State Media Abuse in Zimbabwe: Different Faces, Same Old Tactics

State Media Abuse in Zimbabwe: Different Faces, Same Old Tactics

Alex T. Magaisa

A poll on the website of The Herald, Zimbabwe’s state daily, asks the following question:


There are only two options from which to make a choice. The first is: Yes, that’s the noble thing to do”. The second is, No, she should apologise to the President”.

Three things are immediately apparent:

First, it isn’t much of a choice, really, as either way, the subject of the poll is damned: the first option assumes that mere allegations are as good as a guilty verdict and that she must go, while the second option also assumes the same guilty verdict, although such guilt can be excused only if she apologises to the President. In the world inhabited by The Herald, Vice President Joice Mujuru is, in effect, already guilty by virtue of bare allegations made at a political rally by her rival, Grace Mugabe.

Second, in The Herald’s universe, the law is utterly irrelevant, for even if one is alleged to have committed acts of corruption, all they need to do to avoid the sack or legal consequences, is to apologise to President Mugabe. In this world, Mugabe is the omnipotent sovereign – the law maker, the interpreter of the law and the enforcer, with power to sanction, execute and forgive.

Third and perhaps most importantly at this juncture, the poll represents an important political statement. It subjects VP Mujuru, a contender in Zanu PF’s succession battle, to public judgment without even soliciting, as any serious paper should do, a response from the accused; without giving her an opportunity to be heard, as the course of natural justice demands. The skewed and patently biased poll in the sense that both options are damning upon the subject, is a symbolic representation of the position that The Herald and other papers in the Zimpapers stable (state press) have taken in the succession debate. While they have not openly declared their support for a specific faction, it is patently obvious that they have taken an anti-Joice Mujuru stance and are supportive of her rivals, who at present bear the face of Grace Mugabe, but, it is plain that stronger faces lurk behind that pretty facade.

Grace Mugabe, who has made clear her intense and personal dislike of VP Mujuru, has received generous and favourable coverage in all state media since her entrance into the political arena. When the MDC asked last year for live coverage of their election manifesto launch rally in Marondera, the ZBC, the state broadcaster did not say no in words. They simply quoted a ridiculous sum of $165, 000 for the single event. It was an impossible figure in a country where the majority of people struggle to earn a dollar per day. It is doubtful that ZBC was charging as much, or at all, for Grace Mugabe’s 10 rallies across the country. If it is, then it wouldn’t be struggling to pay its workers or to modernise its ancient apparatus.

The fact is the state media generally has taken sides in the factional fights. Grace Mugabe is lauded by The Herald and other papers in the Zimpapers’ stable, while she enjoys abundant airspace in the broadcast media, more than 90 per cent of which is state-owned. What passes off as private broadcast media is, when you lift the veil, actually controlled by the state or persons connected to the state, all of whom bat for the same side in the succession battles. StarFM – the first entity to be given a private radio broadcaster’s licence is owned by Zimpapers – the same company that owns The Herald and other state papers. ZiFM, is owned by Supa Mandiwanzira, the Deputy Minister of Information and Publicity and a Zanu PF MP. The simple fact is that there is in fact no radio station in Zimbabwe that is independent of Zanu PF and in this case, the anti-Mujuru faction of Zanu PF.

VP Mujuru and her faction have suffered the same fate that has hitherto been served upon the MDC and other opposition forces before it. Where Tsvangirai was once the favourite punch-bag of the state media, that position has now been taken by VP Mujuru, who, day after day, has been the subject of vilification. In this regard, the state media has learned nothing and forgotten nothing, to employ an old cliche.

In the past, when analysing the dynamics between the ruling party and opposition parties, I have recruited and adapted Susan Strange’s theory of structural power in the international political economy. I have argued that political power is drawn from at least four sources: production, finance, knowledge and security. Those who control the means of production, the generation and allocation of credit, the generation, definition and dissemination of knowledge and information and the provision or withdrawal of security, tend to have power over those who lack such control. The use of the media by the anti-Mujuru faction is a clear demonstration of the power that derives from the knowledge/information structure. He who is in control of the media is able to determine what qualifies as news, how it is packaged and how it is delivered to the public. That way, they are able to set the agenda, to influence public debate and, they also hope, to affect public opinion.

Control of the media is critical in the dissemination of propaganda. In The Art of War, that enduring classic on strategy, Sun Tzu says that one strategy is to continuously hit the foundations of the pillar. You hit so often and relentlessly, until the pillar collapses. If it’s the opposition, you focus on Tsvangirai – his reputation and all – hit him continuously, until the edifice collapses. In the case of Joice Mujuru, again, go after her character, her reputation – hit it hard, and continuously, until the entire structure falls apart. Hence, in this case, the object is to paint Joice Mujuru and her group in the most negative light possible, just as the state media has done over the years in regard to Tsvangirai and the MDC.

The media will create news or otherwise capitalise on gaffes – with hindsight, we now recall how The Herald earlier this year went to town about VP Mujuru’s statements on corruption, when she suggested that the anti-corruption drive was merely a political ploy by those aiming to destroy Zanu PF from within. She was ridiculed then by The Herald and many analysts, portraying her as an ignoramus who had made a gaffe and as someone who was insensitive to the public clamour for a strong anti-corruption drive and therefore unfit to be a leader. But where Mujuru was saying they were trying to destroy Zanu PF from within, she probably meant that it was a ploy to destroy her ambitions. Indeed, after that initial burst of energy, the whole anti-corruption drive has gone cold and seems to have been a charade. Arguably, it has only been raised now, again, not because there is any genuine intent to fight corruption, but because it is convenient to use it as a political weapon against Joice Mujuru. It seems therefore, that Joice Mujuru was aware of the machinations of her political adversaries. Certainly, once they have achieved their objective of eliminating the political competition, it will be business as usual, for the corrupt, their godfathers and their acolytes.

