#CSW58: 1. Reflecting on Zimbabwe’s fulfilment of the MDG’s and mapping the post 2015 Agenda

By Rumbidzai Dube


Today, the 10th of March 2014, I find myself here in New York, where one of the biggest events on women’s rights; the 58th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW58) is kicking off. The history of CSW dates back to 21 June 1946, when the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) set up the Commission, whose core function is to promote the rights of women in political, economic, civil, social and educational fields. So every year, representatives of states which are members of the United Nations as well as women’s rights activists gather at the UN Headquarters in New York to assess if any progress has been made in achieving gender equality, to see what challenges remain, to set global standards and be innovative at devising means to formulate promote gender equality and women’s empowerment worldwide.

This year’s CSW comes amid the growing discourse of an Africa that is “rising.” Indeed the dictates of mainstream economics suggest that this is the case. Africa’s economy is said to be growing faster than any other continent’s economy. 33 % of African countries are said to be recording annual gross domestic products (GDP’s) of 6%.  Many predictions have been made by forecasters:

  • By 2015, mobile penetration in Africa would have reached 84%;
  • By 2020, 50 % of African households will be so economically sound that they will have discretionary spending power;
  • By 2030, 50 % of Africa’s populations will be living in urban areas;
  • By 2035, Africa’s workforce will be bigger than China; and
  • By 2050, Africans will make up 25% of the world’s workers.

Analysts are justifying why Africa’s time is now with one Jonathan Berman giving his 7 reasons why Africa’s time is now. I have dared to explain Berman’s idea as I have understood it namely that:

1. Africa has a huge market opportunity.

[Africans love consuming and the fact that our own industry is underdeveloped means we rely heavily on imports hence providing a market for other continents’ goods.]

2. Africa is increasingly stable.

[Though ridden by conflicts as compared to other continents, the trends of conflict in Africa have seen a decrease rather than an increase. Governance patterns are also changing, with the biggest challenge being stolen elections rather than military coups. Previously coups were the norm, with Africa recording an unprecedented 85 violent coups and rebellions from the time of the Egyptian revolution in 1952 until 1998, 78 of these between 1961 and 1997, but more recently coups are uncommon and considered pretty uncool.

3. Africa is recording increased intra-Africa trade although it still is in its infancy.

[Trade within Africa has increased particularly along the lines of the regional blocs which promote regional economic integration. The most successful being the East African Community (Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Kenya) and the Economic Community of West African States (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo) where regional integration is being fostered through, among other thing, the removal of trade barriers such as the requirement of travel documents and other limitations to freedom of movement of people and goods , the creation of a common market, and standardisation of customs tariffs .

4. Africa will soon have the world’s largest workforce.

[Africa’s population is rising so much that in projections to 2030, the African population is expected to peak at 1.6 billion from 1.0 billion in 2010, which would represent 19% of the world’s population. The demographic boom on the continent is expected to be an asset in the form of a workforce, which will drive Africa’s economy forward.

5. 20% of African governments’ budgets are going to education.

[Increasingly, governments are allocating a significant amount of money to education budget lines. This commitment towards the education of African populations will eventually yield results as Africa increases its local technical competence.]

6. Africa’s mobile networking and connectivity is exploding.

[Africa’s mobile network coverage is increasing and more so, spreading to traditionally marginalised communities in the rural areas. This is directly translating into easier and quicker access to information and at the same time the transfer of money more efficiently through mobile banking and cash transfer services such as Ecocash and Telecash in Zimbabwe. Consequently, doing business in a time of mobile phones is much easier and much more efficient as it reduces costs, saves time and increases efficiency].

7. Africa contains most of the world’s uncultivated land.

[ Africa holds almost 50% of the world’s uncultivated land. This is about 450 million hectares of land that is not forested, protected or densely populated. According to the World Bank, if this land is fully utilised by 2030, it could have created a trillion-dollar food market for Africa.]

