Greasing up the Slippery Slide


By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
Field A_2010_07_29_0436_250x375pxZimbabwe’s elections have come and gone. We all know the results and most will agree that they yielded more than a few surprises; within both party camps. Something is just not right and all the analysts worth their salt are struggling to come to terms with what really happened; and just how sweeping is the victory. Few are discussing the consequences. Clearly the election was over-rigged creating skews where they should never exist, but some will suggest that the losing side were really caught on the back foot by a cunning, methodical and experienced old fox.

The sham is not so much the fact that the winning party usurped the vote, but rather that a now grumbling opposition is found so badly wanting. They were outmanoeuvred or outclassed in more ways than one. Principally, it was abundantly clear to the wider audience that supposed reforms were needed before any fair election could ever take place.

To venture into an election without these reforms was political suicide, and they were warned. The now ruling party had absolute and utter control over the electoral process. This provided the necessarily biased infrastructure needed for the winning party to manipulate to its heart’s content; from voter registration, through to organisation and the count.

The platform had thus been set for biased maladministration. It ensured that those contesting were denied sight of the voter’s roll. Voter registration and roll manipulation are considered the core of the vote scam and no bias could be determined before voting began.

Both disenfranchisement and false enfranchisement (duplicated, deceased and centenarian voters) saw to it that the opposing parties could never achieve an outright majority save for securing a few party strongholds. Voter registration in rural areas amounted to 99.97 percent of eligible voters (compared with 2012 national census figures). That is an incredible feat in itself!

The campaign saw contesting parties denied access to National media, petty attempts to prevent opposition rallies being held, and even refused real access by one party to the other party’s strongholds. The thuggery was absent. It was going to be a peaceful election, but while the thugs were reined in, seemingly, the fraudsters were released with a vengeance; scheming and planning to scoop power back to the “liberation” party.

Some say the MDC formations did not smell the rat, yet everyone was pointing to where it lay festering. Instead they were quaffing the sweet fragrance of victory and indeed relishing in their false sense of triumph. Never underestimate the enemy in African politics.

On the day, many legitimate voters were denied the vote and sent away from polling stations, mostly in opposing party, urban strongholds. There was a heavy and unprecedented incidence of assisted voting, for alleged illiterates in Africa’s most literate nation. And then there was the bussing; the movement of youths in large numbers to vote in several locations; false voter registration slips and all the trimmings of the rook. Finally, there was outright denial of results being broadcast from individual polling stations, lest this exposed the eventual swindle.

Apart from a few party die-hards, everyone is saying that the vote was rigged… the kleptocracy has successfully enforced its will upon the people. Those who believe otherwise are rather slow on the uptake. Even ZANU(PF) are worried that perhaps it was over-rigged by all the tell tale signs now being exposed! Did they really expect to win in the territory of the Gukurahundi massacres? They did. The winning party announced very early in its campaign that they would achieve as much as 90 percent of the poll with some degree of confidence. Did they know something then that bolstered their confidence? Whatever, they achieved a devastating defeat of the would-be aspirants.

Early post election whimpers for a regime of passive resistance were just not going to hold water. Those people who would perhaps care were disoriented and shocked with the poll outcome. A sense of being let down by their own permeated and suddenly the knives were being drawn, not for the wicked kleptocrats, but for those who led them to defeat.

There is a to and fro of opinion as to whether the MDC-T should take up their seats. It is a case of condemning the election, yet taking up the resultant parliamentary seats. Not many among the party faithful are sticking their heads above the parapet just yet… so just how does one expect the people, the man in the street, to cast the first stone of passive resistance? Politicians seem to be leading from the rear here and clearly they have not strategized to the optimum. The storm troops are waiting for any resistance.

Election observer parties from the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) see the election as free and fair and their judgement will not be reserved for long. In contrast the non-partisan Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) is exposing the poll for what it really was. It is perhaps a foregone conclusion that the submissions to the Constitutional Court will fail. Can Zimbabweans presume a different outcome from what many consider to be partisan courts? They are yet to hand down judgements to earlier election contests. There are those who hold hope despite the odds.

