Statement for International Women’s Day


 

This year’s UN theme is Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!” and it is a call for people to visualise a present and a future in which all of humanity is empowered because women and girls have been empowered. It is recognition that the energy, talent and strength of women and girls represent humankind’s most invaluable untapped natural resource. It is a call to the individual responsibility to imagine the world as it could be, and to do what one can to achieve that vision. It is also, more pertinently, a nudge and reminder to governments, civil society and public and private sectors to commit to gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls – as a fundamental human right and a force for the benefit of all.

Working for equality for women and girls around the globe is the key to fighting poverty, political instability and social injustice and all the evils that beleague society in its broadest sense. Over the years, the struggle to get women’s rights integrated into the general human rights framework and to have key decision making institutions recognise the importance of issues related to women and girls have been fruitful. Every major institution and government has at the very least acknowledged that ending discrimination and violence against women are fundamental to achieving gender equality. Many have committed to working on these issues.

This year as the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU), we commemorate International Women’s Day in Zimbabwe, by reawakening a call to all actors to remind us of where we ought to be. For when we empower a woman we empower a nation. Empowering the women of Zimbabwe means we must strive to provide educational opportunities for all girls and women of all ages, for them to be able to realise their full potential. No girl child should be deprived of this opportunity for any reason.

It means ending gender based violence in the private and public sphere. .We must strive with every breath to eradicate all traditional, cultural and social practices that continue to discriminate and dehumanise the women of Zimbabwe.

All laws must be aligned to International human rights standards and the Constitution to ensure that every woman has full and equal dignity as well as have equal opportunities with men.. Until we all make this commitment, we cannot move forward as a nation.

For until we all acknowledge in word and in practice that women are the core of our humanity we will never change our reality. Let us continue to work together to make this world a better place for all women. Together we can make it happen!

To Obert and His Boys: Passengers have Rights


By Rumbidzai Dube

Zimbabwe is commemorating the 16 days of activism against gender based violence, and the key message is “From Peace in the Home to Peace in our communities: ‘Promoting safe spaces for women and girls.’ Safe spaces are secure spaces. They are spaces in which human security-the totality of all conditions that make a human being feel secure-is guaranteed. They are spaces in which women and girls are free from fear and free from want. These spaces are about the protection of women and girls from unnecessary harm and exposure to risky circumstances. The majority of women, men and children in Zimbabwe use the public transport system and the levels of risk they are exposed to within that system have precipitated my blog.

Sometime in March, while aboard a New York taxi, I learnt that there is something called the Livery Passengers’ Bill Of Rights. The Bill gives passengers the following rights to:

  1. Ride in a car that is clean, in good condition and has passed all required inspections.
  2. Be driven by a TLC (Taxi and Limousine Company) licenced driver in good standing whose licence is clearly displayed.
  3. A safe and courteous driver who obeys all traffic laws.
  4. A quiet trip. Free of horn honking and audio/radio noise.
  5. Receive a fair quote from the dispatcher and pay that amount for your ride (unless the fare changed).
  6. A driver who does not use a cell phone while driving (hands free phones are not permitted).
  7. A smoke and scent free ride.
  8. Air conditioning or heat on request.
  9. Working seatbelts for all passengers (please use them!).
  10. Not share a ride unless you want to.
  11. Be accompanied by a service animal.
  12. Decline to tip for poor service.

I am sure many Zimbabweans are wondering how passengers in New York can have as many rights in their transport Bill of Rights as we have in our constitutional Bill of Rights? What we need to interrogate is why New York chose to make what seems like a very unimportant issue so very important.

First of all, in New York as in Zimbabwe the majority of people cannot afford owning cars. Whereas in New York buying a car is not as difficult as maintaining it (including the taxes and parking fees), many Zimbabweans simply cannot afford cars. That is why a functional public transport system is critical.

Second, the ability to access a clean, safe and secure alternative mode of transportation is central to guaranteeing the safety of the residents of New York. It is also central to the productivity and development of the city as residents commute between their homes and work, 24 hours a day.Similarly, Zimbabwe needs a functional system to keep our economy going.

The more I have listened to the grievances about combis (commuter omnibuses) and the service they give to my fellow Zimbabweans, the more I have wondered how many of them would be out of business if a similar bill of rights existed in Zimbabwe.