It is well and good that these positive trends are taking place on the continent, however one question remains largely unanswered; which Africa and who in Africa is rising? Are the women of Africa part of the rising? If so, how many of them are part of it and how many are being left behind? Who is prospering and are the majority of citizens benefitting from the rising?

15 years ago, in 2000, 189 nations made a promise to free people from extreme poverty and many other deprivations culminating in the development of a strategy to eradicate these deprivations. This strategy, to try and address the unequal rising of citizens in different economies, was centralised in the framework of the Millennium Development Goals, (MDGs) a set of goals serving as milestones for all the countries of the world to achieve development in their countries.

MDG 1: This goal focused on eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. Notably, the goal did not seek to achieve the eradication of poverty but extreme poverty.

MDG 2: This goal focused on achieving universal primary education. Notably, the goal is not to ensure universal education at levels relevant to increasing citizens’ critical competence and competitiveness in the global sphere, such as tertiary and technical education.

MDG 3: Focused on promoting gender equality and empowering women.

MDG 4:  Focused on reducing child mortality.

MDG 5: Focused on improving maternal health.

MDG 6: Focused on combating HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases.

MDG 7: Focused on ensuring environmental stability.

MDG 8: Focused on developing Global Partnerships for Development.

The 8 Millenium Development Goals

The 8 Millennium Development Goals

2014 marks the last year for the observance of the Millennium Development Goals.  As the women of the world are converging in New York to state their position on what they consider to be the priorities in mapping the post-2015/post-MDG agenda, at #CSW58, I shall be exploring the progress and challenges that Zimbabwe has faced in achieving the 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). I shall also be reflecting on the main outcomes from the discussions at #CSW58.

What Really Matters: Brains or Brawn

By Natasha Msonza

Reading through Desmond Kumbuka’s article in Standard titled Patronage, ignorance: the twin evils of greed and his subsequent criticism on the caliber of Members of Parliament (MPs) in Zimbabwe, I thought to myself, which is better: a highly educated MP with many degrees who does nothing for the people, or an uneducated MP who provides practical solutions to the contemporary societal problems confronting his constituents?

Kumbuka has no kind words where most of our MPs are concerned, and admittedly, some Zimbabweans may agree with some of the descriptions used for the men and women in Parliament. He describes them as ‘ever-whining legislators, many of whom spend their time day-dreaming of a life of luxury at the State’s expense.” He bemoans the fact that for a country with one of the highest literacy rates in Africa; it is astounding that Zimbabwe ‘ends up with a parliament full of illiterate or semi-educated nonentities’.

I think it is important to remember that most of these ‘nonentities’ are people that Zimbabweans voted into those posts; the adage that people deserve the leadership they get rings trues.

Having under-educated legislators can be a challenge, especially when viewed from the perspective of the mammoth socio-economic challenges currently facing the country and the things that need to be done and solutions put in place. In fact, I know many Zimbabweans who are of the opinion that Parliamentarians should all have degrees as a minimum qualification. Our current system admits anyone with Ordinary Level as the minimum qualification.

I recall a time when I worked with MPs to help them understand the concept of equitable resource allocation so that they could positively influence the national budget crafting process. The men and women of the house had a hard time trying to make head or tail of the budgeting process in general. Then, it seemed reasonable to imagine that if they had a little bit more education, they would have been able to understand what many of us consider to be elementary.

Kumbuka also suggests that while a system that ‘allows any Jim, Jack or Jill to aspire for political office is truly democratic, mendicant legislators will invariably spend more of their time pondering how to overcome their own poverty before they can start to think of improving the lives of people in their constituents (sic).’

While I may be inclined to agree with this last statement, I think it is immediately defeated by the choice of example he picks to argue his point. He picks on the man we all love to ridicule, Joseph Chinotimba, whom he describes as ‘loquacious’.

