zimbabwe state of mind

Zimbabwe State of Mind - DAY TWO

On Day Two I learn that there a lot of wrongs going on in Zimbabwe apart from the obvious I observed a day before. See, the current democratic order was sewn thread and needle by former South African President Thabo Mbeki and its SADC insurance is underwritten by President Jacob Zuma. So, for things to go right in Zimbabwe, South Africa must have that vested interest. And it should not be in this country's diamonds or any other minerals but political stability and democratization project. However for democracy to grow you need a vibrant media that will play the role of watchdog over power.

Zimbabwe Democracy Institute Director Pedzisai Ruhanya chatting to us in Harare

This is a lesson we get from Pedzisai Ruhanya, Director of Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, who is himself a doctoral candidate in Media Studies. He believes the media in Zimbabwe dropped the ball; or to put it mildly never at any time in the country's history tried to hold the executive to account. He cannot recall a time when the media, both Rhodesian and Zimbabwean has ever felt the responsibility to be accountable to the people. He is adamant that 'the people' need to be the sole beneficiaries of the media's agenda setting role and it must serve 'them' at all times. Okay, fine, but what happens when 'the people' topple despots and get into power, should the media now divorce its custodians in search of an adversorial agenda? Should it always be itching for a fight?

Our friend Ruhanya says the biggest problem which faces humans is the development of an appetite for eternal power which individuals develop once they taste it. He says it is for that reason that the media will never exhaust or overplay its adversorial role because there will always likely be a hijacking of 'the people's' revolution. Sadly, he says that's what happened in Zimbabwe. And that's why this country which used to be the bread basket of Africa finds itself trading in US dollars.

In the 1970s struggle for liberation (chimurenga) Zanu-PF and its then leader Gabriel Robert Mugabe were inarguably the legitimate leaders of 'the people' and 'the people' were given an impression that 'they' were getting into power. Not the ruling elite. He diagnoses the problem as being that when the ZANU-PF oligarth tasted power it didn't dismantle the flawed ox-wagon inwhich Smith and his cronies used to rule the 'sub-human' natives from its comfort. What ZANU-PF comrades did is they jumped in and started looking down at the people who halted its (the ox-wagon's) movement.

That's when the public broadcaster became a state broadcaster and stories of human truimph were replaced with stories of the frontline soldiers of chimurenga. Ruhanya's analysis is something I observed early in the morning when I watched Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation's television channel. For the life of me I couldn't believe that journalists call partisan news sources 'comrade' and even title it at such. 90% of what ZBC does is not news but Public Relations for the ruling party - something the SABC is sliding towards. Here it's so brazen it's like Guptagate every hour of the day. Just on Sunday here at the capital there was a huge rally hosted by MDC's Morgan Tsvangirai at the end of their policy conference and none of that makes it into the news. But at least the untimely death of SABC broadcaster Vuyo Mbuli made it into the news and it humoured me when I noticed they didn't say 'Comrade Vuyo'.

My source tells me that the ground is not fertile for real blood-letting revolution or something as tame as the Arab Uprising. He says Mugabe is past his sell-by date to the point that even if he was to take advantage of the new constitution and decide to run an 89-years old man will be 99 by the time he is done with his second term. Mugabe is just not interested, he believes; judging from how the old man has recently toned down on violent rhetoric. Ruhanya says the old man is tired and has lost his appetite for power but the problem lies with the securocrats who might have something to answer about Gukurahundu (the systemic massacre of approximately 20 000 Ndebele activists in the 1980s). I try to prognose; Mugabe can disappear into political oblivion, live the last days of his life in Sandton or Singapore; the same way his friend the former Ethiopian dictator who killed thousands of political adversaries is doing right now; dying a slow lonley death in a Harare safehouse.

But the old man, though willing cannot take the leap. There are capable people who can take over from him and lead the party politburo in preparation for their elevation to State House; characters such as Joyce Mujuru, the first deputy president who can succesfully contest the presidency by default if the Mugabe does not pull a Makoni on her. Ruhanya believes there's respect across the nation for Mujuru, the same way there was for her deceased husband General George Mujuru.

He believes there is enough political capital outside Zanu-PF to unseat the old man and his tired party on the part of opposition parties corner. Names such as Professor Welshman Ncube of MDC-N pop up.

However, as a director of a think tank and media scholar Ruhanya is worried that the airwaves are not open enough for civil society to play its role of informing the nation about what's at stake in the upcoming elections; this are elections some say will  be held in June but which our source says the most optimistic date will be September or October. Pro-government newspapers put the blame for the later date on Tsvangirai, while Mugabe has not yet put his signature on the new constitution, a precursor to the promulgation of a balloting process.

Zimbabwe is currently going through a voter registration process that is disputed as opposition parties believe it's at this stage that ZANU-PF plans to rig the process and disenfranchise as many young voters as possible who have the potential to tip the scale in the favour of opposition parties. Opposition parties believe the need for proof of residence as a condition for voter reginstration is meant to give tribal chiefs the power to refuse those who are not pro-ZANU-PF such papers and dienfranchise them.

But one needs a political perspective of the situation in Zimbabwe. Something we can only get from a man who was born in 1980 and who has known only one presiden this whole life, McDonald Lewanika.

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