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Saturday, 18 January 2014

Looking Beyond Robert Mugabe

“Perennial wisdom from divine revelation and human experience dictates that all earthly things great or small, beautiful or ugly, good or bad, sad or happy, foolish or wise must finally come to an end”- Jonathan Moyo 

Butler Zvikomborero Kapumha, Harare

One question that will definitely stand out in history is “What stopped Robert Mugabe from retiring?” It is a genuinely difficult one, with varied opinion and contrasting analysis. The fight he has put in making sure that he remains at the helm of power in Zimbabwe, is suggestive of the view that something must be stopping him to. Throughout his 50 year career in politics, 40 of which at the helm of ZANU, he has survived everything from attempted coups, assassination attempts, collapsed economy, to contested elections. He is a survivor.

 But today, it has become an unavoidable subject, of life after Robert Gabriel Mugabe.

And surely, this is the time we should be talking of a Zimbabwe beyond Robert Mugabe.

Mugabe is a clever, brave and shrewd politician, a ‘wily old fox’ as some put it. But that is not sufficient to run a country, let alone one troubled with a battered economy, socio-political problems and problems of all sort. It needs an energetic person, a person with less to worry about, like health, brand issues and other issues that haunt Mugabe’s character. It needs a more forward looking person- simply put. Mugabe is no longer that guy. He is turning 90, 21 February 2014. He is old and frail. It dictates from reason and common sense that given his immense contribution to the status quo, he must simply step down.

I have to declare my intentions. This argument must not be mischaracterised or misconstrued, in any way, as a case for Tsvangirai or MDC. This is about Robert Mugabe and Zimbabwe.

The purpose of this article is to dissect and question the reasons behind Mugabe’s unyielding grip on power, and the complexity of the subject, in the wake of his election victory 6 months ago.

Mugabe’s rise and rise… or fall?
Mugabe emerged as the leader of ZANU towards the end of the liberation struggle in 1975 after a series of events including the disposal of Rev Ndabaningi Sithole, and Joshua Nkomo, and the death of Herbert Chitepo. Despite initial constraints he however managed to harvest power to himself, becoming a powerful politician in the liberation war. He has led the party ever since.

He was elected to an executive office as Prime Minister of an independent Zimbabwe in 1980. And he has ruled ever since.

His political career has had its highs and lows, with the lows strikingly standing out. The Operation Gukurahundi is a one such striking low. What exactly happened remains a mystery, but between 6 000 to 20 000 civilians were killed in the massacre1. The economic collapse under his watch that succeeded the land reform was another low.  So were the human rights abuses that have given him a notorious brand in the international media. Corruption in his ZANU (PF) party is another disturbing low in Mugabe’s rule. Under his watch, ZANU (PF) has probably become the most corrupt organization in the world.

But nonetheless he has had a fair share of successes, including leading Zimbabwe to independence in 1980 and the economic success from 1980-1997. He made remarkable strides in improving education, health and economic opportunities of the black majority that had been systematically denied during the colonial settler regimes. Zimbabwe has Africa’s leading education sector, reflected in the 98% literacy rate, a highly skilled labour market that is even better than many in developed economies. The land reform is arguably another Mugabe success, in a way. 350 000 black households were resettled into land previously owned by a 6 000 white minority. Despites serious initial challenges, production of some commodities like tobacco, small grains and cotton has been picking up, to levels of the white farmers2. The indigenization policy is another contentious policy, which if properly implemented with consistency and transparency could be as new high for the 90 year old leader.  

But the question remains that of his legacy.

His legacy will forever be debatable and divisive.

Planning on a grand exit?
Leaders only come in with a grand entrance, and rarely go with a grand exit. Thabo Mbeki, Gordon Brown, Kwame Nkrumah, Muammur Gadhafi, John Banks, Saddam Hussein are a few of many whose exit from power was not how they would have wanted it. Even celebrated leaders like Dr Kenneth Kaunda did not have grand exits.

Could Mugabe be planning one?

In 2013 we saw the death of 3 former significant political leaders- Hugo Chavez, Margaret Thatcher and Nelson Mandela. And the legacies of these three people were different-totally different. [The writer has written about Nelson Mandela and Hugo Chavez, article can be found here and here]. Nelson Mandela was celebrated by his people and the world. Margaret Thatcher was despised by her own people who celebrated her death with street parties, and her death was ignored by the world. Hugo Chavez was celebrated by his people and a good majority of the international community.

The way people marked their deaths, gave an indelible mark to their legacy, good or bad.

Death in office does not guarantee that grand exit for Robert Mugabe. Neither will it help his legacy. It will be a blessing for his adversaries, who will take to television every day for six months, to make sure his name goes to the Mobutu, Idi Amin, and Adolf Hitler part of history.  So if Mugabe is planning on a grand exit to secure his legacy, he better find a successor fast.

In the run up to the 31 August 2013 elections, some analysts suggested that Mugabe was standing for President so that he could secure the presidency for ZANU (PF) and then retire when appropriate. Chances of that are real. And a more relaxed approach to controversial indigenization policies could be sign of a man trying to heal the wounds of his image.

The only existing chances of a grand exit for Mugabe, are him stepping down to as early as possible, to a new popular leader from ZANU’s ranks, and avert a foreseeable “post-Mugabe crisis” in ZANU (PF) and Zimbabwe. He can resign and use his influence to make sure alleged factions are disbanded and aligned to the new leadership. This will guarantee a good legacy for Mugabe, and will be to ZANU (PF)’s advantage in the 2018 elections. Fidel Castro did the almost same thing, and the plan has worked remarkably well.

