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

A wind of change or shall I say a hurricane or typhoon is blowing across Zimbabwe whose epicentre are vendors, students, youths, the masses or lumpen proletariat. In the absence of a fractured opposition and a paralysed intelligentsia, they are now acting as the catalysts for change; the oppressed of the oppressed who have nothing to lose but their chains.

Even some of the diehard and unflinching supporters of ZANU PF now admit that change is inevitable, and it is only a matter of time before it comes. The wind of change is blowing across Zimbabwe precisely because the pain of remaining the same now outweighs the pain of change.

The regular collapse of the president in full view of the entire world is no longer a guarded secret; instead it is a portent that indicates the end of an old era is near. The sorcerers, witch doctors, magicians, spiritualists and pathologists alike may make their own predictions, but what is certain is that nature is going to take its own course, which blows out life like a candle at a predetermined time.

Even a meteor in the firmament will one day succumb to the force of gravity if it decomposes or loses its balance among other members of the solar system. This is the inescapable reality of life, and we must therefore work out how Zimbabwe is going to function in the aftermath of change. It is absolutely necessary to plan now because, if we don’t, Zimbabwe is likely to experience the same bad governance as the current one, and may even be plunged into a political cataclysm never before seen in our life time.

Myth of irreplaceability

The first thing-and I don’t want to beat about the bush by talking about constitutionalism or other “isms” that obfuscate the reality-is to start changing from the top. The myth that the current

Zimbabwean president is indispensable needs to be unmasked. For a long time some people have come to believe, and of course through sustained propaganda, that Zimbabwe cannot do without its current president. As a result, Zimbabwe has become synonymous with Mugabe who, in turn, has metaphorically recreated Zimbabwe in his own image. This has had a devastating effect on the image of the country which is seen globally as a rogue country ruled by what Winston Churchill used to call a “baptised tyrant”, when referring to Hitler.                                                                                                                                     

The idea of an all-powerful president may have been intended for nation building; but as we all know, it is one of the major causes of Zimbabwe’s woes which has destroyed the core value of unity in diversity. The result is that an omnipotent president has eroded the trust of the people as he is generally seen as an abusive, oppressive and divisive head of state.

Here, one needs to note that the deification of the president has not only diminished the reverence of the people, but has also provoked their indignation over what they see as a systematic plundering of state resources by the president’s family, his retinue of relatives and by members of his inner circle. And to show their anger, many people frequently insult the president and are prepared to go to jail rather than acquiesce.  

In the midst of all this, what is baffling is that in spite of his erudition, the president does not seem to have learned lessons from history that Ghana under Kwame Nkrumah, Guinea under Sekou Toure, Egypt under Abdel Nasser, Malawi under Kamuzu Banda, Zaire under Joseph Mobutu, Libya under Muammar Gaddafi and China under Mao Tse Tung decayed under their megalomaniac leadership.

The same history lessons also tell us that those countries in Africa and elsewhere that have done away with the hero worshipping of leaders have fared better in their social, economic and political development. A good example in Africa is Botswana, Tanzania, Zambia, Namibia, South Africa, and now China, Ghana, Senegal and Mozambique which have been able to change their leaders smoothly, resulting in the attainment of greater peace and harmony.

In the case of Zimbabwe, it is sickening to hear that Mr Mugabe is the only person capable of running the country, even when he is in a wheel chair. It is well documented that Zimbabwe has a highly educated citizenry with abundant skills in the social, economic, political, legal, educational, medical, scientific, technical and administrative fields. Why should Zimbabwe fail to find a younger and more dynamic leader from its large intellectual reservoir?

The time has come for us to realise that it is better for the country to look forward to an attractive future than to cling on to the fading hope of the past. In fairness, and without running the risk of self-contradiction, the president may have done well in the initial stages but the weight of repression and ill-informed policies has scuppered all efforts towards prosperity. And the tragedy of it all is that for a long time our fickle and gullible world has been dazzled and bamboozled by Mr Mugabe’s bombast, rhetoric and heroics without scrutinising the regressive nature of his theatrics.