Chinotimba may lack – in the words of Kumbuka – the ‘capacity to brainstorm the complex issues involved in economic revival to be able to competently suggest corrective solutions’, but in looking at the performance of the 8th Parliament to date, the inconvenient truth is that Mr Chinotimba is currently one of the best performing MPs. He has personally seen to it that the problem of hyenas ravaging his constituency has been dealt with effectively, making a huge life and death difference for Buhera South inhabitants. Recently, Chinotimba was featured in the press with graders and earth-moving equipment in the background, repairing the notorious Murambinda-Birchenough road. The man is going out of his way to source funds to repair all major roads in his constituency. Essentially, Chinotimba mobilized funds and demonstrated a certain level of concern devoid even amongst the highly educated MPs that Kumbuka would likely consider more ‘appropriate’ for this position. At this rate, one can probably be forgiven for imagining that Chinotimba is one of the few that would meaningfully use the Constituency Development Fund, as he comes across as a man of the people.

It does not follow, that if you have an education from Harvard, you automatically think of the best solutions to problems. Ordinary citizens’ immediate needs are not being met, all they want is someone who pays meaningful attention to their practical day-to-day problems such as access to water, electricity and food. Among other things, the role of Parliamentarians includes being responsive to the needs of citizens, resolving the most pressing problems confronting society, and being able to reconcile the conflicting interests of expectations of different groups and communities.

Indeed, the last (Seventh) Parliament had several other individual MPs like Hon. Jessie Majome, who are on record for reaching out to their constituencies and seeking to make practical contributions.

Nevertheless, our Parliamentary system in general leaves a lot to be desired. Last year the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) released three reports on the performance of the 7th Parliament, based on the last year of its tenure, June 2012-June 2013. Some of the findings in these reports indicate for instance that a lot of the MPs were just ‘occasional visitors’ to Parliament, wherein some got away with absconding sessions. The essence of the report was that the levels of participation and debate among Parliamentarians were generally poor. According to RAU’s report – What Happened in Parliament?, some members (we shall not mention names) spent the entire year without contributing anything to pertinent discussions; there was significantly poor attendance by Ministers to the Question and Answer sessions – a very critical accountability process in Parliament; and  there was observation of a glaring need for capacity building noting serious skills gaps in terms of ability to analyze legislation, budget debate and analysis as well as performance of other key roles of legislators. Most unsettling was the finding that by the last year of its tenure, the Seventh Parliament had a total of 38 vacant seats due to deaths, suspensions, dismissals or expulsions. These seats remained vacant, meaning that 10.9% of the constituencies went without representation for a lengthy period of time. Other criticisms of the Seventh Parliament included poor attendance to plenary sessions and self-aggrandizement. If the cost of sustaining an MP per sitting borders around US$1,100 in sitting and fuel allowances, contributions to fixed salary and hotel accommodation, should we not be greatly concerned when some sittings last for just three minutes?

All these things and more demonstrate a problem that looms larger than the question of whether or not MPs are educated. What seems to be the issue here is lack of accountability and a general ‘don’t care’ attitude dismissed by Us the People, with a lot of impunity. Should we not be agitating for a little more seriousness and demanding some accountability from our MPs? We can call for disqualifications and penalization of errant MPs, demanding their obligation to declare personal assets and having more say in what really goes in the House. We shouldn’t have to contend with hostile security operatives manning the entrances to Parliament building.

A critical question becomes however; is a wholly technocratic government the answer to the myriad problems we have with Parliament? In other words, would it be more ideal to have a government in which for instance, ministers are not career politicians, but experts in the fields of their respective Ministries, and a more stringent criteria based on educational qualifications is set for MPs?

Interrogating the culture of exclusion of women from key decision-making positions

by Kudakwashe Chitsike

In September 2013 the President selected his Cabinet and appointed only three women into it. Yet the Constitution clearly stipulates that Cabinet should have equal gender representation.  In response to the queries raised pertaining to his decision to appoint few women, the President stated that there weren’t enough women qualified to fill the positions, as women are not sufficiently educated to take up these high government posts. This prompted me to write an open letter to the President. My letter was unfortunately not responded to.