  1. Clean car in good condition: How many times have you been in a dirty combi or taxi, dusty even that you had to use tissue to wipe the seat before you sat? How many times have you seen combis and taxis that look like they want to fall over on one side? How many times also have you been in a combi or taxi that feels like the moment the driver changes the gears, that is the last sputter that the combi is going to give then die…on the spot? The combis are health hazards, so much that if anyone gets a cut from the edges of the folded aisle seats while dropping off or getting onto the combi, they need to get an immediate Tetanus shot.
  2. Licenced drivers: We know that many combi and taxi (mshikashika) drivers are unlicensed. In investigations following one of the accidents in Chitungwiza, it emerged that the driver was unlicensed. The majority of those who are currently licensed need a retest because they either procured their licenses through fraudulent means and never actually had proper driving tests or they have been driving hazardously for so long they have forgotten what the correct and proper procedures on the road are. When they get to the police and are asked for a licence, they produce a piece of paper with $5 or $10 or $20 stuck in the middle and police officers immediately forget what they were asking for.
  3. A safe and courteous driver who obeys traffic laws: That is something you do not see among combi and taxi drivers. What you see are near death experiences in which 98% of the time the combi drivers are in the wrong. Passengers sit and grit their teeth as their drivers overtake where there are continuous lines (clearly saying do not overtake), break the rules and drive up the wrong lanes in opposing traffic, shoot through red robots (traffic lights), filter into traffic at the wrong time forcing other drivers to hit their emergency brakes, skip over speed humps (not slowing down as they should) and turn dangerously close in front of oncoming traffic. I always say, if our roads had traffic cameras, which award automatic fines to a license plate as penalties for every road traffic offence, then our government would not need to tax us (law abiding citizens). They would generate all the revenue needed just from traffic fines.
  4. A quiet trip. Free of horn honking and audio/radio noise: This is one right where those who use public transport daily would agree with me that the adage “if wishes were horses then beggars would ride” applies. From the loud urban grooves sounds of Stunner singing “Tisu Mashark,” to the Zim Dancehall vibes of “Tocky Vibes” and the legendary Winky D, to the lewd sounds of Jacob Moyana singing “Munotidako,” the combi drivers “blast” (literally) the music. They play the music so loudly that anyone trying to have a conversation has to shout. Some drivers are courteous enough to turn down the volume when they see a passenger talking on the phone but the majority could not be bothered. When passengers sometimes request they turn down the volume they are told “Tenga yako kana usingade zvenoise” –“Buy your own car if you have a problem with the noise.”
  5. Receive a fair quote from the dispatcher and pay that amount for your ride (unless the fare changed)-The dog eat dog mentality that has permeated our society also affects public transport operators. Although certain fares are known i.e. it should cost $0.50 from the city centre to any residential surburbs in Harare using combis, the combis always take every opportunity available to charge more. If it is raining the fare goes up to a $1, during rush hour when everyone wants to go home-suddenly the fare also goes up to $1, if there is a big event somewhere (a soccer match, a Makandiwa judgement day) suddenly all operators want to carry passengers to that route reducing the numbers of buses available on the normal route-those that remain want to charge $1 because those going to the “hot and busy” route also charge $1. Nobody constantly monitors and enforces fares.
  6. A driver who does not use a cell phone while driving (hands free phones are not permitted): Dream on! Some drivers do not only talk on the phone as they drive, they even text; what with all this WhatsApp business.
  7. A smoke and scent free ride: Luckily Zimbabwe has very strict laws against public smoking and so in this instance public transport users are covered. I can’t say the same for the smell issue though because the buses are not always clean. Sometimes the problem and source of discomfort is not with the bus itself but the sweaty armpit of the conductor, stuck in someone’s nose as the conductor squeezes himself tightly between the door and the passenger on the edge of the first seat behind the driver’s seat.
  8. Air conditioning or heat on request: Again, dream on! Some combis and taxis do not even have functional windows; the windows are broken, missing, stuck and won’t open, not proper windows but rather cardboard paper or furniture boards. The ventilation is either poor creating a stifling environment or the wind lashes the passengers’ faces.
  9. Working seatbelts for all passengers: What seatbelts? This is why in many accidents the passengers on the front seat fly though the windscreens while the driver survives. At police roadblocks, the police are concerned with the driver putting on his seatbelt and are not bothered about the safety of the passengers seating next to the driver without their seatbelts on. RATIONALE: the driver can pay a bribe if he is caught not wearing his seatbelt; it is harder to solicit for bribes from passengers-you never know who they are, right?
  10. Not share a ride unless you want to: Huh! Dream on. Not only are passengers forced to share but they share with more people than is necessary. Packed like sardines, seats that should accommodate 3 people have 4 people on them. The situation gets worse if one of the passengers is a big person; never mind if there are two big people in one row of seats. They end up squashed to each other, literally sharing body fluids (sweat). I used to shout at the drivers many times when they tried to fit a 4th person in the front seat. It was bad enough that the seatbelts were dysfunctional and the risk of flying out through the windscreen if the driver suddenly applied his brakes was high, but to share the seat meant for two people with a 3rd person, practically sitting on your lap was an added annoyance.
  11. Be accompanied by a service animal: Service animals are specially trained animals (mostly dogs)meant to help people with disabilities e. g. visual impairment, hearing impairment, mental illness, diabetes, autism, seizures and others. This greatly improves the safety and security of persons living with disabilities as they navigate their way using public transport. In Zimbabwe, not only do we not have such service animals but as it is animals are not allowed on public transport. Besides the animals, fellow human beings are not very helpful to the disabled. Many combis avoid carrying paraplegics arguing that they have no space for wheelchairs; when it truth they want to use that space to carry goods that will get them more money.
  12. Decline to tip for poor service: Well we don’t have to worry about this one because the service is guaranteed to be poor. No tips coming! Or going!-whatever the case may be.