Another instance illustrating the power derived from control of the knowledge/information structure and therefore, controlling the packaging and delivery of news, was a story in a recent edition of The Herald, reporting an incident in Mashonaland West at a meeting of Zanu PF’s provincial executive. The wife of President Mugabe’s nephew, Patrick Zhuwao, threw a bottle at and slapped the provincial chairman, Temba Mliswa. Mliswa is the nephew of Zanu PF Secretary for Administration, Didymus Mutasa, who is a close ally of VP Mujuru. When The Herald reported the story, the headline suggested that Temba Mliswa had fought Zhuwao’s wife. The fact that he was actually the subject of an assault was deliberately ignored, so that he was portrayed, instead, as the aggressor, with Beauty Zhuwao as the victim. Here the state media had played its part to repackage a bad story for the anti-Mujuru faction and turn it into a bad story for the Mujuru faction by sowing into the mind of the readers that Temba Mliswa and by extension, the Mujuru faction that he supposedly connected to, were violent aggressors.

Overall, what is clear is the deployment of the state media, always a willing and abiding lapdog of its controllers, to set the agenda, vilify opponents, shape public opinion and generally to further the interests of one interest group over its rival just as was the case to fight off Tsvangirai and the MDC and before them to fight Joshua Nkomo and PF Zapu, before they were swallowed by Zanu PF in 1987. Ironically, the state media was used for precisely the same purpose by the Rhodesian regime against the nationalist movements during the liberation struggle. And therein lies the key point:

That to the extent that those who habour ambitions to lead Zimbabwe are willing to abuse the state media and to do so even against their own, in the same way that the colonial regime, which they purport to despise, and from whom they claim to be different, actually did, they are in reality, no better and pose no brighter alternative. In this respect, post-independence Zimbabwe is, in reality, no different from its Rhodesian predecessor, for the same tactics, same attitudes and same consequences are, quite plainly, an enduring phenomenon.

Mujuru and company are simply facing the same abuse that all those who have failed to draw power from the knowledge/information structure have suffered in the past. What we do not know is whether they would have behaved any differently if they had been the ones with control of the state media. The lesson we can draw from this is that, whatever outcome will emerge from this succession battle, will mostly likely be a replay of the same, for while the players may be different, the tactics, methods and strategies have remained the same. To talk of the “post-colonial” is only to refer to the change of faces, because the mindset and the methods mirror those of the colonial era. And in this regard, to claim that Zimbabwe ‘will never be a colony again’, as Mugabe is often fond of saying, is no more than empty political rhetoric, because the colonial is still very much with and among us.

waMagaisa or

Things we have learnt from and about Grace Mugabe

Things we have learnt from and about Grace Mugabe

Alex T. Magaisa

In the last article we mapped the rise of Grace Mugabe in recent months, from her position as an ordinary member of Zanu PF, into active politics where she is soon to become the head of the party’s powerful Women’s League. As we observed yesterday, when she made her entrance, she was described as a unifier, a mother-figure would bring sanity to a party that was facing the debilitating effects of intense factional wars. But the last few months since her grand entrance have offered us a good opportunity to know more about Grace Mugabe, both as a person and a politician. This piece enumerates a selection of aspects of Grace Mugabe that we have picked up in this period.