And if we take a closer look at Mr Mugabe’s ambition to be the “guardian” of African independence, we will see that it is just a façade: his pan-Africanist posturing is patently hollow, artificial and highly inflated because there is nothing to show for it. In his own country he has destroyed the very essence of sovereignty by running down what used to be a flourishing country. As a result, many Zimbabweans now see him as a turncoat whose noisy behaviour has ruined their jewel.

The ripple effect of his insensitivity to the needs of the people is that the vast majority of Zimbabweans are dangerously disillusioned because they are hungry, have no jobs and are without social security. Can one then proudly stand on a hill top and shout “Zimbabwe is truly independent” when up to five million of our citizens have fled the country to seek economic opportunity, self-fulfilment, freedom and liberty in other countries?  Is this not worse than slavery? And does this not call for a change in the leadership to end the greatest betrayal of our people so that we can restore our dignity?

Establishment of democratic institutions   

But let us not delude ourselves into thinking that having a new leader is going to bring about the desired change because transformation takes time, requires dedication and sacrifice. Yes we need a new leadership, but most importantly we need to effect structural changes in the body politic of the country so that we can give birth to genuine democracy.

The leadership we need, unlike the current one which is too far removed from our people, is the one with a clear vision for the country, the one with an antennae to feel what ordinary people like, the one which bonds with the people, the one that feels the pulse, hears and plays the tunes of the people and the one that loves its people. It should be characterised by a deep sense of empathy, patriotism, destiny and the willpower to take our country to greater heights.

Unfortunately, the present leadership is merely obsessed with power and self-enrichment. It has little to offer to the people, except to dribble them and make empty promises that are never fulfilled. The failures are there for everyone to see: a crumbling economy, spiralling unemployment, bankruptcy, a critical shortage of electricity, a divided nation drained of hope and above all, an inept leadership that is seized with self-destruction. The question is: for how long shall Zimbabweans continue to carry the cross for their crucifixion?

In seeking change, we need to caution ourselves that it would not be enough simply to make cosmetic changes without overhauling the institutions that make democracy more meaningful. If we change the head only, it would be like removing one masquerade and replacing it with another, which will maintain the status quo. We need to pay heed to what our elders say who warn us that when the stem of a tree decays, it spreads its rot to the roots and branches. And so we need to make radical changes in order to remove the decay that has for so long afflicted our country.

One of the most important institutions that needs to be democratised is the army and police force whose barbarism and savagery has traumatised many of our people (Ask Dumiso Dabengwa, Morgan Tsvangirai and many other Zimbabweans who have lived to tell the horrors of state sponsored brutality). Although this matter has been raised before, one needs to reiterate the fact that the appointment of generals, commissioners of police and other senior positions in the armed forces should not be done by the head of state but by an independent commission that interviews and recommends their appointment.

Similarly, the chief justice and judges of the high court should be appointed by an independent judicial commission that sits openly with an input from the public to interview potential candidates.

This will ensure that we will have an impartial judicial system that protects the rights of ordinary citizens and not simply those of a powerful clique.  

From our past experience, we have seen that top civil servants such as permanent secretaries are appointed based on their political affiliation. This has been a monumental disaster. The unbridled corruption in many organs of the state and the dysfunctional quasi government organisations such as Air Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Railways, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, GMB, ZISCO, ZESA, ZUPCO, state universities and many other state controlled institutions is a direct result of appointing political stooges. Can you see why the wife of the president was awarded an “earned” PhD without going through the required rigours of research and publication?

To restore the dignity of our institutions, top government officers and all vice chancellors of state universities must be transparently appointed by adhering to the stipulated qualifications, rules and regulations. The public service commission must be transformed in order to restore its integrity. And universities and their councils must be led by visionary people who are prepared to make our institutions of higher learning the best in the region so that we can give innate hope and pride to our young people.

In hindsight, perhaps the much maligned Ian Douglas Smith, the last colonial prime minister of Rhodesia, was after all right when he emphasised “meritocracy” in appointing public servants. His only cardinal sin was that he was an unrepentant racial bigot who believed in white supremacy. But the same is true with the current regime that believes in the kleptomania of ZANU PF and its tribal bigotry. This must change in a post ZANU PF era if our country is to voyage with full sail into a stable future.

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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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