Clearly the combi structure of providing public transport in Zimbabwe is problematic on many levels.

  • There is no uniformity in the quality of service.
  • There is no guarantee that passengers will get their change as some conductors assault or insult passengers for demanding change.
  • There is no guarantee how long the trip will take as there are no strict timetables.
  • The combis are not maintained to the same standard. Some buses are fully serviced while others have broken seats, torn interiors, missing windows.
  • The system of licensing is not properly monitored as the police take bribes instead of enforcing the law.
  • The buses are overcrowded.
  • The fares are not strictly standardised, monitored and enforced.

What is the solution?

The Minister of Transport, Obert Mpofu suggested banning the combis. But to me that pseudo-solution would only create more problems. The reality is that:

  • Combis constitute the largest transport providers for the majority of Zimbabweans on local routes within cities, between urban centres, between urban and rural centres and some even across borders.
  • Combis are a source of employment and income for thousands of combi owners, drivers and conductors and their families.
  • In urban centres they also provide employment to a unique group of individuals known as the ‘rank Marshall’s (effectively a group of touts who have dignified their loafing by creating a system of accountability among bus operators by giving them equal turns to ferry passengers in exchange for a $1 for every trip that each combi takes.
  • The dynamics become even more interesting when one observes the organised trade that takes place around the different bus termini known as ‘ranks.’ Vegetable, airtime, food and fruit vendors take advantage of the movement of people to and from the combis to do business.
  • Urban councils charge these combis for parking and this revenue going directly to the local governance structures.

To create a safe and secure transport system that gives men, women and children the dignity they deserve, Obert and his boys should consider creating a bus service (including combis) that operates on timetable and in line with a set list of rules and procedures observing the strictest standards including proper licensing, full insurance, being roadworthy with a cut-off date for the vehicle life span e.g. Anything older than 10 years should be taken off the roads as un-roadworthy! Every combi should have a bin to throw litter in to avoid littering by passengers, all seats should be properly functional –not broken or torn seats, combis should maintain a set level of cleanliness and hygiene in their interior including having functional heating and air-conditioning, every combi should abide by the regulations on maximum number of passengers to be carried; 3 per seat instead of 4, staff that is helpful to the disabled. In other words, an enforceable look-alike to the New York Passengers Bill of Rights would be a welcome development for Zimbabwe to guarantee citizens safety and security on the roads.

Where’s Wally*? Looking for my member of parliament


Since the elections were held in July 2013 I have not received a notice of a meeting called by my Member of Parliament or even heard that he came to the constituency, at least to my ward. A whole year has passed and I am asking myself where is he, what is doing that is keeping him so busy that he does not come? When he is in parliament what issues is he bringing up and/or debating? Whose interests is he representing if he doesn’t come to us the people to find out what our issues are, and how we want them to be addressed?

Every five years we have elections, and, in the last 15 years, I have had the same MP, Dr. Tapiwa Mashakada, but what has he done in my constituency for him to be voted for consecutively? Are we as Zimbabweans voting for a political party rather than for an individual we think can represent our interests and who will work towards getting these interests addressed at a national level? From where I am standing, it looks very much like the former.  Dr. Mashakada has not done much in my constituency to warrant re-election and yet he continues to be elected.  My constituency is well known for water challenges and occasional refuse collection yet people are billed consistently. How then do we raise our issues if we never see the Honourable MP?