Mugabe can also salvage his reputation and legacy, by leading an aggressive recovery of the economy. With the signs we see, that is far-fetched. The indigenization, if creatively and cleverly implemented could be a game-changer, but the lack of transparency, the militancy and the corruption associated with the policy implementation has not helped either. And the fact that the government has no plans whatsoever on attracting foreign capital to stimulate growth, will certainly hurt him.

And it hurts young people like me, that Zimbabwe remains stagnant whilst Africa is booming and emerging aggressively in terms of economic growth being led by countries like Ghana, Botswana, Tanzania, Nigeria, Zambia, Rwanda, and Namibia. These countries I mentioned have one thing in common-New and fresh leaders, with new and fresh ideas. So as Zimbabwe continues to lag behind, it is Mugabe’s legacy that also goes down.

Organizational weakness on the part of ZANU?
Surely to ambitious ZANU members, Mugabe’s longevity on the crown has now become unbearable. Together with his generation- of the 60s. Simba Makoni’s patience ran out.

Over the last 20 years, ZANU (PF) has been brewing a bomb. I think that bomb will explode in 2018, or even later. ZANU (PF) has a lost generation, or even generations. Its corridors of power are filled with senior citizens, whom in the fullness of time will be phased out in a whisker. ZANU (PF) will be left with a serious power vacuum, having failed to invest in future leadership. Such is just lack of foresight, a weakness on the part of ZANU (PF). The party has a serious deficit of brains, experience and capacity in the ages of 20-50. Very few young people have been let to rise in the echelons of power in the party, the few that have, being relatives and well-connected colleagues of the party’s top leaders.

The fact that the few young people in ZANU’s power corridors like Tabitha Kanengoni, Patrick Zhuwao, Muzenda Jr, etc are relatives of top ZANU chefs even questions if the party recruited them on merit. And other young folks in the party have turned out to be self-serving crooks and charlatans with nothing to offer.
And Psychology Maziwisa. Sigh.

ZANU’s only hope is on people like Walter Mzembi and uh uh…. No, Walter Mzembi only.
There will be a serious crisis in ZANU (PF) very soon, probably in the next 5 to 10 years, if nothing is done.
This organizational weakness in ZANU (PF) has been a product of Mugabe’s failure to relinquish power. Because he had led the party for 39 years running, he has lost sense of time, and to some extent, reality. The reality is that “a perpetual motion machine is impossible”, so is a perpetual time machine. Everything comes to an end, and we must be prepared for that, by investing in the future if we wish continuation of the ideas we seek. The party was supposed to open new avenues for new generations with fresh ideas. And Mugabe, at 90 could not get Ministers in their 40 and 50s. He carried his generation along.

Does he embody ZANU (PF)? Who will replace him?
Roy Agyemang, producer of the documentary Mugabe: Hero or Villain writes that “Mugabe is more than just a politician, he leads a cause, or as his militant supporters would say, he has become the cause itself.” This is an interesting observation. Whereas the cause used to be liberation, and economic emancipation, in Zimbabwe this cause has become indistinguishable from the face of Robert Mugabe. He has become an embodiment of the ideals that ZANU exists for.

Compare and contrast.

Many analysts, who feel, after Tsvangirai’s election defeats, once for a parliamentary seat in Buhera, and three times for Presidency, that he should remain as MDC leader have a strikingly similar argument. They say Morgan Tsvangirai is the embodiment of the resistance and fight against Mugabe’s “iron fist rule”. Whereas “change” used to the cause in opposition to Mugabe, that change has become indistinguishable from the face of Morgan Tsvangirai. And some will say Morgan Tsvangirai has become the cause itself.

That argument, to me doesn’t hold water!
It is consent manufactured by politicians through propaganda and sustained hagiography of political leaders that they are irreplaceable and invincible. Even the greatest of leaders have been replaced.  With the demi-god like worship Nelson Mandela received, he was replaced by Thabo Mbeki. Hu Jintao, the man who led China’s remarkable and shuttering growth was replaced.

But it becomes a sad feature when leaders lack the political will to groom future leaders, so that they retain relevancy. I hope it is not the case.
ZANU (PF) has potential leaders. The problem remains containing power hungry, thieving and corrupt members. Even Robert Mugabe failed that. There are rumours of factions in ZANU-PF led by Emmerson Mnangagwa and Joyce Mujuru. I am not a fan of Mnangagwa for his lack of charisma, alleged heavy-handedness and other issues. Mai Mujuru has some experience running a country, and can resonate well with the struggles of the women constituency, and seems to be a centrist. Be that as it may, Zimbabweans worry most about the economy. This only means, we need new leadership with fresh ideas to take the country forward.

Should we buy his story?
When asked by Dali Tambo, in an interview why he couldn’t call it quits, Mugabe quickly turned to the British, sanctions and regime change.
“The British call for regime change, that, I must go. That call mustn’t come from the British. We are still under sanctions, under attack. What man is there, who when his own house is being attacked will run away from the house leaving his children and wife under attack. Its coward of him! My people still need me. I’m not a deserter.*

Mugabe’s argument actually has gained credence in the wake of new information in relation to the extent of the “regime change agenda”. Thabo Mbeki, in an Al Jazeera interview revealed the pressure he received from Tony Blair to initiate a British sponsored military attack on Zimbabwe to dislodge Mugabe. Of course, Tony Blair denied the claims. 

But is it possible that, that is a silly excuse.