Yesterday, as I was going through the daily newspapers, I read that the Chief Justice, Godfrey Chidyausiku, had sworn in new Commissioners to the Judicial Service Commission. Out of curiosity, I checked to see how many women had been appointed and whether there were as many women as there were men. As to be expected, given the context of the Ministerial appointments, more men than women were appointed.  Although congratulations are and remain in order to the appointed female Commissioners; Mrs. Priscilla Mutembwi and Mrs. Priscilla Madzonga, along with 6 other male commissioners, there is still need to interrogate this continuing culture of the exclusion of women from occupying key decision-making positions. 

The Constitution stipulates in Section 17(1) (b) (i) that both genders should be equally represented in all institutions and agencies of government at all levels, and that (ii) women should constitute at least half the membership of all Commissions and other elective and appointed government bodies established by or under the Constitution and any Act of Parliament. 

Clearly this has not been followed, and it raises questions; is our Constitution just a guiding instrument whose sections can be taken up or disregarded at a whim? If the Constitution says there must be gender equality why is this not being adhered to?  Is the Constitution not the highest law in the land? So then if we do not follow it, how much more will we respect subsidiary legislation? 

It is civil society’s job to raise these questions as our Constitution – which is not even a year old – is going to be meaningless.  The women’s movement must work tirelessly to ensure that Section 17 of the Constitution is strictly followed, after all, this is one of the main reasons women were encouraged to vote for it. Let us not waste opportunities to raise issues as they arise.

There are 5 other commissioners that are yet to be appointed, I sincerely hope that most of the appointees are going to be women.  There is no excuse to say there are no qualified women; especially women lawyers.  If the relevant authorities are hard pressed to find qualified women lawyers, a simple phone call to Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA) for recommendations will provide them with a long list to choose from. 


Chief Justice Chidyausiku congratulates newly sworn in Commissioner, Ms Priscilla Mudzonga. Picture by Munyaradzi Chamalimba


An ode to a great man: Celebrating Mandela


The Research and Advocacy Unit joins the rest of the world in celebrating the life and death of Nelson Mandela. Our condolences lie with the Mandela family, the South African nation, the African Continent and the global village at large. We have all lost a dedicated proponent of humanity and compassion.

Originally posted on MaDube's Reflections:

A bright light has been dimmed in Africa, our motherland. No it hasn’t been switched off, for the legacy of this great nation-builder remains with us. We mourn, we remember but above all we celebrate a life well lived, fighting for peace, dignity and freedom for the down-trodden.  Individuals like Nelson Mandela are not mourned, they are celebrated for he inspired change wherever he went and the millions of condolence messages pouring in are a testimony of the depth of character of this great leader.

Picture Credit-Everett (fineartamerica.com)

Picture Credit-Everett (fineartamerica.com)

He led a selfless life, sacrificed his youth to the advancement of human dignity and the freedom of his nation and people. His courage of conviction led him through the 27 years of incarceration, as he envisioned a free South Africa in which black and white co-existed peacefully. His release signified the beginning of freedom and unity as he sought progress for…

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Int’l Women Human Rights Defenders Day: Shall we celebrate or just commemorate?

By Kudakwashe Chitsike


Beatrice Mtetwa – Free at last?


Today is International Women Human Rights Defenders Day. For a change we have something to celebrate, after the trial of lawyer and human rights defender, Beatrice Mtetwa finally ended on Tuesday, with the magistrate finding her not guilty of obstructing the course of justice.  This is after 7 months of going back and forth to court fight a case where she was just doing her job. Beatrice is a well-known human rights lawyer and her arrest and court battle were publicized in the local and international media, therefore we knew what she was going through. Her story is that of many women who have dared to stand up and fight for their rights and for the rights of others, not only other women but for Zimbabweans as a whole.  These women are fighting for equality, social and economic rights, land rights, justice and peace, to name a few.  These are all commendable causes and women human rights defenders should be respected and admired, but instead they are vilified. There are thousands of such women whose names will never be known and whose stories will never be told, but who in their own ways, however small, are paving the way for a better Zimbabwe.