In the previous term, Dr. Mashakada was in government as the Minister of Economic Planning and Investment Promotion, so he can be forgiven for not visiting the constituency as often as he should. According to Occasional Visitors: Attendance in the Seventh Parliament of Zimbabwe’ his attendance in parliament between June 2012 and June 2013 was not impressive at 29% and yet he was re-elected. Twenty nine percent is a fail grade under any circumstances, so why is he back in parliament; what did he do to deserve re-election?

There is urgent need for us to understand the roles and responsibilities of MPs; i.e. law-making, fostering public debate, oversight, and representation; this is in accordance with the constitution, section 117 (2) “The legislative authority confers on the legislature the power to:

  1. Amend this Constitution in accordance with section 328;
  2. b)  Make laws for the peace, order and good governance of Zimbabwe; and
  3. c) Confer subordinate legislative powers upon another body or authority in accordance with section 134.”

About a month ago RAU held workshops with approximately 100 women and the majority of them did not know the role of parliament, yet most of them had voted. When asked what they expect from their MP, they said that he/she should attend to ZESA issues, attend functions in the constituency, i.e. weddings and funerals, provide food assistance among others, none of which fall under the broad outline stated above. It is important for the general public to know that MPs are there because we voted them to be our representatives in Parliament; they work for us, and just as we chose them we can as well get rid of them for non-performance.  If we all take the time to understand our governance structures and the constitution, we will take our power back and ensure that MPs are working for us and raising issues that are important to us.  The power resides in us the people and not in the MPs, but this is not as it is perceived or portrayed.  It is critical for the MPs themselves to know that they are there to serve, and not to claim allowances and demand vehicles under the guise of needing them to carry out their duties, yet few of them are serving their constituencies let alone going there.

During the campaign trail, MPs were ubiquitous and full of promises: now that they got what they wanted most of them are nowhere to be seen.  Many will only resurface during the 2018 pre election period.

If you not in parliament or working in the constituency where are you, what are you doing and who are you representing, pray do tell?!

* A series of children’s books created by Martin Handford. In the series children are challenged to find Wally hidden in a group.

Do NGOs and Donors undermine the State?


The Afrobarometer always provides highly interesting perspectives on what African citizens (as opposed to their governments) believe. Over the past decade the Afrobarometer has demonstrated the sophistication of African citizens’ understanding of politics, governance, and democracy. The findings are often surprising.

For example, recent analyses have shown the resurgence of popular support for traditional leadership, mainly because these folk provide a buffer for failing governments[1], or that youth, right across Africa, has diminishing faith in the power of elections to bring about democracy. The latter is clearly important in the light of the North African revolutions, but recent research by Resnick and Casale suggests that, whilst African youths tend to vote less and have lower levels of partisanship, they are not more likely to protest than older citizens[2].

These are interesting asides however, and we want to focus on a problem common in many African countries, the frequently fraught relations between states, donors, and civil society, especially NGOs. This is particularly interesting for Zimbabwe where there are continual statements from senior government Ministers that assert that these bodies work in concert to effect “regime change” at the worst and undermine the authority of the state at the least[3].

A very recent Afrobarometer report examined the views of African citizens about the role that donors and NGOs play in the political lives of their countries. As the Afrobarometer report pointed out, in admittedly a complex statistical analysis[4]:

Findings suggest that across a wide range of African countries, including fragile states like Liberia and stronger states like Botswana and South Africa, donors and non-state actors are strengthening, rather than undermining, citizens’ legitimating beliefs, as measured by their willingness to defer to the tax department, the police and the courts. Citizens who believe that donors and non-state actors, including domestic and international NGOs and international businesses, are doing a lot to help their country, rather than a little, are more likely to be willing to defer to the tax department. People who perceive that donors and non-state actors exert too little, rather than too much, influence over their government, are less likely to be willing to defer to the tax department, police, and courts. The opposite is true for those who perceive that donors and non-state actors exert too much influence, rather that too little influence, over their government.

Unfortunately, Zimbabwe was not included in the 19 countries from which the data was derived, but the sample of countries was sufficiently large[5] as was the number of citizens included (26,513). So this is a fair test of what African citizens think about donors and NGOs. And the findings certainly rubbish the claims by so many African governments that these bodies have a malevolent influence over their citizens.