The pain of a supporter
I’m 21 years old. The future is increasingly looking gloomy. We need solutions now. I disdain MDC, its leader and its paper thin policies. But supporting ZANU-PF is such a pain, one that I have managed to live with.
I am looking to the future. A Zimbabwe beyond Robert Mugabe.

The writer is a Harare based political commentator, who writes in his own capacity. Contact on Twitter @ButlerZKapumha.

>Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe. 1997. Report on the 1980’s disturbances in Matebeland and Midlands. Harare.
2.    > Scoones, I., Marongwe, N., Mavedzenge, B. Mahenehene, J., Murimbarimba, F.,and Sukume, C., 2010 Zimbabwe’s Land Reform: Myths and Realities, Suffolk,Harare and Johannesburg: James Currey, Weaver Press and Jacana Media.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Illusions of a one-man show: Nelson Mandela and the "Rainbow Nation"

Opinion, By Butler Zvikomborero Kapumha-Harare

South Africa’s fight against the systematic racism of the apartheid regime is often and alas, reduced to one man- Nelson Mandela. He gets all the credit, the glory and attention. Or maybe he does deserve? He is widely portrayed as a saint, icon and hero of mankind. It hasn’t been much of a debatable story. Not for me, because I never trust people who fight the war of the poor and oppressed and turn out to be heroes of the rich and oppressors.

I find the history accounts of South Africa, as presented in modern history texts, very amusing- They are stagnant for the 27 years Mandela was in prison, as if nothing happened, and as if the people were waiting for him to be released. And the struggle continued just as he was released.  This has been significant in presenting the picture that Mandela single-handedly won the fight against apartheid. The Mandela story is well choreographed in the press for public consumption and any opposition to the official story is intolerable. It is taboo to discuss such a topic, so I will give my humble critique of his ‘heroism’. And with this article I risk a lot. I risk my sanity. I risk being called names. And for that reason, facts, only, will be my defence.

The purpose of this article is to dispel ‘controlled’ illusions of a one man show-that is often portrayed, and challenge the dominant version of the construct of the story of South Africa’s independence struggle. The author does not dispute that Mandela is a hero but concurs with Adam Roberts1 as he carefully put it “Mandela is a hero, not a saint as mostly portrayed”. And it is the proposition of the writer that the story of the fight against apartheid is way bigger than Nelson Mandela, and should be packaged as such without the obsequious and disproportional praise of one person, because it is misleading and mischievous. Many people lost their lives, families, and most productive times of their lives, in sacrifice to the struggle, along with Nelson Mandela, and often their effort and contributions go without credit and in some cases omitted.

But the first question to this whole subject is-What did Nelson Mandela do to become such a hero?  What did he do, extra-ordinarily that makes him adored with such veneration across all people of different religions, races and political persuasions? And I often ask this question to people I meet. I get the same answer constructed in the same paraphrase and vocabulary.

The next question is how significant was his individual contribution to the struggle for independence, especially during the 27 years he was absent from the ‘battlefield’ whilst guys like Oliver Tambo led the African National Congress (ANC)?

Another question is why did Nelson Mandela, a terrorist to the Apartheid regime sympathizers, both in South Africa and in other countries like USA under Ronald Reagan, UK under Margaret Thatcher, and another apartheid regime of Israel, and then quickly turn into their hero. I mean it might have been easier for Mandela to forgive them, given his ‘good heart’, but for the racists and white supremacists to say Mandela is a ‘terrorist-turned-hero’ is just not convincing at surface level.

And another question, did he have plans to redress the dire poverty and economic disparity in South Africa? Or his plans only included having an end to apartheid in a political sense only?
Why is he still silent, today, on those issues, like poverty, inequality, racism, and land disparity, still a dominant predicament in South Africa’s majority population? Has he left it for other leaders? Or those are not his concerns? Or he is not ‘stupid’ enough to destroy his international brand and heroism like what Robert Mugabe did?

The fuss over Nelson Mandela is completely astounding. It bridges between a cult and the nearest thing to a religion. He has a province, a city, hundreds of roads, town squares, schools, hospitals, bridges, gardens, currency notes, Universities, Airdromes, malls, Institutions, all named after him. He has statures everywhere including the United Kingdom Parliament. All this is in recognition to his fight against apartheid and his belief of a non-racial society. When the United Nations declared his birthday the Nelson Mandela day, they said of him being, “a living embodiment of the highest values of the United Nations”. Every serious leader in the world, or Hollywood celebrity or person of influence anywhere is recommended to have a portrait with Nelson Mandela, seemingly. It’s good for business and personal image. 
Controversial self proclaimed 'Prophets',and 'businesspersons'- Emmanuel' Makandiwa and Eubert Mudzanire pictured with Nelson Mandela in South Africa

But the above paragraph would at surface level make me a ‘hater’, right? But I think the proportion of “the emotional apotheosis of Mandelatry”, as one blogger2 puts it would, to any rationalist, pose the question-What did he do to be venerated as such? I posed this question in one of the previous paragraphs.

Who is Nelson Mandela and what did he do?

