Total Pageviews

Monday, 27 October 2014

Mujuru's maturity is her passport to Presidency

Mujuru's maturity is her passport to Presidency

Opinion, Zvikomborero Butler Kapumha

In my last article I made it clear that ZANU-PF was headed for a collision course in the bid to succeed Robert Mugabe. There was nothing prophetic about that really, because all indicators were pointing to it. But what I didn’t see was the Grace Mugabe phenomenon. One Dinizulu Mbikokayise Macaphulana did, in his article published here. I was intrigued that he did. But as I checked for this person’s digital footprints, I was left unimpressed. His existence is very much questionable. For a published academic, journalist turned political scientist, with insightful analysis on Zimbabwe, we would expect a solid digital footprint. I even failed to find a photograph of him.

Grace Mugabe: New player in the game
Grace Mugabe has brought in a new dimension to the power politics of ZANU-PF. Her supersonic ascension to a commanding position in the factional succession politics was incredible. It was well calculated. It started with a Muchinguri backed nomination for Secretary of Women’s League. Then a dubious PhD awarded by the University of Zimbabwe. This was succeeded by a series of meetings and rallies across the country that filled public discourse for the last 3 weeks.

In the process, she confirmed all the rumours of a ZANU-PF divided along Mujuru/Mnangagwa lines. She showed lack of tact or strategy and was rather reckless in dealing with factionalism in ZANU-PF, leaving a more divided party than she found it. It is quite clear she has chosen a side, and in the process, proliferating the very same factionalism she purports to be fighting. Gallivanting nationwide to discredit the name of Joice Mujuru showed Grace Mugabe to be a woman of weak character and reckless conduct.

Why now?
The timing of Grace Mugabe’s escapades is very much telling. It is signalling the end of Robert Mugabe’s reign. He is turning 91 soon, and cannot cope with the demands of being a President of a struggling country, and leader of a warring party. Most likely, he will not finish his term by 2018, and if this happens Joice Mujuru will automatically become the President according to the new constitution, a precedent Grace Mugabe cannot accommodate together with her faction. Therefore, the only realistic chances of the Mnangagwa faction gaining ground in the succession race, is to deal with Mujuru at the coming congress, and possibly install a new Vice President who will eventually succeed Mugabe.

The Mnangagwa faction has been fighting with their best tool at hand, the media. Jonathan Moyo has availed all the radio stations, newspapers and ZTV to advance their cause, giving unbelievable deification of Grace Mugabe. Joice Mujuru has suddenly become a public enemy, a corrupt and incompetent leader. Fantastic allegations such as working with USA to overthrow Robert Mugabe have been levelled against the person of Joice Mujuru, to ridiculous not-so-newsworthy allegations that Joice doesn’t visit Grace at Mazowe Estates, featured here and there.

Wordsmiths have been thriving at Herald House recently. Tens of articles are released everyday portraying the First Lady demi-god like.

I was also interested in Patrick Zhuwao’s Sunday Mail articles. They were, in a way synchronized with the drama that the First Lady performed, suggestive that it could have been a coordinated effort. From Mugabe’s nephew I honestly expected more inspiring and detailed articles that would stimulate a somehow intellectual approach to this whole issue.  It was the same wordsmithing and politicking that we expect from apprentices like Psychology Maziwisa. It went beyond that. For example in the Sunday Mail of 27 October 2014 he wrote, “Such a diagnoses requires that epistemological approach transcends interpretivism  and is influenced by a criticalistic epistemological approach that boarders on the feministic epistemology in search of truth and knowledge”. I honestly wonder how the Editor of Zimbabwe’s biggest weekly missed that meaningless statement. The statement does not mean anything at all.

Then there is Nathaniel Manheru, George Charamba’s alias. He is my favourite of columnists at The Herald. His take on the whole issue of factionalism was cautious, and rather chose to attack journalists. His attack could have been more credible if it was fair and balanced. He chose to attack independent media’s coverage of Grace Mugabe’s escapades, giving a shocking blind eye of the journalists at Herald House.

Is ZANU-PF going to split?
It is very clear that demands of a Mujuru resignation from Grace Mugabe are very dangerous. Mujuru commands a huge following, especially from the youth, progressives, centrists and fellow former war fighters within the party. Joice Mujuru is either going to stay or the party splits. I don’t think Grace can even summon enough Politburo votes to push Mujuru out. The allegations of corruption are not even good enough. What is ironical about these corruption allegations is that they are coming from within ZANU-PF. This reminds me of that Biblical story of a woman who was about to be stoned for prostitution. Jesus in a somehow satirical manner said, “He who has not sinned may cast the first stone”, much to the embarrassment of the crowds. I will only take corruption allegations seriously when they are coming from someone else.

But this is not a defence to Joice Mujuru, and the alleged corruption case. She has a case to answer. Actually, it is in her interest to answer these allegations and declare her properties and wealth, and account for them.

