Zimbabwe is in the grips of a wave of violent protests, which so far have been crushed by the police. President Robert Mugabe says there is a new desperation by the opposition to remove his government outside constitutional means.
Political scientist Professor Jonathan Moyo, a senior official in President Mugabe’s Zanu PF party and Cabinet Minister, spoke to journalists at the Bulawayo Press Club. He argued that the opposition’s plan is to deny the Zanu PF government “policy space”.
“One thing about Zimbabwean politics is that if you are opposing something, and in this case if you are opposing a leader who is in charge and has been entrusted with the power to be in charge by the people, the only way the politicians in Zimbabwe have worked out to do is make sure nothing works,” Moyo said in unscripted remarks which we republish today.
“This is a very Zimbabwean thing, opposition in Zimbabwe whether it’s internal to parties or external, is driven by a negative logic that ‘be against everything that is good and be for nothing yourself’. That’s the only chance you have of taking over, you can only take over if it’s not working. If it’s working, the bar is very high because you have to promise better. If it’s all broken, you don’t promise anything you just say nothing is working.”
By Prof Jonathan Moyo
I think it would be of mutual value if I make preliminary remarks as Zanu PF Member of Parliament for Tsholotsho North constituency. I think it is common cause, although for various reasons you in the media are not talking about this or acknowledging it in your coverage of various issues of public interest in our country, that in terms of our Constitution and in particular Section 158(1)(a), the next harmonised elections are due by July 22, 2018. We must hold elections by July 22, 2018. The reason being that the Constitution in the section I’ve referred to says elections must be held.
There has always been an issue, especially in the run-up to the 2013 election; there was a huge debate on the timing and date of the election. The matter ended by being resolved in the Constitutional Court. But it is because a number of things relating to the last election were held in terms of two Constitutions. As to the former Constitution, at the expiry of Parliament which was supposed to be June 29, 2013, there was a big debate with others saying it could be extended to at least October, four months beyond June 29. There was a big, big debate which was resolved in the courts.
But the new constitution, which will determine the date of the next election, says that elections must be held not more that 30 days prior to the expiry of five years from the date the sitting government assumed office. And as we all recall, that date [of assuming office] for this government was August 22, 2013, when the President was sworn in. So, 30 days prior to August 22, 2018, would be July 22, 2018. It’s not that elections should be held on July 22, but they should be held by that date.
Now, I think as a result of this fact, some consciously, others subconsciously and others ignorantly just following everybody else, there has been a pre-occupation with election politics. You will get the impression that elections are due in three months’ time or at most six months’ time if you judge the behaviour of what people are doing, which is unfortunate. July 22, 2018, is a long, long time away and you will know best because you are the ones who often say a day in politics is like a lifetime.
However, although it is a long time away, we must accept that there is this period ahead of us, that period is shorter than the period behind us since August 22, 2013. And it is important to look at the period behind us in order to understand what we need to do ahead of us going to at least July 22, 2018.
During the last three years, since August 22, 2013, the government has not had the policy space that it must enjoy, and have, following an election to implement its policies, to implement its pledges to the electorate. So the proposition is that if you look critically and evaluate how far we’ve gone since August 22, 2013, and how far we’ve to go from now to July 22, 2018, we find that the space behind us; the necessary, constructive and meaningful space for government policy implementation as per its pledges to the electorate, has not been normal, has not been there, has been limited.
You like reporting about ‘limited fiscal space’, you people
talk about that or better still our colleagues in Treasury say ‘oh well, because of budget constraints we’ve limited fiscal space, not much room to manoeuvre, to do various things to address the delivery issues for the public.’ Well, along this question of limited fiscal space, there has been in my view a more important thing than the limitation of the fiscal space or even a causal of the limited fiscal space has been the limitation of the policy space, especially in this instance where everybody knows Zanu PF won resoundingly both the parliamentary and the presidential election.
In the case of the parliamentary election, we got the two thirds majority. We lost just a few constituencies like Tsholotsho North which we subsequently regained [following a by-election boycotted by the opposition] thanks to the blundering of the other side. Despite having a two thirds majority and a huge majority in the presidential elections, we haven’t had the requisite policy space. And in particular, against the backdrop of this two thirds majority, for the first time the government was able to come up with a policy blueprint within a month of its appointment or swearing in, if you want. If you recall, the Cabinet was appointed on September 10, 2013, and by October 10, 2013, Zim-Asset had been adopted as the policy blueprint.