  1. She is a daring individual, although from another angle, one might argue that she is rather reckless. Grace Mugabe knows that inevitably, given that he is in the twilight of his life and political career, she and her family will have to face a long future without her husband, President Robert Mugabe whose presence and power have been a source of comfort and protection. After his departure, she, the family and their significant business interests will become exposed. She realised she needed to place herself in a position where she would be able to secure protection. To do this, she needed political power and to have an influence on the next leader of the party and country. She could not outsource this responsibility, no, not even rely on her husband, so she decided to enter the fray. In doing so, she has boldly chosen a side that she thinks will give her better protection. But at the same time, it means she has sidelined and created an enemy out of the rival side. That she has gone on the offensive against that side is either daring or reckless. At this rate, there is no question that the side she has chosen will have to win. If they fail and the other side succeeds, Zimbabwe may no longer be such a homely environment for her and her family. She had the option to stay in the background, to hedge her bets and be cosy with both factions and play it safe with either of them. But she decided to show her hand. Some will say its boldness. Others will say it’s an act of carelessness.
  1. She does not like Joice Mujuru, the Vice President of the country. We are probably being polite – the right word would be that she hates Joice Mujuru and wants her sacked from her job. In thinly-veiled statements during her rallies, Grace Mugabe attacked Joice Mujuru and her faction. At her rallies in Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland East, she was almost direct, describing the former as the home of the “demon” of factionalism. That province is Joice Mujuru’s home. It was clear that she was referring to Joice Mujuru and this much was confirmed the next day by the state media, which, the previous day, had carried denials by Information Minister Jonathan Moyo that when Grace Mugabe had criticised the calibre of the Vice President she had not been referring to the incumbent VP, Joice Mujuru. All this came to nothing as Grace continued with her tirade, coming just short of mentioning Joice Mujuru by name. Now everyone knows that Grace Mugabe has a strong dislike for VP Mujuru and wants her fired.
  1. Following on from the above is the natural conclusion that Grace Mugabe is in the anti-Mujuru faction and has either created her own faction or is firmly in the Mnangagwa faction, which has reportedly been angling for succession when Mugabe departs office. As much as she criticises Joice Mujuru of leading a faction, she is also leading or part of a rival faction. Throughout her rallies, she has moved around the country with a small coterie of government ministers in tow and these are mostly believed to be in the Mnangagwa faction. At her rallies, she has consistently attacked Joice Mujuru and members of her faction, even using the slogan Phansi le Gamatox (Down with Gamatox) in Bulawayo, a clear reference to Didymus Mutasa, who, a few months ago prescribed the use of the pesticide Gamatox against the “weevils” that Mugabe had referred to in a speech. Those “weevils” were interpreted to be Jonathan Moyo and company since they were accused of having infiltrated the party in order to destroy it from within. By castigating Gamatox, Grace shows that she has taken a side against Mutasa, who is one of Mujuru’s chief allies in the succession battle. Although she was initially presented as a unifier who would end factionalism in the party, she has, through her statements at these rallies, done even more to fan and entrench factionalism. If anything, she has acted as the chief spokesperson of the anti-Mujuru faction.
  1. She believes that everyone in Zanu PF and, by extension, in Zimbabwe, is beholden to her husband, Robert Mugabe. In all her speeches, criticism of other people is based upon their alleged disloyalty towards her husband, to whom in her mind, they ought to be grateful. In her view, everyone who holds a position in the state, elected or otherwise, does so because of Mugabe’s good heart. For this benevolence, every person owes Mugabe. This is why, when she alleges that Joice Mujuru is corrupt, she does not talk about the law taking its course but suggests that if she wants to be forgiven, then she must apologise to her husband. In her mind, Mugabe is almost like an absolute monarch of medieval times – with power to make laws, to interpret and enforce them according to his wishes.
  1. This is consistent with Grace Mugabe’s views on the discredited one-party state system. In her world, the Berlin Wall is still intact and the Soviet Union still exists, for she yearns for a one-party state in Zimbabwe. After a brief flirtation with the idea in the 1980s, her husband abandoned proposals for a one-party state. But his wife seems to be living in the past and she wants a one party state. “Forward with the one-party state!” she sloganeered at the rally in Masvingo.
  1. Grace Mugabe wants to lead Zimbabwe and believes she is anointed by God. She has already told us before that her husband was anointed by God to lead Zimbabwe. She described him a “pastor”. It is not about the people and votes, no. It is God’s anointment that matters. Speaking at the rally in Masvingo, she is reported as having said, “When I was approached to come into politics to lead the women, one day I saw a vision of me ruling the heavenly kingdom”. Listening to her speeches, most statements either make reference to the authority of “Baba” her husband or God, whom she, rather hilariously, pronounces as “Gad/Guard” to the amusement of many observers. The excessive references to her “Gad” have led to charges of violating one of the holy commandments, the one that proscribes the taking of the Lord’s name in vain.
  1. Bribing people for political support is a perfectly legitimate tool of politics. In her world, ordinary people are desperate souls who can be rewarded with a few gifts if they behave and they must be punished with denial of aid for disloyalty. At the rally in Bulawayo, some women began to leave their seats while she was still speaking. Grace thought they were rising in protest and she took great exception to this act of disobedience. She admonished the women and ordered that those who had left their seats would not be given the packets of seed maize that she had brought with her. So for her, the women who were showing disloyalty had to be punished. Aid, for her, is simply a political tool to reward loyal supporters and to entice political support. At another rally in Chinhoyi, she had made the politically correct statement that aid would be available to everyone, whether they were ruling party or opposition supporters. Her handlers had taught her good political PR. But when she was faced with apparent opposition, she acted true to character and demonstrated that like her party which has always politicised aid, she was no different.
  1. The Bulawayo incident also showed us that Grace Mugabe still has a very thin skin for an aspiring politician. The moment she sensed opposition, she lost her cool and acted like a woman scorned. She ranted at the women in an undignified manner, which was consistent with shameful rants that she issued at most of her rallies, mostly directed at her opponents. They were rants of an individual who appears incapable of properly controlling her emotions and is therefore, easily offended, a person who is insecure and probably suffers an inferiority complex. Power in the hands of an individual who demonstrates emotional recklessness and insecurity can be very dangerous.
  1. She is still a political amateur who does not realise the basic principle that politics is about securing one’s interests by making more allies and minimising one’s enemies. Grace Mugabe was presented as a pacifier and unifier, but as she went around the country and attacked and belittled senior figures in her party, she created more enemies and critics. In Masvingo she embarrassed Dzikamai Mavhaire while praising rivals Josiah Hungwe and Shuvai Mahofa, in Mutare she attacked Didymus Mutasa, in Bulawayo she belittle Callistus Ndlovu, in Harare treated Amos Midzi and his group like little children, in Bindura she attacked Mujuru and in Mashonaland East she humiliated Ray Kaukonde. Everywhere, she left scalps and generated disquiet. Instead of unifying, she became a divisive influence. She might have shared close moments with her husband all these years but clearly, his political wisdom has not rubbed off her. Her approach has been that of an enraged bull in a china shop.
  2. Also linked to the last point, is the apparent demonstration of political ineptitude and tact in handling issues, which left her exposed to embarrassment at the Marondera rally. Failing to judge the mood and the circumstances of the province, she went on the offensive in hostile terrain. At one point, after issuing one of regular rants against the provincial chairman, Ray Kaukonde, she had to ask people to be quiet after they responded with signs of disapproval. But the lack of tact was more apparent when she asked Kaukonde to come up so that they could have a “mini-Unity Accord”, as she had done in Harare when she cowed Chairman Midzi into submission. Kaukonde publicly refused to take the offer and remained rooted to his seat, an open rebellion that she had misjudged simply because she had overestimated her own power and importance. Such shows are done for the cameras when they have been pre-arranged. You do not try an impromptu show with a person that you have been berating because he or she can embarrass you, as indeed happened in that incident. She could have saved herself the embarrassment had she done her homework.
  3. For a woman known for her love of high fashion and elegance, Grace Mugabe can be indecorous both in language and manner. Speaking at the rally in Bindura, she chose a distasteful metaphor which is certainly not in keeping with the motherly figure that her handlers and the state media have sought to portray. Speaking in crude Shona, she said, “I said to President Mugabe, ‘do you know baby dumping?’  And he said, ‘yes.’ Then I said, you must baby-dump this faction leader but if you don’t do it, we will dump her ourselves. We will do the baby-dumping ourselves because she is dividing the party”. The person she was referring to was, of course her rival Vice President Joice Mujuru – that she must be “dumped” like an unwanted baby. She went further, “In my opinion, dumping the baby in the street so that she is devoured by the vultures is the best option. Yes, because when we expose your rotten, smelly and corrupt body, even flies and dogs will hesitate to get near you!” Here is a woman who prides herself as a motherly figure, who looks after and cares of orphans and yet, she fails to see the irony of her employing the language of “baby-dumping” of political opponents to make her point. It is crude, unseemly and unintelligent employment of violent and uncouth language by a person desirous of taking a leadership role and showing a caring side.
  4. For all her Bible-waving antics, she is not given to humility and likes to flaunt power to all and sundry. She often addresses herself in the third person, reminds everyone that she is “Amai”, the mother of the nation and everything is prefaced by what “Baba said”, as in the opinions of her husband Mugabe or God revealed to her. She demands respect, seemingly oblivious of the fact that respect is something that is earned by one’s deeds and conduct.