What will happen if Mujuru wins?
Joice Mujuru has proved that her show of maturity, composure and wisdom might be her ticket to presidency. She is equipped with the experience, knowledge and tactfulness that befit a President. She commands the respect and authority from her peers and seniors who fought alongside during the Liberation struggle and who served with her in government.
Always with a modest hairstyle, Amai Mujuru has managed to remain humble despite her achievements and wealth, and maintains a connection with her followers who relate to her struggles as a woman, mother, and a role model. She became the first female and youngest ever Government Minister, with little educational background and experience. But like most back then, she would go to night school to study for High school qualifications. She read for a Bachelor’s, and Master’s and eventually her coveted PhD, something that inspires many men and women around the world. There is a human face to the huge character of Joice TR Mujuru.

If she wins, she will most likely restore the confidence in leadership. Zimbabweans everywhere are worried about the economy. They want less politics, and more economics. This requires a person whom the international community can have confidence in and this will boost investor confidence, and increase our trade market.
Zimbabwe will definitely be poised for an economic comeback, if Joice Mujuru succeeds Mugabe.

Her win will affect the party, negatively as well, definitely.  The task of reuniting the party is insurmountable. Her sworn enemies are most likely not going to back down, and this power struggle might continue for a while, even after Mugabe’s departure.

What will happen if Mnangagwa wins?
Emerson Mnangagwa is said to be a very practical man. He is very shrewd, quiet, careful, and most information about him is unknown to the public. He once said that he is “as soft as wool”. He is also said to be one of the most feared ZANU-PF leaders with good relations with the military and other government enforcing arms.  He has attempted to become the Vice President of ZANU-PF before, with the majority of endorsements, only to lose out to Joice Mujuru on 18 November 2004 in a Politburo meeting. The insistence of Emerson Mnangagwa on a secret ballot during the Vice Presidency post in the December 2014 ZANU-PF elections, might be an indication that he is confident of winning, via that route. I don’t know if he is still as popular as he was, 10 years ago. It is also said that the disbandment of DCCs worked against him.

Mnangagwa’s lack of appeal and charisma to the ordinary people is worrisome. It is still difficult to ascertain if he can conduct a rally and articulate a message that can restore confidence in the people. Robert Mugabe set the bar too high for his successors when it comes to articulation and oratory skills.

His image in the international media as a heavy handed man is something that he will need to work on if he has presidential ambitions. These will not only work against him, but will work against Zimbabwe as a whole.

How has the economy suffered from this nonsense?
The struggling economy is the biggest loser from this political drama. Grace Mugabe has single-handedly created an environment of political uncertainty, which is a huge turn-off to investors. This situation created by Grace Mugabe does not inspire confidence at all, in the ruling party and its systems and processes. Government Ministers spent 2 weeks trailing Grace Mugabe to her rallies, and it makes us wonder if they made time to do government business. All the effort, ideas, attention and energy which should channelled to the recovery of Zimbabwe’s economy is being used to bring other people down, fight for positions in a post-Mugabe ZANU-PF.

We don’t know how far this factional politics will go. And people are already preparing for another 2008, by divesting in the economy, externalising funds or withdrawing funds from bank accounts. There is high uncertainty.

If some economist could quantify the losses made from this drama, they are the excess of hundreds of million. The drama is going to drag on for longer than most expect.

Opposition is watching, and will probably keep on watching
Our opposition parties are still to recover from the shock defeating in the 2013 elections. They are failing to restructure and remobilise quick enough to become relevant in the next elections in 2018. The so-called shadow government by Morgan Tsvangirai is just a list on a piece of paper in his office.
Some might think MDC is the beneficiary of the ZANU-PF infighting. Actually, this is yet another lost opportunity for the embattled party or parties, more accurately. MDC is going to lose the 2018 elections yet again, whether Morgan Tsvangirai stands, or a coalition is formed.

Will a new ZANU-PF give rise to a new Zimbabwe?
One thing that I have learnt from the recent political crisis in Zimbabwe is that, there are no guarantees that the resignation of Robert Mugabe will bring prospects of a better for Zimbabwe as an economy. To choose between Joice Mujuru and Emerson Mnangagwa is a gamble, and we might win or lose.
The best way of looking at Joice Mujuru and Emerson Mnangagwa is by looking at the people in their inner circle. Who is likely going to advise them? Are those people motivated by the greed, power and control or genuine desire to develop Zimbabwe? Are the people technically competent? What is their age group? Who has the largest youth following?

Sitting on the fence       
Most ZANU-PF members are sitting on the fence. Not because they are not interested in factional politics, but are just opportunists waiting for the right and necessary signs to assess the one most likely to prevail.
The biggest risk of this factional ZANU politics is that you will either win big or lose big. Sitting on the fence is the only way that guarantees one does not lose big.

Zimbabwe is now a joke. ZANU-PF should get its act together at the Congress and make sure we don’t slide back to 2008.

The author, Zvikomborero Butler Kapumha is an independent political commentator. Twitter: @ButlerZKapumha

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Looking Beyond Robert Mugabe

“Perennial wisdom from divine revelation and human experience dictates that all earthly things great or small, beautiful or ugly, good or bad, sad or happy, foolish or wise must finally come to an end”- Jonathan Moyo 

Butler Zvikomborero Kapumha, Harare

One question that will definitely stand out in history is “What stopped Robert Mugabe from retiring?” It is a genuinely difficult one, with varied opinion and contrasting analysis. The fight he has put in making sure that he remains at the helm of power in Zimbabwe, is suggestive of the view that something must be stopping him to. Throughout his 50 year career in politics, 40 of which at the helm of ZANU, he has survived everything from attempted coups, assassination attempts, collapsed economy, to contested elections. He is a survivor.

