Qual­i­fy­ing and quan­ti­fy­ing po­lit­i­cal re­form in Zim

When Amer­i­cans say the ball is in Zim­babwe’s court they are treat­ing Zim­babwe like a rape vic­tim who is made to blame her­self for her vi­o­la­tion. She must now teach her­self to be­have bet­ter, to dress bet­ter next time to avoid be­ing raped. It is a crude ins

The Herald (Zimbabwe) - - Comment & Opinion - Jo­ram Ny­athi My View

EAR­LIER this week a lo­cal daily re­pro­duced an ar­ti­cle from the Amer­i­can weekly mag­a­zine, Newsweek. The ar­ti­cle was ti­tled “White farm­ers ‘get­ting poorer, sicker’ as they await Gov­ern­ment com­pen­sa­tion”.

This was in ref­er­ence to for­mer white com­mer­cial farm­ers who lost land re­claimed by Zim­bab­weans from their for­mer colo­nial masters in 2000.

On Thurs­day, Trump’s Deputy As­sis­tant Sec­re­tary of State for Africa, Matthew Har­ring­ton, told the US Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Sub-Com­mit­tee on African Af­fairs Pres­i­dent Mnan­gagwa’s eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal re­forms were not enough and “too grad­ual” to war­rant a re­moval of Zidera.

The up­dated sanc­tions law was passed five days be­fore Zim­babwe’s July 30 har­monised elec­tions, and Har­ring­ton says the “new” Zidera sums up the re­forms de­manded by Amer­ica: restora­tion of the rule of law, a com­mit­ment to eq­ui­table, le­gal and trans­par­ent land re­form, and drop charges against Tendai Biti, re­peal AIPPA and POSA, among oth­ers.

We are all fa­mil­iar with those de­mands and the Amer­i­cans make lit­tle ef­fort to con­ceal their lo­cal source.

Ir­rev­o­ca­ble pat­tern

It is im­por­tant to also note a pat­tern of try­ing to ma­nip­u­late lo­cal po­lit­i­cal pro­cesses and to in­tim­i­date Zanu-PF. It was no co­in­ci­dence that Zidera was re­newed on July 25, a few days be­fore the elec­tions, at a time when Zim­babwe was at its most peace­ful al­though the elec­toral cam­paign was reach­ing the cli­max. We can safely as­sume they had re­li­able in­tel­li­gence their horse was los­ing or had lost the elec­tions, so there would be no pact with Zanu-PF win­ners.

Next week the same Zanu-PF is hold­ing its 17th Na­tional Peo­ple’s Con­fer­ence where mo­men­tous party de­ci­sions are adopted. It’s al­most five days be­fore that event when the Amer­i­cans re­new their vow to keep Zidera in place. It is a warn­ing to Zanu-PF to “re­form” or, more crudely, to be­have or else.

This is how the for­eign re­la­tions sub-com­mit­tee put it and claims to have told Pres­i­dent Mnan­gagwa the same. “We want Zim­babwe to suc­ceed and would wel­come a bet­ter bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship, but the ball is squarely in the Gov­ern­ment’s court to demon­strate it is ir­re­vo­ca­bly on a dif­fer­ent tra­jec­tory,” said Har­ring­ton.

Elec­toral re­form vs regime change

Add to this the Newsweek ar­ti­cle on the plight of for­mer white com­mer­cial farm­ers, and the mes­sage is barely en­crypted even for the most en­thu­si­as­tic Zanu-PF re­form ad­vo­cates: po­lit­i­cal re­forms equate to an op­po­si­tion elec­toral vic­tory. Any­thing and ev­ery­thing less is nei­ther fun­da­men­tal nor ir­rev­o­ca­ble com­mit­ment to regime change in Zim­babwe. Sec­ond, hu­man rights and prop­erty rights means “a com­mit­ment to eq­ui­table, le­gal and trans­par­ent land re­form”.