Cyclone Grace on Zimbabwe’s Political Landscape

Cyclone Grace on Zimbabwe’s Political Landscape

Alex T. Magaisa

It’s hardly a couple of months since Grace Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s First Lady, launched her political career through a ‘surprise’ nomination by members of Zanu PF’s Women’s League, the ruling party’s wing that represents the women. While it appeared like a surprise nomination, it was, in fact, a well-choreographed operation, which involved the incumbent chairperson of the Women’s League stepping aside to make way for Grace Mugabe’s entry into active politics in a senior leadership role.

As head of the women’s wing, she will be in charge of one of the ruling party’s two vanguard institutions – the other is the Youth League, which represents the young men and women of the party. Both constitute critical mobilising units, with women being, invariably, the majority of voters in every election. Apart from the power and influence that comes with the office, she will also sit in the politburo, the communist-style executive organ of the ruling party, which meets regularly and is responsible for making key decisions between meetings of congress, the party’s highest decision-making organ.

Before this elevation, Grace was an ordinary, card-carrying member of the party. While she has stood by Mugabe and accompanied him on his political tours and rallies over the years, she always remained in the shadows of the nonagenarian and few would have imagined her as an active politician. To some she was a trophy wife of an ageing African leader, whose main interests lay in the pursuit of glamour, fashion and feathering her nest.

However, in recent years, she has sought to build a new persona, carving out a reputation as a shrewd businesswoman, building Alpha Omega, a dairy company, which does everything from dairy farming to agro-processing in a modern and integrated business model. Thanks to power, wealth and better access to resources that come with her husband’s high office, hers might be regarded as one of the more successful stories of the land reform programme which attracted much controversy in the early 2000s. A few years ago, she raised some dust when she claimed that Nestle, the Swiss-based food manufacturing multinational, was boycotting her products.

In recent years, she has taken over a large chunk of the former Mazoe Citrus Estates, which used to produce citrus fruits for the export market and provided the raw material for the manufacturing of Mazoe Orange Crush, an orange squash that is very popular in Southern Africa. Ironically, in her political campaign, Grace Mugabe and her supporters are using a motto that makes reference to “Orange Crush”, which involves waving bottles of the popular orange squash, most of which is now produced in South Africa by Shweppes, another brand of Swiss origin. On that formerly productive land, she has built an orphanage and a school to cater for the children. She announced a few months ago that she wants more land to build a Robert Mugabe University.

Just a few weeks after her nomination, it was announced that she would be graduating from the University of Zimbabwe with a PhD in sociology – apparently a study on orphanages. This took many people by surprise and caused quite a storm with doubts raised over the credibility of the degree. Writing at the time, I argued that it was a political award designed as part of an equalisation campaign, in which she had to be cast as an equal to Joice Mujuru. Joice Mujuru is the Vice President of the country and currently, by rank, the next in line to succeed Robert Mugabe should he, for any reason, leave office. The theory is that Grace Mugabe is being positioned to challenge Joice Mujuru for succession. Others argue that Mujuru’s real challenger is not Grace Mugabe herself but Emmerson Mnangagwa, the Justice Minister and a long-time ally of Mugabe.

