ANALYSIS & INTERVIEW
Judge Makoni on substance
The following is a transcript of SW Radio Africa's Lance Guma talk with respected Zimbabwean political commentator Brian Kagoro about Simba Makoni's move to challenge President Robert Mugabe in the March 29 elections:
Guma: I first asked Brian what he makes of Makoni’s entry into the political arena.
Kagoro: I think it's welcome. The more the merrier. Expressing the intention to stand in an election campaign is not the same as standing. Number two I think Zimbabwean politics had become very inflexible because it was a two-party horse race. The options even when the second parties, MDC split, the option of building alliance across the floor of the parliamentary house was often missed because there is a sense that we conduct our politics as though we are going to a beauty contest.
Guma: Ok, but a lot of people are suspicious Mr Kagoro mainly from the fact that Mr Makoni had a private meeting with Mr Mugabe two weeks ago in fact and no-one is privy to what was discussed during that meeting and a lot of people are throwing accusations that Makoni is a spoiler and is there to take away the urban vote.
Kagoro: There is a huge assumption that that urban vote would go to somewhere. The reality with this election, those of us who are trying to monitor it scientifically, is that many urban voters are not happy with the ruling party, they are unhappy with the opposition, if you just look at the e-mail trail of the responses to the failure by the two factions of the MDC to unite…there was no guarantee that that urban vote will go to the MDC. So this approach to the elections in a very unscientific and speculative way is worrisome.
But the reality though is whether or not he is a spoiler. It's not guaranteed that urban Zimbabweans are so gullible that they will just, without hearing what he has to offer, vote his way. I think those people who are expressing this are those people who fear for the leadership credentials of one leader or the other.
I think people should welcome Makoni as competition, whether it’s competition as proxy, as a proxy of Mugabe, or as independent competition. And also there is a real likelihood if they had that private meeting perhaps it was a private meeting at which they failed to agree as happened to Jonathan Moyo before he was ultimately fired, perhaps it is a private meeting at which they agreed to disagree.
So in a sense, the leadership mantle of Zimbabwe does not rest in Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara and Robert Mugabe only. As many Zimbabweans should take the bold step to volunteer to lead their country whether they be in Zanu, in MDC or presently not affiliated to any political party. I think for those of us who genuinely are concerned about Zimbabwe moving forward we welcome this pitch, what we should be hearing is people in MDC or in Zanu saying, well, let’s form alliances, we need a broader, strategic alliance to dislodge the present dictatorship.
Guma: Now, in terms of the actual dynamics of Makoni’s entry is it not problematic for him that he does not lead any particular party and he is presenting himself as an independent candidate, how do you see him getting over this obstacle as some would call it.
Kagoro: It’s not new in African politics, not to have a party, whether pre or post election. You remember the Malawian guy, who went in under the ticket of the ruling party, woke up, decided he was unhappy with it and suddenly a lot of Malawians thought oh Bingu wa Mutharika will be out because he has no political party. The guy in Kenya, the President in Kenya, until a few weeks before the election did not have a political party until a loose coalition was put together for him called the Party of National Unity.
I am not alarmed; maybe perhaps I have observed elections across Africa, where we have seen this highly unlikely. It’s candidates who think that they can attract voters from across the party lines, voters…they think that there is the equivalent, or what you would hear referred to as the swing voter, the undecided voter who is unhappy with the status quo and perhaps unhappy with what the opposition has to offer but who still wants change. And frankly, there is no requirement that he should lead a political party.
Guma: OK, ok, he made his announcement 52 days before the poll; some are also pointing that out as a problem, a leader who comes at the 11th hour and says I offer my services. Is that a problem do you think?
Kagoro: People are very petty. The MDC was formed nine months before the 2000 election. That did not mean that prior to the nine months, September of 1999…huge consultation! So it may very well be that his claim that he has been in extensive consultations is genuine, that there are people he has been in consultation with, people who will ultimately come out in the open and say they back him. He is not a new face, so it’s not new leadership offering itself.
I think we should be asking more substantive questions, not questions about timing, not questions about whether or not he is a proxy for Zanu but questions about whether or not does this man, by way of leadership, by way of national appeal, have anything to offer. If he doesn’t, let’s rest assured the voters will reject him for being decadent. If he does…(interrupted).
Guma: A lot of people Brian are worried about his motives. Some are pointing to the fact that he was barred from challenging Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa and that the only reason he has decided to go for the presidency is that he has been frustrated in that particular arena. What would you say then about his motive, is he bitter because he couldn’t contest for a parliamentary seat?
Kagoro: Frankly Lance, take the Mutambara faction for example. There could be very many reasons why it emerged. Zanu itself was faction out of Zapu. If we dismissed or accepted or judged parties purely on account of motive of formation…politics is not a (inaudible word) game, it is not a game played by people dressed in white. Politics by its very nature has many curious motivations, and motives. I think we should stop using NGO judgment of things to judge politicians. All politicians, including the ones we like, are by their very nature decadent; by their very nature dishonest to a certain extent; by their very nature motivated by a simple thing called power. The business of politics is the conquest and retention of political power, there are never any pure motives.