Nelson Mandela, born Rolihlahla Mandela, was a lawyer in a racist country, where being African was a crime itself. Being black meant unequal treatment and opportunities compared to persons of different races- be it European, Asian or mixed. Africans were second class citizens in their native country, being denied even of the most basic tenants of human rights. And Mandela was a boxer, please note. Together with Oliver Tambo, Congress Mbata, Walter Sisulu and others, Mandela helped form the ANC Youth league within the liberation movement ANC that had been formed in 1912. He was the Secretary General of the Youth League in 1947, then President in 1951.But he only became President of the ANC Party in 1991-1997. Together, with other comrades like Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu, and Steve Biko of Black Consciousness Movement they organized resistance and civil disobedience to fight against the system, until the ANC sought an armed resistance, justifiably so. He married three times to Evelyn Mase, Winnie Madikizela and most recently Graca Machel. After the Sharpsville Massacre of 1960, Albert Luthuli ordered the formation of the Umkhonto we Sizwe-ANC’s military wing, with Nelson Mandela as its commander. Mandela received guerrilla military training in Algeria in 1962. He was later arrested in 1963 for alleged “terrorism” and more specifically, “for targeting public infrastructure like buildings and pylons in the military activities of the Umkhonto we Sizwe”. He was first sentenced to death, but, later spent the next 27 years at a prison, 18 of them at Robben Islands. He came out, after mounting pressure to the apartheid regime from everyone, everywhere except for a few like fellow-apartheid Israel, and then struck a deal with then President Frederik De Klerk, and he became the president of a ‘democratic’ South Africa. After independence, his vision of a non-racial nation continued in what is termed a “Rainbow Nation”. He adopted liberal to neoliberal economic policies and continued in the economic guidelines of the previously apartheid South Africa. No attempts at redressing the economic disparity were made, and the poor remained poor if not poorer. The rich went richer, mostly on the same exploitative model of pre-independent South Africa. The preferential access to ownership of land, businesses and other opportunities to white people is still a sad feature in South Africa’s society. And Nelson Mandela resigned from ANC leadership in 1997 and from the Presidency in 1999.

So let’s dispel some minor common lies.
(i)                   Mandela was never the ‘leader’ of the ANC when it fought apartheid; he only became so after the end of apartheid, because its leader Oliver Tambo had died of stroke just after the end of apartheid. That was in 1991.
(ii)                 Mandela never negotiated the constitution of South Africa. Hundreds of lawyers and academics led by Cyril Ramaphosa (now ANC Deputy President) and Roef Meyer (a former intelligence chief) did. Both Mandela and De Klerk kept their distance.
(iii)                It is not Mandela who started ‘talks’ with the National Party. Oliver Tambo had extensive talks with De Klerk’s predecessor, PW Botha in the 1980s.
(iv)                Mandela was never a pacifist. He was a guerrilla war leader trained in Algeria and Ethiopia. He was commander of the military wing of the ANC.

So the construct of Mandela’s heroism goes: “Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years… That’s an awful lot of time. He then forgave his perpetrators and today South Africa is a non-racial exemplary African rich country. He was President for only 5 years. Look at Zimbabwe, man. Mandela is a hero man.” Some just take the media type of portrayal, which says, “Madiba is the best thing to happen to Africa. He brought an end to apartheid and brought independence to Africa. He is the greatest African and the most important human of our time.” And the argument is essentially substantiated by “27 years in prison” and “forgiveness”.

Different classes of people view Nelson Mandela as their hero. The extremely rich who feel Mandela never posed a threat to their capitalist and exploitative adventures, Mandela is also a hero. Those whose fathers and grandfathers grabbed diamond fields; gold claims and vast farmlands are still in charge thanks to the heroism of Nelson Mandela.

The extremely poor think Nelson Mandela is their hero because of the euphoria that gripped them since his release from prison. It hasn’t translated to better opportunities, and they are still living a shack without jobs or comparable livelihood as of the previously preferential race in apartheid era. But still Mandela is their hero. He ‘won’ them freedom, so they say.

Walter Sisulu also spent almost 26 years at Robben Islands just like Nelson Mandela. He was Secretary General of the ANC when Mandela was a Secretary General of the ANC Youth league. He then became ANC deputy President when Mandela became President from 1991-1994. So in terms of contributions to the anti-apartheid struggle, whatever Mandela did, Sisulu did too. But no one cares about Sisulu. Only Mandela! The disproportionate veneration of these people, who had equal and similar contribution towards the same cause, is in my view appalling and raises a lot of questions. If we praise Mandela for spending 27 years in prison and coming out with a reconciliatory message, why don’t we praise Walter Sisulu for achieving the same feat? It’s like Walter Sisulu is totally ignored when comparing to the deification of the person of Mandela and his supposed feat.

Then Oliver Tambo, whom, whilst Mandela was in prison, was the President of ANC, between 1967 and 1991 after succeeding Albert Luthuli. He organized international solidarity and called for the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign that pressurized the apartheid regime into giving in. He never gave up in the most difficult of times when ANC was banned under the suppression of Communism Act. He continued anti-apartheid activities at a new headquarters in Zambia, in exile. If I were to credit one person for the end of apartheid, it will be him. The external pressure mobilized by Tambo proved to be the defining factor leading to the release of the many ANC cadres at Robben Islands, which Mandela was one of. But this part of history has been wiped out carefully to pave way for the glory of Mandela. A ‘Jack Bauer’ type of story on Mandela today has made him a big idol and a man who single-handedly fought apartheid, whereas the people who actually did are side-lined in the official story.

As a matter of record, the struggle did continue during Mandela’s absence. It’s unfortunate that we have forgotten the names of those who did. The Soweto uprisings. The sanctions by the United Nations. The support of the Frontline States especially Zambia. The Oliver Tambos. They are left out the picture for technical reasons- probably they don’t just fit in.