We know who the ag­grieved par­ties are when it comes to land re­form. While the US For­eign Re­la­tions Sub­com­mit­tee on African Af­fairs pre­tends it wants all laws aligned to the Con­sti­tu­tion of Zim­babwe 2013 which de­clares the land re­form ir­re­versible, it nev­er­the­less wants a “le­gal” land re­form. That is what it means by a “restora­tion of the rule of law”.

Could it be that the rul­ing party is be­ing told to dump the na­tional Con­sti­tu­tion? What does rule of law mean when Gov­ern­ment is be­ing told to sim­ply drop charges against an op­po­si­tion leader who broke the law by an­nounc­ing false elec­tion re­sults, fully aware that an­nounc­ing elec­toral re­sults is the sole man­date of the Zim­babwe Elec­toral Com­mis­sion? Shouldn’t the courts clear him, or are op­po­si­tion politi­cians be­yond the reach of the law?

Most fun­da­men­tally, how is it pos­si­ble to quan­tify and qual­ify po­lit­i­cal re­form in a world where ex­ter­nal in­ter­ests seek to over­shadow the na­tional in­ter­est, in­clud­ing try­ing, brazenly at that, to sub­vert the na­tional Con­sti­tu­tion? Is there a meet­ing of the minds be­tween Zanu-PF and the Amer­i­cans on the def­i­ni­tion and goals of so-called “pro­found po­lit­i­cal re­forms”?

So far ED has de­cided to be high­minded, fo­cused of re­build­ing an econ­omy ru­ined by nearly 20 years of sanc­tions. He has steered clear of in­flam­ma­tory rhetoric at home and abroad, even try­ing to ap­pease an op­po­si­tion seek­ing naked con­fronta­tion to jus­tify its ex­is­tence and as­ser­tions that there has been no tran­si­tion.

But in my view, the re­port by the Amer­i­cans shows apart from change of name in the lead­er­ship from Robert Mu­gabe to Em­mer­son Mnan­gagwa, so long as Zanu-PF re­mains in power, all the ef­forts at re­form and democrati­sa­tion are in vain. The same goes for eco­nomic re­forms. They want free reign on the coun­try’s re­sources. So po­lit­i­cal re­form is no less than a eu­phemism for regime change and Zidera is a warn­ing to coun­tries like South Africa and Namibia never to stray into the for­bid­den Mu­gabe Way.

The sanc­tions lie

But the whole po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic re­form nar­ra­tive has served the Amer­i­cans well. When they claim there hasn’t been po­lit­i­cal change it means they can main­tain their ruinous sanc­tions un­til their po­lit­i­cal goals are achieved. It helps that they have lo­cal friends to raise the litany of griev­ances.

And over the years the lie has been that the sanc­tions were tar­geted at a few in­di­vid­u­als and com­pa­nies sup­pos­edly linked to ZanuPF. This way gullible Zim­bab­weans could be bought over to be­lieve our problems are a man­i­fes­ta­tion of a democ­racy deficit and eco­nomic mis­man­age­ment. So we are brow­beaten when we talk about them.

But the pri­vate sec­tor is slowly wak­ing up to the re­al­ity, open­ing its eyes to the lies and ac­cept­ing that they must go. Econet founder Strive Masiyiwa is one of the most prom­i­nent voices to call for the re­moval of sanc­tions af­ter the July 30 har­monised elec­tions. He said Zim­babwe could not be ex­pected to pros­per while hogtied by sanc­tions.

Then on the fate­ful Thurs­day, busi­ness­man Joseph Mu­tizwa ex­posed the hypocrisy of these democ­racy sanc­tions and their im­pact on the econ­omy be­fore the same Jeff Flake chaired Se­nate sub-com­mit­tee.

