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Was Mugabe aware of the ‘coup’ plot?

During the night of 14-15 November, Zimbabwe Defence Force (ZDF) soldiers were posted to strategic points in the capital, Harare. By morning, the world woke up to news that President Robert Mugabe was under house arrest, with the army’s top officers emphasising that it was 'not a military takeover' and that it was not aimed at President Mugabe, 'only targeting criminals around him'.

Although the action was triggered by the sacking of Emerson Mnangagwa on 6 November, there are reports it had been planned much earlier, with senior officers consulting South African and Chinese officials. The lead authors of the military action – sacked Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa and General Constantino Chiwenga – had prepared the ground for the operation and troops encountered little resistance at the barracks of the Presidential Guard and its commander Brigadier-General Anselem Sanyatwe. It is understood that neutralising them was the first part of the military action.

It is reported that Mnangagwa, Chiwenga and Chris Mutsvangwa, the 'war veterans' leader and former ambassador to China, talked to local security officials about the implications of their military action in Harare. They were reportedly assured on non-intervention by South Africa so long as the action didn't spill over the borders and remained 'broadly constitutional'. Chiwenga and Mnangagwa promised to find a way to avoid the action being stigmatised as a military coup by the African Union (AU) or the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Africa Confidential has reported.

With how the events leading up to the ‘coup’ turned out, there are chances Mugabe was aware of the plot to oust him and prepared for it. This is because more than 48 hours after the military took over they have not reached a deal with the 93-year-old. With every passing hour, Mugabe gets a firmer grip of the situation, and gains leverage and assures him of returning to work.

How it all began – the week of upheaval

Sunday, 5 November: Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander General Constantino Chiwenga flies to a meeting with China's Defence Minister Chang Wanquan in Beijing. The meeting was discreetly and hastily arranged by Chiwenga to win Beijing's support for a 'smart takeover of power', it is reported. Chiwenga's message was that a planned purge of the armed forces by the G40 faction of the ruling party, which has supported Grace Mugabe, would destabilise the country and threaten China's interests.

Grace Mugabe called Mnangagwa a "coup plotter" and a "coward" in a speech that ruffled more than a few feathers in ZANU-PF. The speech came after one by Mugabe at a rally on Saturday, where he criticised Mnangagwa for the first time.

• Monday, 6 November: President Mugabe sends Mnangagwa a letter dismissing him as Vice-President.

• Tuesday, 7 November: Mugabe widens the purge and sacks three ministers and Mnangagwa allies: Cyber-Security Minister Patrick Chinamasa, Environment Minister Oppah Muchinguri and Minister of State in the President's Office, Chris Mushohwe. Mnangagwa crosses the Zimbabwe-Mozambique border, with South Africa his eventual destination.

• Wednesday, 8 November: Mnangagwa releases a strongly-worded critique of the clique around Mugabe, blaming it for economic deterioration and accusing Mugabe's family of treating ZANU-PF as their personal property.  

• Sunday, 12 November: General Chiwenga returns to Zimbabwe via South Africa from his trip to Beijing. There are reports that that Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri had orders to arrest him, whereby Chiwenga arranges to be met by a large group of soldiers. Over the past week he had been resisting pressure from Mugabe to resign as ZDF Commander. All this points to efforts by Mugabe to purge the ‘trouble-makers’.

• Monday, 13 November: Chiwenga calls a press conference in Harare, which is filmed and distributed on YouTube and social media. He reads a statement blaming the failing economy on factionalism in ZANU-PF over the past five years, and arguing that the ruling party's problems were caused by 'elements who did not struggle with us in the War of Liberation' (i.e. the G40 faction). He also demanded that ZANU-PF stop purging liberation heroes.
He appeared on the platform with top military chiefs, but not Chihuri. Chiwenga's message is published on the website of the state newspaper, The Herald, but immediately taken down. It is not given any coverage on the state news broadcasts that night, nor is it printed in The Herald the following morning.

• Tuesday, 14 November: Chairman of the ZANU-PF Youth League, Kudzanai Chipanga, releases a statement blaming the military for the 'missing’ USD15 billion, declaring that the youth will defend the revolution. Chipanga's statement is broadcast on the state media and broadcasting services.

During the day, there are reports of soldiers driving into Harare to meet others already in the centre of the city. Other reports emerge of armoured cars and tanks heading towards the base of the Presidential Guard in Tynwald, some 15 kilometres out of Harare. By early morning of Wednesday 15th it seemed the stage had been set for the ouster of Africa’s oldest leader.

What is next for Mugabe?

The situation remains fluid and anything can happen. When Zimbabwe’s military detained President Mugabe on Tuesday night, it appeared the stage had been set for his ouster. We are slowly discovering it may not be so easy to remove Mugabe. President Mugabe made his first public appearance since the military seized control of the country, at a graduation ceremony at Harare's Open University.