The theory is that the faction led by Mnangagwa, which also includes Information Minister Jonathan Moyo, is using Grace Mugabe to fight off Joice Mujuru and in that way, pave the way for Mnangagwa’s ascendancy to the Vice President’s position, where he will be poised to take over from Mugabe when he vacates office. The last time Joice Mujuru and Mnangagwa fought for the same office in 2004, Joice Mujuru triumphed on the back of a popular call to elevate women leaders in order to promote gender equality. It would have helped that at the time Joice Mujuru was backed by her powerful husband, Retired General Solomon Mujuru. But Retired General Mujuru died in a mysterious inferno which gutted his home in 2012, a circumstance that has left Joice Mujuru relatively weaker and more vulnerable.

Whatever the truth may be in the succession matrix, the last few weeks have given us a good opportunity to know more about Grace Mugabe in her new guise as a politician. In the last two weeks, she embarked on a whirlwind tour of the country, visiting the country’s ten provinces on what was dubbed a “Meet the People Tour”. Before then, chiefs from across the country had been wheeled in to her Mazowe complex to endorse her nomination. They plied her with more platitudes, just like the women had done at the earlier gathering. After the chiefs, pastors from the churches were also brought to Mazowe for a similar function. They, too stampeded over each other in singing praises of Grace Mugabe. With the women, youths, chiefs, pastors all singing her praises, it was time to unleash her upon the country. Hence the tour of recent weeks.

The tour was designed ostensibly to thank the women around the country for nominating her to head the women’s league but, in reality, the tour served at least two more purposes; first, it was designed to showcase Grace to the people and to help construct her national profile away from the shadows of her more powerful husband. Second, it was meant to demonstrate to her rivals that she was a political force to reckon with in that she had the capacity to pull the crowds nationally. She was cast as a unifier, as a mother-figure of the party and the nation who had been invited and had accepted the opportunity to cure the party of its internecine wars. But, probably unbeknown to her, her handlers also intended to unleash her as a weapon to begin the demolition job on Joice Mujuru’s power edifice, which is what she has been doing during the rallies.

What emerged, however, as the tour progressed, is probably more than what that her handlers could have imagined. More than once, they have had to issue fire-fighting statements to limit the damage arising from her reckless statements. Further, the resultant image has been that of a petty, vindictive, power-hungry and uncouth personality who has a high inclination to abuse power against opponents, real and perceived. Far from being a pacifying and unifying figure, Grace Mugabe has polarised Zanu PF even further and far from creating a zone of comfort for herself and her family in the post-Mugabe era, she has stepped on too many toes and possibly created more opponents or people who just do not like her. Even people who are traditionally inclined to support the opposition and take little interest in the affairs of Zanu PF, appear to have been drawn to the furore and have been amazed by the antics of the First Lady.

In the end, it would appear that it is Joice Mujuru and not Grace Mugabe who has earned a better public reception, even though she has done nothing but receive vicious attacks from Grace Mugabe. In thinly-disguised remarks at the different rallies, Grace Mugabe has brutally attacked Joice Mujuru – calling her the “demon” of factionalism, a corrupt and lazy leader who piggy-backs on her husband, Robert Mugabe and all sorts of names in the most undignified language which is not normally expected of a First Lady. In the beginning, Information Minister Jonathan Moyo tried to sugar-coat her unseemly comments, saying that they were not directed at Joice Mujuru, until a point when even the State media, normally a reliable propaganda machine, could not contain the disguise and published on their front pages, that Grace Mugabe had called for the ouster of Vice President Joice Mujuru. They Herald carried the headline that the VP had been asked to apologise to the President or face the chop. Pliable analysts were wheeled in to give ‘intellectual’ backing to the call for Joice Mujuru to resign in the face of allegations made by Grace Mugabe at a political rally. All state media has taken a patently anti-Joice Mujuru stance from the start, repeatedly attacking her and her backers. This is not surprising given that the Information Minister, who controls all the state media, is in the faction that is fighting Joice Mujuru.

To her credit, Joice Mujuru has, so far, maintained stoic silence in the face of a barrage of attacks by Grace Mugabe, her allies and the State media. And with people horrified by Grace Mugabe’s conduct, public sympathy appears to have weighed in favour of Joice Mujuru, whom they view as a victim of abuse of power by the First Lady and her handlers.

Ironically, on Friday evening, Mugabe left for Rome to attend a mass for the beatification of Pope Paul VI at the Vatican. He was with his wife at the airport. The Sunday Mail reports that Grace Mugabe greeted all waiting officials but avoided Vice President Joice Mujuru. Meanwhile, Joice Mujuru is constitutionally, the Acting President of the country. While constitutionally, this gives her certain powers, traditionally this has been no more than a titular role. A cabinet meeting cannot even be held in Mugabe’s absence.

The next article will take a point by point enumeration of the things that we have learnt from and of Grace Mugabe over the period since her entry into active leadership politics.

When the baby leopard starts smelling like a goat …

This is another political blog as we migrate to a new site which will be dedicated specifically to political commentary.

When the baby leopard starts smelling like a goat …

A colleague wrote to me last night and asked what was going on in the country. He is not a man of news. He normally keeps himself to himself. I laughed. I laughed and then said, deriving reference from the scriptures, as those men said to the Son of Man on the road to Emmaus, “Are you the only man in Jerusalem who does not know what has been happening?” I wrote with a tone of incredulity. It is difficult to escape this reality drama unfolding before our eyes. I never thought I would witness the reincarnation of Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth in my time. Not in Zimbabwe, anyway. Lady Macbeth but without the sophistication.

