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Seat: ICG’s Trevor Maisiri analyses Zim political leaders
Violet Gonda, SW Radio Africa
April 26, 2013
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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
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?
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.
What about on the issue of proportional representation?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
Welshman Ncube’s leadership?
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.
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.
Professor Arthur Mutambara?
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.
What about the opposition leaders – Simba Makoni and Dumiso
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
So do you think Zimbabweans are going to have a difficult task to
choose their next leader?
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
So what do think about the issue of election funding?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
Right and finally Trevor, what is the relevance of the
civil society organizations in the current political environment?
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
That was Trevor Maisiri a senior analyst with the International
Crisis Group. Thank you for talking to us on the Hot Seat programme.
Thank you so much Violet.
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