Zimbabwe is currently in a state of upheaval as it is facing a national shutdown organized by anti-government citizen groups and human rights activists, which in return resulted in the crackdown of the government on its opposition and the shutdown of internet access to the country. We can observe the opposing forces of action vs. reaction at play here, but is there a way to discern one or more root causes to the current chaos? Let us try to explore by first taking a step back and see what we can learn from Zimbabwe’s recent history.
Zimbabwe came to life after a long period of British colonial rule, followed by an equally long period of decolonization, in which we can observe the pendulum swing from one elite rule to another elite ruling the country.
Rhodesia as it then was called gained its independence from Britain in 1965 when the white 5% minority rule led by Ian Smith self-declared independence without international recognition. What followed was 15 years of civil conflict in what is dubbed ‘the Rhodesian Bush War’. This saw the country’s black majority consisting of 80% Shona and 10% Ndebele unite in the ‘Patriotic Front’ represented by traditional chiefs and ZANU and ZAPU political leadership, respectively headed by Mr. Robert Mugabe and Mr. Joshua Nkomo.
In an attempt to blunt the power of the opposition the Smith administration acceded to an "Internal Settlement" policy which ended minority rule, changed the name of the country to Zimbabwe-Rhodesia and arranged multi-racial elections, which were held in 1979 and won by Bishop Abel Muzorewa, who became the country's first black head of government.
1980 marked the year of true independence in which a peace treaty was signed - the Lancaster House agreement under the auspice of the UK government - and the country’s name was changed to Zimbabwe. This time the country’s independence was recognized by the international community as it raised high hopes to people around the world, mixed with feelings of weariness, exemplified in the lines of Bob Marley’s classic track “Zimbabwe”:
Every man got the right to decide his own destiny, and in this judgment, there is no partiality. No more internal power struggle, we come together to overcome the little trouble. Soon we’ll find out who is the real revolutionary.
Would it go right with Zimbabwe this time?
The country’s first independent elections were won by Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party with 60% of the vote after the ZANU and ZAPU military allies (as well as political rivals) had merged under Mugabe’s ad-interim leadership. Previously the country had temporarily returned to British control as the elections were held under British and Commonwealth supervision in March 1980. ZANU-PF won the election and Mugabe became the first Prime Minister of Zimbabwe on April 18, 1980.
Had Zimbabwe’s economic growth been in the double digits around 1980 the growth rate showed a steep decline in the following years? Decades of conflict had ended, international sanctions had been lifted, soldiers and displaced people were returning home; the country achieved the highest literacy rate of the continent in no time and rich natural resources lay in waiting to be exploited to benefit all. Zimbabwe had everything to propel itself into a new and bright future. And yet this didn’t happen…
Zimbabwe’s growth in GDP could not keep up with the explosive growth of its population. Over time Zimbabwe’s GDP per capita income shows a steady decline. Where it once outperformed other African nations it presently clearly lags behind. How could this happen?
The Lancaster House Agreement had foreseen in one key factor that reads like a common thread running though Zimbabwean affairs of the past decades. That of the issue of land reform.
Historically the land was divided along racial lines which had always favoured the white minority. The Southern Rhodesian Land Apportionment Act of 1930 reserved 49 million acres for white ownership and left 17.7 million acres of land unassigned to either the white reserve or the so-called Tribal Trust Lands (TTL’s).
Subsequent amendments reveal the shifting tides of time. In 1977, the Land Tenure Act was amended by the Rhodesian parliament, which further reduced the amount of land reserved for white ownership to 200,000 hectares. Over 15 million hectares were thus opened to purchase by persons of any race.
Two years later, as part of the Internal Settlement, Zimbabwe-Rhodesia's incoming biracial government under Bishop Abel Muzorewa abolished the reservation of land according to race. White farmers continued to own 73.8% of the most fertile land suited for intensive cash crop cultivation and livestock grazing, thus generating 80% of the country's total agricultural output, marking its vital contribution to the economy.
During the Lancaster House talks, the ZANU/ZAPU leadership had insisted on the redistribution of land—by compulsory seizure, without compensation—as a precondition to a negotiated peace settlement. The British government, which mediated the talks, proposed a constitutional clause underscoring property ownership as an inalienable right, in order to prevent a mass exodus of white farmers and the subsequent economic collapse of the country. To secure Mugabe and Nkomo's support for the constitutional agreement, the United Kingdom agreed to assist land resettlement with technical assistance and financial aid.
At independence the Zimbabwean authorities were empowered to initiate the necessary reforms; as long as land was bought and sold on a willing basis, the British government would finance half the cost. What seemed to be a good plan doing justice to all involved never reached its objectives. Allegedly land reform funds were funnelled away to finance the military as the reform administration was bogged down in red tape.
