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Transforming Zimbabwe in a post-ZANU PF era (II)

Protection of the people

Considering our past experiences about rampant inflation and corruption, the plundering of state assets and how some of those in power have committed heinous crimes with impunity, we need to establish what I would term the “Zimbabwe Public Protector” (ZPP). This will be more than an ombudsman who can deal with complaints by ordinary people against the government and other institutions that mistreat our people.

The ZPP and the Auditor General must have wide sweeping powers to investigate high profile corruption, the disappearance of billions of dollars through the clandestine sale of our diamonds, emeralds, gold, platinum, coal, nickel and other minerals. The fundamental work of the ZPP should be to strengthen our democracy by providing checks and balances on the activities of the executive and the legislature, as well as monitoring the activities of all public institutions to ensure that they timeously deliver services to our people.

To further deepen our democracy, we need to have a constitutional court that will adjudicate on matters relating to the infringement of citizens’ inalienable rights. It must be a watchdog that jealously guards against the victimisation of our people by upholding their constitutional rights based on the principle of the right to be heard (audi alteram partem).

Also, the constitutional court must unflinchingly uphold the principle of natural justice that says no person or institution may judge themselves on matters in which they are interested parties (nemo judex in parte sua). This will remove the autocracy inherent in the current regime who see themselves as above the laws of the country.

In order to have credibility, the constitutional court must be presided over by a judge president who is above reproach. He or she must be an eminent judge, lawyer, barrister or advocate with a track record of being imbued with a sense of justice, fairness and impartiality. In a new dispensation, the head of state should never have the power to dismiss judges, the ZPP, the chief justice, the president of the constitutional court, permanent secretaries or directors of state institutions. The power to hire or fire them should rest in independent bodies that are not manipulated by the president or members of the ruling party.

Civil society organisations

The level of democracy in any country is judged by the vibrancy of civil society organisations that act as the eye and soul of the people. In a post-ZANU PF era, we need to open up the space so that civic organisations can operate freely without fear or favour. In particular, we need to allow private newspapers, radio and television stations to operate freely, including those that support different political parties, so that we can hear the multiple voices of our people.

I am aware that many of us who have never experienced genuine democracy may regard these suggestions as either utopian, foreign or unrealistic. We can be excused for thinking like that because, like people who live in a desert, we may see normal rain as a deluge. This has also happened in the past when some slaves resisted their own emancipation after the abolition of slavery in 1833.

They still wanted to be owned by their white masters because their self-esteem had been irreparably damaged.
But we are encouraged by the fact that throughout the tempestuous history of mankind, great events have occurred when prospects of change loom in the horizon and when the powerful force of freedom and liberty coalesces to sweep away the old order. In this regard, Zimbabwe can no longer continue to dawdle and dodge, tinker or trifle natural justice. It can only do so at the risk of becoming a permanent junk state relegated to the bottom heap of human civilisation. Surely this is not what we want to happen to our country!

Bearing in mind the melodramatic history of our turbulent past, the pertinent question that needs to be asked is: do we need to strengthen civil society organisations? Are they really necessary? Again, the lived experiences of our people show that the absence of strong and audacious civil organisations has allowed the state to get away with the murder of our people.

Do you still remember the disappearance of Dr Edson Sithole in Harare in 1975 together with his secretary and the assassination of Herbert Chitepo in the same year in Lusaka? Have you forgotten the disappearance of Joseph Masangomai with his wife and children in Houghton Park and the gunning down of Mr Saunyama at his house in Mabelreign just before our independence? And have you buried the memory of Josiah Magama Tongogara, that gallant hero of our liberation struggle who died in a suspicious road accident in Mozambique just at the dawn of our independence? What about Dr Joseph Taderera’s car ‘accident’, Sydney Malunga’s and Border Gezi’s choreographed deaths? What do we say about the disappearance of Rushiwe Guzha involving the CIO?

Above all, what is our conscience about the genocidal murder of thousands of our compatriots in Matebeleland by the fifth brigade? What do you make of Learmore Jongwe’s supposed suicide in police cells? Do you see the torture and murder of many MDC supporters during the 2008 elections as normal political rivalry? And is our memory so short that we have forgotten about the disappearance of Itai Dzamara earlier this year? The death of all these people continues to haunt us as a nation, and we can only make them rest in peace by making sure that we do not allow the culture of impunity to continue in a future Zimbabwe.

Hate language

An issue that has poisoned our society which needs to be put to an end is the use of hate language to refer to a group of people or individuals whose political persuasion, colour or origin is different. Before our independence, much of the hate language was between black and white people, reflecting the power relations between the colonised and the coloniser. Quite often white people derogatorily referred to black people as “kaffirs”, an offensive term indicating that blacks were an inferior race. On the other hand, black people referred to all whites as “Boers”, which suggested they were violent, savage, cruel and heartless.