It is without doubt that the media type of marketing of an international Mandela brand, has led to this hagiography that deify Nelson Mandela in the media. He is a good man, but hysterically over-rated. His achievements have been achieved by other people who do not get equivalent attention and glory. Mandela’s choreographed media picture is a celebration of the capitalist minority who control and manufacture public consent through the media.  Dominic Mhiripiri4 says, “The continual sycophantic veneration of such people serves to place a gap between what the ordinary man and woman can achieve, and what the great figures of history were able to do”. He also, like I do propose that the “deity of Mandela is merely a construct of the media”.

As long as the fraudulently obtained farm land, mining claims and other capitalist adventures were intact, it was perfectly going to work for the white minority. And Enrick Patrick3 says that “the end of apartheid in South Africa is a scam”. Objectively, it is a fairly uncontroversial statement. Comparing the demands of the African people enshrined in the Freedom Charter of 1955, chief being the declaration “The people shall share in the country’s wealth” and the “the people shall govern”, a reference to the vast mineral wealth beneath its soils and farmland, it is clear that the totality in the end of colonialism and apartheid is a farce in South Africa.

The anti-colonial and anti-apartheid struggle was to fight the systematic injustice that denied opportunities for Africans to basic and fundamental human rights and more importantly to redress the racial disparity in the ownership of the means of production, primarily the land stolen from the Natives before and after the National Party (architects of institutionalized apartheid) came into power in the late 1940s. Besides redistribution of the ownership to means of production being a key feature of equality and equity, it means reducing the poverty characteristic of the black majority of South Africans.  The Freedom Charter was forsaken by Nelson Mandela in his Presidency- a total betrayal to the Africans who fought to end unjust domination and oppression. And this is what Winnie Madikizela-Mandela has been saying, much to her persecution. She said Nelson Mandela has become a “corporate foundation”, adding that “Mandela let us down”.

Today, South Africa is the most unequal country in the world. It has the biggest gap between the rich and the poor. 50% of its population, largely Africans lives under the poverty datum line. The World Bank report in 2012 that focused on the equality of opportunities said South Africa is characterised by “economic exclusion, perpetuating inequality making it highly unequal”. Oxfam’s similar report estimated that the top 100 richest people gained 60%, whilst the greater bottom slipped further into poverty. 16 million of its population depends on social grants from the government and other non-governmental actors.  The mineral resources of South Africa are the privilege of a few elite. The vast farmlands are owned by a few farmers with no merit save that they are white. 60-70% of commercial farmland is owned by less than 10’000 white farmers and the demands for a just, equitable land redistribution exercise are constantly blocked by the ruling elite. When Nelson Mandela assumed presidency, he denied calls to nationalise key strategic industries especially the South African Reserve Bank. The bank owned by a few shareholders who now dictate the monetary policy of South Africa. He continued the neo liberal policies of the National Party and was only the figurehead of a black man in office. The bourgeoisies retained economic power, which is all that matters. And today the apartheid model that makes the few ruling elite extremely powerful-politically and economically at the expense of the person in the street is an undeniable inconvenient truth.

Mandela is complicit in retaining unjust economic power of a few bourgeoisies at the expense of the black majority. The mineral wealth should have been shared. The land should be redistributed. These dreams and hopes fade by the day for the 16 million waiting for government grants and assistance every day.

The story hasn’t changed for the person living in a shack outside Cape Town. But we know the story of the Oppenheimer family, the Rupert family, the Ackerman family, Christo Wiese, Laurie Dippenaar, Stephen Saad and a few who continue to get rich in South Africa’s conducive environment. South Africa’s growth is meaningless unless it is shared.

The failure to redress economic inequalities between races is simply indefensible. There are no excuses.
A graph showing the income inequalities in Cape Town, South Africa 

I would have wanted to compare the policies of Nelson Mandela with those of Thomas Sankara, Hugo Chavez and other persons whose heroism is a product of their successful fight against the most pressing human problems like poverty, exploitation, economic oppression and racism head-on through efficacious land reforms, education, and health reforms. But I will not.

I would also have wanted to compare Nelson Mandela to Mahatma Ghandi, Noam Chomsky, Martin L. King (Jnr.) and other people who I believe are moral authorities and portrayed a consistent and coherent link between their actions and their speech. Most of them did not tire in fight for particular moral causes through peaceful means. But I will not, also.

But I think it is suffice to say, for all his achievements and struggles, Nelson Mandela is not my hero.

1.        Adam Roberts, Mandela is a hero not a saint, Comment is free, The Guardian UK
2.        Heresy Corner.
3.        Enrick Patrick, Nelson Mandela: the betrayal of a hero.
4.        Dominic Mhiripiri, Student at Brown University, USA. “The most over-rated man in the world”. Article appeared in the Brown Daily Herald
5.        Nathan Geffen, Nelson Mandela is not South Africa, The Guardian UK

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Hugo Chavez, The Bolivarian Revolution and 21st Century Socialism

By Zvikomborero Butler Kapumha, Harare

The death of Hugo Chavez, the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela comes as a huge blow to the progressive world. He stood fearlessly as an unflinching fortress of the poor, weak and oppressed and as an iconic symbol of the fight against “Yankee” imperialism. Very few words, to be honest can adequately describe him. He fought to the very end, amid US machinations to undermine the Bolivarian Revolution he led-an inspiration to millions around the world. His unwavering quest for a society where the most pressing human problems like “poverty, exploitation, economic oppression, racism, sexism, destruction of natural resources and absence of really participatory democracy” are eradicated gave him the energy to soldier till the bitter end.

May his soul rest in eternal peace.