Many former supporters of the nationalist movements felt that the promises of Mugabe and Nkomo with regard to the land reform - as enshrined in the constitution - had not been fulfilled. This sentiment was especially acute in Matabeleland, where the legacy of the Southern Rhodesian Land Apportionment Act was more disadvantageous to black Zimbabweans than in other parts of the country.
In January 1983 the army’s 5th Brigade was deployed into Matabeleland-North with the objective of eliminating the opposition of local dissidents. This campaign became known as ‘Gukurahundi’. In the following years, thousands of Ndebele were detained by government forces and either marched to re-education camps or were summarily executed.
After the expiration of the entrenched constitutional conditions mandated by the Lancaster House Agreement in the early 1990's, Zimbabwe outlined several ambitious new plans for land reform. These plans can be characterised by increased politicisation, shifting from 'voluntary' to 'compulsory' in nature.
In 1996, the politicisation of land reform became even more apparent when President Mugabe granted ZANU-PF's central committee overriding powers— superseding those of the Zimbabwean courts as well as those of the Ministry of Lands and Agriculture—to delegate on property rights.
In the late 1990's the funds made available from the Lancaster House Agreement were exhausted. By then the Zimbabwean government had sought support from other donors through its Economic Structural Adjustment Policies (ESAP), which were projects implemented in concert with international agencies and tied to foreign loans.
In June 1998, the Zimbabwe government published its "policy framework" on the Land Reform and Resettlement Programme Phase II (LRRP II), which envisaged the compulsory purchase over five years of lands owned by white commercial farmers, public corporations, churches, non-governmental organizations, and multinational companies. This nationalization of privately owned land would prove to have dire consequences for the country.
In Feb 2000 the government organized a referendum on a new constitution, despite having a sufficiently large majority in parliament to pass any amendment it wished. Had it been approved, the new constitution would have empowered the government to acquire land compulsorily without compensation. Despite vast support in the media, the new constitution was defeated, 55% to 45%.
The referendum covered a ‘Bill of Rights’, proposed to limit the Presidency to two successive five-year terms; the executive President was to remain but be supplemented by a Prime Minister who would be head of government on a day-to-day basis.
The defeat was unexpected and was taken as a personal rebuff for Pres. Mugabe and a political triumph for the newly formed opposition group, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
A few days later, the pro-Mugabe Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) - comprised of but not limited to actual Bush War veterans or either their children or grandchildren - started to march on white-owned farmlands. This movement was officially termed the "Fast-Track Land Reform Program" (FTLRP). The predominantly white farm owners were forced off their lands along with their workers, who were typically of regional descent. This was often done violently and without compensation.
In 2005, parliament, dominated by Zanu-PF, passed a constitutional amendment that nationalised farmland acquired through the "Fast Track" process and deprived original land owners of the right to challenge in court the government's decision to expropriate their land.
Apart from the questionable legality under international law, the measure introduced another problem. The newly resettled peasants largely failed to secure loans from commercial banks because they did not have title over the government owned land on which they were resettled, and thus could not use it as collateral. With no security of tenure on the farms, banks were reluctant to extend loans to the new farmers, many of whom did not have much experience in commercial farming, nor assets to provide alternative collateral for any borrowed money.
In conclusion, subsequent land reform policies have proven to be disastrous for the country by failing in their supposed objectives of wealth re-distribution and economical empowerment of the country’s black majority. It alienated the white minority and in doing so practically destroyed one of the country’s economic pillars. It has created opposition both domestically and on the international stage, reducing the country's international status to that of a rogue nation.
Zimbabwe was once so rich in agricultural produce that it was dubbed the "bread basket" of Southern Africa, while it is now struggling to feed its own population.
The United States government put the Zimbabwean government and elite on a credit freeze in 2001 followed suit by the IMF and EU.
In addition the involvement of Zimbabwe in the affairs of the Democratic Republic of the Congo put even more pressure on the economy by allegedly printing more money to finance two military campaigns including higher salaries for army and government officials.
These failed policies combined with failed crops due to severe drought, an ever increasing population and occurrences on the international markets led to hyperinflation that had its peak in 2008-2009.
The hyperinflation rendered the Zimbabwean currency to non-void as it was replaced by primarily the US dollar in the ‘real’ economy. The dollarisation of the economy was a stop-gap measure that at least curbed hyperinflation but did not address the underlying systemic problems.
The rebound in Zimbabwean GDP following dollarisation is attributed to loans and foreign aid obtained by pledging the country's vast natural resources—including diamonds, gold, and platinum—to foreign powers. The country’s crown jewels are being sold out.
The 2000 referendum and subsequent elections seem to be pivotal in Zimbabwe’s political development. The land reform entered its final phase with ‘Fast Track Land Reform’ whereby most of the land was seized by the government, introducing increased domestic opposition, causing international sanctions and isolationism. Subsequent elections in 2005, 2008 and 2013 did not fundamentally alter the country’s state of affairs.