In the USA, especially during the civil rights movement of the fifties and sixties, there was a similar racial polarisation whereby whites scornfully referred to black people as “niggers” while blacks disdainfully brushed off all Caucasians as “white pigs” or members of the Ku Klux KLan. These terms, besides harming social cohesion, have the effect of maintaining mistrust and racial prejudice. And does this surprise anyone that there are still racially motivated murders in the USA?

The racial and tribal bigotry emanating from colonialism has, unfortunately, been internalised by some people. In South Africa, black people who were abused for many generations by their white oppressors refer to black people from other countries as aliens or makwerekwere. From a psychological perspective, their hatred of blackness in the black people from other countries is an expression of their self-repudiation engendered by apartheid and an attempt to transfer their colonial dehumanisation to those they see as “different”.

In Zimbabwe some people, especially the older generation belonging to the ruling party, still suffer from the storm and stresses of their traumatic past. In order to mitigate their psychological disjuncture, they use derogatory language to refer to their political opponents.

During our liberation struggle, and it was dogmatically acceptable then, that those who didn’t support the armed struggle were disparagingly referred to as “sell outs” or “puppets” (zvimbwasungata). The supporters of Bishop Abel Muzorewa were specifically called madzakutsaku (mindless people) or fools (maduche) because they negotiated with whites to have a diluted form of independence.

The use of foul language has continued even after independence. Those in Matebeleland and the midlands who thought they had not been given a fair deal in a new Zimbabwe were regarded as “dissidents” or “rebels” (vapanduki), terms which ordinarily refer to citizens who criticise or oppose the government.

The new regime used these terms with greater toxicity to whip up the emotions of gullible people against a segment of our people, the Ndebele, whom they portrayed as “enemies” of the state. Joshua Nkomo was specifically targeted for ridicule, calling him a “possessed bull” (buru rengozi) and all sorts of other names.

In contrast, the president tacitly agreed to be eulogised as karigamombe (literally meaning the one who has felled down Nkomo). If I may ask, did it please his ego to humiliate Nkomo, a man of great stature who had unwaveringly fought for our independence much longer than Mugabe? Is it honourable to refer to people with different views as dissidents, rebels or sell outs? Is this not the genesis of genocide in Matebeleland?

Moreover, does it show statesmanship for the president to stereotype an entire ethnic group, the Kalanga, as a bunch of thieves who are uneducated? The late Martin Luther King Jnr advises us that “the surest way of incurring the hatred of other people is by pulling them very low”, a view which is also shared by Booker T. Washington who said: “we permit other people to hate us by narrowing and degrading their soul”.

The use of hate language by the ruling party has not abated at all. For a long time Morgan Tsvangirai has been a target of sustained ridicule, calling him chematama, (Someone with fat cheeks) a tea boy and a sell-out. Is he a sell-out when so many of our people support him? What has he sold out and to whom? Is this why he was beaten up some years ago and his wife killed in a freak car accident?

What about Didymus Mutasa who, for a long time, used to be the closest ally of the president? Has he suddenly become so poisonous to his former ZANU PF comrades that he can be rubbished as gamatox? Did Amos Midzi who served ZANU PF so diligently for many years in exile and at home deserve to be called a “coward” because he took his own life, or did he? I remember during the Second World War Japanese soldiers preferred to take their own lives than surrender to the Americans. Were they cowards?

What about the vice president, Mr Phelekezela Mphoko, who is now being called mboko, a Shona word for an imbecile or idiot? Does he deserve to be so much debased and maligned by his own ZANU PF members? Is it fair for Emerson Mnangagwa to be called a crocodile (ngwena) which is notorious of being sly, secretive, deceitful and vicious?

Should we trust a person being called a crocodile, if indeed he is, to rule the country?

In the light of the potential for conflict in the use of hate language, (Let’s not forget how hate language fanned genocide in Rwanda) should we not make an anti-hate language law in a post ZANU PF era so that we can protect our people from being abused? Surely a country that does not respect its own people does not deserve to be respected by others.

As a nation, we need to stand on a high moral ground so that we can bequeath to our children cultured values that promote human dignity. Here we need to dig deeper into the soul of our African philosophy which says: “we gain nothing from hate except to inflict deeper wounds to ourselves” and that “the price of hating other human beings is loving ourselves less”.

Conclusion

The need for a paradigm shift in a post-ZANU PF era is vindicated by the blind economic policies of the current government. For instance, while it is laudable to invest in the Hwange thermal power station and in telecommunications, is it prudent to build a new house of parliament at this stage when the country has no money?