Thus the issue for many is not whether opposition will upset the apple cart through the Constitutional Court; whether the AU and SADC yield to the reality of it all and call for a new round; or perhaps what happens within the losing party’s senior ranks; but rather how the winning party is going to measure up to its election manifesto. More critically for some is the scale by which it handles the selective xenophobia, resource nationalisation and outright racism by its far right.

Nobody can come to grips with the fact that Zimbabweans, by hook or by crook, have brought back into power a party which has bad economic form. It has a track record for destruction; self enrichment and gross patronage of the ‘chefs’. The markets responded negatively within hours of electoral results. There was even a run on the banks. The prognosis is not good. This seems to suggest that Zimbabweans may have been prostituted at the polls and they have inadvertently greased up the slippery slide once more.

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Once More Unto the Breach


By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
Flickr_Andrew_XIThere comes a time when the ideals of a past revolution become a terrible wart on the face of democracy, as mythical as this can be in Africa. That time arrived in Zimbabwe well over a decade ago. The wart has grown bigger. It is uglier now as it erupts and oozes its vile liberation muck, but people have become used to that; having been sucked into its propaganda vortex. Or so it would seem, as we venture into yet another round of nuttiness, which we refer to as elections.

Print, electronic and social media is abuzz with commentary, opinion and sometimes even satirical retort about the forthcoming poll. People set aside their inhibitions and take courage in the narrow window of seeming freedom offered at this time, yet there remains an air of suppression, an uncanny, determined focus, and a yet stronger will by some to retain power, come whatever cost. And we are sure this is not the will of the people.

There is no pulling out the stops now. Conceivably, every trick in the book will be used to ensure our erstwhile revolutionaries retain their power. It is their right, so it would seem, and thus irrevocably due to them. So who dare challenge the status quo and why the folly of elections? Well, in effect, ‘democratic’ elections are done merely to pull the wool over the eyes of otherwise gullible democracies who preach condescendingly of their free values. Africa is challenged by democracy.

So, once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more. What evil schemes will erupt , ooze and spoil genuine choice? The Presidential Decree for an early election will most certainly have placed the opposition on its back feet, despite the paper tiger, SADC, calling for extensions in time. Zimbabwe’s Courts put the finger up to SADC.

Such prolongations were critical to ensure proper voter registration for a start, not to mention amendment to electoral legislation and other critical reforms. Millions of first time voters, the young people of Zimbabwe, and aliens will have been disenfranchised; fundamentally, sectors of the community which would reap positively for the opposition.

A more sinister aspect of the call for an early election was that of a poll before security sector reforms, supposedly to ensure a free and fair election, if ever that can happen in Africa. Such reforms are foremost at the heart of the opposition, for there is little doubt about the patronage and support of the Generals for the old school revolutionaries. The military are expected to play a rather biased role in covert campaigning for the liberation party. Should they fail in that objective, there is mooted suggestion of coup!

The mechanics of what one can only describe as a half cocked and shambolic voter registration abound with yet more suspicion of evil being done. This is considered the base of the rigging yet to come. Voter roll transparency has been all but forbidden in what appears to be an obvious agenda, following an interdict against a local research company.

The xenophobic machinations of the liberation party were never present when employing a foreign company, of apparently dubious repute, to handle aspects of voter registration, and who stand accused of tampering with the lists. The company is said to have ‘form’ for Zambian voter roll manipulations, but deny local involvement in the election process. Several impartial Zimbabwean firms could have qualified for the task; so much for indigenisation.

Was there trickery too in the just run Special Election vote for members of the security forces? A special vote is offered for those who, ostensibly, will be on duty on election day, and thus unable to vote. Really? Nevertheless, it could have been a revealing test of the waters of security force sympathies or otherwise, were the exercise not bungled. The opposition were quick to smell a rat when 69,000 police officers applied for the special vote, almost double the Treasury payroll figures.

The initiative turned out to be a shambles with the ZEC shooting itself in the foot by failing to deliver ballot papers, especially in those areas where the vote would clearly have fallen, perhaps, in opposition favour. Now it is suggested special vote candidates may be able to vote again, despite laws to the contrary. Such chicanery we are used to.

Now the question arises, will the expected chaos (a prognosis based on the Special Vote exercise) prevail in the main election of 6 million participants, and thus be the veil under which a rigging exercise can take place? The general modus operandi will be to deny marginal areas voting papers and slow down the process. We have seen it all before, can we now expect an honest poll?

