Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Where Is Zimbabwe Going?

BY Patrick Bond (2008-04-03)


As the world waits to see what will happen in Zimbabwe, Patrick Bond argues that lessons should be taught and retaught about the dangers of elite transition between a voracious, corrupt, violent and divisive set of rulers, and an incoming crew who might not withstand the blandishments of local power-sharing and global economic seduction.

Zimbabwe's March 29 election surprised many, because although it seemed President Robert Mugabe had the machinery in place to ensure a victory even by stealth, as has happened before, the groundswell of opposition was overwhelming. By late on April 3, we don't know how many votes he won, either in reality or in the cooked books of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), but certainly fewer than 50%.

What is known, at this writing, is that a bare plurality of the 210 seats in the House of Assembly were won by Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change: 99. This was two ahead of Mugabe's Zanu-PF, with Arthur Mutambara's MDC faction getting 10 and the independent Jonathan Moyo retaining his seat. (Three more seats will be fought for in by-elections due to the deaths of MDC candidates.)

But these are official statistics, and who knows what the actual votes were, once the multiple systems of rigging are exposed, if ever they are?

As for the presidential race – for which at this time no figures have been released by the ZEC - Tsvangirai says that based on polling place reportbacks, he received 1,171,079 votes, or about 49%, with Mugabe getting 44% and Makoni the balance. (Mutambara told his supporters to vote for Makoni.)

Senate and municipal election results are also not being released as we write. In any case, the official parliamentary results are so distorted that on Thursday morning the state-owned Herald newspaper claimed, “Zanu-PF had won 45,94 percent of the votes, MDC-Tsvangirai 42,88 percent, the MDC [Mutambaraba] 8,39 percent and the minor parties and independent candidates 2,79 percent.” The Herald even claimed Zanu-PF outpolled Tsvangirai's MDC in Matabeleland South.

Though Zanu-PF has definitely lost control of parliament, such numbers justify Mugabe potentially contesting a run-off, which would be held no more than 21 days after March 29. Tsvangirai and former finance Minister Simba Makoni had a pre-election pact to unite in such an event, and it is hard to imagine that if the pact holds, Tsvangirai would not beat Mugabe outright, one on one.

Makoni, who ran solo for president with no machine behind him, never gained the open public support of key military factions and of dissident Zanu-PF politicians that his main handler, Ibbo Mandaza, had predicted.

Makoni's arrogance in entering the race – probably drawing away roughly the same votes from each main party – was again witnessed this morning. His advisor, former Mugabe spokersperson Godfrey Chanetsa, now insists that in a new government in alliance with Tsvangirai, Makoni would not “play second fiddle. He came to lead.”

As reporter Fiona Forde put it, “frantic behind-the-scenes negotiations were laying the groundwork for a government of national unity that would include not only the opposition MDC but also Zanu-PF with Makoni taking on a senior role with extended executive powers.”

Here's Chanetsa's strange rationale: "Eight percent is an illusion. Many people were afraid to vote for Simba, afraid of letting Zanu in the back door and losing their chance of getting rid of Robert. But if they got rid of Robert, do you still think they would see Morgan as the right man for the job?"

Meanwhile, an ominous dance began between Tsvangirai and the forces of imperialism. According to a Reuters report today, the MDC would gain access to US$2 billion per year in 'aid and development' – which normally is top-heavy with foreign debt and chock-full of conditions. Amongst these, most likely, are dramatic cuts to the civil services, so that the Zimbabwe central bank stops printing so much money, fuelling inflation. But the downside is the potential deepening of the country's economic crisis in the short term, as effective demand falls while more luxury goods become available thanks to foreign exchange inflows.

The key players are the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, European Union and the United Nations. No doubt Bush's White House is also involved in negotiations, which, if Tsvangirai persuades Mugabe to depart, may even reach fruition next week at the IMF/Bank spring meetings in Washington.

Given that Tsvangirai has chosen advisors from the International Republican Institute and Cato Institute, such a process was anticipated. It simply means that the left-leaning civil society forces that backed Tsvangirai have a huge regroupment challenge. If after an April 21 victory, many progressive Zimbabwean organisations lose cadres into an expanded state, this may recall the liquidation of South Africa's Mass Democratic Movement into the African National Congress government.

At least in Kenya, reports from Tuesday's street battles between hundreds of protesters and police show that civil society will not necessarily accept a 'supersized state' as a gimmick to seduce contesting parties into a government of national unity. “No more than 24!” was the activists' demand for a slim state so that more social spending can be spent on ordinary people, not the bloated ministers' Mercedes.

In the same critical spirit, Kenya's National Civil society Congress and Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice offered wisdom and solidarity in a statement today. Amongst their concerns, were “That SADC should review their statement that concluded that elections were free and fair while closing their ears to the significance of the undemocratic practices of the Zanu-PF regime.”

Between Kenya's tragic election last December and Zimbabwe's uplifting experience last Saturday, lessons should be taught and retaught about the dangers of elite transition between a voracious, corrupt, violent and divisive set of rulers, and an incoming crew who might not withstand the blandishments of local power-sharing and global economic seduction.