The plight of women human rights defenders in Zimbabwe is dismal; they are routinely harassed by the police, arrested without being informed of the charges, kept in filthy cells, verbally, physically and sometimes sexually abused. When we really look at the conditions that these women are being subjected to, we find that there is very little to celebrate. Perhaps we should be ‘commemorating’ rather than celebrating.  The authorities should uphold their national, regional and international human rights commitments to ensure the promotion and protection of the rights of women human rights defenders regardless of their political affiliation, ethnicity, nationality, religion or belief, status, age and sexual orientation.

Over the last five years, RAU has been documenting the stories of women human rights defenders’ over through reports and videos. Today we stand in solidarity with all women human rights defenders. We are honored to tell their remarkable stories and shall endeavor to continue doing so as long as there is a story to tell.   

New politics, margin of terror, and the 2013 elections

by Tony Reeler

One of the enduring questions raised by the 2013 elections is the magnitude of the win by ZANU PF, and the even more staggering win by Robert Mugabe.  Questions about rigging aside, one relationship that keeps being posed (and answered) is the notion that ZANU PF did so well because the MDCs are so bad. Stephen Chan, a respected Zimbabwe commentator, has raised this recently, pointing out (in his view) that “…Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) performed appallingly. Outwardly confident, it made the same mistakes it had in previous elections – as if internal reflection, self-criticism and learning from mistakes were impossible”.

A similar view is expressed by the Solidarity Peace Trust (SPT):

All these issues point to a party that has not been able to strengthen its organizational and strategic framework against a repressive regime that has constantly harassed its leadership and structures. However, since 2009 these weaknesses have eroded the support of both MDCs, as was evident from opinion polls carried out in 2012, which showed a drop in support for the MDCs and Tsvangirai and an upsurge in popularity for Mugabe and his party. These weaknesses and, of particular importance to the election campaign, the failure of the two MDC formations to develop an electoral pact in 2013, resulted in the loss of several seats to ZANU PF due to a split vote. For example in Matabeleland South, 8 of the 13 seats were lost to ZANU PF because of the this factor, while in Matabeleland North a united opposition would have won 11 of the 13 seats instead of which ZANU PF won 7 out of the 13. Together these factors meant that the MDCs were a much weaker force in 2013 than they were in 2008.

Now we must also note the arguments about ZANU PF developing a strong social base due to land reform and indigenisation, and also the problems of explaining this social base by reference to Mugabe’s 1 million voter margin over Tsvangirai, and concentrate on another source of “evidence” for the result. This is the evidence deriving from public opinion surveys. Essentially, there is an argument that ZANU PF has been increasing in its popularity with the citizens of Zimbabwe, and it is this popularity that explains the election result.

But before looking at this “evidence”, let us look briefly at the argument that ZANU PF obtained this enormous increase due to a massive increase in its “social base”, and we will ignore the issues of whether this is a social base due to “positive affiliation” (identification and voluntary support) or due to “patronage” (compliance and support based on comparative advantage for supporting ZANU PF).

The basis for this “social base” is generally argued to be three-fold: old Liberation War allegiance (mostly in the rural areas), access to land from land reform, and access to the benefits (or hoped-for benefits) of indigenisation. As regards the first of these, it is indisputable that ZANU PF commands voluntary allegiance from substantial rural supporters, and it was largely this group that gave Robert Mugabe his 43% in March 2008. And, in 2008, most land reform had already been in place for nearly 10 years, and that did not seem to give Robert Mugabe the advantage that is alleged he got in 2013. The big benefit on land seems to be increased tobacco production at the cost of food production.

