Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Is President Mugabe aware of his government's legislative agenda?

Reading from the wrong script ... President Robert Mugabe

The opening of Parliament and the President's speech are key moments in the life of a Parliamentary democracy. Following on from the State of the Nation speech which lays out the government's proposed agenda in response to the state of the nation, the speech at the opening of Parliament lays out the practical steps that the President and his government are taking to bring into effect the proposals laid out in the State of the Nation address.

It spells out the government's legislative agenda ie what laws the government proposes to pass in order to allow it to action the things it has promised to addreas or deliver.

So the point is, that agenda is a live and absorbing process for any leader. It will have seized and animated party and cabinet meetings, and by the time a speech is prepared to capture the agreed agenda of practical actions, the whole government is braced for the work ahead. The President's set-piece speech signifies the government's announcement kuti yah, basa riye taakutanga manje and this is how we are going to go about it, and these are the legal instruments we propose to create in order to enable us to execute this work.

So rather than it being a piece of paper with words written on it which the President reads in Parliament, the speech signifies a living and breathing and active programme of work for government. The President already knows it before he even reads what's on the piece of paper before him. In fact, he can even set aside his prepared speech and talk Parliament through it if he so wishes, because it is HIS programme of action.

Now, the fact that President Mugabe went to Parliament and read the wrong speech without even realising it means that he has no sense of awareness of what his government's agenda for action is; it betrays a disconnect between the leader and what is supposed to be his programme of action for the nation. It means he does not own that agenda, does not feel any sense of ownership for it, is most likely unaware of what it is, and is therefore merely performing the empty, routine ritual of reading a speech before Parliament simply because the occasion constitutionally requires that the President deliver a speech before Parliament!

How outrageous is that? To President Mugabe, the whole thing was no more than a perfunctory one, which is why it didn't even cross his mind that the words that were rolling off his tongue were inconsistent with the programme of action that his government had drawn up. 

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Will Joice Mujuru survive, or is this the end for her?

Knives are out for Vice-President Joice Mujuru as First Lady Grace Mugabe ups the ante in race to succeed President Mugabe
In my view, it isn't just about Joice Mujuru, but her whole camp. Technically they're in a commanding position and I think this over the top intimidation tactic being used by the other side is the only way they can achieve their ambitions.

They can't out-vote Joice's camp and they don't have the numbers to carry through all those amendments to the party constitution that they propose to do. On those amendments too, it should trouble anyone in Zanu that they're really seeking to create a highly centralised power structure in which the leader effectively becomes the party, just as Zvobgo's problematic amendments to the national constitution concentrated executive powers in the office of the president.

These enormous powers are in effect not really meant for Mugabe, but for the one who will soon take over from him. And the question is, why would they bend over backwards, cede their power to block this, and allow the Mnangagwa faction to reshape the party structure after its own image, ensuring that the Zanu president becomes all powerful and unchallengeable in future?

The allegations of corruption are a red herring - the entire state elite subsists off the state directly or indirectly, and as such none - including the Mugabes - are whistle-clean in that regard. It only needs someone in that Politburo meeting to suggest that everyone is guilty so why not have a commission of enquiry into corruption rather than unjustifiably single out one person, which tactic can be used against one after the other in a way that is politically motivated.

Lastly, the Themba Mliswa case in Mash West is instructive. That was an attempt to decimate the number of pro Mujuru supporters, but it backfired spectacularly and Mliswa has not been driven out. If there is that resolve by the pro Mujuru camp to hold the line and stand firm, knowing they remain in commanding position by doing so, why would they simply disintegrate and feed Joice to Ngwena?
I am not well versed in the intricacies of intra Zanu politics, but this is my view from outside looking in.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

On 'doing God' in Zimbabwean politics

On the matter of how political community must be organised and run, I believe in a secular rational-legal order. I do not want to live in a theocracy such as we have in some Muslim countries where religion is the organising factor of society and subsumes all life, with religious edicts and commandments forming the basis of law.

In many such countries we see clashes between fundamentalists and moderates over the interpretation of religious dogma, with claims and counter-claims of each group being closer to the mind of God than the other, and a massive denial of freedom to certain groups, such as women, on the basis of scriptural interpretation.
First Lady Mrs Grace Mugabe flanked by ZANU-PF women's league secretary Oppah Muchinguri (left)

I want to live in a liberal democratic order where civil rights must be allowed that, among other things, enable members to pursue their religious freedoms. I want politics to be a rational exercise where decisions and choices are based on reason and policy making responds to the rule of cause and effect.