Commadante Hugo Chavez, a liberator and a revolutionary is surely no more. But his ideas and visions shall live forever, engraved in the hearts and the faculties of millions like me. The world has surely lost another Che Guevara.
The progressive and leftist world celebrates his life, a life of achievements and breaking new and better grounds. Viva the Bolivarian Revolution! Viva Commadante Hugo Chavez!

Achievements of the Bolivarian Revolution

Poverty Reduction
Official figures from the United Nations confirm extreme poverty rate declined from 42% to 9.5% since 1998, an achievement of the UN Millennium goal in advance.  General poverty measured by the Gini coefficient shows a drop from 70.8% to 21% of persons living below the poverty datum line. The Human Development Index of the UNDP went up from 0.69 to 0.84, ranking Venezuela in the top 50 of the H.D.I in the world.

Nationalisation and Economic Empowerment
 Venezuela is 5th biggest exporter of crude oil and before the administration of Chavez took over, foreign companies controlled the oil resources at the dire expense of the poor Venezuela populace. Hugo Chavez created a state run firm to nationalize the Oil resources and expanded the policy to other key industries. The proceeds went directly in to subsidizing food, health and education.

Introduction of Democracy
When Hugo Chavez won the elections in 1998 he introduced participatory democratic institutions, which were never known to the Latin American country. He pushed for a new constitution drafted by a balanced constitutional assembly and implemented through Venezuela’s first referendum. After the referendum he called for an election where 1171 candidates stood, with 900(71%) opposing him. As a shock, his party and allies won 95% of the seats, an overwhelming success. This gave him the platform to implement his plans for a Bolivarian Revolution with lesser resistance.

The UNESCO declared illiteracy eradicated in Venezuela few years after the Bolivar Plan 2000 that saw the introduction of Socialist Missions for adult education and informal education. Official literacy in Venezuela is 99.8%. And today Venezuela is the 5th ranked country in terms of the greatest population proportion of University students.

A health reform was at the core of the Bolivarian Revolution of Hugo Chavez. Socialist Mission provides free health services and support from Cuba, has helped to carry out free specialist surgeries across the country of Venezuela. Child mortality has fallen from 25.8 per 1000 in 1998 to 12.4 in 2009. The number of doctors has increased from 18 per 10 000 to 58 per 10 000. Since 1998, 13 721 clinics-a 169.6% increase from the initial 5 081, have been built to make health care easily accessible. The country has subsidized drug stores dotted around the country.

Unemployment has reduced by 50% during Hugo Chavez’s administration to 6.1% in 2010, one of the lowest figures in the developing, and even developed world. And the minimum wage is the highest in Latin America, $372, higher than that of the 6th world’s biggest economy, Brazil.

Agrarian reform and Food Security
After a successful agrarian reform that eliminated and dismantled discriminatory and capitalist land ownership patterns, food security has improved. Rural peasants have a stable and sustainable means of livelihood.  Further, incentives for domestic food producers have decreased food imports from 70% to around 30% since 1998.

The economy has grown 5 times since 1998 when Hugo Chavez won the elections. The average GDP growth rate since then has been 4.2%. The National debt reduced from 72.3% of GDP to the current 14.4%, a marvel of USA, UK and EU. State reserves have significantly increased from $14.3 billion to $41.9 billion as of 2010.

Standard of Living
With a greater majority of Venezuelans having crossed the datum to join the middle class, the standard of living has increased significantly. The Human Development Index increased to 0.84 from 0.69 between 1998 and 2010. The population is ranked 5th with Finland on the Happiest Country list.

The Bolivarian Revolution has been widely a success, a pure model of Socialism for the 21st century. Hugo Chavez will forever been an icon for economic emancipation, self determination and resistance to oppression. Viva Hugo Chavez. Down with Yankee Imperialism and Neoliberalism.

The author is a Harare based blogger and political analyst, who writes in his personal capacity. He can be contacted on

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

10 years after the illegal Iraqi invasion. Where the heck is The International Criminal Court?

10 year after the illegal Iraq invasion. Where the heck is the International Criminal Court?

Zvikomborero Butler Kapumha, Harare

19 March 2013 marks exactly 10 years after the Iraq invasion by USA and UK with military personnel support of the so called coalition forces. The atrocities committed by George W. Bush and Tony Blair in the name of ‘War on Terror’ are not only criminal- they are a staggering disaster.  The extent of decimation and slaughter remains one of the worst tragedies of the 21st century, and can simply be traced back to the illegality of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Everything about the Iraqi war is a disaster! The illegal military invasion was on a paper-thin basis, ostensibly to stop the development of weapons of mass destruction albeit USA wanted to further its hegemonic ambitions and neo-colonial goals of securing oil resources and ruling Iraq from USA by proxy. The occupation was no less illegal. Some of the most brutal, violent and callous acts known to men were committed in cataclysmic proportions. The images from Fallujah that replicated in Samara, Tal Afar, Abu Sifa, Ramada and parts of Baghdad are certainly the most horrifying I have ever seen. The degree of cruelty in the US Army as they killed through and through, from the innocent screaming small children, to the pregnant women and old citizens is just inconceivable. The pictures are just sad.

And the lack of action from the international community is even sadder.

The purpose of this article is to, in abridgement, go through the reasons why the Iraqi war was illegal and question the role of international law and structures to adequately protect the weak and apprehend the law breakers and serve justice. International law per se has proved insufficient to inspire the prosecutors at The Hague to formally impeach powerful perpetrators like the USA, UK, NATO and the oil rich Arab murderous dictators.

The illegality of the Iraqi war can be divided in to two: The invasion and the occupation. The invasion was baseless and unsanctioned. And the occupation was marred by gross misconduct and human rights violations.