This was fantastic because usually, it takes a long time. Some even talk of 100 days, the proverbial 100 days. We didn’t need the 100 days, we were able to do it within 30 days and that was amazing efficiency for which in a normal society we should have been seriously credited. But of course, we were lampooned.
What people don’t seem to understand in our country, which makes our country abnormal, is that in a constitutional democracy such as ours, political parties compete for votes on the basis of policy promises, on the basis of policy programmes and they are entitled to implement those programmes once elected, once they become a government.
Whether or not the losers in the election like it or not, that is the winning manifesto and the winning manifesto should be implemented and the next election becomes a referendum on the winning manifesto. It can only be the next election which is a referendum on the implementation of the winning manifesto and nothing else. If the implementation has not been constructive, meaningful or significant to the majority of the electorate, then of course they will not vote for the party and government that was implementing.
But here, if we look at the period that is behind us since August 22, 2013, to now, a number of things have happened to undermine the implementation of the policy programmes. In fact to make it somewhere between a rock and a hard place, the rock being impossible, the hard place difficult to implement our programmes which the people voted us for.
Our manifesto was very clear in terms of the number of deliverables. I think the real debate and discussion when we look behind us, the time that has lapsed, should be with a view of ensuring that going forward, we will have a different scenario. Reasonable people might differ or disagree about the specific hurdles, obstacles or spanners that have been thrown into the works, but no doubt spanners have been thrown in to shrink and limit the policy implementation space.
Speaking politically, I see three broad developments that have thrown the spanners into the works. Technically, we would find more than three but technical issues rising fall within the four corners of these three developments that I’m going to briefly outline and we can discuss and debate. I do this with the full confidence that these three developments are actually common cause because they are in the public domain. I can’t imagine a reasonable person refusing that this is the case.
I’m sure you’ll recall that after the adoption of the policy blueprint in October 2013 to October or December 2014, but immediately after that, instead of us or the “system” being of a single mind in a cohesive and determined way benefiting from the clarity of the policy that was adopted in October 2013, we started seeing developments which gave the impression that there will be an election tomorrow. Some say these were internal developments, I think to a large extent yes, but the way they are now coming out and playing out in their mature state they don’t look entirely internal.
To cut a long story short, the record will show that from October 2013 to December 2014 we also got new phrases in the political body politic – ‘gamatox’, ‘weevils’ [used to refer to Zanu PF factions]. Basically, what we can now confidently describe as the [Joice] Mujuru factor [gamatox] emerged and caused preoccupation after the election and we can now look back, because we can now do that [Joice Mujuru is a former Vice President of Zimbabwe who was jettisoned by Zanu PF in 2014 over an alleged plot to grab power from President Mugabe].
If you have the tools of analysis, the problem is when you don’t have them, if you have the tools of analysis you can look back and say, ‘ooh, okay this is what’. This was the first major attack that shrunk the policy space because, clearly, the Mujuru factor had a different agenda of grabbing power. The people associated with that cabal were not preoccupied with policy implementation, they were preoccupied with power grabbing and it is very dangerous the day after an election to be preoccupied with grabbing power. It quickly builds inertia in the system, especially where you can create impressions that have trappings of believability.
You know, quite a number of elements in the Mujuru crusade were crafty. They would say; she would say she is the anointed one. These were powerful people. Didymus Mutasa was the minister of state for national security and he was the Zanu PF secretary for administration; very powerful. Rugare Gumbo was the spokesperson in the party; very powerful. If people who are that powerful start speaking in tongues, all hell can break loose and it actually did. Instead of you implementing policy programmes, you start carrying on other baggage.
It was quite some serious, serious problem. I want to challenge any rationale person, in an environment informed by what ensued between October 2013 when ZimAsset was introduced and the Zanu-PF congress in December 2014; could you have implemented policy with flying colours? The answer is ‘no’. The rational answer is ‘no’, if you’re applying the tools of analysis.
The policy space was limited because you may be in charge of road construction, but you’re in the cabal. One thing, if you have noticed about Zimbabwean politics unlike politics in some other more progressive, more dynamic countries, is that if you are opposing something and in this case if you are opposing a leader who is in charge and has been entrusted with the power to be in charge by the people, the only way the politicians in Zimbabwe have worked out to do is make sure nothing works. This is a very Zimbabwean thing, opposition in Zimbabwe whether its internal to parties or external is driven by a negative logic that be against everything that is good and be for nothing yourself. That’s the only chance you have of taking over: you can only take over if it’s not working. If it’s working, the bar is very high because you have to promise better. If it’s all broken, you don’t promise anything, you just say nothing is working.