 But today, it has become an unavoidable subject, of life after Robert Gabriel Mugabe.

And surely, this is the time we should be talking of a Zimbabwe beyond Robert Mugabe.

Mugabe is a clever, brave and shrewd politician, a ‘wily old fox’ as some put it. But that is not sufficient to run a country, let alone one troubled with a battered economy, socio-political problems and problems of all sort. It needs an energetic person, a person with less to worry about, like health, brand issues and other issues that haunt Mugabe’s character. It needs a more forward looking person- simply put. Mugabe is no longer that guy. He is turning 90, 21 February 2014. He is old and frail. It dictates from reason and common sense that given his immense contribution to the status quo, he must simply step down.

I have to declare my intentions. This argument must not be mischaracterised or misconstrued, in any way, as a case for Tsvangirai or MDC. This is about Robert Mugabe and Zimbabwe.

The purpose of this article is to dissect and question the reasons behind Mugabe’s unyielding grip on power, and the complexity of the subject, in the wake of his election victory 6 months ago.

Mugabe’s rise and rise… or fall?
Mugabe emerged as the leader of ZANU towards the end of the liberation struggle in 1975 after a series of events including the disposal of Rev Ndabaningi Sithole, and Joshua Nkomo, and the death of Herbert Chitepo. Despite initial constraints he however managed to harvest power to himself, becoming a powerful politician in the liberation war. He has led the party ever since.

He was elected to an executive office as Prime Minister of an independent Zimbabwe in 1980. And he has ruled ever since.

His political career has had its highs and lows, with the lows strikingly standing out. The Operation Gukurahundi is a one such striking low. What exactly happened remains a mystery, but between 6 000 to 20 000 civilians were killed in the massacre1. The economic collapse under his watch that succeeded the land reform was another low.  So were the human rights abuses that have given him a notorious brand in the international media. Corruption in his ZANU (PF) party is another disturbing low in Mugabe’s rule. Under his watch, ZANU (PF) has probably become the most corrupt organization in the world.

But nonetheless he has had a fair share of successes, including leading Zimbabwe to independence in 1980 and the economic success from 1980-1997. He made remarkable strides in improving education, health and economic opportunities of the black majority that had been systematically denied during the colonial settler regimes. Zimbabwe has Africa’s leading education sector, reflected in the 98% literacy rate, a highly skilled labour market that is even better than many in developed economies. The land reform is arguably another Mugabe success, in a way. 350 000 black households were resettled into land previously owned by a 6 000 white minority. Despites serious initial challenges, production of some commodities like tobacco, small grains and cotton has been picking up, to levels of the white farmers2. The indigenization policy is another contentious policy, which if properly implemented with consistency and transparency could be as new high for the 90 year old leader.  

But the question remains that of his legacy.

His legacy will forever be debatable and divisive.

Planning on a grand exit?
Leaders only come in with a grand entrance, and rarely go with a grand exit. Thabo Mbeki, Gordon Brown, Kwame Nkrumah, Muammur Gadhafi, John Banks, Saddam Hussein are a few of many whose exit from power was not how they would have wanted it. Even celebrated leaders like Dr Kenneth Kaunda did not have grand exits.

Could Mugabe be planning one?

In 2013 we saw the death of 3 former significant political leaders- Hugo Chavez, Margaret Thatcher and Nelson Mandela. And the legacies of these three people were different-totally different. [The writer has written about Nelson Mandela and Hugo Chavez, article can be found here and here]. Nelson Mandela was celebrated by his people and the world. Margaret Thatcher was despised by her own people who celebrated her death with street parties, and her death was ignored by the world. Hugo Chavez was celebrated by his people and a good majority of the international community.

The way people marked their deaths, gave an indelible mark to their legacy, good or bad.

Death in office does not guarantee that grand exit for Robert Mugabe. Neither will it help his legacy. It will be a blessing for his adversaries, who will take to television every day for six months, to make sure his name goes to the Mobutu, Idi Amin, and Adolf Hitler part of history.  So if Mugabe is planning on a grand exit to secure his legacy, he better find a successor fast.

In the run up to the 31 August 2013 elections, some analysts suggested that Mugabe was standing for President so that he could secure the presidency for ZANU (PF) and then retire when appropriate. Chances of that are real. And a more relaxed approach to controversial indigenization policies could be sign of a man trying to heal the wounds of his image.

The only existing chances of a grand exit for Mugabe, are him stepping down to as early as possible, to a new popular leader from ZANU’s ranks, and avert a foreseeable “post-Mugabe crisis” in ZANU (PF) and Zimbabwe. He can resign and use his influence to make sure alleged factions are disbanded and aligned to the new leadership. This will guarantee a good legacy for Mugabe, and will be to ZANU (PF)’s advantage in the 2018 elections. Fidel Castro did the almost same thing, and the plan has worked remarkably well.

