Peaceful transitions in Africa, lessons for Zimbabwe

Tanonoka Joseph Whande

April 12, 2012

Last year, Zambia demonstrated that, although slow, attitude change is pervading the African political scene.
Rupia Banda lost the election in Zambia but there was a smooth transition as the winner, Michael Sata, took over the reins of government.
Rupia Banda went as far as appealing to those civil servants he knew supported him to work as hard for Zambia under the new leadership as they did under his own leadership.
The attitude of both the loser and the winner disarmed many Zambians who, like most misled Africans around the continent, were ready for revenge and sabotage.
We saw the same thing happen in Senegal where the then incumbent President Abdoulaye Wade did try to mess around with the constitution to run for another term after he had exhausted the legal number of terms permitted by law.
Fortunately, he backed off and went on to concede defeat and stood down, unusual in African politics.
Even the sudden death of a dictator in Malawi this past week would not dampen the spirit of decency, law and order. Events that followed Bingu wa Mutharika’s heart attack made many people nervous because of the delay in announcing the president’s demise. Although the delay to announce the death could have been strategic to make sure that law and order were secured, it also created suspicion that some politicians, the army and the police were trying to manipulate the situation to short circuit the constitution.
The fact that Mutharika had fallen out with then Vice president Joyce Banda, sacked her from the party and was busy grooming his younger brother to take over the presidency increased suspicion that something unorthodox was being planned.
Everyone was uncomfortable, especially then Vice President Joyce Banda, who went as far as appealing to the South Africans, saying she was being frozen out while the nation was being denied the truth about whether or not Mutharika was alive.
She had good reason to worry. She was vice president of the nation who belonged to a different party from that of the president whose party had a vice president who was also eyeing taking over.
But thankfully cool heads prevailed and followed what the constitution said, which was that in case the president is incapacitated or dies, the Vice president (of the nation not party) takes over.
This is clear enough. And it was heartening to see Mrs Banda flanked by the military and Mutharika’s cabinet ministers as she took the oath of office. This is the reason why nations have constitutions.
Some people never learn. Do you see how Emerson Mnangagwa is scurrying around these days? Some people say he wants to take over and he is trying hard to shore himself up.
But why should he bother? What is he up to? The constitution is quite clear about this. We have two vice presidents and Mnangagwa is not one of them.
Should Zimbabwe lose its president, the last vice president to act in the absence of the president is the one to take over until new elections are held.
Thus, unless it is a coup d’état, Mnangagwa can only take over the presidency of his party, not of the nation. And there are two vice presidents to contend with.
Please someone tell this to Emerson.
With all the speculation over Mugabe’s failing health and burden of age, it is clear from Mnangagwa’s desperate behaviour that he feels that if we were to somehow lose Mugabe he is the automatic shoe-in.
This is utter nonsense. Even in ZANU-PF, there has to be some sort of order. There is a hierarchy in ZANU-PF and there is also order and protocol. Mnangagwa will have to go through all that process and just because he wrestles leadership of ZANU-PF does not make him national.
He will not become president of Zimbabwe through shortcuts.
Granted, Mnangagwa has been waiting in the wings for as long as he returned from Mozambique but his unnecessary patience was his stupidity.
Why did he not challenge Mugabe and create his own constituency instead of foolishly waiting in the eaves for decades so he can benefit from handouts. The handouts have not been forthcoming now he thinks he is justified to grab.
He can grab ZANU-PF, not Zimbabwe, especially after losing election after election after election.
Mnangagwa and his military stooges must be warned that they will not be allowed to short-circuit the constitution. If they do, they will not get very far because Zimbabweans have issues with Mnangagwa and the military brass.
Africa is tired of people who just bulldoze their way into state houses. Mnangagwa, who turns 66 this year, has waited long enough but can only realise his dreams if he aligns himself with the people. He, honestly, does not believe that he can get away with it.
Many people have reservations about him and the word “brutal” keeps popping up whenever Mnangagwa’s name comes up. He needs to cleanse himself of that tag and the moves he is making right now will never endear him well with the people on whom he should be counting.
The heart of the matter is that people like Mnangagwa who fought for the liberation of our country cannot continue to be in the forefront of abusing the same nation and people they risked their lives to save.
Those who fought in the war did not do so for personal gain. They did not do so to replace those who were doing us wrong.
The war of liberation, even to the individual soldier, was all about bringing freedom and independence to the people.
It is our hope that these same cadres, regardless of their age today, still strive in the best way they can to preserve the independence and freedom of our nation. Theirs is not their duty to tell us what to do or what to prefer but to make sure we are free enough to make our own decisions.
So they should all get off their pedestals and start understanding that they brought us independence so we can choose what we want, not what they want. They should stop antagonising us from other nations by making irresponsible statements.
Who do people like Kasukuwere speak on behalf of? Who gives him the right to make a decision on my behalf without consulting me? And this question also goes for Mugabe, Tsvangirai and all the politicians who make reckless statements without even consulting their constituencies, if they have any.
I do not like to see politicians scrambling for positions of advantage because so and so has died or is ill and they want to take over as if the people of Zimbabwe have no say in who they want to make leader. We stick to the constitution.
Those in contention must never forget the simple fact that Zimbabwe is people. It is our people, our land that made all of them.
For a long time, Zimbabwe has lived by its own rules and we have paid the price.
For many years, we behaved as if economic policies to which the rest of the world subscribes do not apply to us and we paid a heavy price for that.
Since independence, we have tried to show the world that we are different from all others and that policies, laws and the constitutions that other nations uphold do not apply to us so now we have thousands of graves, most of whose owners we cannot identify.
South Africa has had five presidents in its 18 years of independence and each has succeeded the other peacefully whereas Zimbabwe, turning 32 years old next week, has never seen any other president or ruling party except for Mugabe and his ZANU-PF and the word ‘genocide’ is being used on them. Most among them have questions to answer over the genocide that was born out of intolerance.
South Africa has peacefully changed presidents several times.
Zambia did it peacefully.
Senegal too has done it peacefully.
So what’s wrong with Zimbabwe?
Look at Malawi! We definitely have lessons to learn from them.
Those aspiring for the highest throne in Zimbabwe must understand the responsibilities that come with such ambition. We cannot continue being subjected to unnecessary violence by people whose services and presence in government we no longer need.
So please, Mnangagwa, Mujuru, Chiwenga and all those eyeing the presidency I say move back a little and offer yourselves to the people. We are not commodities; we are people. We made all of you and we can undo you. We know what we want.
I am Tanonoka Joseph Whande and that my fellow Zimbabweans is the way it is today, Thursday, April 12, 2012.

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