Caveat emptor on 'post-Mugabe' permutations

Caveat emptor on 'post-Mugabe' permutations
Published: 09 September 2017 (277 Views)
Let's all admit it: the "Zimbabwean question" has for the past two decades been subject of such plotting and planning; academicising and theorising; mapping and pontificating that have not been seen possibly anywhere else in the world post 2000.

Or let's say in peacetime countries that have not been wrecked by war and conflict and their deadly aftermaths as seen from Iraq to Libya. The main issue of what we are calling the "Zimbabwean question" has been regime change and a conceptualisation of various aspects of "life after Mugabe".

Of course, that narrative has nothing to do with the ordinary folk who otherwise would keep their leader for a hundred more years, God and biology permitting.

It has all to do with huge interests mainly from outside who see President Mugabe, the revolutionary leader and hero, as an impediment to the plans they have for the country. As though God divined them - or people of Zimbabwe invited them.

But, here we are: a small country called Zimbabwe has been at the centre of attention and policies of countries such as Britain and America, not in the old colonial-imperialistic sense but a modern geopolitical puzzle.

Quite clearly, the West wants regime change and that means removing the person of Robert Mugabe from office and dismantling all the features and philosophy of his rule.

There was some point where the term "de-Zanufication" was trending. Some 10 years back. Yes, de-Zanufication: wiping the slate clean of any history, association and spirit. And at the centre of it all would be dealing with the people's collective national psyche, identity and being.

Hence, as part of this de-Zanufication, someone though that Mugabe had to be "separated from the people". Which means a lot really, if you want to scrutinise further.

But the main point of this is that this whole push for regime change and de-Zanufication has given rise to a lot of phenomena politically, socially and economically which you cannot place in the period outside of that which we are reviewing.

And an important outcome is the whole industry and scholarship around regime change in the country. It is so saturated, sometimes depressingly so, at worst with some bar talkers posing themselves as experts on Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwean question. We are aware of course that whole careers in the field of politics and its cousins in the civil society activism have been carved out and money made and lost.

Someone who is not gainfully employed, like Morgan Tsvangirai for example, can afford to eat and marry and live in a mansion, all thanks to politics of regime change of which he has been the chief mascot, nay, puppet.

Too many experts
But beyond the frontline players in the regime change question there has been an important component: that of the academia and "experts". These range from some white, sometimes racist, old men to our own commentators, political scientists and analysts who have progressively been found wanting in giving us a proper and accurate analysis and narratives, often conflating their politics with what they pass as political science.

Think of the likes of Ibbo Mandaza an otherwise respectable man who has been many times caught offside and has had the incremental misfortune of sounding so delusional if not downright moronic at times.

We shall return to him shortly and his one proposal about electoral politics in Africa. But let's get the specimens for discussion this week. On September 2, Stephen Chan, Professor of World Politics at School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London wrote a piece titled, "Zimbabwe looks for Mugabe's successor after a surreal month" that about kicked a new season of speculation on what would likely happen in Zimbabwe.

Chan poses as an expert on Zimbabwe and has written books and publications on the country (and Africa), including "Robert Mugabe: A Life of Power and Violence" and "Citizen of Africa: Conversations with Morgan Tsvangirai".

He is considered a "listening post" for Western, especially British, interests. And he did spring (no pun intended) some fresh speculation on the succession politics in Zimbabwe last week.

He wrote: "Mugabe still plans to be his ZANU-PF party's presidential candidate in 2018, but were he to win and complete a full term he would be 99-years-old. A new potential candidate to succeed him is political veteran Sydney Sekeramayi, seemingly endorsed by the Generation 40 group long associated with Grace. As with his rival presidential hopeful Emmerson Mnangagwa, the septugenarian Sekeramayi does not represent a new generation. What both men stand for is the liberation generation's last chance to redeem itself after Mugabe, before the 'born frees' or 'young frees' finally get to build a future their elders seem unable to imagine." Chan goes on to reveal that at the start of August had a conversation with former South African President Thabo Mbeki.

"Rumours abounded that Mbeki semi-officially endorsed Mnangagwa as South Africa's preferred successor.

"South Africa needs guaranteed stability on its northern borders. Pretoria can be expected to throw its lot in with the man who out guns the others, and Mnangagwa's strong historical links with the military make him perhaps the strongest contender."