Mugabe can also salvage his reputation and legacy, by leading an aggressive recovery of the economy. With the signs we see, that is far-fetched. The indigenization, if creatively and cleverly implemented could be a game-changer, but the lack of transparency, the militancy and the corruption associated with the policy implementation has not helped either. And the fact that the government has no plans whatsoever on attracting foreign capital to stimulate growth, will certainly hurt him.

And it hurts young people like me, that Zimbabwe remains stagnant whilst Africa is booming and emerging aggressively in terms of economic growth being led by countries like Ghana, Botswana, Tanzania, Nigeria, Zambia, Rwanda, and Namibia. These countries I mentioned have one thing in common-New and fresh leaders, with new and fresh ideas. So as Zimbabwe continues to lag behind, it is Mugabe’s legacy that also goes down.

Organizational weakness on the part of ZANU?
Surely to ambitious ZANU members, Mugabe’s longevity on the crown has now become unbearable. Together with his generation- of the 60s. Simba Makoni’s patience ran out.

Over the last 20 years, ZANU (PF) has been brewing a bomb. I think that bomb will explode in 2018, or even later. ZANU (PF) has a lost generation, or even generations. Its corridors of power are filled with senior citizens, whom in the fullness of time will be phased out in a whisker. ZANU (PF) will be left with a serious power vacuum, having failed to invest in future leadership. Such is just lack of foresight, a weakness on the part of ZANU (PF). The party has a serious deficit of brains, experience and capacity in the ages of 20-50. Very few young people have been let to rise in the echelons of power in the party, the few that have, being relatives and well-connected colleagues of the party’s top leaders.

The fact that the few young people in ZANU’s power corridors like Tabitha Kanengoni, Patrick Zhuwao, Muzenda Jr, etc are relatives of top ZANU chefs even questions if the party recruited them on merit. And other young folks in the party have turned out to be self-serving crooks and charlatans with nothing to offer.
And Psychology Maziwisa. Sigh.

ZANU’s only hope is on people like Walter Mzembi and uh uh…. No, Walter Mzembi only.
There will be a serious crisis in ZANU (PF) very soon, probably in the next 5 to 10 years, if nothing is done.
This organizational weakness in ZANU (PF) has been a product of Mugabe’s failure to relinquish power. Because he had led the party for 39 years running, he has lost sense of time, and to some extent, reality. The reality is that “a perpetual motion machine is impossible”, so is a perpetual time machine. Everything comes to an end, and we must be prepared for that, by investing in the future if we wish continuation of the ideas we seek. The party was supposed to open new avenues for new generations with fresh ideas. And Mugabe, at 90 could not get Ministers in their 40 and 50s. He carried his generation along.

Does he embody ZANU (PF)? Who will replace him?
Roy Agyemang, producer of the documentary Mugabe: Hero or Villain writes that “Mugabe is more than just a politician, he leads a cause, or as his militant supporters would say, he has become the cause itself.” This is an interesting observation. Whereas the cause used to be liberation, and economic emancipation, in Zimbabwe this cause has become indistinguishable from the face of Robert Mugabe. He has become an embodiment of the ideals that ZANU exists for.

Compare and contrast.

Many analysts, who feel, after Tsvangirai’s election defeats, once for a parliamentary seat in Buhera, and three times for Presidency, that he should remain as MDC leader have a strikingly similar argument. They say Morgan Tsvangirai is the embodiment of the resistance and fight against Mugabe’s “iron fist rule”. Whereas “change” used to the cause in opposition to Mugabe, that change has become indistinguishable from the face of Morgan Tsvangirai. And some will say Morgan Tsvangirai has become the cause itself.

That argument, to me doesn’t hold water!
It is consent manufactured by politicians through propaganda and sustained hagiography of political leaders that they are irreplaceable and invincible. Even the greatest of leaders have been replaced.  With the demi-god like worship Nelson Mandela received, he was replaced by Thabo Mbeki. Hu Jintao, the man who led China’s remarkable and shuttering growth was replaced.

But it becomes a sad feature when leaders lack the political will to groom future leaders, so that they retain relevancy. I hope it is not the case.
ZANU (PF) has potential leaders. The problem remains containing power hungry, thieving and corrupt members. Even Robert Mugabe failed that. There are rumours of factions in ZANU-PF led by Emmerson Mnangagwa and Joyce Mujuru. I am not a fan of Mnangagwa for his lack of charisma, alleged heavy-handedness and other issues. Mai Mujuru has some experience running a country, and can resonate well with the struggles of the women constituency, and seems to be a centrist. Be that as it may, Zimbabweans worry most about the economy. This only means, we need new leadership with fresh ideas to take the country forward.

Should we buy his story?
When asked by Dali Tambo, in an interview why he couldn’t call it quits, Mugabe quickly turned to the British, sanctions and regime change.
“The British call for regime change, that, I must go. That call mustn’t come from the British. We are still under sanctions, under attack. What man is there, who when his own house is being attacked will run away from the house leaving his children and wife under attack. Its coward of him! My people still need me. I’m not a deserter.*

Mugabe’s argument actually has gained credence in the wake of new information in relation to the extent of the “regime change agenda”. Thabo Mbeki, in an Al Jazeera interview revealed the pressure he received from Tony Blair to initiate a British sponsored military attack on Zimbabwe to dislodge Mugabe. Of course, Tony Blair denied the claims. 