During those years the issue of succession gathered increased momentum as Pres. Mugabe was ageing. Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa - Mugabe’s long time protege and Mugabe’s wife Grace Mugabe, emerged as the two leading figures to replace Mugabe as President of Zimbabwe. As Mugabe passed the 90 year mark tensions between the two rivals were ever prominently displayed in the public sphere.
In November 2017 a soft booted coup d’etat expelled Mugabe from 37 years of leadership. Mugabe resigned both as president and as ZANU-PF leader thus avoiding being impeached whilst allegedly receiving a 10M US pay-off for him and his family. Emmerson Mnangagwa, who had previously fled to SA, returned to Zimbabwe to assume the presidency. He secured his first full term as President in the July 2018 elections with 50.8% of the vote.
On the eve of the election, July 29, 2018, Mr. Mugabe made a surprise press conference where he stated his wish not to vote for President Mnangagwa and ZANU-PF, the party he founded. Instead, he expressed his wish to vote for his long time rival party, the MDC of Nelson Chamisa in what was possibly his final public political act.
As it may still be too soon to properly evaluate the Mnangagwa presidency, many Zimbabwean’s have already reached the conclusion that it is predominantly a continuation of the status quo: one of corruption, mismanagement, economic failure, austerity policies for the general public vs. a boundless political/economical elite and an overall inhumane culture.
Opposition has emerged from outside the halls of government in the form of anti-government citizen groups. One such group is Tajamuka whom we contacted for the purpose of this article. We spoke to the leader of the movement, Mr. Promise Mkwananzi, to get further insight in the matter. Our point of reference for the interview was the Tajamuka press conference of Oct 12, 2018 and subsequent call for action:
Q: Tajamuka profiles itself as an amalgamation of several citizen groups and organisations that have converged around an organic simmer of anger and citizen disgruntlement to call for some form of action to be taken to register their disquiet with the irresponsible manner with which the Mnangagwa government has conducted itself thus far. Is this a correct representation of your movement?
A: Yes that is correct. We are a coalition of civic groups, particularly young people, that have come together under the banner of Tajamuka. As you may know 'Tajamuka' means outrage; and it is this outrage, that has been simmering over the years, that now manifests itself in the form of non-violent and peaceful protests that you have seen rocking the country over the last week. These protests are not happening in isolation, they are happening in a context which is historical, political and even economical.
When Pres. Mnangagwa took over the reigns of leadership, he began with saying the right things, he began to promise reform, he expressed his commitment to democracy and good governance, but in practice he showed he was not a man of his word and his failure to commit himself and apply democratic principles led to a flawed election in 2018. We believe that this disputed election remains the root cause bedevilling the country at the moment.
We believe that Mr. Mnangagwa did not win the election as he claims and that the dispute of political legitimacy is the problem; and as long as the problem persists Mr. Mnangagwa and his cabal will not be able to alleviate the economical and political crisis currently confronting the country.
So yes, as Tajamuka we are a collective of that anger and an expression and manifestation of the discontent of the generality of our people. We will continue to express ourselves in the form of peaceful non-violent protests, picketing and demonstrations, in the streets, in every corner of our country and even in the form a national shutdown, until and unless Mr. Mnangagwa comes to the table and opens up a national dialogue process that will be all-inclusive, that will be genuine, that will be time-framed, that will be benchmarked, that will be guaranteed and underwritten by SADC [Southern African Development Community], the EU and the international community at large.
Q: You question the legitimacy of the current government and presidency. But didn’t Mnangagwa win the presidency in July 2018 by 50.8% of the popular vote? and didn’t the Supreme Court rule the coup as legitimate?
A: First and foremost Mr. Mnangagwa’s ascendence to power is problematic in terms of the traditionally acceptable route to power which is elections. In November 2017 Mr. Mnangagwa came to power via a soft coup and he used nice ways to try and persuade the people to support him, but nevertheless that did not make his ascendency perfectly legal. His ascendency was made possible through the assistance and support of the military. It was never through elections.
Mr. Mnangagwa did come to power in a curious manner. Having done that, he then went on to conduct one of the most shambolic elections in the history of this country. The July 31, 2018 elections were a total sham. They are not and never will be a reflection of the will of the people of Zimbabwe. We verily believe that Mr. Mnangagwa did not win the presidential elections on that day, and that the elections were manipulated to bring about an outcome that favoured Mr. Mnangagwa, at the expense of the actual winner which was Mr. Nelson Chamisa of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
We are very clear that we do not recognise Mr. Mnangagwa as the legitimate and legal President of Zimbabwe and that his continued stay in office is a continual perpetuation of that illegality. The Constitutional Courts did rule in favour of Mnangagwa on two occasions; at first they said that Mr. Mnangagwa had come to power in a constitutional manner after the coup - which is not correct;
Secondly they declared the elections which brought about Mr. Mnangagwa’s presidency on July 31, 2018, was a true reflection of the will of the people of Zimbabwe. Again, that is not correct. There was overwhelming evidence against that position.
