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  • Hot Seat: ICG’s Trevor Maisiri analyses Zim political leaders
    Violet Gonda, SW Radio Africa

    April 26, 2013

    Violet Gonda: My guest on the Hot Seat programme today is International Crisis Group Southern Africa senior analyst Trevor Maisiri. Let’s start with looking at the situation in the coalition government – MDC leader Professor Welshman Ncube recently accused Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe of seriously flouting provisions of the Global Political Agreement by excluding his party from important election processes and has warned that what is going on in government will lead to a disputed election. What do you make of the current tensions in the coalition government?

    Trevor Maisiri: I think the current tensions in the GNU are basically in contravention of the SADC position that was taken in Maputo in 2012 where SADC endorsed Ncube to be a part of the principals and therefore to be consulted on any political decisions that are made. But what you are seeing is a contestation where Mugabe and Tsvangirai seem to be comfortable to keep Welshman Ncube out of the picture and therefore entertain Mutambara who is considered to have no political constituency at the moment.

    Gonda: Ncube says that there’s no way that the MDC formations can form a pact ahead of forthcoming elections because there’s now an alliance between Morgan Tsvangirai and Mugabe. Do you believe that the prime minister has really planned with the president to push Ncube out? Is this intentional?

    Maisiri: I don’t think it is intentional as such; I think this is what I would call some unintentional convenience. What has happened is Mugabe has seen some convenience in terms of keeping Welshman out; Tsvangirai also seems to have seen some convenience in keeping Welshman out and I think on those particular conveniences, the two of them seem to be acting in this way but I don’t think they have actually sat down to plot Welshman’s downfall. I think it’s just a momentary convenience that they are working upon. We have it on record that there’s been attempts to actually try and bring the two MDCs into a pact for the forthcoming election but I think the biggest hindrance has really been the personal differences between Morgan Tsvangirai himself and Welshman Ncube and therefore looking at what is happening in the GNU it would seem that those personal relationships are also affecting the current machinations that we are seeing within the principals’ platform.

    Gonda: But do you see a political pact between the former opposition parties as many believe it is still the only way of presenting a formidable challenge against Zanu PF and if so, how will it work since the political parties are preparing for primary elections?

    Maisiri: I think it’s difficult to see a political pact between the MDCs at the moment, mainly because of two reasons. The first reason is what I mentioned earlier which is the bad blood that seems to be there between Tsvangirai and Ncube which is emanating from the 2005 split I guess, and then the second issue is about political constituency. I think the MDC-Tsvangirai is not convinced of how much political constituency Welshman has even in what has been termed his stronghold of Matabeleland and at the same time Welshman is also not sure of what political constituency Tsvangirai still has in Matabeleland. So without clarity of what political constituency each one has, it’s difficult for them to come to a table where they give and take based on the respect of each other’s political constituencies.

    Gonda: Speaking of political constituencies, elections are in a few months and the political parties have not had primary elections yet. The MDC-T said they will start on May 3rd but Zanu PF and MDC Ncube are yet to announce their dates. What does this say about the state of our political parties and how democratic are these processes?

    Maisiri: I think it is a question of what I would call fragile internal democracy in all these particular political parties. What you would see is that there is still no space for free will expression within those particular political parties and also our positioning is still balanced on our personal preferences as well as not allowing others to contest whatever positions that they feel they should, therefore it shows the immaturity of the internal democracy within all these political parties at the moment.

    Gonda: What about on the issue of proportional representation?

    Maisiri: I think there are two levels to look at that. The first level is basically is that the proportional representation has been brought in, in order to allow female candidates to gain more traction in terms of having representation in parliament which I think is positive, looking at the political background of the exclusion of females in this domain of politics. And then at the second level you are also looking at in terms of all the parties, what kind of female representation are they going to put forward for these particular positions because what it speaks about is these parties now need to go away from party systems of patronage and pick on competent females, competent women that represent the broader perspective of the female constituents in the country and who are also effective in that particular role to be able to take these positions. Otherwise you’ll also continue to see imposition of female candidates who will not be able to perform as expected in parliament.

    Gonda: What about the internal dynamics in the different political parties? What do you make of the factional fighting in Zanu PF for example and how does this relate to elections?