No, it is not a secret anymore. Jonathan Moyo does not have to perform spin games anymore. No sooner had he finished uttering his words of denial, did she start twisting the dagger and making a nonsense of his ill-informed spin. It’s like the scientist who creates a virulent bug, which then goes out of control … We all knew she was after Joice Mujuru. The propaganda machine at Zimpapers knew it, too. But they were directed to write a rebuttal, which, of course, was nonsense. And they knew it, too.

So now they wheel out the usual gang of pliable, go-with-wind analysts urging Joice Mujuru to resign – all because a haughty and vindictive woman has made allegations against her at a rally. If that were the case, we would all welcome it, wouldn’t we? Because the entire Zanu PF government would have to step down – from top to bottom, because none of them can escape allegations of corruption. Or is an allegation more important when made by a woman who has to remind us that she is the President’s wife, as if there was ever any doubt?

But the real problem here is with Mugabe, who now resembles a titular President while Grace Mugabe rules. Where is he? Why, if he is not happy with Joice Mujuru, does he not do what chief executives do, which is to fire her? Why does he have to speak through his wife, an unelected and un-appointed individual? Why doesn’t he gather the courage to do what heads of government do?

As for Joice Mujuru, why should she respond to rally gossip uttered by a vindictive person, someone who clearly doesn’t like her? That Grace Mugabe has had to go down to this level of public lynching, communal well behaviour – and she threatens to mobilise a crowd to take to the streets – is itself a sign of frustration that the initial, vaguely veiled goading had failed to produce a desirable result. Joice has been stoic in her response so far, earning some public sympathy in the process, something not often accorded to Zanu PF leaders. Why don’t the real “smelly dogs” that Grace spoke about a few days ago come out first and pronounce themselves? Why doesn’t Mugabe himself speak out or has age robbed him of the ability to do so? Only then would it become necessary to respond.

Some years ago, I characterised Zanu PF as resembling the Mafia. You are all together in a sophisticated criminal enterprise but at some point, fights do occur and when they do they tend to be very dirty and very bloody. There is a sense here that the Godfather, the Capo di tutti Capi – the boss of all bosses, has lost control, that he has delegated powers to the wife. Whichever way, the Zanu PF mafia is unravelling right before our eyes. Struggles after the struggle, as Masipula, the good professor might have said.

But we are not surprised. It is going according to the script. Our elders had a saying for what we are now witnessing – they said when a leopard wants to eat its own children, it first accuses them of smelling like goats.

But apart from the Capo himself, there are two critical constituencies in the Zanu PF power matrix from which we have heard no pronouncement so far. First, where are the Generals? Are they together on what is happening? We saw Defence Forces chief, General Constantine Chiwenga at The wedding of Jonathan Moyo’s daughter. To earn the invitation card and to accept suggests he is probably a mate. Air Force chief Perence Shiri tends to keep himself to himself. As does Valerio Sibanda, the army chief. And its rare, if at all, to hear from Bonyongwe, at the spooks division. The others in the ranks below, who often make pronouncements against the ambitions of persons without war credentials have been unusually silent. Because in Zimbabwe, votes and democracy count for little. Elections are mechanistic exercises that mean nothing in the greater scheme of things, where party and state are two sides of the same coin; where the greatest source of power derives from the security structure. Where they are on this will be a strong determinant going forward. Then there are the veterans of the war – where are they? Jabulani Sibanda, Joseph Chinotimba – normally loud and opinionated, have been eerily quiet on this one.

It’s getting to the deep-end. The next few days and weeks will be very interesting. It is the most gripping drama of our times.

Women Walk Out on Grace Mugabe Rally

We shall be migrating to a new blog in the next few days, which will focus specifically on day to day political commentary on issues pertaining to politics in Zimbabwe. While we do this, we will direct to this blog some of the commentary that we have been posting on our Facebook page. This blog will remain focused largely on legal and constitutional issues. This blog is from yesterday:

Normally, one post would be enough but how could we let this one go? Newsday, the private paper, reports that the women of Bulawayo, always brave and independent enough to go against the grain, walked out of Grace Mugabe’s rally and she could not restrain her show of displeasure.

“You are disorganised, Bulawayo. This is disrespectful. We are about to finish. Sit down, where are those women going?” she is reported as having said.

“Anyone who doesn’t sit down will not receive the farming inputs I brought,” she said, clearly trying to bribe them, an indication that the price for ‘free’ farming inputs is rally attendance. One might say a rented crowd – and in this case a crowd that thought the rent was disproportionate to the efforts they had to make.

Grace Mugabe does not seem to realise that things are tough and that people are very busy trying to make a living and that attending a rally is not one of the most productive activities. She may be the First Lady but she seems to be oblivious of the challenges that the other and Last ladies have to endure in their daily lives. Instead, she wants them to sit until the end of her self-serving speech, having spent all day waiting for her.

But Grace Mugabe is not alone in this. Politicians are generally an arrogant lot and in this case I speak of politicians from all sides of the political divide in our country. Of the senior leaders I have had the pleasure of working with in the MDC, I will not mention names, but there was one man who was always on time, sometimes well before the appointed time. I admired that commitment to time. It showed respect for other people. There were others, though, who would convene a meeting but choose to come at their own time, hours after or sometimes never pitch up at all and when you next met them, they never had the decency to apologise. It is very hard to respect the leadership of such people, because making people wait for you shows a lack of respect. And worse politicians do this to ordinary people at rallies. They come early in the morning and they sit in the sun, enduring the scorching heat on empty stomachs – waiting for the leaders. It is worse when they have been forced to attend.

Then later, much later in the day, the leaders start trooping in aboard their big cars – pushing big stomachs and bottles of mineral water in hand – after having had a sumptuous lunch. Then they start with a line-up of speakers from the ward Chairman all the way to the top – each often saying nothing useful apart from extolling the perceived virtues of the leader, each hoping to be seen and heard by the leader, saying the most beautiful things. And only later, when people have been baked by the sun, and harassed by empty platitudes directed at the leader, does the main speaker take to the podium. By then people are tired. They just want to go. It is a big problem in our political environment. Too much sloganeering and emptiness directed at empty stomachs that by the time the main speaker comes in, the people will be tired. This is the fate that Grace Mugabe suffered – taking people for granted and delivering nothing to a rented and hungry crowd.

“If you stand up while I am speaking, you are inferring that I am speaking nonsense,” an upset Grace Mugabe is reported as having said, clearly catching the drift. As any public speaker would know, it’s very upsetting for the audience to start grumbling or leaving the room while you are speaking. Even if someone is going to relieve the body and you don’t know that, you just think in your mind, that people are leaving because you are talking tosh. And that, quite often is the case. People tend to vote with their feet.
“I love you, women, and I mean it, yet you walk out while I speak,” she pleaded.
“It’s unfair. Come back and sit down. It’s Gamatox spirit. I do
not lead fools. You think I am fool? If you stand up when Amai is speaking, you are showing that what I am saying does not make sense. I love you, women.”

Already she is speaking of herself in the third person! Respect is not demanded. It is earned. Someone ought to remind her. But, at least she got the message that maybe what she was saying did not make sense to the women. Maybe they were telling her that they are not foolish. And that she had been truly Gamatoxed by the women of Bulawayo …

We said a few weeks ago that Grace Mugabe had descended from the balcony and had come down to the dance-floor. This is what happens on the dance-floor, madam … You can hog the limelight at first, because people have never seen you dance before. So when they see you making those kwasa-kwasa moves, they are mesmerised and quite amused. But too much of the same style, and it begins to wear off. The crowd gets tired and moves on to the next point of fascination …

ZEC and the Legal Framework for Voter Registration

ZEC and the Legal Framework for Voter Registration

In my opinion, it is arguable that ZEC is wrong to say that there is no legal framework for the registration of voters.  ZEC has the power under section 239 of the Constitution to register voters and to compile voters’ rolls and registers.  Section 155 of the Constitution places an obligation on the State “to take all appropriate measures, including legislative measures … to ensure that all eligible citizens … are registered as voters”.  The right to vote and is protected by section 67 in the Declaration of Rights. Since it can only be exercised if a person is registered, it is arguable that the State’s failure to register a voter is a violation of his rights under section 67.

Prior to the new Constitution, the Electoral Act placed the mandate for voter registration on the Registrar of Voters, who was also the Registrar-General. The Electoral Act provides the legal framework for voter registration.  Now, however, this power is constitutionally given to ZEC in terms of section 239. Section 157 of the Constitution requires an Act of Parliament to provide for electoral matters including voter registration.  ZEC is now saying that it does not have the legal framework for voter registration and, therefore, it cannot perform its constitutional mandate.  They say that there is a vacuum, caused by the lapse of the Registrar of Voters’ powers and the alleged failure by the State to introduce a legal framework for ZEC to carry out its duties.

This is very odd and makes little legal sense.  Number one, the Parliament of Zimbabwe recently passed the Electoral Amendment Bill, which was then signed into law by the President. It is inconceivable how that amendment, which was initiated by the Ministry of Justice, omitted provisions on voter registration. If it did, then both the Ministry of Justice and ZEC (collectively, the State) failed in their constitutional duties under section 239 and 157, which requires ZEC to be consulted before any amendments are made. How could they have missed the exclusion of a legal framework that defines one of its new and critical mandates – that of voter registration? Observers might think that the omission was deliberate.

Nevertheless, here is why we argue that there is, in fact, no vacuum in regard to the legal framework for voter registration. When a new Constitution is enacted, care is taken to ensure that a legal vacuum is not created between the old laws, which may fall foul of the new Constitution and the new dispensation. This is done by ensuring that a new constitution does not mean the end of all existing laws. Crafters of a new constitution do so by including a “savings” clause, which, as the name suggests, saves existing legislation and ensures continuity. This means that all legislation that would have been in force before the new Constitution continues to operate. Otherwise, there would be a huge legal vacuum which can lead to chaos and instability. This “savings clause” can be found in section 10 of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. It reads as follows:

 “Subject to this Schedule, all existing laws continue in force but must be construed in conformity with this Constitution”.

The legal effect of this clause is that the old laws continue in operation until they are amended or struck down by the Constitutional Court. This is why the criminal defamation laws continued to operate after the new Constitution until they were recently declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court. Likewise, the provisions of the old Electoral Act continued to operate until they were amended by Parliament this year.

Now, those provisions had a legal framework for voter registration. However, that power was exercised by the Registrar of Voters. Clearly, after the new Constitution was passed, the Registrar of Voters no longer had the powers to register voters. However, the long continued in operation until it was either amended by Parliament or struck down by the Constitutional Court. For that reason, while under the Constitution it was ZEC that had the powers to register voters, the Electoral Act still gave that power to the Registrar of Voters. Unless Parliament moved to amend the Electoral Act or unless someone challenged it at the Constitutional Court, it was perfectly legitimate for any person seeking registration, to comply with that Electoral Act by applying for registration at the Registrar of Voters’ office.

In the Gono case, ZEC has usurped the power of the Constitutional Court and made a judgment not only on the constitutionality of the Registrar of Voters’ conduct,  but also, on the existence of a legal framework for voter registration. In my opinion, ZEC has overstepped its mandate. It is not its job to determine whether or not laws or legal frameworks have expired. That is a job for the courts to do.  If it has a problem with the Registrar of Voters using powers that it believes it does not have, then it could have approached the Constitutional Court to have those powers struck down and it is up to that court to determine the existence or otherwise of a legal framework for voter registration using the “savings clause” for interpretation. In my opinion, as long as the Electoral Act’s provisions on voter registration have not been amended, a person who is registered by the Registrar of Voters has a prima facie case that he or she is legally registered unless someone successfully challenges that in a court of law.

To sum it up, the legal framework for voter registration did not expire simply because the new Constitution was created giving powers to ZEC to register voter. Whatever legal framework which existed under the Electoral Act remained valid in terms of the “savings clause” under the Sixth Schedule of the new Constitution. Those powers remained valid until amended by Parliament or they were struck down by a court of law. And if a court of law were called upon to interpret the provisions, it would do so in conformity with the new Constitution. And if it did, it would simply recognize that the powers formerly exercised by the Registrar of Voters were now to be construed as being exercised by ZEC. ZEC cannot legitimately claim that it does not have a legal framework for voter registration.

Jocelyn Chiwenga: What Goes Around …

The woman that you see in this picture, hands on her hips, looking rather bemused and frustrated is called Jocelyn Chiwenga.

She was, until recently, the General’s wife, having been married to the Commander of the Defence Forces of Zimbabwe. His name is General Constantine Chiwenga. They recently went their separate ways after a protracted battle in the divorce courts. Eventually, they agreed that their union had broken down irretrievably but it took some time for the court to divide their substantial estate.

It is this circumstance that is the cause of her hopeless and helpless demeanour that is apparent in this picture. With her, but on the other side of the barrier, are two soldiers of the Zimbabwe National Army, which her erstwhile husband commands. The accompanying story is that they have barred her, under instructions from their boss, from accessing the property, a farm in Goromonzi.

“You are not welcome here, madam,” the soldiers are quoted as having said. But she protested.

“I am Mrs Chiwenga and I am the owner of this farm. Why are you denying me my right to get into my farm? It’s unfair how you are treating me. I understand you are doing your job, but this is cruel. Can you do that to your mother?” she is quoted as having responded.

Very pitiful and one is tempted to feel sorry for her.

But then you recall the ugly background. And you think twice. Three times. Maybe more.

It was just a few years ago, when she was enjoying a more glorious, powerful and privileged patch. Then, Jocelyn Chiwenga, the General’s wife, was virtually a law unto herself. Back in the village, elders would have said ‘aiita madiro aJojina’, that is to say, she did as she pleased and with impunity.

On one infamous occasion she accosted Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition party, the MDC and threatened to castrate him. “Today, I want to remove your manhood,” she is alleged to have said, charging at Tsvangirai at a Harare wholesaler. Award-winning journalist, Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi was caught up in that furore and allegedly slapped by Jocelyn. He was merely doing his job.

In 2002, when a white farmer was evicted from his farm just outside Harare she is quoted as having said to him, “I have not tasted white blood for twenty years”. Menacing. The farmer was thrown out without ceremony. We are not sure if this is the same farm at the centre of the latest furore but if it is, it is ironic that she is now being evicted in this manner and worse, that she is alleging cruelty.

It must have been in 2003, when she assaulted Gugu Moyo, a friend and a lawyer for the Daily News, an independent daily newspaper. “Your paper wants to encourage anarchy in this country,” Jocelyn is alleged to have yelled at Gugu.

This is the same Jocelyn, maCdes, whom you see looking helpless and frustrated in that picture. With her track-record of violent conduct, vanity and abuse of power, this is her, devoid of power and looking rather pitiful.

She is not singing anymore. There is no more supper to sing for. She is on the other side, the side of those who have no power, the side of those who, regularly and without recourse, suffer the arrogance of power.

I have a few comrades who have crossed, who now sing and scream, perhaps not yet to the same volume levels as Jocelyn in her heydays, but they sing and scream nevertheless. There are those who sing and scream and get angry on behalf of the powerful, just like Jocelyn used to do. I have seen them do and write strange things. It is their choice, a choice whose consequences they must live with. But I hope they read and understand Jocelyn’s story.

She was once a powerful individual, this woman. She could do as she pleased. She was in the feeding trough, not far away hoping for crumbs like many of the minions whom we we see getting angry on behalf of power. Now she is with us, the people. Without power. Without hope. Helpless.

One is tempted to feel sorry. Then the other temptation is to say Tsvatu waro – you got your just desserts. But we are human and we abhor abuse of power. Even against those that we despise and disgree with.

The only thing we can say is, think carefully, maCdes before you abuse others in the name of power or defending power, because these things have a habit of catching up. Think carefully, before you get angry on behalf of other men.

Because you see, to use that old and tired cliche, what goes around, has a habit of coming around.