This is what he told the com­mit­tee: “In Zim­babwe trade sanc­tions im­pact neg­a­tively on eco­nomic growth through deny­ing the coun­try ac­cess to for­eign lines of credit, which or­di­nar­ily fi­nance ex­ter­nal trade and ac­cess to mar­kets, par­tic­u­larly the USA mar­ket through ex­clu­sion from AGOA . . . The coun­try’s ex­port com­pet­i­tive­ness is ad­versely af­fected by neg­a­tive per­cep­tions of the coun­try re­sult­ing in high coun­try risk pro­file trans­lat­ing into higher coun­try risk pre­mi­ums.”

His sum­ma­tion, though, gave hostage to for­tune and we ex­pect se­nior busi­ness ex­ec­u­tives to be less gullible other­wise they risk a charge of naivety if not com­plicit. “The pri­vate sec­tor’s strong view is that sanc­tions — al­though they are sup­posed to be tar­geted at cer­tain in­di­vid­u­als and en­ti­ties — have the un­in­tended ef­fect of pulling down the en­tire econ­omy of Zim­babwe and the wel­fare of all its cit­i­zens. Sanc­tions do con­sti­tute a real stum­bling block to the ef­forts of the cur­rent Gov­ern­ment to get the coun­try’s econ­omy mov­ing for­ward again,” said Mu­tizwa.

There are no “un­in­tended” ef­fects. They are in­tended to pull the en­tire econ­omy down and hurt the poor the most. They said they wanted to make the “econ­omy scream”.

The hard, painful les­son

De­spite Pres­i­dent Mnan­gagwa’s best ef­forts at en­gage­ment and re-en­gage­ment, Zanu-PF must go to its con­fer­ence in Esigo­dini next week fully aware that there is no meet­ing of minds be­tween Zim­babwe and Amer­ica on what con­sti­tutes po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic re­forms. The goals are di­a­met­ri­cally op­posed. The Amer­i­can lead­er­ship doesn’t be­lieve in a re­formed Zanu-PF but a dead one. That is why ED’s civil diplo­matic en­gage­ments are be­ing spurned.

They must ac­cept that Zidera is not go­ing away any time soon. The tim­ing of that pre­sen­ta­tion on Thurs­day was to re­mind Zanu-PF to put Zidera on its agenda, and that pol­i­tics and the econ­omy are in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked.

We have to ac­cept the re­al­ity that Vi­sion 2030 must be an­chored on the ef­forts of the chil­dren of Zim­babwe in­vest­ing in them­selves. For­eign in­vestors are so scared of Amer­ica they will keep mak­ing de­mands that can only turn our in­de­pen­dence into a laugh­ing stock af­ter re­vers­ing all the gains of the land re­form.

We have to ac­cept the cold re­al­ity that for Amer­ica, a restora­tion of the rule of law plainly and sim­ply means re­vers­ing the land re­form. That is what they mean by a le­gal, trans­par­ent and eq­ui­table land re­form. Let’s not de­lude our­selves that they re­spect what our Con­sti­tu­tion says on the sub­ject of land.

When Amer­i­cans say the ball is in Zim­babwe’s court they are treat­ing Zim­babwe like a rape vic­tim who is made to blame her­self for her vi­o­la­tion. She must now teach her­self to be­have bet­ter, to dress bet­ter next time to avoid be­ing raped. It is a crude in­sult that re­pos­sess­ing our land can be treated as a crime by a na­tion thou­sands of kilo­me­tres away, whose pres­i­dent daily preaches Amer­i­can sovereignty.

Armed with this prac­ti­cal re­al­ity, we can de­cide whether we wish to re­main sovereign or a client state of Amer­ica, danc­ing to its whims. Which is to say Zanu-PF must de­cide at its con­fer­ence to re­main the rev­o­lu­tion­ary move­ment which spear­headed the land re­form and press on with poli­cies which put Zim­babwe first.

Busi­ness­man Joe Mu­tizwa (back to cam­era) chats with sen­a­tors Chris Coons (left) and Jeff Flake at the US Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Sub-Com­mit­tee on African Af­fairs this week

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