But as you know the judiciary in Zimbabwe is subservient to the ruling party. The high political figures within Mr. Mnangagwa’s clique were busy intimidating judges and manipulating the judiciary system to ensure that the courts ruled in their favour.
Nevertheless we remain committed to our position that Mr. Mnangagwa’s election is not a reflection of the wishes and the will of the people of Zimbabwe and that we continuously and persistently are going to re-iterate that position and challenge Mr. Mnangagwa’s presidency until we reach a point were Mr. Mnangagwa will capitulate and come to the negotiating table, with a view to creating a transitional mechanism that will address or attend to the electoral reform agenda, the media and political reforms, economic reforms which are central to a free and fair election.
The opposition and other civic groups, Tajamuka included, held several demonstrations prior to the elections, where we called upon Mr. Mnangagwa to institute the necessary electoral reform that will guarantee a free and fair election in Zimbabwe. That has not happened. We went into the elections under a flawed electoral environment that is skewed in favour of Mr. Mnangagwa and that is made in such a way as to produce a predetermined outcome.
However, with all those tools available Mr. Mnangagwa still lost the election to Mr. Chamisa. Ballot stuffing, rigging and manipulation of the vote to produce an outcome in his favour. He knows that. And that is the problem. So yes, we do not recognise Mr. Mnangagwa and his government. We believe that their illegitimate, illegal and somewhat criminal continued stay in power is an act of criminality and must be disbanded as soon as possible.
We say to Mr. Mnangagwa: for the sake of your legacy, for the sake of your name - as a leader and a patriot of this country - please bring everybody on board and begin a process that will create the necessary and appropriate facilities and arrangements for free and fair elections and the restoration of legitimacy and democracy in our country.
Q: What triggered the 2017 coup d’etat in your opinion?
A: The coup was a product of a very long political process which began with the formation of the MDC [in 1999] and the increase of the MDC’s popularity over the years. In 2008 Mr. Morgan Tsvangirai beat Mr. Mugabe in the general elections, leading to the formation of the government of national unity [a power-sharing agreement, brokered by the SADC], which gave an economical and political rippling to the country. After the discontinuation of the government of national unity, Mr. Mugabe won again a disputed election in 2013.
We saw the deterioration of the economic situation when ZANU-PF and Mr. Mugabe were now in government on their own. This showed to the people that Mr. Mugabe was no longer capable of addressing the economical and political challenges of the country. As Mr. Mugabe grew older and weary, he was no longer able to contain the simmering discontentment of the factions within his party. We saw an internal implosion within the ruling party as Mr. Mugabe was siding with his wife.
Many people felt that he was no longer in charge of his faculties. He was frail and being manipulated by a group of young and power hungry technocrats, using the then First Lady Grace Mugabe to manipulate her husband. Obviously this was a reason of concern not just to the ruling party but to the opposition and other political players in the country as it appeared to be a source of instability and even insecurity within the country.
In some ways many people gave the military a benefit of doubt when they moved in under the guise of securing the country and the upholding of the constitution as Mr; Mugabe no longer to be able to do exactly that. It was really a combination of factors that led to the coup; from the economic demise of the country, the tragic leadership of Mr. Mugabe - attributed largely to old age and senility - and the runaway madness of his wife Grace Mugabe, who seemed to have seized the executive constitutional powers of her husband using them to manipulate the political process in her favour and that of the cabal of young technocrats within ZANU-PF who supported her.
So their was a very huge concern within the ruling party, the opposition, the social movement and even within the region and the international community of the vacuum that was existing. Those conditions were quite ripe for the invention which we saw the military take up.
It was really a combination of factors. Largely the political and economical challenges the country was facing, the governance issues and the questioned capability of Pres. Mugabe to superintend over the affairs of the state, whether he still had the agility and the mental awareness to conduct his duties as a president.
Q: On international sanctions i.e. the credit freeze. Are they still in effect? If so what have been the effects so far?
A: Well, the debate around the international sanctions is a very complex and sensitive debate in Zimbabwe. There are two narratives which are being propagated: the ruling party argues that the sanctions are a product of an imperialistic attitude of the international community in trying to determine the leadership of the country and using those sanctions to create poverty and suffering of the people, so that the people can turn against their own government.
On the other hand democratic forces believe that these sanctions are not full-fledged sanctions but targeted measures which target key figures within the ruling party who are responsible for the human rights situation in the country. They believe that these sanctions in no way affect the generality of the citizenry but constrain those in the ruling party who are perceived to be key figures from going around, doing shopping and conduct business on the international markets.
My personal view is that these sanctions over the years created a very convenient scapegoat for the ruling party, because they are able to explain away the economic mismanagement by pointing to the sanctions as the problem that is prohibiting them from delivering on the economic front. They have couched that narrative very well and very effectively by stating that every problem in the country is caused by the sanctions that were instated by the US and UK governments against Pres. Mugabe and now Pres. Mnangagwa.