That is why I am very uncomfortable - even fearful - when politicians and public figures glibly invoke the name of God in the political process. For that reason, I called out my good friend Nelson Chamisa when he famously declared in the context of the current MDC power struggles that Morgan Tsvangirai was ordained by God to rule. (Interestingly, a paper reviewing the MDC-T's 2013 election campaign by Dr Phillan Zamchiya observes the prevalence of the view within the party that it had divine ordination to rule and so would win the election, a view that conditioned party strategy and calculation).

And now we have First Lady Grace Mugabe entering the political fray name-dropping God in her perspective of party politics in Zimbabwe today. The absurdity of it all is complete when on the one hand, in explaining the state of the MDC post-election, Grace Mugabe claims Morgan Tsvangirai and his party have been ditched by God and put into their rightful place, while on the other, Chamisa extols the leadership of Tsvangirai as Zimbabwe's "Moses" and declares divine ordination for him to rule Zimbabwe. These are rather innocuous appropriations of God for political service by politicians of course, but history shows how frighteningly dangerous it can get.

More debilitatingly, it stifles thought and kills national discourse, which process must legitimately yield solutions to national questions and provide us with policy. When politicians retreat into the religious and "do God", they subvert rationality and democratic discourse, which is a retrogressive and illiberal thing to do, leading to a poverty of ideas, and therefore, of everything else.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

MDC-T counts cost of downgrading diaspora party structures

Tsvangirai reacts to jeers from his audience at Southwark Cathedral

Foresight is a great thing for policymakers to possess. Whilst ensconced in the luxury of the Inclusive Government, the MDC-T thought it best to downgrade all its foreign assemblies from the status of constituent provinces into associate assemblies.

Predictably, the move caused no small disquiet among the party faithful in the diaspora, not least because of their sustained material contribution to the party during the struggle years. This came on the heels of the then newly installed Prime Minister's unpopular call for a reverse exodus to the mother country when he addressed Zimbabweans at London's Southwark Cathedral on his maiden trip to the UK after assuming the role in 2009. He was roundly booed, thereafter deciding to turn his back on what he deemed a prodigal flock.

Fast forward a short five years later, and the party is not only out of the comfort of both the inclusive government and the self-assuredness of imminent exclusive control of the Zimbabwean state and its resources, but also out of favour with erstwhile western benefactors and seriously out of pocket.

It is the latter reality that has revolutionised thinking inside the MDC-T on party financing, and in recent days we've seen party officials calling on their rank and file to 'fund the struggle'. Ecocash (a popular mobile money transfer facility) numbers soliciting donations are being advertised widely. Which is all good. Indeed, for democracy to develop organically, it must be funded locally. But we will, for the time being, set aside the circumstances through which the MDC-T came by this wisdom and return to the theme of foresight in policymaking.

As Econet prepares to launch its Ecocash facility in the UK and South Africa before spreading it out to all major diaspora centres, wouldn't that have worked wonders as enabling infrastructure for the MDC-T to collect membership dues and donations from its external branches, whose support is pertinent at this juncture in the party's life? It would sound rather disingenuous and hollow now, wouldn't it, if Morgan Tsvangirai were to return to the UK on a charm offensive to tell his orphaned party structures that they're actually a loved child, the apple of his eye,even!

But then again, that's the price of not thinking far enough when making policy. Nothing explains the MDC-T's decision to downgrade its foreign structures than the party's participation in government and the resultant belief that this was where they would now operate from henceforth, with power-sharing soon to be followed as default procedure by full blown control of the Zimbabwean state - and its resources. Except that today, the party's reality is that of imminent full blown bankruptcy.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Rising reggae star Matty Julius comes to Zim Achievers Awards

Rising star Mathias 'Matty' Julius

HE is the consummate artist whose irrepressible talents could not be limited to a single discipline. Audiences in Zimbabwe and abroad came to know him as a dancer and choreographer with the esteemed dance company, Tumbuka.

But on the 10th of May, guests to this year’s edition of the Zimbabwe Achievers Awards (ZAA) in London will rock and skank to the multilingual, soulful reggae vibes of Mathias ‘Matty’ Julius.

The silky-voiced crooner, who has recorded two albums to date, is fast emerging as one of Africa’ most exciting original reggae artists. At a time when West Africa is sweeping the continent in a harmattan of the highly infectious Afrobeats rhythms, Matty is helping to shore up reggae music on the continent. He has been featured extensively in the media and has also performed live on the BBC World Service.