African citizens, rather than distrusting donors and NGOs, see these bodies, where they are very present and active in a country, as strongly complimenting the work of their governments, and, very surprisingly, results in citizens claiming that this would make them more likely to pay tax, and more willing to defer to the authority of the police and the courts. Overall, this suggests a win-win situation for states and citizens: good states will attract donors, encourage non-state actors, and be rewarded with good citizens. Bad states repel donors, suppress non-state actors, and end up with unresponsive citizens.

It is also worth pointing out that it remains surprising at the continental level that donors continue to engage with so much faith in Africa, but this is not necessarily the case at the individual country level, where there may be excellent synergies between state, donors, and NGOs. Donor countries and donors continue to provide financial support to Africa in spite of the very discouraging picture. As a 2012 report from the Political Economy Research Institute points out in respect of capital flight from Sub-Saharan Africa[6]:

A key constraint to SSA’s growth and development is the shortage of financing. Indeed SSA faces large and growing financing gaps, hindering public investment and social service delivery. At the same time, the sub-region is a source of large-scale capital flight, which escalated during last decade even as the region experienced growth acceleration. The group of 33 SSA countries covered by this report has lost a total of $814 billion dollars (constant 2010 US$) from 1970 to 2010. This exceeds the amount of official development aid ($659 billion) and foreign direct investment ($306 billion) received by these countries. Oil-rich countries account for 72 percent of the total capital flight from the sub-region ($591 billion). The escalation of capital flight over the last decade coincided with the steady increase in oil prices prior to the global economic crisis.

 

Assuming that flight capital has earned (or could have earned) the modest interest rate measured by the short-term United States Treasury Bill rate, the corresponding accumulated stock of capital flight from the 33 countries stands at $1.06 trillion in 2010. This far exceeds the external liabilities of this group of countries of $189 billion (in 2010), making the region a “net creditor” to the rest of the world. The stereotypical view that SSA is severely indebted and heavily aid-dependent is not fully consistent with the facts.

 

And the general trend has been getting worse over the past four decades: net losses in the early 1970s were about US$28 billion, but by 2005-2010 they were estimated at US$202 billion. It is not the purview of this short opinion piece to examine the reasons for all this capital flight, but it does seem that the knee-jerk statements by African (and increasingly Zimbabwean leaders) to blame the West for its (and our) problems is not very honest. Some honest examination of who is sending out all that money might go some way to solving some of Africa’s economic problems, and could even pay off all of Sub-Saharan Africa’s debts.

There are also the knee-jerk attacks on the motives of the non-state actors. This is the really sorry story, because non-state actor is a term that covers virtually everyone that is not a government or a donor: NGOs, CBOs, associations like churches and sports clubs, international NGOs like Oxfam and Save the Children, and so on. African citizens say that the more of these that exist and are working hard for them, the more likely the nation and key institutions are one they trust. And, of course, they have an interest in regime change: any government that the non-state actor sector sees is not serving the interests of the people will be challenged.

But it depends on what is meant by regime change. It can range from wanting a new political party to govern (and only by election, not coup or violence) through to wanting a particular change in policy direction. Regime change straddles wanting a new government through to trying to influence a regime to change its policies, and this latter is where the vast number of NGOs put their energies. And since NGOs and CBOs in Africa are mostly filling the gaps where government cannot deliver, it is the reason why African citizens have trust in them. It also turns out that this is the core political activity in any nation, and why civil society (and its organisations) are at the heart of the political life of the citizenry.


[1] Baldwin, K (2011), When politicians cede control of resources: Land, Chiefs and coalition- building in Africa. Working Paper No. 130. AFROBAROMETER.

[2] Resnick, D., & Casale, D (2013), The Political Participation of Africa’s Youth: Turnout, Partisanship, and Protest. Working Paper No. 136. AFROBAROMETER.

[3] Most recently these sentiments were repeated by Minister Chinamasa in the statement following the meeting between the various Zimbabwean political parties and the British government. See COMMUNIQUE ISSUED BY HONOURABLE PATRICK CHINAMASA, Deputy Secretary for Legal Affairs of ZANU PF And The Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs At the Conclusion of the Meeting of Representatives of the Inclusive Government of Zimbabwe and the Friends of Zimbabwe (FoZ) held in London, QEII Conference Centre from 25 to 26 March 2013.

[4] Sacks, A (2013), Can Donors and Non-state Actors undermine Citizens’ Legitimating Beliefs? Working Paper No.140. AFROBAROMETER.

[5] The counties were Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.

[6] Boyce, J. K., & Ndikumana, L (2012), Capital Flight from Sub-Saharan African Countries: Updated Estimates, 1970 – 2010, October 2012. Political Economy Research Institute. University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Free and Fair Elections?