The appearance comes amid reports that the party was due to meet to draft a motion to fire Mr. Mugabe on Sunday. If the 93-year-old leader still refuses to stand down, the party plans to impeach him on Tuesday, pointing to a failure of the military action.

It is reported that Mugabe has got many demands that he is insisting on and the main one is not making Mnangagwa the interim president, as he feels Mnangagwa will go after Mugabe’s political allies in ZANU PF. The military wants Mnangagwa as Interim President. However, this position has legal and institutional considerations; how to reinstate Mnangagwa and by pass the second Vice President Phelekeza Mphoko. For Mnangagwa to take over, Mphoko will also have to resign.
Two scenarios stand out for me on how the situation in Zimbabwe will unfold.

1. What happens next will depend on the reaction by Mugabe and the G40 faction. Mugabe will likely try to convince General Chiwenga that, for stability’s sake, the status quo should remain until April 2018 elections. Under such an agreement, the president may be forced to re-appoint Mnangagwa and dismiss Grace Mugabe from politics. This would have the short-term impact of pacifying the military, but would almost ensure enduring factionalism in ZANU-PF.

2. The extreme will be when ZDF pushes for President Mugabe’s removal from office, to be replaced by a Lacoste representative, or Mnangagwa himself. In such a case, safe passage for Mugabe and his family would probably be guaranteed.
The likelihood of each of these two extreme outcomes is near equal, and there exists a wide spectrum between them, hence why this hasn’t been as swift. Knowing Mugabe, he is probably fighting it out for the first option. This is risky because any date other than now will most likely result in purging of army generals.

If the army generals take power by force they risk alienation from the African Union, Southern Development Community (SADC). My prediction, I expect Mugabe to resume the work of the presidency within days, barring the impeachment. History, and regional politics are against a violent power takeover in the southern Africa region.

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Botswana to Become a Vaccinated Nation: Pandemic Anxiety Over?

30th March 2021

OSCAR MOTSUMI

This is a question that should seriously exercise the mind of every Botswana citizen and every science researcher, every health worker and every political leader political.

The Covid-19 currently defines our lives and poses a direct threat to every aspect and every part of national safety, security and general well-being. This disease has become a normative part of human life throughout the world.

The first part of the struggle against the murderous depredation of this disease was to protect personal life through restrictive health injunctions and protocols; the worst possibly being human isolation and masks that hid our sorrows and lamentations through thin veils. We suffered that humiliation with grace and I believe as a nation we did a great job.

Now the vaccines are here, ushering us into the second phase of this war against the plague; and we are asking ourselves, is this science-driven fight against Covid-19 spell the end of pandemic anxiety? Is the health nightmare coming to an end? What happy lives lie ahead? Is this the time for celebration or caution? As the Non State Actors, we have being struggling with these questions for months.

We have published our thoughts and feelings, and our research reviews and thorough reading of both the local and international impacts of this rampaging viral invasion in local newspapers and social media platforms.

More significantly, we have successfully organised workshops about the impact of the pandemic on society and the economy and the last workshop invited a panel of health experts, professionals, and public administers to advance this social dialogue as part of our commitment to the tripartite engagement we enjoy working with Government of Botswana, Civil Society and Development partners. These workshops are virtual and open to all Batswana, foreign diplomatic missions based in Gaborone, UN agencies located in Gaborone and international academic researchers and professional health experts and specialists.

The mark of Covid-19 on our nation is a painful one, a tragedy shared by the entire human race, but still a contextually painful experience. Our response is fraught with grave difficulties; limited resources, limited time, and the urgency to not only save lives but also avert economic ruin and a bleak future for all who survive. Several vaccines are already in the  market.

Parts of the world are already doing the best they can to trunk the pestilential march of this disease by rolling out mass-vaccinations campaigns that promise to evict this health menace and nightmare from their public lives. Botswana, like much of Africa, is still up in the disreputable, and, unenviable, preventative social melee of masked interactions, metered distances, contactless commerce.

We remain very much at the mercy of a marauding virus that daily runs amuck with earth shattering implications for the economy and human lives. And the battle against both infections and transmissions is proving to be difficult, in terms of finance, institutional capacities and resource mobilization. How are we prepared as government, and as citizens, to embrace the impending mass-vaccinations? What are the chances of us  succeeding at this last-ditch effort to defeat the virus? What are the most pressing obstacles?

Does the work of vaccines spell an end to the pandemic anxieties?