But is it possible that, that is a silly excuse.

The pain of a supporter
I’m 21 years old. The future is increasingly looking gloomy. We need solutions now. I disdain MDC, its leader and its paper thin policies. But supporting ZANU-PF is such a pain, one that I have managed to live with.
I am looking to the future. A Zimbabwe beyond Robert Mugabe.

The writer is a Harare based political commentator, who writes in his own capacity. Contact on Twitter @ButlerZKapumha.

>Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe. 1997. Report on the 1980’s disturbances in Matebeland and Midlands. Harare.
2.    > Scoones, I., Marongwe, N., Mavedzenge, B. Mahenehene, J., Murimbarimba, F.,and Sukume, C., 2010 Zimbabwe’s Land Reform: Myths and Realities, Suffolk,Harare and Johannesburg: James Currey, Weaver Press and Jacana Media.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Illusions of a one-man show: Nelson Mandela and the "Rainbow Nation"

Opinion, By Butler Zvikomborero Kapumha-Harare

South Africa’s fight against the systematic racism of the apartheid regime is often and alas, reduced to one man- Nelson Mandela. He gets all the credit, the glory and attention. Or maybe he does deserve? He is widely portrayed as a saint, icon and hero of mankind. It hasn’t been much of a debatable story. Not for me, because I never trust people who fight the war of the poor and oppressed and turn out to be heroes of the rich and oppressors.

I find the history accounts of South Africa, as presented in modern history texts, very amusing- They are stagnant for the 27 years Mandela was in prison, as if nothing happened, and as if the people were waiting for him to be released. And the struggle continued just as he was released.  This has been significant in presenting the picture that Mandela single-handedly won the fight against apartheid. The Mandela story is well choreographed in the press for public consumption and any opposition to the official story is intolerable. It is taboo to discuss such a topic, so I will give my humble critique of his ‘heroism’. And with this article I risk a lot. I risk my sanity. I risk being called names. And for that reason, facts, only, will be my defence.

The purpose of this article is to dispel ‘controlled’ illusions of a one man show-that is often portrayed, and challenge the dominant version of the construct of the story of South Africa’s independence struggle. The author does not dispute that Mandela is a hero but concurs with Adam Roberts1 as he carefully put it “Mandela is a hero, not a saint as mostly portrayed”. And it is the proposition of the writer that the story of the fight against apartheid is way bigger than Nelson Mandela, and should be packaged as such without the obsequious and disproportional praise of one person, because it is misleading and mischievous. Many people lost their lives, families, and most productive times of their lives, in sacrifice to the struggle, along with Nelson Mandela, and often their effort and contributions go without credit and in some cases omitted.

But the first question to this whole subject is-What did Nelson Mandela do to become such a hero?  What did he do, extra-ordinarily that makes him adored with such veneration across all people of different religions, races and political persuasions? And I often ask this question to people I meet. I get the same answer constructed in the same paraphrase and vocabulary.

The next question is how significant was his individual contribution to the struggle for independence, especially during the 27 years he was absent from the ‘battlefield’ whilst guys like Oliver Tambo led the African National Congress (ANC)?

Another question is why did Nelson Mandela, a terrorist to the Apartheid regime sympathizers, both in South Africa and in other countries like USA under Ronald Reagan, UK under Margaret Thatcher, and another apartheid regime of Israel, and then quickly turn into their hero. I mean it might have been easier for Mandela to forgive them, given his ‘good heart’, but for the racists and white supremacists to say Mandela is a ‘terrorist-turned-hero’ is just not convincing at surface level.

And another question, did he have plans to redress the dire poverty and economic disparity in South Africa? Or his plans only included having an end to apartheid in a political sense only?
Why is he still silent, today, on those issues, like poverty, inequality, racism, and land disparity, still a dominant predicament in South Africa’s majority population? Has he left it for other leaders? Or those are not his concerns? Or he is not ‘stupid’ enough to destroy his international brand and heroism like what Robert Mugabe did?

The fuss over Nelson Mandela is completely astounding. It bridges between a cult and the nearest thing to a religion. He has a province, a city, hundreds of roads, town squares, schools, hospitals, bridges, gardens, currency notes, Universities, Airdromes, malls, Institutions, all named after him. He has statures everywhere including the United Kingdom Parliament. All this is in recognition to his fight against apartheid and his belief of a non-racial society. When the United Nations declared his birthday the Nelson Mandela day, they said of him being, “a living embodiment of the highest values of the United Nations”. Every serious leader in the world, or Hollywood celebrity or person of influence anywhere is recommended to have a portrait with Nelson Mandela, seemingly. It’s good for business and personal image. 
Controversial self proclaimed 'Prophets',and 'businesspersons'- Emmanuel' Makandiwa and Eubert Mudzanire pictured with Nelson Mandela in South Africa

But the above paragraph would at surface level make me a ‘hater’, right? But I think the proportion of “the emotional apotheosis of Mandelatry”, as one blogger2 puts it would, to any rationalist, pose the question-What did he do to be venerated as such? I posed this question in one of the previous paragraphs.