Since 2010, RAU has been pointing out that the most important matter to be resolved ahead of any future elections is the reform of national institutions. This position has been repeatedly supported by SAPES and the Zimbabwe Liberators Platform. SADC, both through the Troika and the Summit, has also insisted on the deep message beneath the GPA: constitution AND reforms, then elections. Most recently, President Jacob Zuma himself has pointed out the need for urgent action ahead. Speaking at the recent meeting in Pretoria of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence, and Security, Zuma made the following points:

  • “Security sector realignment cannot be postponed any longer”;
  • “In this regard Jomic needs to be activated as a matter of priority”;
    “The facilitation team supplemented by the representatives of Tanzania and Zambia must be enabled to participate actively in Jomic”;
  • “Namibia as a member and incoming chair of troika should now be included” ;
  • “Without the above two points it will be difficult to ensure that there is no intimidation and that violence is not allowed to escalate, if and when it occurs.”

So, when the President and the Minister of Justice are quoted as saying that elections will be held by 29th June, and in the shenanigans around the continued detention of Beatrice Mtetwa and the 4 MDC officials and repeated harassment of NGOs, the total absence of reforms is now critical. The kinds of reforms now needed must be realistic and effective, for there is no longer time for the kind of wishful thinking that has characterized most calls for reform by Zimbabwean political parties and civil society bodies.

As we pointed out recently and several times previously, there are four key areas of reform that can change the electoral playing field[1]:

Firstly, the security sector needs oversight, what some have termed Security Sector Governance as opposed to Security Sector Reform. The latter is a decade-long process, while the former merely requires strong civilian oversight of the uniformed services and the intelligence agencies. This achieved in two ways: appointments of the senior officials through full consensus by all political parties, and a wholly civilian oversight body – in Zimbabwe’s case, agreement between the President and the Prime Minister of the appointments to the army, the police, the prisons, and the intelligence service, the disbanding of JOC, and a wholly civilian National Security Council.

Secondly, ensure that all state institutions adhere completely to their enabling legislation. The police are not allowed to be members of political parties or participate in political activities, and shall carry out their duties in a wholly non-partisan manner. Traditional leaders – chiefs, headmen, and village heads – are not allowed to be politically partisan, and must report all crimes in their areas of jurisdiction, without exception, to the police.

Thirdly, the Office of the Attorney-General (and the Attorney-General) must be completely non-partisan. The Attorney-General should be appointed with the agreement of both the President and the Prime Minister.

Fourthly, the state media – television, radio, and the press – shall be regulated by an independent body for instances of bias and the propagation of hate speech. Reform of the state media will a lengthy process, and, thus, in the short term all that is feasible is that there is an effective stop to all political bias and hate speech.

Add to this President Zuma’s latest comment that SADC observers need to be deployed well in advance of the election – now actually if the statements by the President and the Minister of Justice are to be taken seriously.

All of this will be difficult to achieve, but not impossible, but the big question is what to do if there is no credible attempt at reform. There can be only one position, that responsible political parties should not dignify flawed elections by participation. Actually, this should be their position right now. Whatever the constitution says, either the old or the new, adherence to minimal legalism will not solve the Zimbabwe crisis or bring legitimacy to the state if elections are a farce, and elections are farcical if citizens cannot speak, assemble, associate, and vote in complete freedom.

South Africa and SADC seem to see this quite clearly, but do Zimbabwean political parties. So, no reforms, no elections must be the call by all!

written by

Tony Reeler


[1] RAU (2012), On Restoring National Institutions and Elections. The Governance Programme. March 2012. HARARE: RESEARCH & ADVOCACY UNIT; Reeler, A. P (2013), Of Camels, Constitutions, and Elections. February 2013. HARARE: RESEARCH & ADVOCACY UNIT.

Can’t say No?


The constitution making process has revealed the utter contempt with which Zimbabwe’s politicians treat the electorate, from Operation Chimumumu of the outreach programme, to insulting our intelligence by constantly claiming that the document they have presented as the proposed new constitution reflects the people views, rather than being the result of inter-party negotiation, and then allowing insufficient time for most people to consider the substance of the draft.

 

Should, however, one reject the draft simply to punish the politicians for this arrogance and to demonstrate that the electorate refuses to be treated so shoddily? On the other hand, if, regardless of the process which produced it, a brilliant document has been prepared is one not being churlish and shooting one’s self in the foot by rejecting the draft? Hardly. Even the proponents of a “yes” vote concede that the document is a poor thing (but their own), the best they could do under the circumstances. It is, we are told, nonetheless “incremental progress” and we should thus vote “yes”.