Is thermal power our long term solution to the shortage of electricity? Is it wise to bring in a Chinese company to set up a cigarette factory when the world is advocating anti-smoking laws? Shouldn’t we focus on resuscitating our agricultural and manufacturing industries which employ thousands of our people instead of depleting our mineral resources through dubious trade deals?

And come to think of it, is China, our supposed traditional ally, not spitting into our face by giving us a paltry US$1.4 billion while giving South Africa, our neighbour, US$6.5 billion? Why should we solely depend on China when we can make many other friends in the global community? The big question is: what is China getting from us in return for what it is giving us? Is Xi Jinping really an innocent Asian tiger who wants no pound of flesh from the nearest part of our heart? Is he not acting like a spider that uses its cobweb not only as a sleeping spring but also as a trap for food?

In wrapping up, we should be encouraged by the fact that our people’s voice for change is now echoing louder and louder. It is raising our hope that sooner or later we shall remove our shackles and walk to the Promised Land. Believe you me, there are many Zimbabweans with an indomitable spirit which makes us unique optimists who are able to enrich the present, enhance the future and challenge the improbable. And like a butterfly, I know that you and I have the strength and hope to believe that in time we will emerge from our cocoon and fly high up in the sky to attain the impossible.

Prof Ambrose B. Chimbganda can be reached at:    HYPERLINK "mailto:chimbga42@gmail.com" chimbga42@gmail.com
 

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Opinions

The Taiwan Question: China ramps up military exercises to rebuff US provocations

18th August 2022

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosis visit to Taiwan has violated the One-China policy, and caused the escalation of tensions across the Taiwan Strait. Experts and political observers across the spectra agree that Pelosis actions and subsequent pronouncements by US President Joe Biden gave impetus to an already simmering tension in the Taiwan Strait, provoking China to strengthen its legitimate hold on the Taiwan Strait waters, which the US and Taiwan deem as international waters.

Pelosis visit to Chinas Taiwan region has been heavily criticised across the globe, with China arguing that this is a serious violation of the one-China principle and the provisions of the three China-US Joint Communiqus. In response to this reckless move which seriously undermined China’s sovereignty, and interfered in China’s internal affairs, the expectation is for China to give a firm response. Pelosi visit violated the commitments made by the U.S. side, and seriously jeopardized peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

To give context to Chinas position over Taiwan region, the history behind gives us perspective. It is also important to note that the history between China and Taiwan is well documented and the US has always recognized it.

The Peoples Republic of China recognises Taiwan as its territory. It has always been the case even before the Nationalist Republic of China government fled to the previously Japanese-ruled Island after losing the civil war on the mainland in 1949. According to literature that threat was contained for decades first with a military alliance between the US and the ROC on Taiwan, and after Washington switched diplomatic recognition to the PRC in 1979 by the US One China policy, which acknowledges Beijings position that Taiwan is part of One China. Effectively, Taiwans administration was transferred to the Republic of China from Japan after the Second World War in 1945, along with the split between the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC) as a consequence of the Chinese Civil War. Disregarding this history, as the US is attempting to do, will surely initiate some defence reaction on the side of China to affirm its sovereignty.

However, this history was undermined since Taiwan claimed to democratise in the 1990s and China has grown ever more belligerent. Furthermore, it is well documented that the Biden administration, following the Trump presidency, has made subtle changes in the way it deals with Taipei, such as loosening restrictions on US officials meeting Taiwanese officials this should make China uneasy. And while the White House continues to say it does not support Taiwanese independence, Bidens words and actions are parallel to this pledge because he has warned China that the US would intervene militarily if China attacked Taiwan another statement that has provoked China.

Pelosi, in her private space, would know that her actions amount to provocation of China. This act of aggression by the USA seriously undermines the virtues of sovereignty and territorial integrity which has a huge potential to destabilize not only the Taiwan Strait but the whole of the Asia- Pacific region. The Americans know very well that their provocative behavior is deliberately invoking the spirit of separatism masqueraded as Taiwan independence. The US is misled to think that by supporting separatism of Taiwan from China that would give them an edge over China in a geopolitics. This is what one Chinese diplomat said this week: The critical point is if every country put their One-China policy into practice with sincerity, with no compromise, is going to guarantee the peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. Therefore, it was in the wake of US House speaker Nancy Pelosis visit to Taiwan, that China, in a natural response revealed plans for unprecedented military exercises near the island, prompting fears of a crisis in the Taiwan Strait and the entire Asia-Pacific region. The world community must promote and foster peace, this may be achieved when international laws are respected. It may also happen when nations respect the sovereignty of another. China may be in a better space because it is well capacitated to stake its territorial integrity, what about a small nation, if this happens to it?