The reality is that these are measures targeted against particular individuals and indeed if ZANU-PF were patriotic enough or really wanted these sanctions to be lifted, I think that the conditions for the removal of sanctions are quite achievable and very reasonable - and good for the country.
I don't see why the ruling party, Mr. Mnangagwe and his government are not able to implement the benchmarks that we set out by those who put up these targetted measures. The benchmarks mainly speak to the issue of human rights, implementation of and compliance to the constitution, free and fair elections, multiplicity and openess of the media. On the contrary, we've seen the government actually banning social media, brutalizing people, etcetera. It is exactly those things the sanctioners say are the reason the sanctions were put there in the first place.
It is a very difficult situation, for the country and for the people. But I think that the ruling party, if they are serious, if they love Zimbabwe, if they are patriotic, if they wish to work for the people, they must satisfy the conditions of good governance, democracy, which will lead to the upliftment of those measures.
Q: Shouldn’t Pres. Mnangagwa be given time to shape his presidency, as it is probably still burdened by Mugabe’s legacy?
A: Mr. Mnangagwe has already been given sufficient time. When he emerged through the coup of November 2017, I think that the people of Zimbabwe gave him sufficient time, good will, support and sufficient benefit of the doubt. Between that time and the elections [of July 2018] there a quite a number of things - that don't need even any money - which Mr. Mnangagwe could already have corrected, but he did not.
I don't see why he should continue to be given time, while the people are facing untold suffering. He has been given enough time; he could have - with immediate effect - promulgated the new constitution into full effect, dealt with corruption, electoral and media reforms, opened up the market.
Within a period of three months he could have done that and carried out a free and fair election and accepted the results if he either had won or lost. This did not happen.
To make matters worse; we don't know whether Mr. Mnangagwa is in full and effective charge of the country. We believe that there are serious core contestations between Mr. Mnangagwa and his deputy, General Constantine Chiwenga, who has a tight grip on the military in the country and using that grip to undermine Mnangagwa's control and authority as president.
This situation needs to be resolved with immediate effect. Mr. Mnangagwa is unable to resolve it, which is why the best way forward for him is to open up an all-inclusive dialogue process, which will expose this military junta and through a democratic process kick them out of power.
Q: You agitate against a number of government measures: the 2% tax raise, a raise in student fees and specifically the current monetary policy. Correct?
A: We believe that government is not sincere in taking those measures. A good example is the issue of the austerity measures, where the government put up a two percent tax on every transaction that is above 10 dollars. And yet, the government continues to import huge vehicles for the chefs, for the chiefs, for themselves. Hefty packages and allowances and salaries for themselves.
It is a contradiction in terms, whereby the government preaches water and drinks wine.
We are saying that the austerity measures which everybody is supposed to be part of, then every person must play his part. Those in government must lead by example, by being seen to be cutting on their packages and committing themselves to the austerity approach. That is not the case. Instead, they are raising more resources through the two percent tax to enrich themselves and line up their pockets. So this is not fair, right and just. We are totally opposed to these practices.
There is no citizen who doesn't understand the need and importance of paying taxes. Our citizens are patriotic Zimbabweans. They understand this to be development oriented. They would like to see the betterment of this country, but not in the circumstances in which their money is being taken to finance the top officials of government, to finance the military to brutalize the people, to finance the police to carry out arbitrary arrests [...] and all these youths from the ruling party the harass the people. We want to pay tax that we can believe and see that it is put to good use.
The students, the access to education, academic freedoms, continue to be a problem. It has become commercialised. Only the rich and those that can pay are able to go to university. Yet, we have very smart young people in the rural areas, sons and daughters of peasant farmers, of workers, of the unemployed, of vendors who also deserve the right to education. We say that government must find a way to balance this, so that even those who come from deprived backgrounds are able to have access to education.
The last but not least is the issue of a surrogate currency which is called the bond note, which has adversely affected our economy. We said it in 2016 when it was introduced, that it was a surrogate monetary policy, it was unsustainable, it would not solve the monetary challenges which the country is facing. As long as the government was not committed to put right the economic fundamentals, it would be a waste of time, resources and energy.
Indeed we have been vindicated; the bond note has not been successful. It continues to negatively affect the economy, distort our currency, distort the value of money, creating unnecessary confusion. We believe that if the government is sincere in its operations, it must scrap the bond note with immediate effect and return to the US dollar or take up the South-African Rand as the temporary currency, while the solution is found to the [economic] problem.
Q: Describe the government’s monetary policy - has it to do with the gov issuing bond notes? The issuance of bond notes has in general been a longstanding practice of governments to raise money on the international markets. Why are you so against this?