As for indigenisation, it seems fairly clear that there have been few actual beneficiaries in rural communities, especially in Matabeleland North and South, although there are promises for the future when ZANU PF wins the election. So the benefits of indigenisation on the voters must have been expected in the future and a reason to vote for ZANU PF, which may be a possible explanation. However, it should be pointed out that very little of the US$4 billion supposedly realised from indigenisation seems to have landed in the fiscus, so it can equally be argued that the lack of benefits for the ordinary citizens of Zimbabwe should have counted against a vote for ZANU PF.

However, the assumption is that the “social base” can be inferred mostly from voter turn out, and there seems a missing step in the logic here.

Contrast these two statements:

If ZANU PF has a social base, they will get lots of votes.
ZANU PF got lots of votes.
Therefore, ZANU PF has a social base.

If ZANU PF gets lots of votes, they have a social base.
ZANU PF has a social base.
Therefore, ZANU PF gets lots of votes.

What is obviously missing here is any obvious link between lots of votes and social base. We can empirically verify the votes: they were in the boxes and counted. We can believe that land reform and indigenisation can make people ZANU PF friendly, but there is a missing step in the logic that shows that being ZANU PF friendly comes from land reform and indigenisation independently of the voter turn-out. This is where public opinion surveys and other forms of social research have their application.

Partial support for many has been a 2012 report by Freedom House, which concluded that support for the MDC-T had slipped markedly – from 38% to 20% – and that for ZANU PF had risen by the same amount – from 17% to 31%.  This report (and the SPT report) is being mendaciously used by the ZANU PF media to “explain the victory”. Essentially, the spin is that, in the period from 2010 to 2012, MDC-T’s support was sliding, and, one year on, ZANU PF’s support had increased so dramatically that the result was intelligible to all on the basis of changes in political party support.

However, basing election outcomes on public opinion surveys is always a dicey affair, especially when so many of the people do not give an opinion. In the Freedom House 2012 survey, 47% were unwilling to state their voting intentions, and this needs to be thought about carefully: nearly half would not say. But presumably, and in the light of 2013, these were interviewees who were worried about declaring their affiliation to ZANU PF for fear of victimisation. Reality suggests that this is not the case!

But there is a more serious problem with reliance on the Freedom House report – that it is not methodologically sound, and its conclusions are probably erroneous. A more empirically sound report, “The Margin of Terror”, was compiled by Michael Bratton and Eldred Masunungure of the Afrobarometer, and this came to rather different and more nuanced conclusions than those of  Freedom House. They also provided a number of reasons why the Freedom House report was methodologically unsound.

Firstly, this report concluded, on simple voter preference, that ZANU PF and MDC-T were in a “statistical dead heat”, with the former getting 32% and the latter 31%, and only 22% were unwilling to state their preference. This did represent a decline for the MDC-T from the post 2008 election heyday to early 2009 where expressed preference for MDC-T was 57% to ZANU PF’s 10%. So the difference here between Freedom House and the Afrobarometer is both over the extent of the decline and the final positions that both parties found themselves in 2012.

Secondly, Bratton and Masunungure posed two hypotheses to account for the decline: one was the positive effect of improved government performance, and the second was the negative effect of political fear. They tested both, and the conclusions, on face value, supported both working in favour of ZANU PF.

After careful statistical analysis, it appears that some voters attributed the improved “right” direction, the “good” management of the economy, and “improved educational services” to ZANU PF’s role in the Inclusive Government. This is a paradoxical finding, given that MDC-T was responsible for fiscal control and MDC for education. This would support a view that the MDCs were not marketing themselves as effectively during the GPA as ZANU PF, and even provides support for the SPT thesis about a growing social base. But there was more to come.

On political fear, the study revealed a negative relationship between an interviewee’s expectations of violence and an intended vote for ZANU PF, and, more interestingly, that silencing opponents was more likely to make an interviewee vote against ZANU PF. Most interesting of all, the more likely an interviewee was to perceive the survey as government-sponsored, the more likely they were to express preference for ZANU PF. Furthermore, this last factor had the strongest effect on whether a person would come out openly in support of ZANU PF, and strongly suggests the operation of political fear.