    Maisiri: Yah I think it is something that has been brewing over time and Zanu PF has not had the courage of addressing succession issues and internal fighting issues within its provinces and structures. So what we are seeing, we are seeing is a culmination of issues that have not been addressed in time and therefore by postponing the primary elections, I don’t think Zanu PF has enough or ample time to be able to address all these issues that have been brewing over the last ten or 20 years and collapse them into a two month mediation process. It’s going to be very difficult for Zanu PF to do that and my suspicion is we may see continual postponement of these primary elections and maybe the party may have to resort to imposing candidates after all.

    Gonda: And some observers say that the MDC formations should be taking advantage of this infighting that has resulted in Zanu PF chairman Simon Khaya Moyo being deployed to Manicaland but what you see is the MDC-T, for example, involved in similar squabbles in Manicaland such as the dispute between Makoni South MP Pishai Muchauraya and his rival Geoff Nyarota. What do you make of that?

    Maisiri: I think primarily taking advantage of the Zanu PF differences and internal factional fighting is not something sustainable according to my own analysis. I think these parties need to work independently on their own capacity; they need to work independently on their own competencies to be able to convince the people of Zimbabwe that they should vote for them – however at the same extent you are also seeing this factional fighting issue in MDC-T in Manicaland. I think it also represents the broader perspective of unresolved issues within the MDC itself. It might just be Manicaland today but if the party does not also address issues of internal democracy we may see more infighting in other provinces.

    Gonda: And what about in the Ncube-MDC? It’s reported that some more MPs or members have defected and have crossed the floor to either Zanu PF or the Tsvangirai MDC. What does this say about the party ahead of the elections?

    Maisiri: I think with Ncube, the issue is some of these candidates who are crossing the floor don’t seem to be seeing the light in terms of where the party is going because if you look at the political landscape in Zimbabwe today it’s basically a Zanu PF versus the MDC-T landscape – that is how a lot of people have taken it to be. The other parties are seen to be competent but not at a similar level. So you’d see that a lot of MPs would see more life in joining maybe one of the main parties as they maybe see Welshman as still relevant but not with as much traction as the other two parties. So this crossing of floors could really be an issue of finding political opportunities elsewhere.

    Gonda: Let’s put the political parties aside and try to dissect the individual leaders. Let’s start with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai – what are your views on the way he has handled affairs as a leader in government, in this coalition?

    Maisiri: I think the main issue with the prime minister has really been the glaring issues of leadership. I think for me one of the issues, besides looking at his personal self, is the issue of policy fundamentals. I think the MDC has not come into government with a solid policy fundamentals or a policy proposition to be able to push back against those policies that people have always criticized from Zanu PF. So for me it is one particular issue of concern around the leadership within the MDC. And then also the issue of consistency is one issue that has also been quite striking in terms of the MDC being able to pick a line and being consistent on that issue or sticking through those particular issues. I think we have seen various changes, twists and turns and even multiple messaging from within the MDC we realize that there are different quarters that bring about issues from a different perspective. So internal coherence is also impacting negatively on Tsvangirai’s leadership within that particular party.

    Gonda: Welshman Ncube’s leadership?

    Maisiri: Ncube, I think Ncube’s turned out as a good leader but he seems not to have done well in terms of political mobilization, getting in touch with the grassroots and being able to convince the grassroots that he is a leader that they should follow. So his main lack has been his touch with the grassroots.

    Gonda: President Mugabe?

    Maisiri: I think President Mugabe has remained what we have known him to be over the period of time; his main weakness right now seems to be the failure to stamp out issues that he has criticized in his own party. First of all the issue of corruption – I think he had spoken about corruption even at the 2012 conference in Gweru but we have not seen his action around those particular issues of corruption. We also see these issues of internal fighting. All along he’s been calling for internal harmony in the party but we’ve also not seen him getting onto the ground and being able to reinstitute his party and deal with factionalism and internal fighting issues, which for me speaks around issues of whether he is still in control or whether we are seeing his leadership control slipping within that particular party.

    Gonda: Professor Arthur Mutambara?

    Maisiri: I think Professor Arthur Mutambara is quite competent as an individual but I still feel he’s more of a technocrat than he would be as a politician. By that I mean he is somebody that you can give the national development strategy to run and he could do it but I think bringing him to a political platform where he needs to lead people, he needs to lead a multitude of people and also take political positions, I think we have seen a lot of weaknesses around that area. He seems to fail to sense the moment when it comes to political statements and when it also comes to political sensitivities.

    Gonda: What about the opposition leaders – Simba Makoni and Dumiso Dabengwa?

