From “guided democracy” to “guided succession”?


The debate at the SAPES Trust Policy Dialogue Forum on succession last night, 4th September 2014, offered an insight into why Zimbabwe lurches from crisis to crisis, and why the international community (and investors) is so chary about engaging the country. Derek Matyszak, talking about succession in the Presidency, both the national President and the president of ZANU PF, pointed out that the problem with the new (2013) constitution is that, by default, it imports the ZANU PF constitution into the solution for succession. And as he pointed out, and has argued in a detailed analysis, the problems inherent in the ZANU PF constitution may attenuate the crisis. But since “guided democracy” has always been the way in ZANU PF, perhaps we should worry less about what the ZANU PF constitution says, and try to look into the crystal ball about what exactly are Robert Mugabe’s intentions. Will he guide the succession or leave it to his afterlife?

Stephen Chan, by contrast, offers the “guided succession” view. He did point out how desperately serious is the interaction between succession (and political settlement) and the economic survival of Zimbabwe. He was at pains to point out that, in order for Zimbabwe to attract the critically needed financial assistance, investors and donors need both clarity about the political security of the nation and economic policies that will ensure stability and growth. These latter do not need a genius macro-economist to tell us what to do, and since the SAPES conference earlier this year, it is clear that all local economists, bankers, and business men know what needs to be done. Little happens because the succession problem just won’t go away, and the political governance of both the present and the future remains uncertain.

However, Chan has an optimistic solution: “guided succession”. Offering the view that Mugabe’s elevation to the senior posts in the AU and SADC is a plan by the wise men in Africa to offer Mugabe a graceful exit (no pun intended), and that succession will be a process not an event. Hence, Mugabe will be inveigled to hand over in two years’ time, leaving the party two years to prepare a candidate for the 2018 elections. The question of which candidate is argued to be largely irrelevant since ZANU PF will easily win this election due to the parlous state of the opposition parties.

In Chan’s view, therefore, the anomalies in the ZANU PF constitution and the potential constitutional crisis that could be produced were Mugabe to die, or be unable to carry out his office, are not important. The party will not fragment, but will produce a successor in some fashion.

However, from Matyszak’s perspective, and Zimbabwean citizens generally, will this succession be “lawful”: will the ZANU PF constitution have been followed? The point here is that we, the citizens of Zimbabwe, have had 34 years, during which constitutionalism has been increasingly abandoned, both because of guided democracy and also because it is frequently just too inconvenient, politically speaking, to adhere explicitly to the constitution and the law. This is one of the reasons why there is no foreign direct investment or donor support for balance of payments: no-one is certain that the rule of law will be followed, and surely the manner of succession can strongly reinforce the rule of law or continue to undermine it.

Thus, clarity about succession is critical to restoring confidence and trust in the government.

Firstly, will ZANU PF follow its own constitution in electing a successor for the presidency? And as a starter it would be nice if more than Derek Matyszak knew what was in that constitution, and citizens could be reassured that ZANU PF has some kind of commitment to constitutionalism by making plain to the country (and everyone else) how they go about electing their leadership in a constitutional manner. A constitution that seems a secret document is not a reassuring basis on which to develop trust, and the possibility of a constitutional crisis, which Derek Matyszak suggests can happen, is not a good advertisement for the future, and for present trust in the Zimbabwe government.

Secondly, whether we like the result of the 2013 elections or not, the fact is that ZANU PF will govern until 2018, and may very well, as Stephen Chan argues, win that election too. It does not seem impossible, therefore, for the party to publicly indicate how succession will take place if it is not going to follow the (sort-of) explicit provisions of their constitution. If they are going to give us “guided succession”, well just give it to us, and then one problem can be solved – the matter of political confidence – and we can move onto the more fundamental problem of restoring the economy and giving citizens their livelihoods back.

But, thirdly, perhaps the issue is really that which Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga pointed out, and is inherent in the immense powers of the presidency. As she pointed out, whatever constitutions say, Robert Mugabe is his own man, keeps his own counsel, makes up his own mind, and this is wholly opaque. Succession depends on what Robert Mugabe wants, and he gives us no clues. Thus, no matter what the national constitution says, no matter what the ZANU PF constitution says, no matter what the wise men of the AU and SADC think, and no matter what the international community wants, we, the Zimbabwean citizenry, wait for him to decide, as he has always done.