Chan's speculation came out at the same time as former Reuters Africa editor Barry Moody's article "Zim faces DisGrace and more Crocodile tears" (The Star, September 2, 2017) which ran similar permutations.

Not so special report
But it is an article by Reuters this week that has sent a good number of tongues wagging. In a special report Reuters claims that VP Mnangagwa was planning a post-Mugabe future anchored on reform, building a coalition with Morgan Tsvangirai and realigning with Britain and the West in general.

"According to politicians, diplomats and a trove of hundreds of documents from inside Zimbabwe's Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) reviewed by Reuters, Mnangagwa and other political players have been positioning themselves for the day Mugabe either steps down or dies," claims the report.

". . . the intelligence reports, which date from 2009 to this year, say a group of powerful people is already planning to reshape the country in the post-Mugabe era. Key aspects of the transition planning described in the documents were corroborated by interviews with political, diplomatic and intelligence sources in Zimbabwe and South Africa."

Mnangagwa would lead a "transitional" unity government with Tsvangirai with the backing of the military and Britain, according to the expose. However, the opposition has since dismissed the deal and the possibility of an "elite pact" with Mnbangagwa. In a statement Wednesday, Tsvangirai's spokesman, Luke Tamborinyoka, revealed that his boss had not met Mnangagwa for four years.

He added: "(p)resident Tsvangirai has not had any meeting with either the British or the military involving this purported deal. Any purported deal outside elections and involving diplomats, the military and other such characters will not be legitimate and will not rescue Zimbabweans from their current predicament."

Caveat emptor
There is likely to be more speculation of this kind — just as the speculation, scenario mapping and scholarising about Zimbabwe and its crises and politics have become such a huge industry.

But customer beware! Which is the nub of this piece. The reaction to the Reuters story has been telling. Authoritative watchers and journalists poured scorn at the report saying it was made of "privileged bar talk".

Which many of the speculations around the succession issue in Zimbabwe are. While so many theories fly about, nothing from these experts has held any water to date. The reasons for this could be varied.

First of all, and this is true of the whole regime change push, there is a fatal error in misunderstanding the depth and strength of the ruling party — and by extension the Zimbabwean political system at large.

It is true, as has been previously regretted by some western diplomats, that the efforts and money that has been poured into Zimbabwe could have yielded different results elsewhere.

With record hyperinflation and the destruction of the economy through sanctions and isolation, many countries of the world — especially small insignificant countries like ourselves — would have buckled under pressure and caved in.

It may interest the reader that Zimbabwe is one of a few countries in the world that are under US sanctions — and that company includes the likes of Syria, North Korea, Iran and Venezuela.

Such hallowed company of rich and strategic countries!

The people of Zimbabwe have survived for close to two decades under these punitive sanctions.

It follows then that Zimbabwe is such a much complex polity that goes beyond the conventions and mores espoused by so-called experts.

Pundits have also spectacularly failed to read how revered the person of President Mugabe is and how institutionalised that love and reverence is.

Elections are coming next year and Zanu-PF is set to win those same elections with a leader enjoying the ripe age of 94 and can on paper finish his five year term at 99 — one short of zana!

Many will be willing to donate that one year to him. That is the nature of Zanu-PF and that confounds convention. Perhaps this is the source of Ibbo Mandaza's frustrations.

This week at an event he said: "Elections have become an exercise in futility except for those in power. As long as the State in Africa is what it is, made up of people for whom the State has become the livelihood, for whom retention of power is the end and the all of politics, it is unlikely that we will have the kind of democratic processes that are familiar in bourgeois democracies.

"Generally speaking, the previous five years are always a disaster in most of our countries. So much so that it is not possible for a government to win later on and get a bigger majority than before. Even the popular Barack Obama, in his second term got 30 percent less than his first term.

In Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe had 2,2 million (votes), double what he got in the previous elections. That alone as an election behaviour is not possible. They should at least struggle to win."

We must be clear on this. This reflects more of a person who has failed to comprehend the dynamics of political processes which he ordinarily would be billed as an expert. His Zimbabwean experience, where is something between an academic/scientist and activist is telling.

In frustration, he would rather throw away the baby with the bathwater. That is why we must not follow these permutations bandied about carelessly for "post-Mugabe era".

Or, rather, customer beware!

- the chronicle

Tags: Caveat, Mugabe, Mandaza,
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