The question we should then ask if we accept that most politicians are motivated, mostly, by the need to conquer and retain power, is which of these are we able to contain; which of these are we able to align with; which of these in terms of their political persuasion, their ideological persuasion are we able to work with. We should be dismissing Simba Makoni or accepting him on the basis of his ideological persuasion.
It would be a blessing to the opposition if there is someone who is so disaffected in Zanu, either by Zanu’s politics of exclusion, its undemocraticness, who decides because of frustration as Edgar Tekere prior to Makoni did, that he is walking out. Nobody asked the question: Is Edgar really a democrat, or simply forming a party because he was kicked out? Take Margaret Dongo who was the mother of opposition politics as we know it now, Margaret didn’t voluntarily walk out of Zanu PF. Margaret was squeezed, even up to the last hour she was trying to prove that she is Zanu, and when Zanu spit her, she was forced to form the opposition which set path for the formation of latter oppositions.
In my view I think the country will consume its time on useless debates, we should get into the core of the matter. Is this next election going to be an election of issues or on issues, if so what are the issues? Otherwise these personality discussions, motivation discussions…frankly politicians are not priests, they are not saints and one is unlikely to find a saint in that game. So the best we can hope for is rational, logical or at least people who have solutions and ideas to take our country out of its present morass.
Guma: Now some are saying if we work on the premise that for Zimbabwe to get out of the current mess, Mugabe has to go. Now someone will say the current situation has four serious candidates to talk about, and that having this many candidates will benefit Mugabe. Do you agree with that?
Kagoro: Frankly there are only two candidates in this election: change or Mugabe. And it is up to those who say they represent change to ask themselves whether they are serious. If they are serious, they will negotiate beyond their egos. It’s not the number of candidates, it’s the size of the egos of Tsvangirai, even Makoni and Mutambara that has become a problem.
Why they cannot unite around a single presidential candidate beats me. Why they cannot get to a stage where they agree around a system, like the Kenyans did, with all the problems the Kenyans have had afterwards and did have before, on a system of fielding candidates such that they maximise on the number of seats they win beats me. So it seems to me that we are in danger of even the change movement being made up of status quo people, people who are happy with the mess that we are in because they are not willing to do anymore about it than defend their egos, defend their personality cults and their differences.
Guma: But the problem Brian is who steps aside for who? That is the problem. Who has the right to ask so and so to step down in favour of someone else?
Kagoro: It’s not a right. I think that it’s a simple question: which of the three is most likely to carry the voters that you need to defeat Mugabe? That’s number one. Number two, what then becomes structurally the accommodation for the other two? As I said they are motivated by the pursuit of and conquest of power. I think that it’s no magic if they asked for independent opinion at this hour, if you even did a polling survey, if you did a scientific poll that says which of these candidates is likely to be the best man to stand against Mugabe in terms of policy, in terms of articulation and in terms of wide appeal. We could get to a place where we say our top two are these. Even if we tossed a coin, the fact of the matter is we need one candidate who represents change, and it won’t be perfect change.
This is not a transformation election, this is, if you like, a succession election. There is not sufficient time to culture an agenda for transformation in the period between now and March 29, that’s point number one. Point number two, there is not enough time to interrogate whether the leadership we have, which may have been good for various other things, is still good for taking the country – judging by the depths the country has descended – out of the current morass. That’s why I think that there has to be, beyond goodwill, there must be a willingness to bend over backwards, where people say what is in the national interest?
We will never be able to negotiate a new day for Zimbabwe until we say let’s get the old man to retire and rest like all his other age mates. Anyway, the retirement age for the country is 65, some people are way beyond the age of retirement. Let’s get those who are old to retire, and let’s agree a process of transition that whoever wins will then put in place … (inaudible) this system and right now favours everybody because … (inaudible) so they need each other, so they literally need a coalition government.
Guma: If I may take this discussion Brian to another particular angle that I would like you help us investigate, the Mujuru angle. A lot of people are talking about this saying retired army general Solomon Mujuru is backing Makoni and even the u-turn that he made he got assurances from Mujuru that he will have his back and I link this with sentiments from [Vitalis] Zvinavashe and retired major Kudzai Mbudzi. How much influence do these former army guys have with this whole new set-up?
Kagoro: If you want to appreciate present politics of Zimbabwe and the future, what is at stake for a political class of people, you must appreciate who now owns Zimbabwe since the bulk of the settler white interest seems to have been shaken. You must ask who owns the mining sector, who owns the farming sector, you look at the major chunks of our economy other than the foreign investor you realise that it’s not so much people with links to the army, it’s people with links to the economy…a lot of these people, both those who are pro-Mugabe and those who are seen as the new black sheep in Mugabe’s camp and the opposition, these are defending personal economic interests acquired openly, legally or illegally. So this election is a contest of classes over ill-gotten wealth, over seized wealth and wealth.