One may get the impression that perhaps in the final analysis things are going to be skewed. The opposition pacts are already chirping ‘foul play’ as if their fate is sealed. This makes for an interesting study in opposition strategy. There is none. Memories are just so short.

While there are chasms that divide the two MDC parties, their unity or pre-election coalitions could only improve their odds. Their origins are born out of the same philosophies; they both want change in governance; and they share many common issues and agendas, although Welshman Ncube may deny this. It seems very peculiar that they just cannot seem to come together to break the hegemony. The point is that in the final analysis one of the opposition parties may well have to make up a coalition government. Will this be with the other MDC or with blood on their hands?

If the incumbent* liberation party is the popular choice of the people, then this scenario is simply academic. But the general consensus is that this is not the case. People want change, yet those who could potentially deliver such change, in one fell swoop, seem incapable of engineering the platform to achieve this.

Zimbabwe is predictable in its unpredictability and perhaps the sway of the vote will fall into opposition hands. Given the natural tribal patronage overlay, the urban versus rural vote swing, the enlightened opposition versus dogmatic loyal peasant support, much is actually predicable.

Clearly, the odds are against opposition success, if the vote has been or it is intended to be rigged, and we should remember the history here. This situation can only give rise to run-offs or, worse still, absolute defeat of a split opposition. The opposition boycotted the last run-off: an own goal much to their peril. Will one or other opposition party be strong enough to take victory? Time only will tell, but the uncertainly could surely have been turned into certainty with a few commitments and a simple shake of hands.

* incumbent in so far as it holds sway in critical Government Ministries

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Corrupt States: Outcome Choices – Democracy or Revolution


By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
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One may ask, is there some correlation between democracy and corruption? It would seem there is.
Those countries with autocratic or ‘president for life’ dictatorships, or those that suffer democracy challenges, seem to have a higher ranking, for being lofty in their corruptness, than those with more stable democracies. The recently released Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perceptions Index for 2010 appears to suggest this when compared with other indices.

It is common purpose for lesser free nations to impose extreme controls to sustain their autocratic rule, and this depends upon an array of punitive legislation; a strong securotocracy of partisan service chiefs; systems of patronage, where Peter is robbed to pay Paul, in other words, the party faithful; and a generally kleptocratic ethos, opening up the stratagem for filthy corruption. Sound familiar? Zimbabwe is no stranger to this and is certainly no alien to its poor ranking on the corruption scales.

Zimbabwe, which was ranked joint 154th (with 11 other nations), of the 182 countries surveyed, joins a few other countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa region with similar poor ranking and likewise dodgy democracy records. Within the SADC region Zimbabwe is brought together with two others at the bottom of the corruption cesspool, Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The top three (least corrupt) in SADC are Botswana, Mauritius and the Seychelles (Namibia and South Africa follow, regionally, in 4th and 5th place respectively).

If one looks at the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Democracy Index rankings… there is a striking resemblance in their rankings, give or take a few juxtaposed grades and one major exception. Swaziland ranks highly amongst least corrupt, but is rated low on the democracy rankings; synonymous with its monarchic plutocracy, perhaps. Despite this, generally, rank correlation between democracy and corruption is distinctly apparent.

The EIU index places Zimbabwe, Angola and the DRC at the bottom of the SADC democracy standings, while Botswana and Mauritius are top ranking (most democratic) SADC nations (the Seychelles seems not to have been surveyed by the EIU). Here of course is another exception, the Seychelles has strayed from democracy in recent years and perhaps it is only time before the corruption sets in there; if the supposition is correct.

If this hypothesis is anywhere near decent, then, clearly, the solutions to Zimbabwe’s corruption lay with re-democratization of the nation. The people seem to want this, but are far from ready to demonstrate their will. Some years back, Zimbabwe was actually ranked 65th in the TI rankings. This is when the economy was faring reasonably well and the then popular party was getting its own way in power sustenance. There were no threats against the king. Perhaps the corruption ranking was skewed.

Then, about came change…the politicians went and spoiled it all. There was popular resistance to constitution change, which would have entrenched the Mugabe regime; then mindless forays into the DRC to fight another dictator’s squabbles; land seizures, theft and gluttony; denial of freedoms; suppression of transparency; explosion of inflation and consummate hunger; and now indigenisation; and some even say a military coup by proxy.