It’s easy, and the evidence of this in our body politic is there for anyone to see. So, the guys internally, they would say if you’re minister of this or that just do nothing, and don’t take the blame. This is what those guys did between that period. Some of them were the ones who were supposed to supervise success. Instead of supervising success, which could only come from the implementation of the policy, they were brewing failure, setting up everyone for failure, in order to say ‘that’s why we must take over today, because things are not working’. This is, I think to make a long story short, what happened.
Stones were being thrown against the “Indigenisation” policy in particular; the greatest blows which rained on Indigenisation – the cornerstone of our manifesto – came between October 2013 and December 2014. ‘You’re scaring investors away,’ people in that cabal were saying. How can you say we’re scaring away investors? You think investors are stupid, they don’t know that indigenisation is our policy? This is what won us an election! Why do you want us abandon our policy that won us an election? And the others that we had defeated marvelled at this. They were following a now well-known strategy: just be negative and cause nothing to happen.
I know the devil is always in the detail. If you want us to unpack this some more, be my guest. I’m happy to do it with you except to say that after December 2014, there was a genuine feeling in the body politic that ‘what a relief, these guys were on each other’s throats and it was beginning to sap their energies to deliver.’ People were relieved, saying thank God it happened one year after the election. They were gone – how that happened exactly has never been clear from reading the newspapers, perhaps one needs to start looking for dissertations that are being written by graduate political students; they tend to be more honest because they are being supervised. If they lie, they fail. So if you rely on newspapers, tough luck!
The reasonable expectation has never been clear, because what happened in December 2014 was that we thought we had expelled these guys. Even when we read what Mujuru says in the press, usually through a spokesperson, there’s no clarity. Some say we expelled Mujuru, others say she left on her own, she couldn’t stand being denounced and she left. Did Mujuru and company get expelled? Did they resign? Did they just leave without being expelled?
There is no authoritative narrative even as we speak, and journalists are unwilling to stick their necks out and say ‘actually, what happened for the avoidance of doubt is ABC’. There were questions about those who left with the Mujuru cabal, were they all of them? Some of them were let go and others were left ducking and avoiding and when they remained, they brought up this nonsense about who is supposed to be destroying what from within.
Come on guys, we write manifestos that win party elections and you say we’re destroying from within? I think some people have a very sick definition of destroying from within. You build and they say he’s the one destroying from within. Actually, I tend to think those who say that are the ones destroying from within. At some point, we ought to be able to make objective assessments of these things. It can’t always be speculation. I mean you can’t have people working 18 hours a day to keep the centre holding, and you say they’re destroying from within.
But the question that is objective is, did they [Mujuru cabal] all go or some remained to destroy from within and their best strategy of destroying from within is to say ‘it’s that one, it’s that one?’ And they were creating names and factions for those. After December 2014, that became an issue. Are there residual elements of the Mujuru cabal that will continue to throw spanners to shrink the policy space? That’s an objective question. If we were a country that engages at a high level of political discourse, there would be opinions about that.
That was part A. After that lost year, instead of it being followed by a new spirit of ‘let’s go ahead, let’s now implement what we had not been implementing’, a subsequent period of paralysis also followed.
Part B and more seriously was this new development of succession politics. If the two outstanding defining concepts of the earlier periods were ‘weevils’ and ‘gamatox’, the next one was ‘successionist politics’. Immediately after December 2014 up to about now, this has lasted much longer that the Mujuru cabal. This one was surprising because the expectation and understanding was that we all needed to rally behind the President who had gotten a resounding endorsement from the electorate with all of us riding on his back. We had a parliamentary result that had given us a two thirds majority. The right thing to do in a situation like that was to rally behind that leader who had gotten that kind of majority. It’s very important in politics to do that, very important. The fact that we’re not doing it in this country is very bad and dangerous for the stability of the republic. If you get a leader who leads his party into a historic victory, and you know that the way to go is to consolidate that victory by delivering the pledges and promises and supporting the winner, the only discourse and narrative that works in an environment like that is to support the winner.
It has been actually quite shocking, witnessing a situation where some people who have never won anything of the kind or approximately the kind doing this on the back of the new Constitution which makes it clear that the only way of getting power in this country is via the people. Authority, executive authority, legislative authority and even judiciary authority is derived from the people. And it can only be derived from the people via an election and nothing else.