Our panellists addressed the current state of mass-vaccination preparedness at the Botswana national level. What resources are available? What are the financial, institutional and administrative operational challenges (costs and supply chains, delivery, distribution, administering the vaccine on time, surveillance and security of vaccines?) What is being done to overcome them, or what can be done to overcome them? What do public assessments of preparedness tell us at the local community levels? How strong is the political will and direction? How long can we expect the whole exercise to last? At what point should we start seeing tangible results of the mass-vaccination campaign?

They also addressed the challenges of the anticipated emerging Vaccinated Society. How to fight the myths of vaccines and the superstitions about histories of human immunizations? What exactly is being done to grow robust local confidence in the science of vaccinations and the vaccines themselves? More significantly, how to square these campaigns vis-vis personal rights, moral/religious obligations?

What messages are being sent out in these regards and how are Batswana responding? What about issues of justice and equality? Will we get the necessary vaccines to everyone who wants them? What is being done to ensure no deserving person is left behind?

They also addressed issues of health data. To accomplish this mass-vaccination campaign and do everything right we need accurate and complete data. Poor data already makes it very hard to just cope with the disease. What is being done to improve data for the mass-vaccination campaign? How is this data being collected, aggregated and prepared for real life situation/applications throughout Botswana in the coming campaign?

We know in America, for example, general reporting and treatment of health data at the beginning of vaccinations was so poor, so chaotic and so scattered mainstream newspapers like The Atlantic, Washington Post and the New York Times had to step in, working very closely with civil society organizations, to rescue the situation. What data-related issues are still problematic in Botswana?

To be specific, what kind of Covid-19 data is being taken now to ready the whole country for an effective and efficient mass-vaccination program?

Batswana must be made aware that the  end part of vaccination will just mark the beginning of a long journey to health recovery and national redemption; that in many ways Covid-19 vaccination is just another step toward the many efforts in abeyance to fight this health pandemic, the road ahead is still long and painful.

For this purpose, and to highlight the significance of this observation we tasked our panellists with  the arduous imperative of  analysing the impact of mass-vaccination on society and the economy alongside the pressing issues of post-Covid-19 national health surveillance and rehabilitation programs.

Research suggests the aftermath of Covid-19 vaccination is going to be just as difficult and uncertain world as the present reality in many ways, and that caution should prevail over celebration, at least for a long time. The disease itself is projected to linger around for some time after all these mass-vaccination campaigns unless an effort is made to vaccinate everyone to the last reported case, every nation succeeds beyond herd immunity, and cure is found for Covid-19 disease. Many people are going to continue in need of medications, psychological and psychiatric services and therapy.

Is Botswana ready for this long holdout? If not, what path should we take going into the future? The Second concern is , are we going to have a single, trusted national agency charged with the  mandate to set standards for our national health data system, now that we know how real bad pandemics can be, and the value of data in quickly responding to them and mitigating impact? Finally, what is being done to curate a short history of this pandemic? A national museum of health and medicine or a Public Health Institute  in Botswana is overdue.

If we are to create strong sets of data policies and data quality standards for fighting future health pandemics it is critical that they find ideological and moral foundations in the artistic imagery and photography of the present human experience…context is essential to fighting such diseases, and to be prepared we must learn from every tragic health incident.

Our panellists answered most of these questions with distinguished intellectual clarity. We wish Batswana to join us in our second Mass-vaccination workshop.

*Oscar Motsumi: Email:oscar.motsumi@gmail.com

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The women you see in the news matter. Here’s why

9th March 2021
Jane Godia

Jane Godia

Today is International Women’s Day – it’s a moment to think about how much better our news diet could be if inequities were eliminated. In 1995, when the curtains fell in one of the largest meetings that have ever brought women together to discuss women in development, it was noted that women and media remain key to development.

Twenty-six years later, the relevant “Article J” of the Beijing Platform for Action, remains unfulfilled. Its two strategic objectives with regard to Women and Media have not been met. They are
Increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication

Promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media.

Today, as we mark International Women’s Day, it’s an indictment on both media owners and civil society that women remain on the periphery of news-making. They cannot claim equal space in either the structures of newsrooms or in the content produced, be that as sources of news or as the subjects of reports. Indeed, the latest figures from WAN-IFRA’s Women in News Programme show just one in five voices in news belong to women*, be they as sources, as the author or as the main character of the news report.

Some progress was evident several years back, with stand-out women being named as chief executive officers, editors in chief, managing editors and executive editors. But these gains appear short lived in most media organisations. Excitement has turned to frustration as one-step forward has been replaced with three steps backwards. In Africa, the problem is acute. The decision-making tables of media organisations remain deprived of women and where there are women, they are surrounded by men.