Singing in Shona, Ndebele and English, Matty writes about love, life and the challenges facing many of his compatriots today. His music draws on a variety of influences, from traditional and popular Zimbabwean music to reggae and dub. Ever since the legendary Bob Marley came to perform at Zimbabwe’s inaugural independence celebrations in 1980, reggae music came to be a key part of the country’s urban youth culture, particularly in the working class townships

But while the “ghetto youths” (as they affectionately refer to themselves in their music) have launched into the more brash, boisterous and street-wise dancehall sub-culture, Matty has stuck to what he knows and does best. He belongs to an enduring community of Zimbabwean original reggae artists who have stuck to their craft despite the vicissitudes of the economy and the music market.  

Of his journey to recording artiste via dance and choreography, Matty says: “Since I was a kid my dream was to be a performer - music or dance. And I started with music as a teenager trying to do the old dancehall we called digital in those days, playing pots and pans to make ‘riddims’. Then around the early nineties I found myself wearing tights, doing ballet and contemporary dance with Tumbuka Dance Company, and I fell in love with dance and travelling and seeing the world.”

“I was always singing throughout my dancing career, and then in 2006 I decided to set up my own recording studio and start to make music. So I have a soft spot for both. Dance will always be in me but music is growing in me now. I'm lucky to have had the opportunity to pursue both my dreams,” he explains.

His debut album, “Here I Come”, was recorded in 2006 and is currently selling online on iTunes, Amazon and other online stores.  In 2011 Matty followed this up with a second album, “Don’t Look Back”, which received generous airplay on Zimbabwean stations and on international online radio stations in the UK, the US, Canada, South Africa and Australia.

The hit song “Twenty-Ten”, an innovative collaboration with Zimbabwean star Oliver Mtukudzi, featured in Zimbabwe’s top twenty. “Pahushamwari hwedu” was the Tafara-born Matty’s huge hit single released in March 2012.  A collaboration between well known artists on Zimbabwe’s reggae scene, it features Matty, Mannex Motsi, Thanda Richardson, Kalabash, Cello Culture, Mary Motsi, Chaza, J.Farai, and Lady Squanda.

“The track is about reggae artists in Zimbabwe coming together as one, about togetherness as a nation, about peace and loving one another,” Matty says.

But in an urban youth culture that is awash with a cacophony of foreign sounds, from Hip-hop, R&B and Soul to Kwaito, Funky House and even Soukous, how did Matty come to settle for reggae?

“When I started recording I made collaborations with Hip-hop/R&B/Soul, which was fun, but whenever I heard a reggae beat it always gave me inspiration,” he says, “That's when I decided reggae was for me. I have always liked reggae and after playing a lot of dancehall in the mid nineties, the older I got the less I liked fast music. That's why I prefer slow roots reggae vibes.”

It is hard enough grinding out recognition by music fans in one’s country, let alone in a foreign capital with its steamrolling mainstream musical culture that seems to consign everything else to the margins. But right on the cultural margins of British society is where Matty’s people can be found: Zimbabweans, other African and Afro-Caribbean migrant communities, and pretty much every cultural moth attracted to the vibrant, the creatively incandescent and different.

“Being here in the UK has made me raise my game even more. It's great to see so many other people from all over the world performing to their highest standard and that's opened up more creativity in me,” Matty says.

“The Zimbabwean Diaspora in the UK - or at least around London - are starting to get to know my music. I think they might appreciate and accept my music because it has a different vibe to much of the new music coming out of Zimbabwe today. I now have a fan base coming from the Yorira Ngoma event which I co-founded with Tomson Chauke at the end of 2013. And I'm happy that I've had positive feedback from audiences when I've performed elsewhere too, which is cool.”

For a young Southern African vocalist to pick up the microphone and sing reggae music to the world one is inevitably accosted by references and comparisons to anti-apartheid and social justice hero Lucky Dube, whose African interpretations of the Jamaican genre received global acclaim. Is Matty fazed by these expectations?

“I am a Lucky Dube fan; he was certainly one of the reggae giants coming out of Africa. In terms of my journey, I started performing for my Zimbabwean people first but I would like to perform more abroad and to get more recognition both at home and overseas. I know the road can be long but I'm happy with the positive reception I'm getting so far here in the UK. But only God knows where my journey will end up,” he says.

Guests to the Zimbabwe Achievers Awards gala dinner at the regal Royal Garden Hotel in the fashionable district of Kensington will get to witness Matty’s unfolding journey and rock steadily to his soulful lover’s rock reggae.

Now in their fourth season, the ZAA are sponsored by new money transfer company ZymPay and have become the flagship platform for recognising the achievements of the Zimbabwean community in the UK. Tickets to the event are available for a limited time on the ZAA website.

Matty joins an exciting line-up of performers brought in by organisers to raise the bar even higher this year and give guests an all-round exquisite experience to remember.