    Maisiri: I think Simba Makoni stands out as a good technocrat as well, with leadership qualities that seem to be well placed but again the issue of grassroots mobilization, the issue of being able to mobilize on the ground, I would put Simba Makoni in the same realm as Welshman Ncube in terms of being a good – I mean good as individuals but failure to mobilize on the ground.

    And then when it comes to Dumiso Dabengwa, I think Dumiso Dabengwa has had a very long history in this country looking at his liberation credentials, but I think the failure that we have at the moment is that he has miscalculated his political career, by having to go to resuscitate Zapu. I think Dumisa Dabengwa is somebody who would do well to work under any other leadership except him being a leader of a political movement. So for him political miscalculation has been his biggest downfall.

    Gonda: So do you think Zimbabweans are going to have a difficult task to choose their next leader?

    Maisiri: I think the biggest challenge that Zimbabweans will face is the political environment. I think in terms of choice of who they want to pick, who they want to vote for, I believe Zimbabweans are a decisive people, they are people who know what kind of leadership they want, what kind of people they want but I think the political environment is going to play a factor in terms of whether Zimbabweans can express themselves freely in that regard or whether they will not be able to do that.

    Gonda: Is there a reconfiguration of the role of the international community in Zim political affairs? The state controlled Herald newspaper for example says Zanu PF has received overtures from the EU, Britain in particular, and even from the Commercial Farmers Union. The paper said that a recent visit by US special envoy led by Andrew Young, who is a former US ambassador to the United Nations, also confirms that Washington has lost confidence in the MDC-T. What can you say about this?

    Maisiri: Yes I think there’s a reconsideration of the role of the international community in Zimbabwe’s political affairs and I think this shift is more to do with the SADC position. If you remember two, three years ago, SADC went round to the NGOs, they went to the US and then they also went to the UK government and stood on behalf of Zimbabwe in terms of calling for the removal of sanctions. But what I believe happened in those interactions is that SADC was also able to mobilize the international community not to take a front line role in the Zimbabwean issue but for all of them to work behind SADC and support SADC initiatives. I think one of the issues which SADC has been pushing is for the international community to be impartial and not be aligned to any political party when it comes to Zimbabwe.

    So I believe what we are seeing now in terms of Zanu PF being given opportunities to engage with other players in the international community is because of SADC’s position, where SADC has managed to convince the international community that they need to take a neutral position on Zimbabwe and engage on either side. So you would see that Patrick Chinamasa was in Europe a couple of weeks ago, we have seen Ambassador Young coming to Zimbabwe and I believe that Ambassador Young’s coming into Zimbabwe is also testimony to how much the Americans are wanting to open channels of communication with Zanu PF. Obviously the state media has played its own propaganda and has spun some of the issues out of control but what we are seeing is a beginning of the broader framework of the international community reaching out to try and engage, not just with Zanu PF but with all other political parties in Zimbabwe.

    Gonda: But is it a right position to take – this neutral position – when the other partners in the government are saying Zanu PF continues to block progress? For example blocking the UN assessment team from entering Zimbabwe because the UN wants to see all stakeholders including civil society organizations but Zanu PF is refusing.

    Maisiri: You could look at it as a right or a wrong decision to make, but also let’s not forget that this is also shaped by other global factors that are outside of the control of these players or of the Zimbabweans. For example I think if you look at the Libyan issue in terms of how the westerners were blasted for having interfered in African affairs. You also look at the African Union’s push to have lesser interference by westerners in African affairs, you also look at even the recent issue where the French moved into Mali but they only moved in at the invitation of the Malians themselves. So there’s a reconfiguration of the whole issue of African solutions to African problems where westerners are being restricted in terms of the space that they have to come and directly influence issues within African states. So that broad global issue is what is affecting these westerners to take this particular stance. Whether it’s right, whether it’s wrong, whether they like it or they don’t like it but I think they are being forced by that broader perspective of restricted space in terms of their involvement in internal issues of African states.

    Gonda: So what do think about the issue of election funding?

    Maisiri: The issue of election funding – I think the UN model that the Zimbabweans had devised, for me it looks to have been the best model because the UN comes in from a point where it is not representing a singular country but it is representing the whole league of nations across the globe. And also the issue of funding by the UN is not basically something that can be made as a thumb suck but is based on an assessment of prevailing political conditions and decisions are then made thereof.