A: We are so against the issuing of bond notes because we know that these guys, the ruling elites, have externalised all US dollars that were in the country. We introduced the US dollar in 2009. There was never a liquidity problem in the country. The money was there; it was circulating. People in the ruling party used the informal sector, the informal economy, to externalize and expropriate foreign currency into other countries, taking out what we call the international financial flows. These criminal activities led to fiscal and liquidity problems which they've now tried to solve by issuance of the bond note.
The bond note is not a currency, it is a surrogate currency. We have said this since 2016 and I think that the evidence on the ground speaks for itself.
The bond note will not solve our problems. The government needs to deal with the economic fundamentals, capital flight, corruption, externalisation and only then are we able to talk about a stable economy. It doesn't matter what currency you use as long as those fundamentals are right.
Q: In follow up to this issue. Are we correct in our understanding that the bond notes are issued to citizens, instead of to institutional lenders as is common practice around the world as a means for money creation?
If so, then it appears to be that the government is skimming of cash from its own citizens, without proper cause - like for instance the US and other governments did by issuing war bonds during World Wars 1 and 2, in order to finance the war expenditure.
Q: You call for a new disposition. How are you going to achieve this, since you have no clear political power? Are you allied to one of the existing parties or are you planning to found a party of your own?
A: It's not true that we don't have political power. We've got political power. Political power is in essence measured by the number of people that follow and support you. Tajamuka is at the heart of the citizens. It is one of the largest civic movements in the country. Because we are not seeking [formal] political power per se, we gain more power because we are fighting for social justice, economic freedom and political reform in the country. This gives us a lot of trust from the people.
We are not doing this for political office, we are doing this for the betterment of our country and when the right time comes, we will be able to point to a candidate that we believe is the right candidate for Zimbabwe at that moment. The people will support that candidate and we believe that this defines political power, political influence. We believe that we've got that, we believe the political voice, stamina and gravitas because of the support we enjoy from the Zimbabweans; the issues that we drive, the issues and aspirations that reflect the wishes of the people.
We have become the voice of the voiceless, the voice of the people, the citizenry. We will continue in that role. We will continue to keep in check whoever will be in power, answerable and accountable. We believe that this is political power in essence. We are quite comfortable with that.
It is my view that not everything must be about political power. When the time for political power comes - if ever it will - we'll have a look at that. At this point in time we are concerned about social justice, economic freedom and political reform which will usher in a greater and better Zimbabwe than we currently have. We believe that the promise of independence has not been fulfilled, it has been betrayed.
The Zimbabwe that our liberation war heroes promised us, the Zimbabwe that Robert Mugabe, Emmerson Mnangagwe and others promised us during the war of independence is not the Zimbabwe that we see today. We are pushing for the fulfilment of the liberation promise, which is hinged on the fulfilment of social justice, economical freedom for our people and political justice for the country.
Q: In your presser of Oct 12, 2018 you call for a national shutdown, a shutdown of public life as a means of protest. Don’t you think a shutdown would only hurt the general public who is already suffering?
A: No, the shutdown will not hurt the public. The shutdown is a form and a source of power for the public. It is an expression of a people who say we are able to withhold these services if we are not happy with your leadership, if we are not happy with the way you are conducting yourself.
These are tactics and strategies that have been used politically and historically over the years. So it's not new. It didn't start with us, we didn't reinvent the wheel, it has been there and will always be there as a way of expressing the power of the people, especially in circumstances where there is a brutal, intolerant and repressive regime such as the one we have in Zimbabwe.
You asked earlier on the factors that contributed to the abdication of Pres. Mugabe, and part of the reason was that in 2016 the people of Zimbabwe began to carry out national shutdowns as a way to register their discontent and their unhappiness. Over a period of time those shutdowns gradually weakened Pres. Mugabe's grip on power until he eventually was abdicated.
So Mr. Mnangagwa knows and understands very well the implications and the meaning of these shutdowns - to his grip on power and his presidency. We are very much aware that this the only form on non-violent, peaceful and effective protest that we can use to send a clear message that we are no longer going to tolerate this nonsense.
Q: What has the effect of the shutdown been so far?
A: As of today Mr. Mnangagwa hinted at a process of an all inclusive national dialogue which is our primary demand. I believe that his call is a result of the shutdowns in which the people have shown Mr. Mnangagwa their power and that they are serious in resolving the economical and political challenges in the country. So the effect of the shutdowns is quite evident and immediate. Mr. Mnangagwa is already cornered to capitulate to the demands of the people, and we are happy about that.
We do this out of the love for our country, people and a greater future for this country. We don't want to sabotage our country or undermine its progress. We facilitate that process which will usher in an environment in which our country can prosper and where people can live freely and enjoy all the rights and promises of the liberation struggle.
The shutdowns have been quite effective and to tell you the truth we're not going to stop them, we are actually going to intensify them and escalate them until the preconditions for dialogue have been satisfied. We have laid down preconditions to Mr. Mnangagwa to say you have got to do these things before we go to dialogue.