*Professor Patrick Bond is the Director of the Durban based Centre for Civil Society.Pambazuka News

12 comments:

sonia said...

I am impressed. Patrick Bond is the first author you've published in a long time, whose article is balanced, incisive and intelligent.

Unsane said...

Yes, there could also be real problems if Tsvangarai takes over. Nothing is guaranteed.

Renegade Eye said...

Sonia: am impressed. Patrick Bond is the first author you've published in a long time, whose article is balanced, incisive and intelligent.

I've often had posts as on Tibet, Burma etc. acknowledging the choices are between a Bonapartist and neoliberalism.

Unlike most bloggers left and right, I try to be dialectical. That means acknowledging contradictions. I oppose blanket support or opposition.

Unsane: Thank you for telling me to post on this subject.

Kawana Aminata Oliver said...

I really don't like Robert Mugabe ;-(

Constructive Feedback said...

Renegade Eye:

I don't know you so I am going to make some crude assumptions at the outset:

I am struggling to figure out how the "Oppressed Victim" as was the case with Robert Mugabe and Zimbabwe with respect to British Colonialism and Minority White land ownership of the choice property BECOME the ROGUE ANTI-DEMOCRATIC OPPRESSOR in such short order?

While I have no documented proof to support my conjecture I can imagine that Democracy Now and many of the other activist groups that you have links to on your site were former supporters of the oppressed underdog called the "Robert Mugabe lead government of Zimbabwe" as they were set free from the oppressive powers of British colonial rule. Now you seem to have crafted a multi-variable matrix where not only are the 'usual suspects' the antagonists (the IMF, World Bank and the UK and US Imperialists) but to this array we must as Robert Mugabe as you warn against the Mugabe opposition forces who might be allowed to have their election victory recognized via external pressure as the CONDUIT for the hidden hand of the IMF and US into the country of Zimbabwe.

This is all confusing to me.

What say you about the government of SOUTH AFRICA and the African National Congress? Where as they have otherwise been verbose about international anti-democratic antics they are strangely willing to 'be gentle' with Mugabe, cautiously coaxing him into a desired in.

The road kill in this entire exchange has been the economic and democratic position of the average Black African from Zimbabwe. Millions of them have migrated to SA or Namibia to escape the ravages of their home nation.

While there is a certain moral and intellectual superiority in the notion 'war is not the answer'.....what type of results should we observers expect from this 'let everything work itself out diplomatically' approach?

Lew Scannon said...

This process seems more complicated than the Democratic party's nominating process

Renegade Eye said...

Kawana: Thank you for visiting. I admire your blog. I think it's brave to be so cathartic publicly.

Constructive Feedback: Thank you for visiting. Which blog is your primary blog?

I am struggling to figure out how the "Oppressed Victim" as was the case with Robert Mugabe and Zimbabwe with respect to British Colonialism and Minority White land ownership of the choice property BECOME the ROGUE ANTI-DEMOCRATIC OPPRESSOR in such short order?

I think when anti-colonial struggle is won, the revolution is not finished. Mugabe only took over the apparatus the colonizers left, he didn't smash it. It turns into musical chairs otherwise.

While I have no documented proof to support my conjecture I can imagine that Democracy Now and many of the other activist groups that you have links to on your site were former supporters of the oppressed underdog called the "Robert Mugabe lead government of Zimbabwe" as they were set free from the oppressive powers of British colonial rule. Now you seem to have crafted a multi-variable matrix where not only are the 'usual suspects' the antagonists (the IMF, World Bank and the UK and US Imperialists) but to this array we must as Robert Mugabe as you warn against the Mugabe opposition forces who might be allowed to have their election victory recognized via external pressure as the CONDUIT for the hidden hand of the IMF and US into the country of Zimbabwe.

My links are not based on endorsement. If you link to me, I link back. If you support my blog in any manner, I link to it.

I'm a Trotskyist, who tries to use the dialectical materialist method. Mugabe became more interested in his personal political power than the world revolution. At the same time the neoliberal model has little to offer. New political leadership is needed.

The ANC has been steadily moving to the right. When they took power, they abandoned their revolutionary program. Nationalists have provincial outlooks.

Mugabe will be out soon is my prediction. The army told him to step down. At this point it's between a dictator or neoliberalism, until an alternative develops.

I disagree strongly with Tutu's call for the UK to send troops.

Lew: Atleast Zimbabwe has elections.

thepoetryman said...

I oppose blanket support or opposition.

That is the best policy. Reminds me of the problems facing the US today. Party over country (the whole peoples) never ends well.

Graeme said...

This is a good piece. I enjoyed.

Robert Mugabe didn't do any favors to those who propose land reform. He did it in probably the worst possible way.

Renegade Eye said...

Poetryman: Don't ask me about Tibet. I'm cursed with being able to argue any side,

Graeme: Mugabe wasn't motivated to build socialism, or improve the conditions of the poor. It was only for short term political gain, in response to his neoliberal policy.

jams o donnell said...

Excellent post Ren. Mugabe has let Zimbabwe go down the toilet. Whoever takes over has a huge job to turn the country around. In the short and probably the middle term too, the prospects for Zim are pretty grim.

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