Thursday, June 20, 2024

Can the Gambia really give lessons to Zimbabwe and Africa?

In 2016, Zimbabweans staged a number of effective demonstrations for or against one cause or other. 

These demonstrations, organized and executed by people and civic groups outside mainstream political parties, were against unpopular government actions, positions or decisions.

They became so effective that new legislations and presidential directives had to be issued to contain them.

Last week, another organized demonstration to protest the introduction of so-called bond notes ÔÇô a diplomatic way Mugabe uses to describe worthless printed money the amount of which he prints at will, declaring that these fake notes are at a 1:1 par with the US dollar.  Mugabe does not believe that an imitation can be equal to an original but he expects the people to do so while he pockets the originals. Last week’s demonstration was a flop as notable organisers such as Tajamuka (the discontented ones) and some supporters and political parties pulled out at the last minute having noticed that something just wasn’t kosher. “My investigations reveal there was a pervasive smell of $100 000 that inadvertently became the source of division among the demo organisers,” said Jealousy Mawarire, a spokesperson for Joice Mujuru’s Zimbabwe People First party. “Organisers should be transparent and tell us where $100 000 came from, how they used it and why Tajamuka wasn’t party to the demo. We certainly have to investigate especially when these demo organisers want to blame us for the failure of their demos.”

So, all it took was for someone to throw in a ward of money and the people scattered as they tried to grab as much of the money as they could resulting in mistrust among the people involved. Whenever people in distress organize themselves against the cause of their misery, international organisations, embassies and even some foreign governments run towards them and offer this and that to secure a foothold for themselves tomorrow ÔÇô should the ‘rebels’ succeed.

Political parties and people who organize against their governments almost always get assistance from some organisations, local or external, and that is the seed that scatters all others – such as the case we have at hand right here now where money was thrown into the mix of well-intentioned organisers but causing disruption. Zimbabwe is, once again, hurtling towards presidential elections in 2018 and talks about coalition of all opposition parties has been increasing by the day.

Zimbabwe’s political parties, including those ones that only pop up at precisely such a time to attract donations or sponsorship from organisations in and outside Zimbabwe, are jostling for positions and inclusion in the process to come together and put one candidate forward to dislodge Robert Mugabe.

Small political parties, hardly known in a Zimbabwean village, are already in the forefront of coalition talks just because the people fronting them are once-upon-a-time politicians.

For example, what really is Simba Makoni of Mavambo or Welshman Ncube of MDC-N doing attending coalition talks in South Africa at the invitation of an obscure foreign entity while their support back home is nearing zero levels?

Apparently, “an international think-tank (In Transformative Initiative – ITI), agreed to facilitate” the talks in South Africa. ITI is said to be “an organisation that seeks to assist and support peace-making processes by drawing from the South African experience”.

It invited more than 16 of Zimbabwe’s opposition political parties, most of them barely known but the two largest parties, in terms of numbers, turned down the invitation, these being Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC and Joice Mujuru’s Zimbabwe People First.

The Zimbabwean clergy, who continue to try bringing opposition political parties together, are not quite amused by this development.

“As the church we strongly hold the opinion that mediation of a coalition between ZimPF, MDC-T and other political parties must be home grown,” said Tapfumaneyi Zenda, President of Christian Voice International-Zimbabwe. “It is the people on the ground who know what is best for them and the destiny of our nation.”

But a coalition is a coalition because every vote counts. But Zimbabwean politicians are a very selfish and egotistical lot: they all want to be the leader. MDC leader Tsvangirai feels he owns the throne because he has been around for a while and has scars and people to show for it although he has dismally failed to dislodge Mugabe in the 17 years he has led his party.

Zimbabwe People First leader, Joice Mujuru, declared at a rally last week that she is the next president of Zimbabwe and only needs “the support and the vote of the youths to step into State House after the 2018 elections”.

Tendai Biti, Tsvangirai’s former Secretary General and former Zimbabwe Finance Minister, whose party continues to lose its leadership to both Tsvangirai and Mujuru, is skeptical about his fellow politicians. He has vowed that Tsvangirai will never lead the coalition and hinted that he might support Mujuru for the coalition leadership.

“I think it’s going to be very difficult in Zimbabwe to have coalitions, there are a lot of egocentric and selfish actors in our discourse,” Biti said. “We have to go beyond these individuals and establish a matrix of working together because that’s what our people want. It’s not about me or what the next leader of a political party wants.”

After saying this, he immediately threw his hat into the ring, saying he is prepared to lead the coalition.     

I sit here and wonder how other countries do it. I yearn for understanding why God blessed other countries with better leaders than my country.

I have seen opposition parties in Kenya and Botswana uniting and succeeding; I have seen the peaceful handover of power in several African countries and I wonder: why not us in Zimbabwe? An unknown man, Adama Barrow, was able to unify eight opposition parties in the Gambia to defeat dictator Yahya Jammeh last Thursday.

It is a dream.  “Hello, are you hearing me?” Jammeh is reported to have said on the phone to Barrow. “I wish you all the best. The country will be in your hands in January. You are assured of my guidance. You have to work with me. You are the elected president of The Gambia. I have no ill will and I wish you all the best.”

It is indeed a dream of mega proportions and I am still processing it.

“I will help him work towards the transition,” Mr. Jammeh said.

If this holds until inauguration day, the real news might not be about Adama Barrow defeating Yahya Jammeh at the polls; the bigger news would be Yahya Jammeh conceding defeat and offering help to his successor during a transition. 

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