However, Bratton and Masunungure then tease out the effects of people that perceive the survey to be government-sponsored and hence fearful of being honest. Through a slightly complicated analysis, they then conclude that the probable split of support for the various political parties in 2012 was MDC-T (49%), ZANU PF (45%), and all the others put together (7%). This was almost exactly, as they point out the split that obtained in the March 2008 poll, and, as they say, the analysis implies that, if voting intentions do not change, Zimbabwe can expect another close election in 2013.

If this had been the case, then Tsvangirai should have got 1.7 million votes and Mugabe 1.5 million, but actually Mugabe got 700,000 more votes against this supposed trend, and actually got 1.03 million more votes than he got in 2008, a more than 95.46% increase. But interestingly, Tsvangirai got pretty much the same number of votes as he got in 2008.

Well, opinion surveys certainly cannot argue against ballots in the box, all 3.4 million of them. But then Zimbabwe tends to disconfirm all the more general findings of political science, as we have pointed out before: clearly trends only mean things in countries other than Zimbabwe. However, given the support of analyses of the Voters’ Roll (especially in comparison with the census), it can be argued that the survey is likely to be more accurate than election result, and it still remains to explain the result on grounds more closely related to the process of the election itself.

In Zimbabwe, other trends seem to apply. Zimbabwe sees ZANU PF losing ground, regaining it through violent elections, and then being returned with two-thirds majorities in a subsequent “peaceful” election. 2013 marks the end a second such cycle in Zimbabwe: 2000 was fairly violent, 2002 was at least as violent as 2008, and 2005 was peaceful. Then we have the peaceful poll in March 2008, the horrors of June 2008, and the peaceful poll in July 2013. And obviously citizen’s opinions (and their votes) have very little to do with it. No wonder some commentators, like Dr Mandaza, wonder why we bother with elections: all they do is make a mockery of the best that political science can offer!

Food for Thought: The basics of power

by Lloyd Pswarayi

Zimbabwe held its harmonised elections on the July 31st 2013, and ZANU PF attained an overwhelming majority in the House of Assembly, with its presidential candidate Robert Mugabe defeating MDC’s Morgan Tsvangirai convincingly by amassing 61% of the total votes. This effectively marked the end of the Inclusive Government and ushered in a new mandate for ZANU PF to implement the policies contained in the party’s election manifesto. The 2013 elections were expected to address one of the fundamental problems of the Zimbabwe crisis – the crisis of legitimacy. However, there were more questions than answers concerning the outcome, and the MDCs have claimed that there was massive rigging. Notwithstanding the rigging allegations, the fact remains that ZANU PF is now in charge. ZANU PF was ‘voted’ for by the people and they claim that they derive their legitimacy from the outcome and not necessarily the process of the July 31 elections. The party and its apologists have successfully put a spin on election observer mission statements and added “fair, and credible” in describing the elections”, (Of course that is not true).

I argue here that the whole notion of “legitimacy’ is a debatable issue. In political science, “legitimacy usually is understood as the popular acceptance and recognition, by the public, of the authority of a governing régime, whereby authority has political power through consent and mutual understandings, not coercion”. Firstly, legitimacy is derived from a mandate given by the people willingly and readily to continuously surrender their power to the governing party. Legitimacy is therefore not a one day event, but it is something that has to be earned every day. Assuming that the process that led to the winning of elections was perfect and fit into the “free, fair, credible” description, policies to support the people that delivered this mandate will continuously justify the question of legitimacy.