So, one of the analysis I am not hearing…I hear a lot of tribe, I hear a lot of military, frankly the Zimbabwean military is not going to be a factor in the ballot. What’s going to be a factor is the money that has been generated through perpetrating the present crisis, the super inflationary conditions that we are under…the people who are able to get whether it’s diamonds or gold or whatever, within the various camps. I would be urging people to analyse this by looking at where is the big money and which big money is bankrolling who and what would be used to purchase the vote of peasants? Yes, the ethnic alliances or regional alliances will come into play, but the bigger fight here is the fight to control the national cake, the resources and …(inaudible) the instrument of accumulation …(inaudible).
Guma: Brian what has changed? Some of the people you are talking about accrued this wealth under Mugabe’s patronage system, they are beneficiaries. So why would they be making a u-turn at this juncture?
Kagoro: I think they realise what happens with a system of patronage is that it relies on those who are recipients of its largesse showing consistent submission and subservience. But a system of patronage which is ill-managed such as what has become of our economy soon becomes like a gangrene eating into the very benefits that your super class, your new rich would have accrued. And at some stage politicians forget that money controls a lot of what they do, they begin to fight the economic interest using the state machinery, so the battle for the soul of the state is a battle to control the instruments of cohesion, the instruments that facilitate the expansion of that wealth or the reduction of that wealth.
So what has changed for many is whether they still have the favour of those that control the instruments of cohesion – the police – are their allies being harassed and arrested, is the state machinery being used to hound their people out of those particular spaces? So it’s that sort of thing, some of the motivations may not be motivations for democracy, and in fact the bulk of what’s going on in Zimbabwe right now very few people can genuinely, even those that may have started purely committed to democracy, very few people now can claim that they genuinely are fighting for a more inclusive Zimbabwe, a broadly inclusive Zimbabwe and you can see this by the failure to include each other even as small factions.
Guma: One final question for you Brian, some say it’s not about who votes but the one who counts and we still have this lingering problem and I believe the SADC mediation was trying to resolve this and create a free and fair environment in which the political parties could contest. In your view do you think we have that climate now to facilitate free and fair elections or we are going into as contest whose outcome is pre-determined?
Kagoro: Let me answer that in a contradictory way. First, the conditions for a free and fair election don’t exist in Zimbabwe, I think it takes no rocket science to understand that. But there exists conditions and a yearning for change that may surprise the establishment. I think the establishment firstly wanted to create an element of surprise by this shotgun notice of announcing an election date that does not give the opposition sufficient time to campaign. If the opposition marshals its courage and its strategic capacity to align across the different shapes that are emerging, even the smaller ones – the Daniel Shumbas, the Siwelas and others, and then now this Simba Makoni outfit. It may very well be the biggest upset in the history of elections in Zimbabwe.
But please mark my words, it will not be because free and fair conditions exist, it would simply be ….(inaudible) the state machinery that normally would keep supervision and surveillance is not at its sharpest, it is not the same level as it was before. The level of suffering and discontent even within the rural sector, the peri-urban sector is much higher than it was in 2000.
So it means two things that could motivate, you either say we are not going to elections because the conditions are not conducive or we won’t go….(inaudible) will win, there would be fewer pro-change people going to vote than there are pro-establishment, whether pro-establishment because they have been induced through fear or induced through bribes. Or people may say, well, let’s form an alliance of those who are committed to some form of succession, of one order succeeding the other. It would not be genuine transition because the economic policies of Simba Makoni or even some of our colleagues in the opposition parties may not be any different from Zanu. It may very well be that they will not grab farms and kill people, they would not use violence but they would still want to rapidly advertise health care, privatise education…the sort of things that have caused a lot of suffering for students, for young people and stuff like that.
If you discounted those things, I think the biggest shock may not be for the opposition but for the ruling party. But this requires some very hard thinking [and] serious leadership on the part of the opposition. We know that the hardliners in every camp would dissuade and discourage because they stand to lose if their leaders form some compromise and they will hide behind one …(inaudible) What may appear to be a victory for the hardliners within their political parties, or victory of principle may be the greatest defeat for the attempt to democratise the party. This matter is not going to be a pure science. It is replete with many dangers and in thinking through it, I think people should avoid simplistic characterisations whether of Simba Makoni, Mutambara or Tsvangirai.
Then I say what would be the most basic condition that will set Zimbabwe on a path of change? Is it for Robert Mugabe to win and anoint a successor and we wait until five years later at these super inflationary conditions? Would it be even for a weak coalition, in terms of weak ideologically, of the opposition to come together, dislodge Robert Mugabe’s power to name his successor and struggle over setting up a framework? In which case the forces like the civic forces and others that have been talking about the reality of change, the substance of change around constitutionalism, around new policies, around pro-poor growth or pro-people growth and around looking at the lower social classes, looking at the working class and peasantry and how best to cushion them, and at the same time reindustrialising and having a proper agrarian revolution and not a concocted one where black bands of thieves steal farms that they are not even going to use.
In my view what we need is not a winner amongst the opposition, what we need is leadership and that leadership I am sorry is a leadership that says Zimbabwe first, we will settle the other things the morning after we have dislodged the establishment. - New Zimbabwe.com
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