We should never ever allow the notion that there are other ways of getting power without the authority of the people. Nobody should think that, but people in Zimbabwe, those who oppose internally or externally, believe that you can destroy something and ride on destruction to get power, so we have this strange situation that has been going on.
The second wave has been more destructive than the first wave. The second wave of post December 2014 Congress up to now has been more destructive. Honestly, if you’re an objective person – you’ve been reporting on public affairs, politics and you’re journalists – do you really think you can succeed in implementing policy in this environment? What other comparative examples in state politics do we have where other governments in similar situations have successfully implemented policy? Let us be students of state politics and not be carried away with slogans and all that stuff and give a sober analysis and say ‘what kind of a government functions in this environment?’ In fact as far as I’m concerned, from an analytical point of view, the spanners have been worse in impact, consequences and effect that sanctions. More-so, this came at a time when we had learnt how to deal better with the sanctions question. The Indigenisation policy that is in the manifesto of 2013 was taking that issue of sanctions head-on. But I ask, what kind of a government can succeed? That is the second reason why the policy space has shrunk or has been limited.
But it’s not that there hasn’t been an attempt to contain and manage this. But just about when the second wave was about to exhaust itself, and there’re structural examples that it has been exhausting itself, a new one is trying to rear its ugly head. The first two waves are Zanu PF-based, now a new one comes by way of some guys who had been consigned to history by the result of the elections. The new one, this is the third one, is based on some people who were consigned to history and oblivion – the opposition political parties. In fact, the general narrative since the 2013 elections has been that Zanu PF is the only party… the general feeling is that the politics will be determined by Zanu PF going forward, after the 2013 elections.
The oppositional parties have finally exhausted and run themselves out, and something else had to come in. Can you imagine, just before the last Independence celebrations in April, someone making noise on Facebook and Twitter [Evan Mawarire] takes our flag, does like this, like that and ends up like this and puts up some hashtags and says #ThisFlag. He records something on YouTube, ‘ThisFlag what what’ and it becomes interesting. Coincidentally, some civil servants who had not been paid say ‘we’re not going to work on July 6’ and they stay at home. This guy gets the impression that he had organised the biggest thing ever, the stay-away, and it’s successful. But the success was a bit doubtful, it got the propaganda of being successful after he was charged and the charges were thrown out by the magistrate.
It put the fear of God into the traditional oppositional parties because it was like there’s this movement and so forth. The MDC were scared, this guy was running with the loot. The hashtag revolutionaries had taken their space; they got affected especially when they noticed that the American ambassador and the EU ambassador were very supportive of this (#ThisFlag). When the EU and American ambassadors support something, the opposition think it’s what God has made, they follow like the gospel. Zimbabwean opposition politics is determined by what the ambassadors do and say, that is why some of them take themselves to the action like the French ambassador. I’m shocked by the things they tweet, they tweet like they are opposition politicians in our country; they don’t tweet like ambassadors.
An issue has arisen which has not been properly examined as to what are the implications on the Vienna Convention arising from social media because the ambassadors, in particular the American and EU ambassadors, are using social media in ways that are blatantly in violation of the Vienna Convention which they would not do outside social media. But the social media is a universe, it’s a platform, it’s like a virtual world in the real world. The things that they can’t do in the real world they are doing in the virtual world. And it’s raising serious new questions.
They [opposition parties] were shaken and typical of the opposition, they decided that they must join in. They came up with ‘#Tajamuka’ [we’re rebelling], but it was a response to #ThisFlag. They [opposition] thought we [Zanu PF] were dead, but we then woke up. As they woke up, they realised that they can’t operate in the virtual world because they had contested in the real world. They go back to the default position and the default position of the traditional opposition party is to be negative and trigger violence. Basically, they want to trigger a situation where the state takes certain measures and then they say ‘look, they are now interfering with our rights.’
This is what has happened, the NERA issue [NERA is a loose coalition of opposition parties demanding electoral reforms]. They’ve been quiet for three years and all of a sudden they say they want electoral reforms and give themselves a funny name, a parastatal name like NERA. This NERA, what are these guys talking about? Let us be clear, for a long time since 1999 the opposition said the most important reform in the country is a new Constitution. They were saying ‘no new Constitution, no elections’ for a long time. We got that in 2013 and it was a negotiated Constitution among the parties in the unity government. And it was supported by the majority of the electorate through the referendum. After that new Constitution was published on May 14, and the parties were still in government together, they started working on amendments to the Electoral Act. The Electoral Act as it is, is a product of unity government parties.