    I think for me there was a bit of a mistake in terms of the Zimbabwean parties in terms of how they approached it because the assessment that the UN wanted to do was not an assessment about observation or anything else, it was an assessment of the political environment out of which they would have then made recommendations of what needs to be done in Zimbabwe and how much can really be given to Zimbabwe by who, by when and then things like that but I think the Zimbabweans, especially on the Zanu PF part, they have been very protective of political space to the extent that they have expected the UN assessment team to change their mandate which is given by the UN General Assembly in terms of all other assessments that are done in this particular framework which to me is impossible.

    Even when you hear the prime minister and Mugabe agreeing and they are asking Chinamasa and Biti to try and talk down the UN from their mandate that is impossible because this is a UN General Assembly endorsed mandate which the UN cannot change. So I believe the Zimbabweans are basically just shooting themselves in the foot by pushing back on this UN assessment team which I believe could have led to election funding and also the improvement of the political situation and conditions in Zimbabwe.

    Gonda: So do you think it’s being done on purpose to push them out and also if the money doesn’t come from the UN, where will it come from?

    Maisiri: I think it is being done on purpose. Why because the real issue is Zanu PF has said that they do not want to see the UN to engage with civil society and if you look at the historical relationship between Zimbabwean civil society and Zanu PF it has been one that has been identified by Zanu PF’s allegations that civil society in Zimbabwe is out for regime change and therefore an engagement of civil society with the UN was seen by Zanu PF as threatening to its own protected political space in the country. Therefore I believe this pushback is very intentional.

    And to the second part of your question – if we don’t receive the UN funding, where else are the funds going to come from? Biti said that they’re not going to look at raising funds through government bonds like they did with the referendum funding which means that option is out. So it leaves us with other internal sources – for example I think one of the most reliable resources in Zimbabwe today is the diamond resource and so my question would be whether those companies that are involved in diamond mining are willing to put funds on the table for election funding – that is the question that still remains to be answered but that still remains an option that the Zimbabweans can pursue in terms of approaching diamond mining companies for funding.

    Gonda: Professor Ncube said the $132million that is needed to fund this year’s election is nothing compared to the money which is being stolen out of the Chiadzwa diamond fields and Finance Minister Biti also said Zimbabwe’s diamond exports were $800 million last year but only $45 million went to the Treasury. So clearly people in government know what is happening. Why is it that nothing has been done so far and these are the people that are going to be voted into power again?

    Maisiri: Violet I might not be the best qualified in terms of confirming or denying that there are leaks out of the diamond funds from the Chiadzwa fields but I think the issue that Welshman and Biti mentioned diamond funding and that they all seem not at ease with how issues are being handled in terms of how profits from diamonds – for me speaks of a government that is not working on systems of accountability. It speaks of different voices within the same government that are talking about different issues in terms of how these profits are being handled.

    So for me the question would be to throw back at maybe Professor Ncube and Minister Biti to ask them what they are doing about the suspicions and allegations that they seem to have raised. And the other issues as well, we have heard a lot of allegations in Zimbabwe that I feel it is time that people and even ministers and civil society and all other players need to work on evidence base. Once we have evidence of all these allegations, I’m sure it is easy to address these issues. But at times issues are flagged out and there’s no concerted effort in terms of bringing up the evidence to be able to nail down these issues. For me in general the whole uneasiness about diamonds from people within the same government is an issue of concern in terms of accountability and exactly what they are doing about it.

    Gonda: Right and finally Trevor, what is the relevance of the civil society organizations in the current political environment?

    Maisiri: I think civil society is still quite relevant in terms of the current dynamics but one issue that I think civil society needs to focus upon is being able to engage with other outside players. If you look at how international politics or global politics is being shaped, it is no longer being shaped just by domestic factors and domestic issues which is also shaped by external factors and especially the Zimbabwe issue where we’ve got SADC as mediators, we’ve got the AU as a guarantor and we’ve got other players who are keeping their eyes stuck on Zimbabwe. I think civil society needs to grow out of just the domestic, the restrictive domestic space that they have been acting upon and start to engage at a regional, at a continental and at a global level to be able to find partners who can be able to hear their voice, understand them and be able to help them push for a full and sustainable resolution of the Zimbabwean issue. So there’s still space for civil society but I believe there is need to do more in terms of regional, continental and international engagement.

    Gonda: That was Trevor Maisiri a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group. Thank you for talking to us on the Hot Seat programme.

    Maisiri: Thank you so much Violet.

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