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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Zimbabweans Contemplate Kenya's ODM Model

By Rejoice Ngwenya

The nightmarish quagmire of Kenya's deadly electoral circus has filtered shock waves of potential civic uprising to Zimbabwe, a country facing its own elections this March, having known no real ballot peace since 2000. We Africans tend to pick political bad habits from neigbhours because as it is, Zimbabweans are contemplating using the 'Odinga Model' to reverse Robert Mugabe's inevitable electoral fraud.

The Kikuyu, like our Shona in Zimbabwe, have always wanted to forever dominate national polity. In the first election in 1980, they hogged the ballot box, and Mugabe, like Kenyatta, has exploited this dominance in subsequent contests. Kikuyu, like Shona, are the majority who never want to share real power with ethnic minorities. Thus, the coalition that propelled Kibaki to stardom five years ago was a marriage of convenience in which, like Zimbabwe's Joshua Nkomo, Odinga was deceived. To say Daniel arap Moi defied the odds and elevated Kalenjins would be a denial that he was as much a compromise surrogate of Jomo Kenyatta as Joshua Nkomo's so called vice presidency that never gave the Ndebele tribe a bite of Zimbabwe's political cake. For Mugabe now, the chickens are about to come home to roost because typical African politics is that when the tribal war has been won, ethnicity takes centre-stage.

Robert Mugabe's ZANUpf party presents an illusion of a formidable solid political machinery, yet the ageing dictator has always used a combination of intimidation, mutual distrust and blackmail to smother potential intra-party competition between Zezurus, Karangas and Manyikas - the ethnic groupings that largely constitute ZANUpf's Shona tribe. Zimbabwe's commerce, industry, quasi-government and academic sector follows these distinct ethnic patterns that reflect the country's balance of political power. Since Mugabe himself is Zezuru, it is 'natural' that most blue chip companies are managed and owned, like Kenya's Kikuyu, by Zezurus affiliated to ZANUpf's political centre. This is necessary because Mugabe needs to finance his empire with money he can trust.

The cronies have become so dependent that they, since 1980, have done everything to sustain his ambitions in exchange for lucrative government tenders. During the last Extra Ordinary Congress in December 2007, these 'crony corporates' fell over each other to finance expensive advertisements to support Mugabe's unprecedented seventh term presidential bid. The crony corporates have accumulated so many favours that if any of them so much as tries to express an opposing political opinion, Mugabe pulls the life support plug.

Mutumwa Mawere and James Makamba, early beneficiaries of Mugabe's benevolence, got excited about diverse political opinion and the retribution was instant. Mawere lost the war and is now operating his African Resources Limited from Sandton City in Johannesburg while James Makamba, a business associate of current vice president Joyce Mujuru escaped imprisonment by a hair's breadth, and subsequently lost his controlling shares in Tele Cel after fleeing to London.

The Karangas who generally hail from the south-eastern part of Zimbabwe have always been the intellectual entity of not only Zimbabwe as a whole, but also ZANUpf as a party. The late political icon Edison Zvobgo was the brains behind ZANUpf's legal affairs, having not only participated in crafting the Lancaster House Agreement of 1979, but was also credited with altering Zimbabwe's constitution in 1990 to give Mugabe executive presidential powers that transformed him into an infamous dictator. Many positions of academic excellence in universities, colleges and state institutions have been parcelled to Karangas by Mugabe as a token of appreciation for Edison Zvobgo' s life-long support of dictatorship. The Karanga entity equally dominated the national army for decades, a chain reaction that started with Josiah Magama Tongogara who ran ZANUpf's liberation military command in Mozambique but died in a mysterious 'road accident' a few hours before Zimbabwe's independence. Political analysts have long advanced the theory of appeasement - that it was necessary for Mugabe to keep the Karangas busy in the army so as to divert their interest from 'real' politics.

Herbert Chitepo, Mugabe and ZANU's first barrister and party co-founder, was a Manyika, the group that hails from Zimbabwe's eastern province. His ascendancy was cut short in the mid-seventies in [another] mysterious car bomb in Zambia. Since then, Mugabe has kept the Manyika very close to the political centre, with perennial praise-singer Didymus Mutasa floating in between undefined cabinet positions, and credited with Zimbabwe's violent land reform program. In appreciation of both Chitepo and Mutasa' s allegiance, president Robert Mugabe strengthened the influence of Manyika in the banking sector, while so-called presidential hopeful Simba Makoni was given a position as the first Secretary General of Southern African Development Community in the 1980's.

Now, the political dynamics have changed. In March 2008, Robert Mugabe faces an ethnic rebellion in his ZANUpf. The Karanga, led by Emmerson Mnangagwa who was implicated not only in the 1980s Matebeleland genocide, but also blood diamond scams in Democratic Republic of Congo, have been conspiring with the late Joshua Nkomo's young brother, John, in a strong alliance to neutralise Mugabe. The notorious secret service sensed signals of this alliance largely by tracking Professor Jonathan Moyo's loud recitals in the last election, and inevitably, Mugabe rattled a few skeletons in Mnangagwa cabinet. The current vice president, Joyce Mujuru, is leading another Zezuru faction that is desperate to check Mugabe's seventh term bid and headlines in recent independent press stories align this faction with Simba Makoni' s Manyika ethnic grouping.

Dr Simba Makoni has been flouted as a more credible presidential candidate because he is not contaminated with ZANUpf's violent history, and there have been allegations that opposition MDC factions of Morgan Tsvangirayi and Arthur Mutambara consider him a good compromise. If all these reports are accurate, ethnic tribal politics are just the gunpowder that Zimbabweans, like Kenyans, require for resistance, but not necessarily in the scale of Kenya's barbaric sectarian violence.

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