I thus submit that the Iraq war was illegal for the following reasons.
1.       In terms of Articles 39 of the United Nations Charter, only the U.N Security Council determines if a bilateral political standoff between states warrants the use of military force. . USA and UK drafted the resolution to invade Iraq but facing a losing vote and veto from Russia, France and China withdrew it. In spite of the clear rules, the USA and the UK then did not seek the approval of the Security Council, which is evidently a blatant disregard to international law.

2.       Tony Blair did not seek the approval of the House of Commons before sending the troops to Iraq. This prompted resignation of the Leader of the House of Commons, Robin Cook who was also his Foreign Secretary. Therefore the war was illegal under UK laws and international law.

3.       The Iraq invasion was unjustified. The White House claimed that Saddam Hussein was building weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and odd enough, the USA deemed it their moral obligation to ‘save the world from an imminent threat to world peace’ in the form of the WMDs of the Hussein regime. After searching over 500 sites and bunkers1 no weapons of mass destruction have been discovered, because there were no WMDs in the first place. The purported evidence it presented was a forgery, created by the CIA and brought to prominence by the media of CNN, Fox News, BBC, New York Times and other right wing mainstream media. At the time of the invasion pro-war media coverage was 72%, anti-war had 3% and neutral coverage had 25%.
The White House presented documents claiming Iraq sought to buy yellow cake uranium from Niger as evidence to the International Atomic Energy Agency. The IAEA dismissed them as a forgery. Collin Powell, then US Secretary of State presented documents that Saddam Hussein had purchased thousands of aluminium tubes to be used for uranium storage. The Institute of Science and International Security later dismissed the claim as fake since military grade uranium is not stored in aluminium tubes. There was a deliberate attempt to mislead the world through forged documents to justify the invasion.

4.       Under UN charter, the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq meant USA had no role to play in the domestic affairs of the country. As such another witty but largely stupid argument proposed by the neo-conservatives in the USA was that Iraq through the Ba’athist government of Saddam Hussein had sacrificed its sovereignty. They claimed that it did so through “participation in regular aggression to neighbouring states in this case Kuwait; by violating the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that regulates and gives conduct on use of WMDs and nuclear weapons; and, participates or deliberately fails to stop genocide through the funding and harbouring of terrorists.” Thus they claim the USA had a legitimate claim and responsibility to invade Iraq and “bring democracy”. However, if the same conditions were to be applied, Israel and USA would stand as the chief perpetrators. Israel repeatedly invades Palestine and Lebanon, it illegally possesses nuclear weapons outside the NPT, and it is currently carrying out genocide in the Gaza Strip. USA is aiding Israel on top of breaching these conditions in other parts of the world in her own capacity.
But still USA is under no obligation to occupy every undemocratic country. The USA is not a police state to anyone, and rather as President Mugabe said, it “behaves as a marauding bully”.

5.       When George Bush was asked whether he would have still invaded Iraq with intelligence that there were no weapons of mass destruction-his answer was “yes”. This does not only tell that he knew Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, but suggests this was a premeditated invasion that had exterior dubious motives such as securing oil resources. His National Security Advisor on Counter Terrorism, Richard Clarke said he “believes Bush had a predetermined plan to invade Iraq”. And the Iraq Liberation Act passed by US Congress in October 1998, which effectively meant it was US Foreign policy to overthrow Saddam Hussein, inspired him to carry out the invasion. 32 days before the invasion the UNMOVIC and the International Atomic Agency (IAEA) supplied a report to the UN indicating that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and a military invasion was unjustified. But the invasion went on anyway.

6.       In an attempt to gain public support and sympathy for the largely unpopular invasion, George Bush claimed that the Al-Qaeda terrorist group that was held responsible for the 9/11 attacks, had technical and financial support of Saddam Hussein. This was to give the so called War on Terror some credibility. But the whole concept of counter terrorism Bush preaches still is morally inconsistent. It claims that terror is fought by more terror. If a terrorist kills 3000 as the case of 9/11, he is replied by 1 000’000 death of his own people as the case of the Iraqi war and the Afghanistan war. The “Bush doctrine” of pre-emptive attacks on suspected terrorists had been adopted by Barrack Obama who is carrying out many drone attacks around the world in the furtherance of the ‘War on Terror”.

7.       The justification of the war on Iraq based on WMDs and terrorist links was heavily undermined and weakened and thus Bush and Blair sought to use the human rights record of Saddam Hussein to validate an invasion. Saddam Hussein had a terrible human rights record, but so does USA, Israel, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and so many other countries. So the invasion of one country in a list of 20 raises so many questions. And the distorted morality and hypocrisy of USA that makes it judge other countries with standards it refuses to judge herself with, is disturbing. I cannot legitimize the invasion on Iraq based on the human rights record, no matter how appalling.