As to why military exercises by Beijing; it is an expected response because China was provoked by the actions of Pelosi. To fortify this position, Chinese President, Xi signed a legal basis for Chinas Peoples Liberation Army to safeguard Chinas national sovereignty, security and development interests. The legal basis will also allow military missions around disaster relief, humanitarian aid and peacekeeping. In addition the legal changes would allow troops to prevent spillover effects of regional instabilities from affecting China, secure vital transport routes for strategic materials like oil, or safeguard Chinas overseas investments, projects and personnel. It then follows that President Xis administration cannot afford to look weak under a US provocation. President Xi must protector Chinas sovereignty and territorial integrity, of which Taiwan is a central part. Beijing is very clear on One-China Policy, and expects all world players to recognize and respect it.

The Peoples Liberation Army has made it clear that it has firepower that covers all of Taiwan, and it can strike wherever it wants. This sentiments have been attributed to Zhang Junshe, a researcher at the PLA Navy Research Institute. Zheng further said, We got really close to Taiwan. We encircled Taiwan. And we demonstrated that we can effectively stop intervention by foreign forces. This is a strong reaction from China to warn the US against provocation and violation of the One-China Policy.

Beijings military exercises will certainly shake Taiwans confidence in the sources of its economic and political survival. The potential for an effective blockade threatens the air and shipping routes that support Taiwans central role in global technology supply chains. Should a humanitarian situation arise in Taiwan, the blame would squarely be on the US.

As Chinas military exercises along the Taiwan Strait progress and grow, it remains that the decision by Nancy Pelosi to visit Chinas Taiwan region gravely undermined peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and sent a wrong signal to Taiwan independence separatist forces. This then speaks to international conventions, as the UN Secretary-General Antnio Guterres explicitly stressed that the UN remains committed to the UN General Assembly Resolution 2758. The centerpiece is the one-China principle, namely, there is but one China in the world, the government of the Peoples Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China, and Taiwan is a part of China. It must be noted that the US and the US-led NATO countries have selectively applied international law, this has been going on unabated. There is a plethora of actions that have collapsed several states after they were attacked under the pretext of the so-called possession of weapons of mass destruction illuminating them as threats – and sometimes even without any valid reason. to blatantly launch military strikes and even unleash wars on sovereign countrie

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Opinions

Internal party-democracy under pressure

21st June 2022

British novelist, W. Somerset Maugham once opined: If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.

The truism in these words cannot be underestimated, especially when contextualizing against the political developments in Botswana. We have become a nation that does not value democracy, yet nothing represent freedom more than democracy. In fact, we desire, and value winning power or clinging to power more than anything else, even if it harms the democratic credentials of our political institutions. This is happening across political parties ruling and opposition.

As far as democracy is concerned, we are regressing. We are becoming worse-off than we were in the past. If not arrested, Botswana will lose its status as among few democratic nations in the Africa. Ironically, Botswana was the first country in Africa to embrace democracy, and has held elections every five years without fail since independence.

We were once viewed as the shining example of Africa. Those accolades are not worth it any more. Young democracies such as South Africa, with strong institutions, deserves to be exalted. Botswana has lost faith in democracy, and we will pay a price for it. It is a slippery slope to dictatorship, which will bring among other excess, assault on civil liberties and human rights violations.

Former President, Festus Mogae once stated that Botswanas democracy will only become authentic, when a different party, other than the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) wins elections, and when the President of such party is not from Serowe.

Although many may not publicly care to admit, Mogaes assertion is true. BDP has over the years projected itself as a dyed-in-the-wool proponent of democracy, but the moment its stay in power became threatened and uncertain, it started behaving in a manner that is at variance with democratic values.This has been happening over the years now, and the situation is getting worse by the day.

Recently, the BDP party leadership has been preaching compromise and consensus candidates for 2024 general elections. Essentially, the leadership has lost faith in theBulela Ditswedispensation, which has been used to selected party candidates for council and parliament since 2003. The leadership is discouraging democracy because they believe primary elections threaten party unity. It is a strange assertion indeed.

Bulela Ditswewas an enrichment of internal party democracy in the sense that it replaced the previous method of selection of candidates known as Committee of 18, in which a branch committee made of 18 people endorsed the representatives. While it is true that political contest can divide, the ruling party should be investing in political education and strengthening in its primary elections processes. Democracy does not come cheap or easy, but it is valuable.