 

We have heard this argument before. We were told that the Constitutional Commission’s draft of 2000 was progress and we should thus vote “yes”. But the people voted “no” because the draft did not achieve that which they had set as their objective, to reduce the vast powers of the President.

 

We were also told to support the GPA because, although the accord left Mugabe’s vast powers intact, it was the best that could be obtained under the circumstances, was incremental progress and was the means by which the integrity of the electoral process could be restored. A new constitution was presented as one of the instruments by which this would be accomplished.

 

This being the stated intention behind the constitution making process, the draft should be rejected on this ground alone. Its provisions will do nothing to restore the integrity of the electoral process. Certainly it contains hopeful clauses stipulating that elections “must be peaceful, free and fair, free from violence and other electoral malpractices” and that “neither the security services nor any of their members may, in the exercise of their functions act in a partisan manner; further the interests of any political party or cause; prejudice the lawful interests of any political party or cause; or violate the fundamental rights and freedoms of any person.” But the constitution very deliberately fails to include any remedy or steps that can be taken if there is no compliance with these provisions. They are thus little more than pretty window dressing designed to allow politicians to tell the naïve that the draft is not all bad.

 

If the new constitution was to address the issue of electoral integrity, then this was the moment to attend to institutional reform, particularly the partisan nature of the criminal justice process and security sector which has played a key role in subverting democratic choice in the past. The MDC politicians proudly tell those who have felt or fear the double whammy of the combined operations of the Commissioner-General of Police and Attorney-General, that this problem has now been addressed. The Attorney-General will no longer be in charge of prosecutions. This will now be done by a Prosecutor-General. They fail to mention that the draft specifically provides that the current Attorney-General, Johannes Tomana, will be the new Prosecutor-General, that the President has the ultimate power to determine his successor in any event and that Chihuri will remain in his post. Hence, rather than addressing partisanship in the application of the criminal justice system, the draft is carefully drawn to ensure that it continues. Similar criticism can be directed at the problem of security sector governance. To make the point, one need only take note of one of many adverse provisions: while in democracies the operations of the intelligence services are governed and regulated by statute, the draft again specifically includes a clause to ensure that this does not happen and allows the intelligence services to remain the unregulated plaything of the President and to be used for party political purposes.

 

The “yes” proponents either obfuscate these issues or ask us to focus on the “incremental gains” reflected in the draft. The incremental gains appear predominantly in the unquestionably greatly improved Declaration of Rights. Its provisions are better for women. Gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender and inter-sex rights are also given strong support, albeit not by name. There is improved freedom of expression in the media, etc.

 

These “incremental gains” in the Declaration of Rights do nothing to encourage a “yes” vote. They require an uncompromised and uncompromising judiciary and legislative reform to be realised. Contrary to the basic principle of the separation of powers, the draft ensures that the head of the executive retains control over both the judiciary and the legislature. Although there is an improved system of advertising for positions and the public interview of candidates for judicial office, if the President does not like the nominees that emerge from the process, he can by-pass this process and select candidates he finds more amenable. Similarly, the draft retains the President’s power over the legislature. Egregiously, under the present constitution the legislature consists of Parliament and the President who has the power to veto legislation. This is retained under the draft. Certainly, a two-thirds majority in Parliament can override the Presidential veto. But this is highly unlikely to happen in practice. The President is elected at the same time as the Members of Parliament. It is thus improbable that Parliament will comprise enough members opposed to the President, or of a different party, to counter his or her veto.

 

The “yes” and “incremental gain” proponents also disingenuously claim that once they win the elections they will amend the constitution to attend to these problems. But any constitutional amendment will require a two-thirds majority in favour in both Houses of Parliament. The current political configuration suggests that neither party is likely to be able to muster this majority. Hence, once the draft is accepted, the constitution making chapter will be closed and we will be stuck with a document that none regard as satisfactory for the foreseeable future. Politicians from the winning party, which ever that may be, are likely to be comfortable with the overweening powers of the President, even if the electorate is not. A “no” vote will keep the constitution making process alive, which might then continue under more favourable conditions, with a different balance of political power, at a later date. The GPA only requires that there be a referendum on the constitution before the elections – not that a new constitution be in place by then. So why the rush to bring the constitution making process to an end?