Few women have followed in the footsteps of Esther Kamweru, the first woman managing editor in Kenya, and indeed sub-Saharan Africa. Today’s standout women editors include Pamela Makotsi-Sittoni (Nation Media Group, Kenya), Barbara Kaija (New Vision, Uganda), Mary Mbewe (Daily Nation, Zambia), Margaret Vuchiri (The Monitor, Uganda), Joyce Shebe (Clouds, Tanzania), Tryphinah Dongwana (Weekend Post, Botswana), Joyce Mhaville (Independent Television -ITV, Tanzania) and Tuma Abdallah (Standard Newspapers,Tanzania). But they remain an exception.

The lack of balance between women and men at the table of decision making has a rollback effect on the content that is produced. A table dominated by men typically makes decisions that benefit men.

So today, International Women’s Day is a grim reminder that things are not rosy in the news business. Achieving gender balance in news and in the structure of media organisations remains a challenge. Unmet, it sees more than half of the population in our countries suffer the consequences of bias, discrimination and sexism.

The business of ignoring the other half of the population can no longer be treated as normal. It’s time that media leaders grasp the challenge, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it also makes a whole lot of business sense: start covering women, give them space and a voice in news-making and propel them to all levels of decision making within your organisation.

We can no longer afford to imagine that it’s only men who make and sell the news and bring in the shillings to fund the media business. Women too are worthy newsmakers. In all of our societies, there are women holding decision making positions and who are now experts in once male-only domains such as engineers, doctors, scientists and researchers.

They can be deliberately picked out to share their perspectives and expertise and bring balance to the profile of experts quoted on our news pages. Media is the prism through which society sees itself and women are an untapped audience. So, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us embrace diversity, which yields better news content and business products, and in so doing eliminate sexism. We know that actions and attitudes that discriminate against people based on their gender is bad for business.

As media, the challenge is ours. We need to consciously embrace and reach the commitments made 26 years ago when the Beijing Platform for Action was signed globally. As the news consuming public, you have a role to play too. Hold your news organization to account and make sure they deliver balanced news that reflects the voices of all of society.

Jane Godia is a gender development and media expert who serves as the Africa Director of Women in News programme.  
WOMEN IN NEWS is WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org

Jane Godia, Director, Africa, Women in News

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Why is the media so afraid to talk about sexual harassment?

9th March 2021

MELANIE WALKER

The eve of International Women’s Day presents an opportunity for us to think about gender equality and the long and often frustrating march toward societies that are truly equal.

As media, we are uniquely placed to drive forward this reflection and discussion. But while focusing on the challenges of gender in society, we owe it to our staff and the communities we serve to also take a hard look at the obstacles within our own organisations.

I’m talking specifically about the scourge of sexual harassment. It’s likely to have happened in your newsroom. It has likely happened to a member of your team. It happens to all genders but is disproportionately directed at women. It happens in every industry, regardless of country, culture or context. This is because sexual harassment is driven by power, not sex. Wherever you have imbalances in power, you have individuals who are at risk of sexual harassment, and those who abuse this power.

I’ve been sexually harassed. The many journalists and editors, friends and family members who I have spoken to over the years on this subject have also been harassed. Yet it is still hard for leaders to recognize that this could be happening within their newsrooms and boardrooms. Why does it continue to be such a taboo?

Counting the cost of sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is, simply put, bad for business. It can harm your corporate reputation. It is a drain on the productivity of staff and managers. Maintaining and building trust in your brand is an absolute imperative for media organisations globally. If and when a case gets out of control or is badly handled – this can directly impact your bottom line.

It is for this reason that WAN-IFRA Women in News has put eliminating sexual harassment as a top priority in our work around gender equality in the media sector. This might seem at odds with the current climate where social interactions are fewer and remote work scenarios are in place in many newsrooms and businesses. But one only needs to tune into the news to know that the abuse of power, manifested as verbal, physical or online harassment, is alive and well.

Preliminary results from an ongoing Women in News research study into the issue of sexual harassment polling hundreds of journalists in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia indicate that more than 1 in 3 women media professionals have been physically harassed, and just under 50% have been verbally harassed. Just over 15% of men in African newsrooms reported being physically harassed, and slightly less than 1 in 4 reports being verbally harassed. The numbers for male media professionals in Southeast Asia are slightly higher than a quarter on both forms of harassment.

The first step in confronting sexual harassment is to talk about it. We need to strip away the stigma and discomfort around having open conversations about what sexual harassment is and isn’t. Media managers, it is entirely in your power to create dynamics in your own teams that are free from sexual harassment.

Publishers and CEOs, you set the organisational culture in your media company.

By being vocal in recognising that it happens everywhere, and communicating to your employees that you will not tolerate sexual harassment of any kind, you send a powerful message to your teams, and publicly. With these actions, you will help us overcome the legacy of silence around this topic, and in doing so take an important first step to create media environments that truly embrace equality.

Melanie Walker is Executive Director of Media Development of the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). She is a creator of Women in News, WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org

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