But, and here’s a thought, and raised at SAPES by a young mathematician from UZ, why do we citizens always wait for the elites to decide, and what can we do to get clarity? Join ZANU PF and demand a copy of the ZANU PF constitution? Try to use the courts to see whether there is the possibility that we can force ZANU PF into internal constitutionalism? Since the ZANU PF constitution, courtesy of their “overwhelming” victory at the polls in 2013, now is tacitly incorporated into the national constitution, don’t citizens have right to know explicitly what will happen and who will take charge? Or will we just meander along from “guided democracy” to “guided succession” and back to “guided democracy”? And why even bother with elections, just create a dynasty!

Tony Reeler, Senior Researcher

RAU staffer makes Washington Fellow


Video courtesy of the Presidential Precinct

Rumbidzai Dube, a Legal Researcher at RAU, is one of the fellows in the 2014 Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. She is a human rights defender and lawyer from Zimbabwe, with more than six years’ experience in legal research and advocacy work. Currently at RAU, Rumbidzai is involved in analyzing, critiquing, and contributing towards the transformation of public policy, legislation, and state institutions respectively. She is a published researcher whose most notable contribution has been a gendered perspective on the relationship between political freedoms and democracy in the IDASA Democracy Index, a measure of Zimbabwe’s democracy under the transitional government (2008-2013). Her work enables her to engage from the grassroots level, spending time in communities conducting research and public education, to high-level political forums. She is involved in numerous advocacy campaigns with politicians and policy makers in Zimbabwe, regionally with the African Union and globally with UN treaty bodies such as the CEDAW Committee and the Human Rights Council. Rumbidzai holds a Master’s Degree in Law (Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa) from the University of Pretoria in South Africa and an Honours Degree in Law from the University of Zimbabwe. Upon her return, Rumbidzai will continue her efforts at legal education through her blog as well as launching her upcoming website, a project that will take law to the streets by simplifying the law in a way the layman can relate to. She will also continue her research work, holding state and government institutions accountable.

I killed men today


by Lindani Chirambadare

I was there with thousand others in Coppa cabanna as we stood aside and did nothing, craning our necks to see the soldiers beat up the faceless nameless unwashed hwindis whose problems and running battles with the soldiers and police we did not need to remember because for one they deserved it, two it was none of our business, three I have enough problems of my own…and any number of reasons to fill in the blank spaces. We knew in our hearts that it was wrong and that it should not happen, least of all with the frequency and magnitude with which it has been happening. I watched as the soldiers dragged the poor unarmed young and old hwindis out of the kombis, whip them up, kick them and pound their heads with sadistic glee. I was there when they were stripped of their dignity and reduced to begging battered pulps. I was there. And I did nothing but kill each one of the soldiers in my mind.

What gives a soldier the right to beat up a civilian, or two, or three, or ten or twenty? They bellowed that the hwindis refused to carry them to work, for free, in the morning. They reiterated their entitlement to such benefit because they defend this country and are by consequence entitled to treatment as “staff” munyika yababa Chatunga (in Mugabe’s country). What or who has brainwashed these man and women of the uniform into a warped sense of importance? Does it have anything to do with restlessness or unsatisfactory pay days which frustrates them into beating up ordinary civillians who have – in this particular case, been systematically excluded from recourse? Such tyranny. There surely can be no amount of justification for the protector turning into the tormentor.

What makes a citizen give up his power? The power accruing to her or him through the social contract?

Our minds have been colonised by fear.

Our will by complacency.

We stood aside today because we were afraid, it did not concern us, we were not angry enough and besides, who were we to do anything when the Police themselves were turning a blind eye? What happens tomorrow then when the soldiers beat up my brother, your father, my mother our mother and our grandmother, because they can and we have allowed them to? What happens when your child, niece or nephew is initiated into that culture of hooliganism because it is the one that obtains in the community and country in which they live in? Will the same reasons for complacency obtain? Will the discourse take up new and different meaning when the protagonists are closer to our bossoms?

