors in the central and northern regions.

All the blame is not to be laid at Dhlakama’s door, however. FRELIMO in power for more than 40 years is displaying ever greater arrogance, showing scant respect for the political opposition (not just RENAMO) or broader civil society. Far from attempting to affect a political compromise, for instance, greater autonomy of provinces, FRELIMO is attempting to consolidate power further. Unfortunately, for FRELIMO, its tough political stance does not match its military’s capabilities. FRELIMO’s aversion to political compromise is taking place at a time when the Mozambican armed forces is very weak. Under these circumstances, political tensions are mounting and spilling over into armed conflict.

On 12 and 25 September 2015, Dhlakama’s convoy was shot at twice. On 20 January 2016, RENAMO’s Secretary-General Manuel Bissopo was injured and his bodyguard killed in a drive-by shooting. After the two assassination attempts on his life, Dhlakama’s statements have become increasingly bellicose. For its part FRELIMO points out that Dhlakama’s speeches of capturing control over the six central and northern provinces – Manica, Sofala, Tete, Zambezia, Nampula and Niassa – threatens the territorial integrity and security of the state. FRELIMO also blames RENAMO gunmen for killing two people including a traditional chief in Sofala earlier this year as part of a concerted attempt to remove authorities loyal to Maputo in these provinces. With FRELIMO’s deployment of more soldiers into the central and northern provinces and clashes erupting between the belligerents, thousands of luckless residents have fled into neighouring Malawi.

Despite these ominous signs of impending conflict, there is little action from the regional body – the Southern African Development Community (SADC). But then again, should we be surprised? There was no action taken by SADC in Zimbabwe despite the economic and political meltdown in that country. Neither is there action on the part of SADC in Swaziland where a profligate King Mswati III continues to behave like a medieval feudal monarch whilst driving his country into economic ruin.