Who is Nelson Mandela and what did he do?

Nelson Mandela, born Rolihlahla Mandela, was a lawyer in a racist country, where being African was a crime itself. Being black meant unequal treatment and opportunities compared to persons of different races- be it European, Asian or mixed. Africans were second class citizens in their native country, being denied even of the most basic tenants of human rights. And Mandela was a boxer, please note. Together with Oliver Tambo, Congress Mbata, Walter Sisulu and others, Mandela helped form the ANC Youth league within the liberation movement ANC that had been formed in 1912. He was the Secretary General of the Youth League in 1947, then President in 1951.But he only became President of the ANC Party in 1991-1997. Together, with other comrades like Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu, and Steve Biko of Black Consciousness Movement they organized resistance and civil disobedience to fight against the system, until the ANC sought an armed resistance, justifiably so. He married three times to Evelyn Mase, Winnie Madikizela and most recently Graca Machel. After the Sharpsville Massacre of 1960, Albert Luthuli ordered the formation of the Umkhonto we Sizwe-ANC’s military wing, with Nelson Mandela as its commander. Mandela received guerrilla military training in Algeria in 1962. He was later arrested in 1963 for alleged “terrorism” and more specifically, “for targeting public infrastructure like buildings and pylons in the military activities of the Umkhonto we Sizwe”. He was first sentenced to death, but, later spent the next 27 years at a prison, 18 of them at Robben Islands. He came out, after mounting pressure to the apartheid regime from everyone, everywhere except for a few like fellow-apartheid Israel, and then struck a deal with then President Frederik De Klerk, and he became the president of a ‘democratic’ South Africa. After independence, his vision of a non-racial nation continued in what is termed a “Rainbow Nation”. He adopted liberal to neoliberal economic policies and continued in the economic guidelines of the previously apartheid South Africa. No attempts at redressing the economic disparity were made, and the poor remained poor if not poorer. The rich went richer, mostly on the same exploitative model of pre-independent South Africa. The preferential access to ownership of land, businesses and other opportunities to white people is still a sad feature in South Africa’s society. And Nelson Mandela resigned from ANC leadership in 1997 and from the Presidency in 1999.

So let’s dispel some minor common lies.
(i)                   Mandela was never the ‘leader’ of the ANC when it fought apartheid; he only became so after the end of apartheid, because its leader Oliver Tambo had died of stroke just after the end of apartheid. That was in 1991.
(ii)                 Mandela never negotiated the constitution of South Africa. Hundreds of lawyers and academics led by Cyril Ramaphosa (now ANC Deputy President) and Roef Meyer (a former intelligence chief) did. Both Mandela and De Klerk kept their distance.
(iii)                It is not Mandela who started ‘talks’ with the National Party. Oliver Tambo had extensive talks with De Klerk’s predecessor, PW Botha in the 1980s.
(iv)                Mandela was never a pacifist. He was a guerrilla war leader trained in Algeria and Ethiopia. He was commander of the military wing of the ANC.

So the construct of Mandela’s heroism goes: “Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years… That’s an awful lot of time. He then forgave his perpetrators and today South Africa is a non-racial exemplary African rich country. He was President for only 5 years. Look at Zimbabwe, man. Mandela is a hero man.” Some just take the media type of portrayal, which says, “Madiba is the best thing to happen to Africa. He brought an end to apartheid and brought independence to Africa. He is the greatest African and the most important human of our time.” And the argument is essentially substantiated by “27 years in prison” and “forgiveness”.

Different classes of people view Nelson Mandela as their hero. The extremely rich who feel Mandela never posed a threat to their capitalist and exploitative adventures, Mandela is also a hero. Those whose fathers and grandfathers grabbed diamond fields; gold claims and vast farmlands are still in charge thanks to the heroism of Nelson Mandela.

The extremely poor think Nelson Mandela is their hero because of the euphoria that gripped them since his release from prison. It hasn’t translated to better opportunities, and they are still living a shack without jobs or comparable livelihood as of the previously preferential race in apartheid era. But still Mandela is their hero. He ‘won’ them freedom, so they say.

Walter Sisulu also spent almost 26 years at Robben Islands just like Nelson Mandela. He was Secretary General of the ANC when Mandela was a Secretary General of the ANC Youth league. He then became ANC deputy President when Mandela became President from 1991-1994. So in terms of contributions to the anti-apartheid struggle, whatever Mandela did, Sisulu did too. But no one cares about Sisulu. Only Mandela! The disproportionate veneration of these people, who had equal and similar contribution towards the same cause, is in my view appalling and raises a lot of questions. If we praise Mandela for spending 27 years in prison and coming out with a reconciliatory message, why don’t we praise Walter Sisulu for achieving the same feat? It’s like Walter Sisulu is totally ignored when comparing to the deification of the person of Mandela and his supposed feat.