The people began to resist autocratic leadership and from there on it has been a slide down the slippery slope of political self indulgence, benefiting only the kleptocracy and its patronised bureaucracy. Zimbabwe skidded to its worst on record corruption ranking in 2009 become the 11th most corrupt nation of 180 countries surveyed. All that in just 10 short years, the root cause being simply to sustain a single individual in power, so they say; with his lackey coterie reaping the trappings of his protectionism and patronage. The once popular party now has some of the wealthiest politicians; one has to presume, being the product of lousy, edacious graft.

Some may take heart that Zimbabwe has actually climbed the rankings in 2010. Can we say this is probably the prize of a Government of National Unity (GNU), with ‘new kids’ on the block? Well perhaps not. It does not seem that those ‘new kids’ will be any different. There is a growing cynicism, a new mood, which suggests any new broom, brought about by greater democracy, may not sweep quite as clean as it should. This goes against the theory.

More recently people have been pointing at the nation’s pro-democracy Prime Minister and his apparently scandalous personal affairs presently in the public domain. This is sad and consequently issues of trust are now being raised, personal failures translate to susceptibilities elsewhere. Add to this Zimbabwe’s recent, wealthiest in the World, discovery of diamonds, and one might surmise, unfairly perhaps, that the scales will tip even further down the corruption order, no matter how democratic the nation becomes.

This should be troublesome indeed for Zimbabwe’s new breed of politicians, while the older ones look over their shoulders. The race here must be who gets to the post first, true democracy or the powder keg of violent revolution. We should draw from the fact that famine may purge southern Africa in the months ahead… if we are to believe this, then Zimbabwe could well run short of food, a clear melting pot for dissent. North Africa chose violent revolution, and while the parallels are few; corruption, personal and political self indulgence were core causes. In those primers there are parallels aplenty for Zimbabwe.

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Southern Africa’s SADC Under the Spotlight


By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
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The Southern African Development Community (SADC), comprising 15 member states, convenes an extraordinary summit in Sandton, South Africa on 11 June, principally to discuss the extension of free trade
between itself and larger counterparts, the East African Community (EAC) and the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA). On the sidelines of this conference, two of SADC’s reprobate siblings, Madagascar and Zimbabwe, will draw the greater media focus in the face new criticisms of SADC for its manifest apathy in dealing with regional crisis.

There are few parallels between Madagascar and Zimbabwe, and these are tenuous. The single common denominator bringing them to SADC’s tending are issues of governance and the right of their peoples to choose political leaders in free and fair elections, being devoid of violence and intimidation. Madagascar suffered a transfer of power to opposition leader, Andy Rajoelina, who headed up an imposed High Transitional Authority in what was tantamount to a military coup. Following lengthy negotiations, SADC recently bungled by approving a ‘road-map’ intended to return the nation to democracy, which the entire Madagascan opposition had instantly rejected. The people are not liberated.

Zimbabwe is the bigger headache for SADC. Surprisingly, President Jacob Zuma of South Africa demonstrated his increasing impatience with Zimbabwe’s failure to implement resolutions to save a shaky Global Political Agreement (GPA). Politically, Zimbabwe’s Government of National Unity (GNU) is decaying. The problem is, nobody knows how genuine, or indeed impartial, Zuma is, especially behind closed doors. An apparent increase in levels of political violence and intimidation, ahead of elections, for which no date has even been set, the seeming militarization of politics by one contender party, and the polarization of the parties to the GPA are cause for concern. Yet SADC’s professed disquiet with Zimbabwe is not being matched with commensurate action or pressure. There is certainly no urgency and the people are not liberated.

This is, perhaps, not surprising. SADC has long been regarded as a toothless bulldog. It has unresolved issues concerning its ineffective secretariat, which lacks both political and administrative infusion from the club’s regional powerhouse, South Africa. Its objectives were once that of a political liberator in southern Africa. Added to this, the very concept that this old nationalist liberators’ club, might ever confront one of its own, indeed face up to Africa’s most upheld liberation revolutionary, showers water on fuming discontent in some parts of the region. Zuma’s ANC government, charged with structuring the election ‘road-map’ in Zimbabwe, is hardly likely tip the scales and topple a crony liberation party, thus exacerbating a rather disturbing trend.