Now, the opposition figure ‘no, we must still talk about electoral reforms’. It is totally unacceptable and we should not be in doubt about that because the fundamental law of the country has changed and there is no law, conduct, practice or custom that supersedes the law or that is above the Constitution. Any aspect of our political practice, cultural conduct, custom or law that is inconsistent with this new Constitution is a nullity, null and void to the extent of the inconsistency.
Those who made these laws should be the ones who know about the provisions of Section 2 of our Constitution. They can’t keep saying that there’re practices that are this and that. Go to the Constitutional Court, that’s why you’ve the new Constitution. You cannot complain, it’s about law.
The new Constitution is not only about law. It says any law, any conduct, any practice, any custom. So why would people waste our time saying do this, do that? If you know something is inconsistent with the constitution, enforce your rights. That was the whole purpose why they used to say ‘no new constitution, no elections’. That has been done, now they’re coming out in their full colours as electoral cowards. They’re now literally saying put in place electoral reforms that will ensure that you lose and we win. And we’re saying ‘no’. It will never happen anywhere in a constitutional modern democracy that a political party that has come into government on the back of a new negotiated Constitution, on the back of a new negotiated Electoral Act, comes up with reforms that will reform it out of power.
The reforms they’re talking about are clear codes to say ‘come with reforms that will ensure that you’re out’. That will not happen because it is inherently unreasonable and we’ve had enough attempts to institutionalise and entrench unreasonability. We cannot continue doing that.
If they want those reforms over and above, they should put them on their election manifestos. They must say we’re contesting the elections; we want these reforms implemented so that when we win we will reform ourselves out of power. Let them do that, that’s what is done in a civilised world. They should tell the people that they’re reformists, ‘here is our legal agenda. You give us a two thirds majority we’ll change the Constitution; you give us a simple majority we’ll bring these policies’. Let every party contest elections on the basis of its reform agenda, let every party carry its cross.
In conclusion, the background of these three things means that we now cannot continue with the spirit of the last three years where spanners are thrown into the works to prevent the implementation of the President’s policy programme. We can’t. And we want everybody to understand that it is totally unacceptable. We cannot continue having people who know that we want Indigenisation to be the driver of job creation but they assassinate indigenisation, then turnaround and say ‘where are the jobs?’, when they know that the jobs are directly related to the Indigenisation policy and that the Indigenisation policy has been arrested.
We cannot continue; we now must allow the government, the President’s policy programme for the remaining period before July 22, 2018, to be implemented.
And we’re going to work very hard to ensure that. If people make noise about these last three things that I’ve mentioned, that’s their problem. They can enjoy themselves but there is a need to be very clear that with the mandate that the President was given, not simply the number of votes but the mandate to govern, the mandate to implement a policy programme, those who don’t like the policy programme tough luck but this is a policy programme for the country.
The policy will benefit everyone regardless of their political affiliation. So this is what is before us, going forward. We’ve got to implement policy; we’ve got to be policy oriented.
We know what the policy programme is. And fortunately because of the experience of the last three years, we now are very clear that housing is the top priority going forward. We are also now very clear that small to medium scale enterprises (SMEs) are the way to go. The economy has mutated into these.
People have been telling us about companies closing. In fact, the story of company closures in Zimbabwe is quite amazing because we get the impression that we have had an unlimited number of companies and they keep closing in their thousands and have been doing this since 1999. I think we have got to be reasonable and understand that out of the closures of some of these companies, there are new formations and largely in the form of small and medium enterprises and there is serious job creation.
Seriously, how can we have a media which says ‘tell us one job that you’ve created?’ Some people are going to cry because we will do housing, it will add to jobs that are being created. Already, there have been massive programmes and projects on the housing front by individuals but now there will be systematic policy programmes and the same with SMEs including in our sector of Higher and Tertiary Education Science and Technology Development. Lots of young people are coming up with engineering and technological solutions and applications.
In agriculture, there will be just massive developments. Agriculture creates millions of jobs. So, you see, we are not afraid to engage on the job creation issue. These people who keep asking ‘where are the 2.2 million jobs’ [promised in ZIMASSET], we will let the jobs count for themselves. They will count themselves, ‘I’m here, I’m here’.
Because we’ve the three years behind us, the remaining two years must be of policy implementation. That’s why the attempts to derail will not succeed because everyone is much wiser. We can’t live under one roof, one sun, with you playing your games and you think you are doing some extraordinary things that we don’t understand; that you are the only one who understands and that you will get your way but, meanwhile, you are out of office and we are in office.