The occupation of Iraq breached almost all international laws governing combat, from the treatment of civilians, to the nature of weaponry used in the war. The major international law that were breached are The Hague Convention and Regulations of 1907; The Geneva Conventions I – IV of 1949; Protocols Additional I and II; The Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity (754 United Nations Treaty Series 73) and hundreds of United Nations resolutions on war.
8.       Whereas the USA claimed to be fighting Iraq to stop the development of weapons of mass destruction, they fought the war using weapons of mass destruction. Hypocrisy at its worst! The Hague Convention and Regulation prohibits the use of weapons that (1) cannot be contained in a legal battle field; (2) cannot be deactivated when the war is over; (3)  cause superfluous injury or undue suffering; or (4) cause undue harm to the natural environment3. Specific weapons banned under that treaty are poisonous gases, bacteriological, chemical, biological, nuclear weapons, indiscriminate or excessively injurious weapons, or weapons with undetectable fragments.
The US army used weapons containing depleted uranium (DU), many of which were DU-coated projectiles fired in civilian populated areas. DU particles cannot be contained to the legal field of battle, cannot be “disengaged” when the war is over, cause medical catastrophes (cancer, birth defects, genetic damage, and the like) long after the cessation of hostilities and are therefore inhumane, and pollute the environment4. The effects are already evident.
The US army also used cluster (fragmentation) bombs, and of note were their extensive use in urban areas and Fallujah in particular. These cluster bomb may remain unexploded ordinance (UXOs) giving a continued concern even after the war as is the case in Laos, Vietnam3.
The US army also used ‘white phosphorous’ artillery and mortar shells that are also illegal under the Hague law. Highly incendiary weapons further indiscriminately also used.
The United Nations Human Rights Commission acknowledged the use of these illegal weapons as back as its 2003 plenary session but did not act further than that.

9.       The conduct of combat is always a serious issue in all occupation. Thanks to recent documents realised by Wikileaks, more information including videos footages on the illegality and grotesque nature of the conduct of the US army is now know to the world. Laws on combat basically revolve around the protection on civilian populations and some infrastructure like dams and nuclear facilities. As such attacks on undefended civilian population are prohibited, so is on infrastructure such as schools, medical centres, religious buildings, cultural heritages and properties for charitable purposes.
But over 1 million civilians were killed, mostly defenceless children and women, in an indiscriminate and disproportional approach. The troops were instructed that they “no right not to shoot”. The US army carried out premeditated and deliberate attacks on highly populated areas. Serious human rights violations were perpetrated in these areas, including the abuse of children and women as indicated by the UN Special Rapporteur. 

10.   The Iraq war also stands illegal given the breach of law that protects persons affected by war especially Prisoners of war (POWs), children and other civilians. The images that came off the Nazi style detention camp, Abu Ghraib were the most horrifying. Extensive use of torture and inhumane treatment was tolerated in such camps, in gross violation of the basic tenants of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Hundreds of thousands passed through these torture chambers, the lucky ones-alive, and war still could not justify the brazen disregard for human life exhibited in these places.
For all these reasons and more, which are better documented by many organizations around the world, George Bush and Tony Blair with all their accomplices should definitely bear responsibility for their war crimes and crimes against humanity they committed willingly. But the George Bush is at his ranch in Texas, and Tony Blair is continuing ministering with his new Christian organization. These two are criminals
Evidence is sufficient for the International Criminal Court to indict George Bush, Tony Blair, Dick Cherney, Donald Rumsfeld, John Negroponte, Collin Powell and the rest of the people involved. But they just can’t. The Lead Prosecutor at The Hague, Mr Luis Moreno Ocampo confirmed to have received 240 separate communications regarding the illegality of the war on Iraq by February 2006, but explained that he could only “consider” issues regarding the conduct during the war not its underlying illegality as a crime. February 2013, 8 years later, he has done neither. He argues that Iraq has not signed up with the court. But many Africans have been prosecuted at the ICC despite not having been signed at The Hague. And one might ask if USA or George Bush is bigger and above the international law and structures. He has proved it.
The voices of millions who oppose the war cannot still inspire ICC to carry at least investigations. The anti-war movements coalesced in protest over the war. The protest in Rome where over 3 million people marched is recognized by the Guinness Book of Records as the largest anti-war protest. Over 36 million people protested around the world between February and April 2003. In the United Kingdom, 3 Ministers resigned in protest over the war. Then Labour MPs like George Galloway were expelled for voicing protest over the war. The then House of Commons Leader Robin Cook resigned in protest of the war and the disregard of Parliament by Tony Blair. Even prominent voices like Kofi Annan, Desmond Tutu, Noam Chomsky and others haven’t worried the so-called International Court of Justice.
Those who want to learn how the world system works as dictated by power, capital and influence will surely do. The Iraq war sets a perfect example. Some today chose to close their eyes and most probably their brains too, and it’s really unfortunate.
I think Africa has most to learn from the Iraqi war, given the belligerent threat of imperialism and USA domination conquest in Africa and her resources. The USA remains the greatest threat to world peace and independence and the threat becomes more real given its aggression coupled with its ability to subvert international law in carrying out pre-emptive attacks on anyone anywhere save for a handful. USA is pushing for more military bases in Africa, Asia and Latin America to add to its 900 in 130 countries. That should ring bells to Africa that it is way pointless to still fight amongst ourselves over trivial issues but should unite in every sense of it.
I concur with Neil MacKay that, “What happened in Iraq is a great sin and a great crime”. If the law can’t serve justice, history will.

The author, Butler Zvikomborero Kapumha is a Harare based blogger and a keen adherent of international politics. He can be contacted on or follow him on Twitter @ButlerZKapumha  i.e
The writer acknowledges the extensive use of The Consumers of Peace Report on Iraqi War Crimes as the primary source of this article.

1.       Dr. Hans Blix, former UN Chief Inspector and head of the Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Committee (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Mohamed El Baradei admitted there was no evidence of development or use of WMD since their search in 1999.  
2.       Kofi Annan confirmed that the war was illegal in an interview with BBC in September 2004. The USA the drew criticism towards the Secretary General
3.       The Hague Convention and Regulations of 1907
4.       War Crimes Committed by the United States of America and mechanisms for Accountability. Consumers for Peace (2006). San Francisco.

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