Astonishingly, the Community has already suspended its SADC Tribunal, a regional law court, in the wake of its judgements made against the Zimbabwean government on land issues brought before it. The Tribunal had ruled that land reform in Zimbabwe was racist and illegal. Zimbabwe ignored the judgement and facilitated the suspension. Many are now crying foul. Their loss of recourse to regional law establishments, such as the SADC Tribunal, for protection against human rights abuses, leaves the victims of bad governance vulnerable to no justice or seeking refuge off-shore in foreign courts. This is a huge blow for democracy.

Now, opposition parties in Zimbabwe, which may well agree on an election road-map at the summit, still have serious contending issues. In particular, the essential need for security sector reform. Zimbabwe’s military and police service are considered to be fiercely loyal to Robert Mugabe and his former ruling party, which are clambering to retain power as Zimbabwe’s one and only liberator. Many believe the security forces are simply a party political militia, which cannot respect a constitution for all people. Clearly, without such reform, any election road-map will be critically damaged, before the first steps are taken.

SADC needs to take stock of its obligations to the people of southern Africa when faced with crisis in one nation or another. It needs to understand the requirement for impartiality and get over the liberation culture that appears to have ingratiated itself within. Southern Africa has golden opportunities at its doorstep, yet, like the rest of Africa, it seems destined for the slippery slope of internecine squabbles, economic demise and destruction in the deep waters of just too much politics. Without active and assertive regional leadership, empathy and simple common sense within SADC, North African styled revolutions may easily fester in the south.

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Two Faced Short Arm of Justice


By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
Flickr_Andrew_XIThe breaking news yesterday was all about the arrest of Ratko Mladic, the once high ranking Bosnian war crimes suspect. He is accused of the massacre of nearly 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica, amongst other heinous crimes. Europeans have been at the forefront of the hunt for Mladic and will no doubt expedite his extradition to The Hague for trial and due process. The world will be a better place.

Well, not quite. Mysteriously, those same Europeans, who relentlessly pursued this notorious war criminal, were busy protecting yet another reprehensible felon and human rights villain in securing his asylum in the United Kingdom under the European Human Rights Convention. Justice David Archer, so gullibly, accepted that a former Zimbabwean intelligence agent and self confessed torturer, come political murderer, would be in danger if not given asylum and compelled to return to his home land.

This is not only ludicrous to the core, but a potentially large obstacle to human rights justice. One wonders what Justice Archer’s ruling would be in the case of on an extradition to Zimbabwe of an accused person for crimes against humanity and murder. Bearing in mind that Zimbabwe still has, and may impose, the death penalty for such crimes as murder and rape, would the learned judge uphold the extradition? Perhaps not. Simply, the offender would be in danger of losing his life. Thus justice would never be done.

The point is that one day, and many hope in the not too distant future, Zimbabwe may well see regime change, despite the denials and pathetic complicity of SADC leaders supporting and upholding a now unpopular elements of the current regime. Such are the trials and tribulations of Africa, all is fair in African politics, including, apparently, the massacre of innocent civilians and political opponents, or at least those perceived to be.

What the Europeans are saying is reprieve those who should face justice in Africa, for their lives might be in danger. This is a little ripe, when NATO forces are pounding Libyan shores intent on the life destruction of Muammar Gaddafi, who, ironically and somewhat sick humorously, is being indicted for war crimes, if he survives.

Referring to Mladic’s arrest, Prime Minister David Cameron is quoted as saying,

“This should send a signal to all war criminals everywhere. In the end we will get you.”

Well Zimbabweans are certainly receiving mixed messages here. Some feel that certain people should answer to alleged crimes against humanity perpetrated in Zimbabwe, including the massacre of some 20,000 people in Matabeleland and, more recently, the dastardly acts of wonton murder and torture again opposition politicians.  Yet there can be no justice if there is any danger to the accused.  Many wonder if justice will ever be seen to be done. One cannot help feeling that certain Africa leaders are sniggering with mirth in their palatial corridors, rather than taking heed of the Britannic leader’s threats.  They know they are protected from facing the wrath for their gross violations.