We must never forget that Hwindis are honest (most times anyway) men and women, you and I trying to make a living and to fend for their families by trying to make a dollar out of fifteen cents split many ways among the Police, Council, Zimra , Zinara, fuel, ZBC, rentals, fees, livelihood……. and that when we stand aside we are waiting in line.

Our kids and grandchildren and generations after them will one day ask us why we stood aside and let our country degenerate to levels of no return like this and we will have no answer but to face the truth, the fact of our cowardice.

The bells may today toll for our neighbour but tomorrow, they will toll for us.

Engendering the Constitution: A call to action for the Zimbabwe women’s movement


by Natasha Msonza

Yesterday the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development together with the women’s movement in Zimbabwe hold a constitutional conference intended to map strategy moving forward, in terms of aligning existing laws to the ‘new’ constitution. This, we are informed, is to ensure that the numerous gender sensitive provisions therein translate into tangible benefits for women. This is especially important given that there is no formal structure in Zimbabwe charged with overseeing the implementation of the Constitution. Among the objectives of this meeting are the endeavours to ‘sensitise’ women on the gender provisions in the Constitution as well as facilitate the sharing of regional best practices and lessons learnt on making the constitution work for women. 

The idea of learning from regional experiences is noble, and recently the UN Women facilitated a meeting where experts from Kenya and South Africa shared some important lessons to note and be wary of when undergoing such processes. Among other things, they pointed out that:

  • In seeking to strengthen implementation of gender equality in the constitution, it may be imperative to advocate for the institution of a body responsible for the implementation of the constitution, specifically with a broad mandate to monitor, facilitate and oversee the development of relevant legislation and administrative procedures required for effective implementation of the constitution.
  • The need to ensure that the Gender Commission is well and properly constituted, is extremely independent and with enough mandate to effectuate equity and equality provisions as provided for in the supreme law. This calls for the need for the women’s movement to itself make submissions of criteria to be considered for the selection of commissioners and what they want to see in this commission, including advocating for the proper financing of this and other key commissions.
  • Implementers may not be in a hurry to implement, and excuses not to implement gender matters may foreseeably be brought to the table, with arguments such as that there are no specific laws or policies. Women must be prepared to develop drafts of laws that will complement the process, or strengthen the capacities of the people charged with making the process possible.
  • The implementation of affirmative action, a concept not well understood even among women – will need to be carefully thought through and clear guidelines developed.
  • Civil society strategy may need to shift a gear up from lobbying and advocacy to monitoring and facilitating implementation, including the use of the tool of public interest litigation. There is also need to create a monitoring system within the women’s movement to oversee implementation. This includes monitoring appointments to commissions and seeing that these comply with constitutional provisions and any quota systems that may be in place.

The objective of ‘sensitizing’ Zimbabwean women on the provisions of the constitution though noble comes with its attendant challenges. Foremost, it must be said that before the 2013 referendum, the women’s movement worked extensively to cascade constitutional literacy among women – from holding conferences to translating and simplifying the document, all mainly in a campaign to influence a ‘Yes’ vote. It is critical to define what ‘sensitization of women’ now means in the context of seeking to re-align laws, particularly considering the prevailing context in Zimbabwe where people are pre-occupied with survival and just keeping body and soul together.

There is still a multiplicity of problems, where there is worry about where to get salaries for civil servants, the high levels of unemployment and high costs of living, among other things. In such a context, the Constitution becomes so remote, that it’s not an everyday bread and butter issue for ordinary people. How to rally people together and talk about the constitution again, and putting up a gender commission where the state is failing to provide basic services for the people can be a tall order. It’s generally difficult for an ordinary person to link the lack of service delivery to the constitution. The challenge is in finding creative ways of rallying people around the constitution, while they are seized with a multiplicity of problems and other competing and more immediate priorities. A clear and practical strategy will therefore be needed.    

Is women’s participation in elections darned, damned and doomed?


by Kudakwashe Chitsike

In July 2013, Zimbabweans went to the polls for elections that were set to end the Global Political Agreement (GPA) signed in 2008 and the subsequent inclusive government. This election was a winner takes all event; and there was a lot of excitement about the future from all political parties, but also a sense of trepidation as the previous elections had been riddled with violence. Civil society groups and the media had labelled the 2008 election, the most violent election period in Zimbabwe’s history. 