Part of these preconditions is that he must release all political prisoners with immediate effect; he must institute a commission of inquiry to the atrocities that have been committed; he must address the nation and spell out his commitment to this dialogue process, an inclusive process for all the people of Zimbabwe and he must withhold the military from harassing the citizens.
Then, and only then can we get into negotiations and those negotiations must have very clear principles and terms of reference. They must be time-framed, benchmarked and must have guarantees, part of which is a commitment to electoral reforms, media reforms, political and economical reforms, involving a transitional mechanism that will attend to these issues, eventually resulting in free and fair elections, which will lead to a government that is totally legitimate and a true reflection of the wishes and the will of the people of Zimbabwe.
This is of the utmost importance to us. These negotiations must be supervised and underwritten, not just by SADC and the EU, but also by the UN and the international community at large.
Q: The shutdown is a means to an end. How do you plan to proceed from there? What is your next step?
A: The shutdowns are a means to an end. The end is a democratic society where we see the pillars of democracy, the institutions of democracy finally being allowed to function. We use these shutdowns to put pressure on the government to attend to these issues. The steps to achieve this I already have highlighted. We need an all inclusive process with a transitional mechanism in place that will attend to the full implementation of the 2012 constitution and total compliance to the same.
There is no implementation nor compliance. The rule is not being applied. All these things must be addressed. We need to see a government that is a true reflection of the wishes of the people. That is the next step. We want to see a Zimbabwe that is different from the one Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Mnangagwa have offered us.
We believe that there is so much potential. Only if we believe we are able to deal with those fundamentals and we believe that the time has come. We as people of Zimbabwe will no longer tolerate any nonsense from our leaders.
We will no longer let leaders do as they wish. We will hold them accountable, answerable and we will hold them to their promise. And that promise is that we need a democratic Zimbabwe, a prosperous, open and tolerant Zimbabwe, where citizens feel that they are equal and that they can reach their maximum potential, regardless of which tribe they come from, who they are and what views they hold; where the resources of the country are truly national and every Zimbabwean is a beneficiary of those resources.
Q: In opposition to your shutdown call, people have been saying that it hasn’t been a peaceful process: To quote one source: “Stop the burning and looting my brother stop preaching about peace when you are unleashing terror to innocent businesses and masses who differ with your political views. Peace begins with you” - what do you have to say about that?
A: Tajamuka and other social movements are committed to a non-violent and peaceful political process. This is part of our values. This is part of our DNA. We know that the domain of violence is not our domain. It would be foolhardy for us to employ violent tactics against a regime that is armed with all the tools of violence that you can imagine, that a state can have.
The only people or beneficiaries of a violent process is the ruling party and the state that they control. They instigate violence using pseudo groups to justify their heavy handedness and the use of violence against the citizens.
The looting is a good example. Some prominent ZANU-PF youths were caught actually looting in the shops and beaten by soldiers. It is clear that ZANU-PF that go around instigating these unlawful and criminal activities, in order to create an environment whereby they can justify the use of violence; because that is the only way they know how to deal with problems. We are smart enough to know that our domain is peaceful and non-violent, and that is the domain that the citizens of Zimbabwe support.
Q: We have titled our article as “Mugabe’s Ghost?” for a reason. We are investigating how much Zimbabwe’s future is tied to the legacy of Robert Mugabe. Do you feel Mr. Mugabe still has power - albeit behind the scenes? What is the influence of Mr. Mugabe in the current political life?
A: I think that Pres. Mugabe as one of the founding fathers of our independence and our liberation will forever remain an influential and powerful figure in the political discourse of Zimbabwe - you can't take that away from him. Mr. Mugabe remains a very powerful figure behind the scenes indeed. He is a very sly politician, perhaps a bitter one. Mr. Mugabe and those allied with him will not sit and watch while Mr. Mnangagwa enjoys the fruits of political power.
Mr. Mugabe remains a very big player, a very big philosophy if you like - an ideology even - in the politics of Zimbabwe. He will forever remain with that status. That cannot be taken away from him.
So does Mr. Tsvangirai [founder of the MDC] forever remain the founding father of opposition politics in Zimbabwe. These are the national 'fathers' of our country and Mr. Mugabe is one such figure, perhaps the biggest of them all. He will remain a factor in poltics not just of Zimbabwe but of Africa in general.
Some African countries do adore Mr. Mugabe for him taking stance against imperialism and colonialism. Whereby this was a genuine or true stance, that is another matter. But he did propel himself as the champion of Pan-Africanism, as the protector and leader of the African people in Africa as well as in the diaspora.
Q: In our assessment the biggest problem Zimbabwe is facing is the permeation of ZANU-PF power into every aspect of society. Political clientelism, lack of separation between political, governmental and judicial powers, lack of the freedom of the press. Is this a fair assessment?