Any unity that we desire so much at the expense of democracy is not true unity. Like W. Somerset Maugham said, democracy would be lost in the process, and ultimately, even the unity that was desired would eventually be lost too. Any solution that sacrifice democracy would not bring any results in the long run, except misery.

We have seen that also in opposition ranks. The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) recently indicated that its incumbent Members of Parliament (MPs) should not be challenged for their seats. While BDP is sacrificing democracy to stay in power, UDC is sacrificing democracy to win power. It is a scary reality given the fact that both parties ruling and opposition have embraced this position and believe democracy is the hindrance to their political ambitions.

These current reality points to one thing; our political parties have lost faith in democracy. They desire power more than, the purpose of power itself. It is also a crisis of leadership across the political divide, where we have seen dissenting views being met with persecution. We have seen perverting of political process endorsed by those in echelons of power to manipulate political outcomes in their favour.

Democracy should not be optional, it should be mandatory. Any leader proposing curtailing of democracy should be viewed with suspicion, and his adventures should be rejected before it is too late. Members of political parties, as subscribers of democracy, should collectively rise to the occasion to save their democracy from self-interest that is becoming prevalent among Botswana political parties.

The so-called compromise candidates, only benefits the leadership because it creates comforts for them. But for members, and for the nation, it is causing damage by reversing the gains that have been made over the years. We should reject leaders who only preach democracy in word, but are hesitant to practice it.

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Opinions

The Big Deal About Piracy

21st June 2022

Piracy of all kinds continues to have a massive impact on the global creative industry and the economies of the countries where it thrives.

One of the biggest misconceptions around piracy is that an individual consumers piracy activities, especially in a market the size of Botswanas, is only a drop in the pool of potential losses to the different sectors of the economy piracy affects.

When someone sitting in Gaborone, Botswana logs onto an illegal site to download King Richard online, they dont imagine that their one download will do anything to the production houses pocket or make a dent in the actors net worth. At best, the sensitivity towards this illegal pirating activity likely only exists when contemplating going about pirating a local musicians music or a short film produced locally.

The ripple effects of piracy at whatever scale reach far beyond what the average consumer could ever imagine. Figures released by software security and media technology company, Irdeto, show that users in five major African territories made approximately 17,4 million total visits to the top 10 identified piracy sites on the internet.

The economic impact of this on the creative industry alone soars to between 40 and 97.1 billion dollars, according a 2022 Dataprot study. In addition, they estimate that illegally streamed copyrighted content consumes 24% of global bandwidth.

As Botswanas creative industry remains relatively slight on the scale of comparison to industries such as Nollywood and Nilewood where the creative industry contributes a huge proportion to West and East Africas respective GDPs, that does not imply that piracy activities in Botswana do not have a similar impact on our economy and the ability of our creative industry to grow.

When individuals make decisions to illegally consume content via internet streaming sites they believe they are saving money for themselves in the name of enjoying content they desire to consume. Although this is a personal choice that remains the prerogative of the consumer, looking beyond the fact that streaming on illegal content sites is piracy, the ripple effect of this decision also has an endless trail of impact where funds which could be used to grow the local creative industry through increased consumption, and revenue which would otherwise be fed back into Botswanas economy are being diverted.

Why cant our local creative industry grow? Why dont we see more home-grown films and shows in Botswana? are questions constantly posed by those who consume television content in Botswana. The answer to this lies largely in the fact that Botswanas local content needs an audience in order for it to grow. It needs support from government and entities which are in a position to fund and help the industry scale greater heights.

Any organisational body willing to support and grow the local creative industry needs to exist and operate in an economy which can support its mandates. Content piracy is a cycle that can only be alleviated when consumers make wiser decisions around what they consume and how.

This goes beyond eradicating piracy activities in so far as television content is concerned. This extends to the importation and trade in counterfeit goods, resale of goods and services not intended for resale across the border, outside its jurisdiction, and more. All of these activities stunt the growth of an economy and make it nearly impossible for industries and sectors to propel themselves to places where they can positively impact society and reinvest into the countrys economy.

So what can be done to turn the tide here in Botswana in order to see our local production houses gain the momentum required to produce more, license more and expand their horizons? While those who enforce the law continue to work towards minimizing piracy activities, its imperative that as consumers we work to make their efforts easier by being mindful of how our individual actions play a role in preventing the success of our local creative networks and our economys growth.

Whether you are pirating a Hollywood Blockbuster, illegally streaming a popular Motswana artists music, or smuggling in an illegal decoder to view content restricted to South Africa only, your actions have an impact on how we as a nation will make our mark on the global landscape with local creative productions. Thembi Legwaila is Corporate Affairs Manager, MultiChoice Botswana

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