 

The rush is because the draft constitution provides a convenient fig leaf for SADC’s ineffectiveness and anaemic responses in the face of ZANU PF’s refusal to affect the reforms necessary for a credible election. None of the essential reforms necessary for the integrity of the electoral process have been implemented during the course of the GNU.  It also provides a convenient escape route for SADC, facing yet another flawed election in Zimbabwe. SADC has already started preparing the claim that although “not all” the reforms provided for by the GPA were implemented at least the election was conducted under a new constitution – an approach which delights ZANU PF. From there will follow the non-sequitur, (based on the off key refrain that a new constitution will protect the integrity of the electoral process) that the vote substantially reflects the will of the people and the poll is thus acceptable. A “no” vote will strip away this fig leaf and close this escape route for SADC. The narrow democratic space in which the elections will undoubtedly be conducted will thus be there for all to see.

 

The advantages of a “no” vote are thus readily apparent. It requires one to peer very closely at the draft through thick rose tinted glasses to discern any advantages accruing from a “yes” vote.

 

Derek Matyszak 05.03.13

 

 

What is Election Violence?


This seems a rather stupid question to ask, and especially in Zimbabwe where we talk about this endlessly. However, this is not a trivial question, and we remember 2008 and 2002 more clearly than we do 2005. Simply put, is the killing, beating, and raping of citizens worse from the point of elections than the threatening, terrifying, and starving of the them? It all depends on the purpose and the consequence.

 

If the consequence is to change the result of the vote and hence who governs, then surely both are equivalent as regards the final result: that those who use either strategy subvert the real purpose of elections? Which is what? Surely that the citizens can ensure, freely, that those that govern have the mandate to govern?

 

So, we need to be very clear, when we talk about elections, and we talk about election violence, that we are clear about what this is. So, when killing, beating, and raping do not happen, but threatening, terrifying, and starving does, we are certain that election violence still happened. We need no repeats of 2008 and 2002, or  even 2005!

 

So what do we mean when we talk about election violence? Consider this definition:

 

…Acts or threats of coercion, intimidation, or physical harm perpetrated to affect an

electoral process or that arises in the context of electoral competition. When

perpetrated to affect an electoral process, violence may be employed to influence the process of elections – such as efforts to delay, disrupt, or derail a poll – and to influence the outcomes: the determining of winners in competitive races for political office or to secure approval or disapproval of referendum questions.

 

As Timothy Sisk points out above this is considerably broader than the presence of physical violence: it is the range of activities aimed at subverting the will of ordinary citizens to freely exercise their choice[1].

 

Electoral violence is a sub-type of political violence in which actors employ coercion in an

instrumental way to advance their interests or achieve specific political ends. Similarly,

societies prone to experiencing election-related violence are normally vulnerable to

broader kinds of political violence; Kosovo, India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Kenya, or

Colombia are examples of instances in which electoral violence is embedded in a

broader, often ongoing context of deep-rooted social conflict.

 

Electoral violence includes acts, such as assassination of opponents or spontaneous

fisticuffs between rival groups of supporters and threats, coercion, and intimidation of

opponents, voters, or election officials. Threat and intimidation is a form of coercion

that is just as powerful as acts of violence can be. Indeed, one purpose of acts of

terrorism such as tossing a grenade into a crowd of rival supporters is an act

diabolically designed to induce fear and to intimidate (e.g., to suppress mobilization or

voting by that group).

 

Violent acts can be targeted against people or things, such as the targeting of

communities or candidates or the deliberate destruction of campaign materials, vehicles,

offices, or ballot boxes.

 

Electoral violence is more than just physical violence: it is the purpose behind violence, and the oscillation between physical violence and psychological violence that enable us to understand this purpose in Zimbabwe. The results of the elections in 2005 can only be understood in the context of the violence of 2002 and 2008. That 2005 was less violent than the two previous elections is not really the point, and it would be useful here if the South African Government would stop contesting the release of the Khampepe/Moseneke report: we could then see the nexus between 2000/2002 and 2005.

 

And, just maybe, SADC would own up to the Principles that it promulgated so piously in 2005, and start to insist that the GPA required constitutional change and reform, then elections, rather than accepting the weak compromise offered by the GNU of constitutional change, then elections and reform. Then maybe the SADC Treaty would be a real, substantive document as opposed to a loose-leaf folder from which pages are removed whenever they are inconvenient! And they are especially inconvenient when elections (and sometimes courts and court decisions) leave the members in potential conflict with each other over who has the right to rule.


[1] Sisk, T. D, Elections in Fragile States: Between Voice and Violence. Paper Prepared for The International Studies Association Annual Meeting. San Francisco, California. March 24-28, 2008.