Then Oliver Tambo, whom, whilst Mandela was in prison, was the President of ANC, between 1967 and 1991 after succeeding Albert Luthuli. He organized international solidarity and called for the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign that pressurized the apartheid regime into giving in. He never gave up in the most difficult of times when ANC was banned under the suppression of Communism Act. He continued anti-apartheid activities at a new headquarters in Zambia, in exile. If I were to credit one person for the end of apartheid, it will be him. The external pressure mobilized by Tambo proved to be the defining factor leading to the release of the many ANC cadres at Robben Islands, which Mandela was one of. But this part of history has been wiped out carefully to pave way for the glory of Mandela. A ‘Jack Bauer’ type of story on Mandela today has made him a big idol and a man who single-handedly fought apartheid, whereas the people who actually did are side-lined in the official story.

As a matter of record, the struggle did continue during Mandela’s absence. It’s unfortunate that we have forgotten the names of those who did. The Soweto uprisings. The sanctions by the United Nations. The support of the Frontline States especially Zambia. The Oliver Tambos. They are left out the picture for technical reasons- probably they don’t just fit in.

It is without doubt that the media type of marketing of an international Mandela brand, has led to this hagiography that deify Nelson Mandela in the media. He is a good man, but hysterically over-rated. His achievements have been achieved by other people who do not get equivalent attention and glory. Mandela’s choreographed media picture is a celebration of the capitalist minority who control and manufacture public consent through the media.  Dominic Mhiripiri4 says, “The continual sycophantic veneration of such people serves to place a gap between what the ordinary man and woman can achieve, and what the great figures of history were able to do”. He also, like I do propose that the “deity of Mandela is merely a construct of the media”.

As long as the fraudulently obtained farm land, mining claims and other capitalist adventures were intact, it was perfectly going to work for the white minority. And Enrick Patrick3 says that “the end of apartheid in South Africa is a scam”. Objectively, it is a fairly uncontroversial statement. Comparing the demands of the African people enshrined in the Freedom Charter of 1955, chief being the declaration “The people shall share in the country’s wealth” and the “the people shall govern”, a reference to the vast mineral wealth beneath its soils and farmland, it is clear that the totality in the end of colonialism and apartheid is a farce in South Africa.

The anti-colonial and anti-apartheid struggle was to fight the systematic injustice that denied opportunities for Africans to basic and fundamental human rights and more importantly to redress the racial disparity in the ownership of the means of production, primarily the land stolen from the Natives before and after the National Party (architects of institutionalized apartheid) came into power in the late 1940s. Besides redistribution of the ownership to means of production being a key feature of equality and equity, it means reducing the poverty characteristic of the black majority of South Africans.  The Freedom Charter was forsaken by Nelson Mandela in his Presidency- a total betrayal to the Africans who fought to end unjust domination and oppression. And this is what Winnie Madikizela-Mandela has been saying, much to her persecution. She said Nelson Mandela has become a “corporate foundation”, adding that “Mandela let us down”.

Today, South Africa is the most unequal country in the world. It has the biggest gap between the rich and the poor. 50% of its population, largely Africans lives under the poverty datum line. The World Bank report in 2012 that focused on the equality of opportunities said South Africa is characterised by “economic exclusion, perpetuating inequality making it highly unequal”. Oxfam’s similar report estimated that the top 100 richest people gained 60%, whilst the greater bottom slipped further into poverty. 16 million of its population depends on social grants from the government and other non-governmental actors.  The mineral resources of South Africa are the privilege of a few elite. The vast farmlands are owned by a few farmers with no merit save that they are white. 60-70% of commercial farmland is owned by less than 10’000 white farmers and the demands for a just, equitable land redistribution exercise are constantly blocked by the ruling elite. When Nelson Mandela assumed presidency, he denied calls to nationalise key strategic industries especially the South African Reserve Bank. The bank owned by a few shareholders who now dictate the monetary policy of South Africa. He continued the neo liberal policies of the National Party and was only the figurehead of a black man in office. The bourgeoisies retained economic power, which is all that matters. And today the apartheid model that makes the few ruling elite extremely powerful-politically and economically at the expense of the person in the street is an undeniable inconvenient truth.

Mandela is complicit in retaining unjust economic power of a few bourgeoisies at the expense of the black majority. The mineral wealth should have been shared. The land should be redistributed. These dreams and hopes fade by the day for the 16 million waiting for government grants and assistance every day.

The story hasn’t changed for the person living in a shack outside Cape Town. But we know the story of the Oppenheimer family, the Rupert family, the Ackerman family, Christo Wiese, Laurie Dippenaar, Stephen Saad and a few who continue to get rich in South Africa’s conducive environment. South Africa’s growth is meaningless unless it is shared.

The failure to redress economic inequalities between races is simply indefensible. There are no excuses.
A graph showing the income inequalities in Cape Town, South Africa 

I would have wanted to compare the policies of Nelson Mandela with those of Thomas Sankara, Hugo Chavez and other persons whose heroism is a product of their successful fight against the most pressing human problems like poverty, exploitation, economic oppression and racism head-on through efficacious land reforms, education, and health reforms. But I will not.

I would also have wanted to compare Nelson Mandela to Mahatma Ghandi, Noam Chomsky, Martin L. King (Jnr.) and other people who I believe are moral authorities and portrayed a consistent and coherent link between their actions and their speech. Most of them did not tire in fight for particular moral causes through peaceful means. But I will not, also.