Women were particularly afraid of the violence as they suffered both as primary and secondary victims. In many instances, when there were threats of violence, the men would run away, but, because of their domestic responsibilities, women were not able to go as they had to look after children, the sick, and the elderly. In previous RAU reports, we documented women’s experiences with violence during elections which included arson, assault, destruction of property, rape, political intimidation, and threats.  There was enough evidence for women to have good reason to fear another round of elections.  During the existence of the inclusive government, the main political parties were preaching non- violence and peace, but there were reports of violence regardless.  The parties were aware that the world was watching, and specifically looking out for acts of violence during the 2013 elections. They were also aware that violence would discredit the elections as was the case in 2008, particularly the period leading up to the run off; thus, it was in their best interests to be seen to be advocating for non-violence.  There was very little overt violence but reports of intimidation before and during the elections were reported.

To explore the nature of women’s experiences during the elections in 2013, RAU conducted three focus groups discussions with participants from Masvingo, Bindura, and Marondera.  The study looked at the general operating environment, which included voting, the special vote, assisted voters, indelible ink, the vote counting and the results.  With regard to violence, most of the women who participated in the study stated that they voted in a relatively peaceful environment. Below are some of their statements:

In Masvingo we did not encounter the problems we encountered in 2008. There was no violence the same way there was in 2008, in fact people really voted in peace and people reflected their choices peacefully.

I met with a new but very pleasant experience where young men from different political parties would share glue for sticking campaign posters.

We were happy because the prayers we took part in worked. There was peace everywhere. I was an agent and I was happy because it was not as hard as it used to be in the previous years.

The women were from different political parties, but their sentiments on violence were similar; though they varied on other areas such as the registration process and inspection of the voters’ roll. The differences were clearly on party lines, where women from one party found it easy to register and inspect the voters’ roll and others found it near impossible.  The full report is available for download here on our website.

Farewell to Wilfred Mhanda


By Tony Reeler

Elaborating on Kant, Karl Popper, whom Wilf did not like much, he once said that when a man dies a universe dies, and you know this when you know that person.  This seems wholly appropriate for Wilfred Mhanda, and, after all has been said about his remarkable contribution to the liberation of this country and the protection of our nascent democracy, we should not lose sight of the man himself.

Indomitable would be the first word that comes to mind when thinking about Wilf. Exuding a power that belied his tiny stature, he was indomitable in his pursuit of truth, and rigorous in his pursuit of the knowledge that could drive truth. Scientist and soldier, he made it a point of learning throughout his life, his bookshelf filled with philosophy, political science, books of all kinds that would help him develop personally and publicly.

As to the obvious evidence of his indomitable strength, just remember shaking hands with Wilf: that hard slap and grab, you always felt him there – he was making contact in no uncertain fashion.

Remember too his greatest strength and simultaneously his greatest weakness: his insistence on the truth and his utter failure to lie. Never the one to edit the truth and never to shirk the consequences, Wilf was never going to be an easy person. If he thought it, he said it, and, in the highly dissimulating socio-political climate that is Zimbabwean politics, he would inevitably be controversial: he didn’t court it, he didn’t do it for effect, but he did it because he thought it was right and he had a right to his opinion. This was why he was so publicly insistent about the values of the freedom fighters and what the uncompleted struggle was about.

His views would just burst out of him: when many would think carefully about what others might think about them, Wilf would just say it. I remember vividly Wilf telling a very senior Afro-American politician that he was a disgrace as a black man for saying that he would find it hard to publicly condemn Robert Mugabe. His outbursts were not always impetuous, but came from his endless thinking about the nation and its politics: his life from his earliest days was that of a patriot, always concerned about how the nation should serve the common man and his deep contempt for elitism.

He lived an immensely humble life, not for him the trappings of power and prestige. He needed none of these to be effective. Everyone will remember Wilf coming into meetings wearing one of his extraordinary caps. He did not care about what he looked like, and, no matter where he was, you immediately felt his bristling energy, tied up in that rock hard little body. Anyone who hugged or was hugged by Wilf encountered a rock!