A: That is a totally fair assessment of the situation in Zimbabwe. ZANU-PF is ubiquitous. It is like sand, it is everywhere. The intelligence officers of the ruling party are everywhere. Where three are gathered, one of them is an informer. It ia a problem for be able to do that there are serious budgettal implications. ZANU-PF has gone out of its way enhancing security and intelligence at the expense of the economic development, social services and the like. Power retention is their biggest priority.
Q: This sounds a lot like the situation in the former East-Germany (GDR), where 1 in 4 citizen was on the government's payroll, which - combined with a huge military upkeep - put a massive strain on the underdeveloped economy and society at large.
Maybe the biggest issues however were that of 'trust' and 'privacy' The people were never sure who they actually were dealing with in their daily interactions. Apart from a simmering opposition this created a state of apathy whereby people were afraid to take initiative. Would you say this applies to Zimbabwe too?
Q: Is present-day Zimbabwe a failed state?
A: I wouldn't say that Zimbabwe is a failed state in the strict sense of the features of a failed state. The state is still able to function, to provide where it wants to provide. The major problem is that the state is corrupt, violent and brutal, but otherwise the institutions are there. They need some tightening up, they need some improvement. They need to align a lot of things to the constitution and give various programs the financial as well as political independence that they require, the autonomy that is needed for them to function.
I wouldn't say that the state is a completely failed state. Perhaps a failing state.
Q: One of the conclusions we draw from our research is that Mr. Mugabe, being a politician and opportunist without any clear ideological agenda, is partially responsible for creating and ending up allying himself with a black elite that pretty much acts in the same way as their white predecessors. What do you have to say about this?
A: I think it would be unfair to say that Mr. Mugabe was a ideological ignoramus. I think he had some clarity about his ideology, his political beliefs and where he intended to take the country to. For example, controversial as they may be, I think that the indigenisation of the economy and the land reform program will forever remain a signature of Mr. Mugabe's political legacy.
He is a man who is known to stand for something. It is another matter if whatever he stood for was right or wrong, but he was clearly loyal to his beliefs and was willing to pay the price as he indeed paid it in order to uphold the things he believed in.
I'm not so sure in contrast that Mr. Mnangagwa has that clarity of what he stands for, what he believes and even how to shape his presidency. I see him as a man full of ideological ambivalence. I am very concerned that Mr. Mnangagwa seems to believe that foreigners or foreign business is what will going to help this country, but we believe that the people of Zimbabwe, given the opportunity and the right political and economical environment, will be able to fix the country on their own accord.
We cannot avoid working with other countries in a highly globalising world. We understand that but we must be able to also work and strengthen ourselves locally so that we are able to operate and negotiate globally on equal terms. Mr. Mnangagwa is unable to understand this very basic and simple truth.
Q: Our overall conclusion is as follows:
What emerges from the mist of the past is a country that has been on a gradually declining slope of failure, whereas it has arguably has all the ingredients for success. A country shunned by the international community, left over to its own device. Decades of internal failed policies cannot be solely attributed to former colonial rule or foreign interventionism which has been the bane of so many African nations.
It seems to us that the crisis Zimbabwe is facing is primarily one of its own doing. No wonder a counter-movement has emerged propagated by a younger generation that is stepping up to reform the country. The strife for change is to be applauded provided the lessons learned from the past will be applied this time. What do you have to say about this?
A: I think that this is a correct assessment of the factors that contributed to the political and economical decline of Zimbabwe. I agree with you that it is a complex set of issues that affect us. It cannot be attributed to the international community, It cannot be attributed to Zimbabwe. It is a complex range of factors put together but largely a tragic leadership failure by Mr. Mugabe and now Mr. Mnangagwa which has been at the centre of this demise.
Their counterproductive policies, corruption and long incumbency. I think Pres. Mugabe stayed for too long. He could have facilitated a succession within his party. Perhaps things could have been different.
His long incumbency, his effectual political illegitimacy, and the fact that Mr. Mugabe has crossed a red line and that his pride would not allow him to step back. It is a combination of very complex and sophisticated issues put together which have lead to the crisis that the country has found itself in. But not all hope is lost as you have rightly observed. An emerging generation of young people have taken it upon themselves to turn the corner, to redirect Zimbabwe into the right direction.
"I can tell you as their representative and spokesperson that this is a commitment that young people are not going to let upon. We are going to fight with every peaceful means we have; to ensure that this country is back on track and that those ingredients for success are actualised and success becomes a part and the reality of our lives." - Promise Mkwananzi , Tajamuka Leader
From the Tajamuka/Sesjikile Campaign of 22/01/19:
Alistair Pfunye former ZINASU President, SASU Vice President, and Activista member has been arrested along with 30 other leaders and activists. They were raided during the heart of the night, tortured, and dumped at the Harare Central Police Station. They are due to appear in court tomorrow. We continue to call upon President Mnangagwa and his Deputy Chiwenga to halt the political genocide and call for an all-inclusive political dialogue to resolve the obtaining political impasse.