But I think it is suffice to say, for all his achievements and struggles, Nelson Mandela is not my hero.

1.        Adam Roberts, Mandela is a hero not a saint, Comment is free, The Guardian UK
2.        Heresy Corner.
3.        Enrick Patrick, Nelson Mandela: the betrayal of a hero.
4.        Dominic Mhiripiri, Student at Brown University, USA. “The most over-rated man in the world”. Article appeared in the Brown Daily Herald
5.        Nathan Geffen, Nelson Mandela is not South Africa, The Guardian UK

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Hugo Chavez, The Bolivarian Revolution and 21st Century Socialism

By Zvikomborero Butler Kapumha, Harare

The death of Hugo Chavez, the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela comes as a huge blow to the progressive world. He stood fearlessly as an unflinching fortress of the poor, weak and oppressed and as an iconic symbol of the fight against “Yankee” imperialism. Very few words, to be honest can adequately describe him. He fought to the very end, amid US machinations to undermine the Bolivarian Revolution he led-an inspiration to millions around the world. His unwavering quest for a society where the most pressing human problems like “poverty, exploitation, economic oppression, racism, sexism, destruction of natural resources and absence of really participatory democracy” are eradicated gave him the energy to soldier till the bitter end.

May his soul rest in eternal peace.

Commadante Hugo Chavez, a liberator and a revolutionary is surely no more. But his ideas and visions shall live forever, engraved in the hearts and the faculties of millions like me. The world has surely lost another Che Guevara.
The progressive and leftist world celebrates his life, a life of achievements and breaking new and better grounds. Viva the Bolivarian Revolution! Viva Commadante Hugo Chavez!

Achievements of the Bolivarian Revolution

Poverty Reduction
Official figures from the United Nations confirm extreme poverty rate declined from 42% to 9.5% since 1998, an achievement of the UN Millennium goal in advance.  General poverty measured by the Gini coefficient shows a drop from 70.8% to 21% of persons living below the poverty datum line. The Human Development Index of the UNDP went up from 0.69 to 0.84, ranking Venezuela in the top 50 of the H.D.I in the world.

Nationalisation and Economic Empowerment
 Venezuela is 5th biggest exporter of crude oil and before the administration of Chavez took over, foreign companies controlled the oil resources at the dire expense of the poor Venezuela populace. Hugo Chavez created a state run firm to nationalize the Oil resources and expanded the policy to other key industries. The proceeds went directly in to subsidizing food, health and education.

Introduction of Democracy
When Hugo Chavez won the elections in 1998 he introduced participatory democratic institutions, which were never known to the Latin American country. He pushed for a new constitution drafted by a balanced constitutional assembly and implemented through Venezuela’s first referendum. After the referendum he called for an election where 1171 candidates stood, with 900(71%) opposing him. As a shock, his party and allies won 95% of the seats, an overwhelming success. This gave him the platform to implement his plans for a Bolivarian Revolution with lesser resistance.

The UNESCO declared illiteracy eradicated in Venezuela few years after the Bolivar Plan 2000 that saw the introduction of Socialist Missions for adult education and informal education. Official literacy in Venezuela is 99.8%. And today Venezuela is the 5th ranked country in terms of the greatest population proportion of University students.

A health reform was at the core of the Bolivarian Revolution of Hugo Chavez. Socialist Mission provides free health services and support from Cuba, has helped to carry out free specialist surgeries across the country of Venezuela. Child mortality has fallen from 25.8 per 1000 in 1998 to 12.4 in 2009. The number of doctors has increased from 18 per 10 000 to 58 per 10 000. Since 1998, 13 721 clinics-a 169.6% increase from the initial 5 081, have been built to make health care easily accessible. The country has subsidized drug stores dotted around the country.

Unemployment has reduced by 50% during Hugo Chavez’s administration to 6.1% in 2010, one of the lowest figures in the developing, and even developed world. And the minimum wage is the highest in Latin America, $372, higher than that of the 6th world’s biggest economy, Brazil.

Agrarian reform and Food Security
After a successful agrarian reform that eliminated and dismantled discriminatory and capitalist land ownership patterns, food security has improved. Rural peasants have a stable and sustainable means of livelihood.  Further, incentives for domestic food producers have decreased food imports from 70% to around 30% since 1998.

The economy has grown 5 times since 1998 when Hugo Chavez won the elections. The average GDP growth rate since then has been 4.2%. The National debt reduced from 72.3% of GDP to the current 14.4%, a marvel of USA, UK and EU. State reserves have significantly increased from $14.3 billion to $41.9 billion as of 2010.

Standard of Living
With a greater majority of Venezuelans having crossed the datum to join the middle class, the standard of living has increased significantly. The Human Development Index increased to 0.84 from 0.69 between 1998 and 2010. The population is ranked 5th with Finland on the Happiest Country list.

The Bolivarian Revolution has been widely a success, a pure model of Socialism for the 21st century. Hugo Chavez will forever been an icon for economic emancipation, self determination and resistance to oppression. Viva Hugo Chavez. Down with Yankee Imperialism and Neoliberalism.

The author is a Harare based blogger and political analyst, who writes in his personal capacity. He can be contacted on

Popular Posts