I want to look at legitimacy from a food security perspective in Zimbabwe, given reports of possible starvation mostly in the rural areas. Reports point to the fact that nearly 2.2 million Zimbabweans currently face starvation. Government has assured the nation that no-one will starve and a deal has been struck to import maize from Zambia. This food security situation is worrying as it has become a trend that this country cannot feed its people and has to rely on food imports. This is especially unacceptable coming from the backdrop of a programme that saw nearly 350,000 families being allocated land in the year 2000 during the fast track land reform programme. But of course, failure of the process has however been squarely heaped on the MDC, sanctions and failure by the former Finance Minister to release funds to support the programme.  


One of the key points in the ZANU PF election manifesto for the 2013 harmonised elections was adequate support to be given to farmers through finance schemes and the setting aside of $1billion for the sector. A government loses legitimacy when it cannot feed its people and rightly, people are bound to withdraw their support from it. In the new dispensation, addressing food security concerns is a fundamental problem that the ZANU PF government will face because there is no MDC to blame.

In my view, the government, and in particular, the Ministry of Agriculture, has not been serious about food security in this country. When a government cannot feed its people, surely it ceases to be relevant. If people are hungry, they may revolt against the system, and the only way for the system to contain this is would be to suppress its people through familiar tactics such as intimidation, violence, threats, targeting of perceived opinion makers such as teachers. The whole thing may end up messy with communities becoming unsafe to live in, and woman and children are directly violated. The real holders of power (the people) will demand change and this would be a legitimate call. From experiences in the past, ZANU PF has labelled this the “regime change agenda”.

Year in year out, there are reports of shortages of inputs, inputs stolen by chefs, inputs delivered late, and the results have not been surprising. The Minister of Finance, at his victory celebration party in Rusape recently pointed that government would supply agricultural inputs to 1.6 million families in Zimbabwe for the forthcoming season.  These inputs include one bag of compound fertiliser, one bag of Ammonium Nitrate; 10kg bag of seed and “for the very first time”, a bag of agriculture lime. This may sound like ZANU PF means serious business, but this is a big joke and populist. It may only deliver hunger in 2014. This trick has been tried before multiple times and has produced nothing but disaster.

My advice to the Minister of Agriculture, VaMade is that his Ministry is very important and everything contained in the ZANU PF election manifesto hinges on ensuring food security. If this does not happen, unfortunately people (the real holders of power) will question why we need ZANU PF in government. They will even start talking about NIKUV this and NIKUV that and this would be undesirable talk that questions the party’s legitimacy to govern. I know you want to shame the West who have strongly criticised the land reform programme and the only way to do so is to ensure that all the silos owned by the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) are filled with grain and we are exporting to the region because we have achieved excesses. How do we achieve that excess Honourable Minister? Firstly I think government should immediately abandon piece-meal policies by supporting small-holder farmers fully with six (6) bags of Compound D, eight (8) bags of Ammonium, 25kg of seed maize and full extension services. This costs money and this is money that is not available. But there is a solution Honourable Minister. Government should support 1.6 million people with sufficient inputs that are availed on time and indiscriminately. People from other political parties also deserve access to these inputs as well, regardless of their political affiliation. It should probably also be made compulsory that everyone who benefited from state land through the land reform programme grows at least a hectare of maize. Yes I said compulsory! If government could compulsorily acquire land, then it can also compulsorily enforce production because it is in the public interest.

Whilst government is still working on securing funds to finance this sector, some mechanism needs to be put in place to identify legitimate small scale farmers in every district that can fully benefit from the government input scheme to grow maize. In return, government could consider a ratio of say 40/60 with the farmers, where the farmers retain 40% of the maize and sell the remaining 60% to the GMB at competitive prices. Even those who may not have directly benefited from full support would benefit from a pricing regime that encourages maize production and timely payments. Imagine what sustaining this over the years and making sure there is optimal production on land would do in the long term.

By so doing, you will be departing from a culture of dependency where every year we have to rely on Western donors to feed our people. Isn’t they are the very same people you claim want to effect a regime change? When you address the food security issues, more energy and resources are channelled into other sectors of the economy and create jobs for the youth that find themselves selling airtime even with university degrees.