He never bemoaned his lot in life: no whining from Wilf. You dealt with the problems and got on with sorting things out. That we would all agree that he was shamefully treated was of no real consequence to Wilf, and he merely continued the struggle for what he believed was right. In the two highly active phases of his political life – the Liberation War and the post-2000 crisis – there was a great consistency to his views, and his great courage gave strength to all around him. Civil society in the post-2000 crisis has been immeasurably strengthened that the “commander” stood amongst them with his steadfast positions on right and wrong in the Zimbabwean polity.

And so Comrade Dzino is gone, and his last struggle has ended, and he is at peace, but the lessons he tried to teach us by example remain and cannot be wished away by ignoring him. The failings that he saw around him can be seen by all, and perhaps are expressed so eloquently by T. S. Eliot:

“I see nothing quite conclusive in the art of temporal government,

But violence, duplicity and frequent malversation.

King rules or barons rule:

The strong man strongly and the weak man by caprice.

They have but one law, to seize the power and keep it, and the steadfast can manipulate the greed and lust of others,

The feeble is devoured by his own.”

(Murder in the Cathedral)

Dealing with the past: Considerations for Transitional Justice and setting up the National Peace & Reconciliation Commission


by Tony Reeler

RAU has just released two new reports about the ways in which the gross human rights violations of the past could be managed.

  •   RAU (2014), The Development of a National Transitional Justice Strategy. A P Reeler, Senior Researcher (RAU), & Njonjo Mue (Advocate of the High Court of Kenya). April 2014. HARARE: RESEARCH & ADVOCACY UNIT;

  •   RAU 92014), Suggestions for setting up the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC. Governance Programme. April 2014, HARARE: RESEARCH & ADVOCACY UNIT.

There are a number of key conclusions that emerge from the consideration of a Transitional Justice process for Zimbabwe and the possible course of action that the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission might adopt:

On Transitional Justice

Any strategy will have to consider four decades of violations in order that no section of Zimbabwe’s population is alienated. Four decades must be included if the victims’ perspective is to be taken seriously: no victim is more important than any other, and all deserve redress and rehabilitation.

A transitional justice process that brings healing and a deeply democratic society will need the whole scale involvement of the citizenry, and this will take time. In a country with such an unhappy history as Zimbabwe, haste may create more problems than it solves, given that there are multiple eras of violations and quite different views about the significance of each of these eras. For example, younger people feel little attachment to the violations of the pre-Independence period, and people from Matabeleland feel that the Gukurahundi has a greater significance for them than any other period.

It will be crucial that a “Transitional Justice Strategy”,and/or a “National Peace and Reconciliation Strategy”, are both truly “national” in character, and hence include a consideration of all human rights violations in the country’s history.

It cannot be claimed that there is any coherent view amongst Zimbabwean citizens about what form a transitional justice process should take, and many areas where significant segments of the population disagree on fundamental issues. This suggests that there is need for much wider public consultation about transitional justice before any comprehensive policy is put in place.

On the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission’s mandate:

The provisions dealing with the NPRC, whilst adequate, will need to be fully fleshed out with the enabling legislation, and this will require great care in order to not restrict the Commission too unduly, nor to create a mandate that is impossible to implement

In a first phase suggested for the NPRC, the health service will be a critical partner, both in assisting the NPRC in understanding the scale and nature of the problems, and then in building into its existing services the services needed by victims and survivors.

It is suggested that the NPRC deals initially with two activities that are overlapping, and based on the view that NO transitional justice process can take place without very broad consultation with Zimbabwean citizens. Thus, two processes are suggested:

  •   A national “story-telling” exercise, and

  •   A national “healing” exercise.

A national “story-telling” exercise and a national “healing” exercise combined can have salutatory effects in bringing ordinary Zimbabweans together in sharing their understandings of what went wrong at any one time. Healing will be critical to the success of the initiative as “victims” transformed into “survivors” see the world very differently when healed, and the vision for reconciliation needs the imagination of “survivors” and not the anger of “victims”.

Finally, it is worth pointing out that there is little that has happened since 2003, when the 2004 International Symposium, Civil Society and Justice in Zimbabwe, made its recommendations for transitional justice in Zimbabwe that has made those recommendations inappropriate or dated. The point is that we can build on an enormous base for understanding as well as very clear views about what needs to be done. 

Download the full reports from our website:

The Development of a National Transitional Justice Strategy

*Suggestions for setting up the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission