Elevating Procedural Over Substantial Liberties

24 August 2012

By Reason Wafawarova

"Only a handful of the reasons for party choice in Zimbabwe show up clear differences between the two main parties' supporters. Land, indigenisation, foreign interference in Zimbabwe, liberation from colonialism (all linked to Zanu-PF), and the need for change (associated with the MDC-T) do differentiate."

The above is a quote taken from the Freedom House's profiling of supporters for MDC-T and Zanu-PF, as reported in the 2012 Survey of Public Opinion in Zimbabwe. The report has gained prominence more for its unexpected predictions and less for the credibility of Freedom House itself an organisation notoriously so openly instrumental to the implementation of the US's sabre-rattling foreign policy.

It may be necessary to reproduce the main points highlighting the shocking predictions as recently published by the Freedom House. Here are the bullet points.

. In terms of the declared survey-based support, it appears the MDC-T has been suffering a decline in support, falling from 38 percent to 20 percent in the parliamentary vote from 2010 to 2012, in a period of approximately 18 months between the 2010 and 2012 FH surveys.

. In contrast, the survey data point to Zanu-PF having experienced a growth in popular support, moving from 17 percent to 31 percent in the same period.

. It is essential to bear in mind that a total of 47 percent of the respondents did not declare their voting intention in this 2012 survey. The percentage includes those who declared their vote to be their secret. Analyses in the rest of the report show that this undeclared category does not veil a systematic party orientation. Rather, should these persons vote in a next election, their support is likely to be diffused across party categories.

The immediate surface effect of this survey has been the exciting of thrills from a Zanu-PF lately better known for its troubled internal politics than its traditional revolutionary trademark. Zanu-PF has decided to embrace the good message from the bad messenger while the MDC-T has been absolutely infuriated by the report, choosing to slander and vilify the message and just falling short of condemning the messenger.

Ordinarily Zanu-PF should not even be reading a report from Freedom House and the MDC-T should be singing praises of the report without even reading it. But Zimbabwe seems to be moving from the ordinary to the peculiar these days.

In the report it is telling that Freedom House's profiling of supporters of the two main parties shows five main reasons for party choice in Zimbabwe, and only one of those choices (which happens to be the vaguest), is attributed to MDC-T.

The four main reasons for party choice are Land, Indigenisation, Foreign Interference in Zimbabwe and Liberation from Colonialism; all centre pillars of Zanu-PF's political doctrine and policy framework. The fifth reason is the obscure and vague rhetoric on the call for "change," hardly ever qualified or explained by an MDC-T leadership that seems more committed to political activism than strategic politics.

Land reclamation has not only trademarked Zanu-PF as a pro-people party within Zimbabwe, but has also created an international name for the revolutionary party, with many outsiders expressing adoration and admiration for the party's resolute stance in reclaiming colonially stolen farmlands and giving that land back to its rightful owners. No doubt the party's victories in this regard will be replicated in South Africa, and this is only a matter of time.

Though somewhat pursued from a liberal approach, Zanu-PF's indigenisation policy of pushing for 51 percent local control of all major investment in the country seems to be gaining enormous support among the people. Just like the land reclamation policy, the indigenisation drive is internationally supported in principle, much as its planning and implementation strategies have been openly derided and interrogated by opponents from the West.

While Saviour Kasukuwere does not really sound like South Africa's Julius Malema insofar as explicitness for nationalisation is concerned, his capitalist approach to Zimbabwe's indigenisation drive seems to be quite popular with young aspiring business-minded people and an informal sector that has been the mainstay of an economy in decline for the past decade.

The illegally imposed EU-US sanctions have been roundly condemned by Sadc, the AU, the NAM, and even by the United Nations strengthening Zanu-PF's assertion that the sanctions are the main cause of the suffering of Zimbabweans from 2000 to date. Those who believe in the declared intentions behind the sanctions complain that the sanctions have unintentionally harmed ordinary Zimbabweans, and those who believe in the undeclared intentions maintain that in fact the sanctions have hit the intended target, just failing to incite the public into raucous rebellion. France recently awarded Morgan Tsvangirai for leading the failed "mass stayaways" of 2002 and 2003.

Equally strengthened are Zanu-PF's charges that its political opponents in the MDC-T are trojan horses of Western interests, charges that have been endorsed not only by many of Zimbabwe's political analysts from across the political divide but also by many other political commentators from across the world, with political leaders like Zambia's Michael Sata and South Africa's Thabo Mbeki openly condemning the quisling tendencies in the politics of the MDC-T in general, and in Tsvangirai in particular.

That the MDC-T fronts Western interests in Zimbabwe has become a matter of common knowledge, and those that hold this view do so purely on the basis of common sense and logic. The only rebuttal and defence given by the MDC-T leadership has been a reminder of Zanu-PF's former pliant politics to Western interests, as well as the assertion that receiving military support from Russia and China during the liberation struggle was tantamount to puppet politics on the part of Zanu and Zapu.

It even gets to a point where ludicrous comparisons have been made between the war for national independence and what the MDC-T calls its "struggle for democracy," with the millions of dollars received by the MDC-T leadership from the West treated with equal weight to arms of war received by Zanla and Zipra forces to liberate Zimbabwe from colonial slavery.

There is no doubt that Morgan Tsvangirai has stood out as a renowned fighter for democracy, and just about all Zimbabweans know without any shred of doubt that the democracy that Tsvangirai has fought for and continues to fight for is on behalf of the West, for the interest of the West, and imported from the West. The fourth reason given by Freedom House in the profiling of Zimbabwean voters is the liberation legacy, otherwise stated in the report as "liberation from colonialism."

The MDC-T has underestimated the role of the liberation struggle in the political affairs of Zimbabwe, and the attempt to trivialise and exclude from the draft constitution the recognition of the liberation struggle as the founding pillar of our nationhood is just one example of this ill-informed trend.

From its inception, the MDC-T has megaphoned Western feelings and resentment towards war veterans of Zimbabwe's liberation struggle, glorifying dissident veterans like Wilfred Mhanda, embracing veterans of the Rhodesia Front like Roy Bennett and Giles Mutsekwa, and even vaingloriously trying to invent heroes out of them. This attempt to separate Zimbabweans from their own history in order to make them lose their identity has failed to resonate with common public opinion, and the Freedom House report only confirms this obvious point. There is something so indelible about a people's pride.

What the MDC-T has offered to the people of Zimbabwe is the vicious call for change, sloganised so powerfully that the party leadership inadvertently elevated this vacuous call to policy level. Clearly one cannot sustain the delusions of sloganeering for over a decade, and the MDC-T must have known that there is no such policy as "change" on this planet.

Whatever MDC-T pretences at formulating policies appear in that long-forgotten thing called "The Blue Print," or in Tendai Biti's dusting STERP, these were not captured among the reasons established by Freedom House as the core opinion shapers among Zimbabwe's voters, and Douglas Mwonzora's vertigo over the matter is only a matter of badly thought out political reaction.

Douglas Mwonzora must learn fast that bread and butter issues appeal more to voters than reactionary politics. Right now he is putting up a very impressive fight to secure for us all an ultimately elitist document him and his lawyer friends like Eric Matinenga and Paul Mangwana fondly call a draft constitution for the people of Zimbabwe.

The draft that Mwonzora defends with the aplomb of a pretentious political warlord is nothing more than a mere guarantee of procedural liberties guaranteeing that certain procedures will be followed, that we will vote in a certain way, that we can go to court over all sorts of matters of concern, that we will be heard before a jury, that we will have access to different media units and so on and so forth.

Does the draft constitution guarantee freedom from hunger? Does it guarantee housing, health care and education? Does it guarantee economic empowerment of Zimbabweans and employment? Does it guarantee safe working conditions? Does it guarantee true equality and equal distribution of the nation's resources?

While the commitment of Zanu-PF in implementing its own policies is abundantly questionable, it must be noted that the party's policies do in principle address the issue of substantial liberties, or what we may call the primary rights of citizens. A guarantee of fundamental procedural rights does not give people access to primary rights, and this is why freedom of the Press does not belong to the listeners and readers but to the owners of the Press.

It can be argued that constitutions and the legal systems in societies are not neutral instruments, and that the law itself belongs to those who write it, and to those who use it to control other people, and also to control the resources of a society.

Mwonzora and his lawyer friends are reported to have failed to publish the national report capturing the people's views on key constitutional matters, after which they are accused of deliberately departing from the contents of this report, drafting for the people what essentially belongs to a constituency best known to the drafters themselves. Chris Mutsvangwa of Zanu-PF believes the draft constitution defended by Mwonzora is a product from the heads of Rhodesian-trained black lawyers, among them his Zanu-PF colleagues Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana and Patrick Chinamasa.

Zanu-PF has made a raft of amendments to the Copac draft, and the party could have done itself a huge favour by simultaneously publishing the national report that Copac made sure would never be public knowledge. But the Politburo has of late become like God reminding us mortals that "my ways are not your ways, and my thoughts are not your thoughts." The DCC saga speaks that to high heavens.

While the motives of Zanu-PF's Politburo cannot be trusted without question, it is apparent that amendments on clauses covering land, indigenisation, the liberation legacy, foreign policy and moral issues like homosexuality resonate so well with public feeling, and hopefully this is not as far as it goes. It appears that to Douglas Mwonzora and his constituency the draft constitution is nothing more than another tool for "achieving change." This is precisely why Nelson Chamisa once intimated that if the MDC-T came to power, another "real constitution" would be drafted. One can understand why the push for a new constitution has become the West's burden.

Zimbabwe is stuck between a party that is using a national agenda as a tool for its narrow objective of effecting change and another party determined to protect through the constitution the broader goal of self-determination, as pursued by the land and indigenisation policies.

Infuriated as the MDC-T may be, and excited as Zanu-PF have been, what the Freedom House report shows us is that the people of Zimbabwe are not nave and that they place at the centre of their political choices matters to do with sovereignty and self-dependence.

Zimbabwe we are one and together we will overcome. It is homeland or death!!

. Reason Wafawarova is a political writer based in Sydney, Australia



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