Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Democracy In Africa? Never in a thousand years!

There have been many reports of late about the Constitutional Outreach Programme (COPAC) that started off with what was called ‘The Kariba Draft’. The Kariba Draft was the brainchild of ZANU PF some years ago when they crafted what they believed should be a new constitution for Zimbabwe while on a weekend at Kariba.

The Kariba Draft, designed to keep ZANU PF in power for ever, was rejected by the MDC and as a consequence COPAC was dreamed up, whereby ‘the people’ would be ‘consulted’.

But ZANU PF acted predictably and the COPAC process has been abused, ZANU PF sent in their cadres (a euphemism really for ‘terrorists’) to every planned COPAC meeting to ensure that the people being consulted would only tell the assessors what they are ‘permitted’ (by ZANU PF) to say. Should we be surprised?

Nelson Chamisa, the MDC Party Spokesman has now described the operation as having been done ‘nicodemously’ which they should have known long ago, is the only way ZANU PF operates.

I am reminded of the Pearce Commission meeting at Birchenough Bridge in 1972 when ‘the people’ were being consulted on the Pearce Commission proposals. I was there. Clearly trouble was expected, but in the end, there was none as the people performed exactly as was required.

The Pearce Commissioners made a speech to the gathered thousands from Mutema Tribal Trust Lands which was dutifully interpreted by an interpreter while the crowd, squatting on the ground, shuffled impatiently. Clearly no-one was really listening. They were waiting for the ‘vote’ that was to come. In the background were the ‘heavies’ watching over the crowd. They were easily identifiable. This was in the days before the war had taken hold. The heavies were not terrorists with heavy machine guns. They were ‘nationalists’ supporting the cause of the then ZANU, predecessor to today’s ZANU PF. They knew what had to be done. The Pearce Proposals had to be rejected and to ensure that happened, they spent weeks indoctrinating the local people, telling them what to say and what not say with threats of death if they misbehaved. We knew that. The Rhodesian Government knew that. But the pretence at ‘consultation’ had to take place because the Brits demanded it.

After a long speech in the sweltering sun, the Commissioner in Charge asked for a vote: “Who is in favour of these proposals”, he asked? I watched as several hands stretched up tentatively while the owners looked around furtively to see if this was the OK thing to do. It wasn’t. The heavies at the back screamed ‘No, no, no, no’. The upstretched hands shot down again.

“And who is against these proposals”, asked the commissioner?

The hands went up as directed and shouts of ‘No, no, no, no, no” reverberated round the grounds.

And in this way the Pearce Commission published its report that ‘Africans overwhelmingly rejected the proposals’ That’s how Africa operates. You’d think that a few people round here would know. Morgan Tsvangirayi for one, Jacob Zuma for another. Democracy does not exist in Africa. The rulers rule by fear and now by the barrel of the ubiquitous AK 47. Not by consent. Never by consent – never in a thousand years. Could it possibly be that I could be proved wrong?

Corruption in the Business Sector

This week I have read about the impending collapse of three of Zimbabwe’s better known companies. All on the same day. Lobels Bakeries – Lobels Bread being a household name in this country for as long as I can remember – has gone to the wall. The company was handed over to ‘The Workers’ about 18 months or so ago and the word at the beginning of the week was that the equipment was old and uncompetitive with the production methods of today. Later in the week we learn that an audit report discovered some $7.5 million has been misappropriated by top management, siphoned out of the company by way of fictitious ‘suppliers’ of flour.

Another household name for as long as I can remember is ’Kingston’s Stationers’. Now Kingston’s Holdings. The company was bought shortly after independence by ZANU PF but when the ZANU PF ‘business’ wheels were falling off it was transformed into a ‘parastatal’. Monday we are told that 1.7 million has been siphoned off by top management. Once again, fraudulent ‘suppliers’ have been paid for goods that were never supplied. The board is busy taking the accused to court.

Next on the list is ZUPCO – ‘Zimbabwe United Passenger Company’. The company provided the only bus fleet in the old Rhodesia and has been wading through crocodiles for the past twenty years as old rolling stock gradually fell into disrepair, was replaced briefly by new omnibuses funded by government that soon went the same way. Their last attempt at rejuvenation was to purchase a fleet of busses from China with the name of FAW – which the locals soon dubbed ‘For a Week (Only)’ as that was the life of the average machine. Now ZUPCO has been advised to lay off 400 staff but in the labour environment in Zimbabwe today this means in effect, bankruptcy. Air Zimbabwe knows all about this having attempted to lay off 500 staff earlier this year only to find the arbitration courts refused to permit and AZ had to take them all back. AZ has experienced a pilot’s strike for the past three weeks, the pilots claiming that they have not been paid their allowances since February 2009. That appears to be resolved for the time being with the pilots returning to work having been made various promises. And the rumour mill has it that AZ is in the market for 2 new Airbus A600 machines with pilots currently under training. If true, there must be some kind of nefarious deal taking place here.

To round off the week’s business review we are told that Sable Chemicals owes ZESA – the electricity supply authority – over 22 million dollars. ZESA saw fit to cut them off only to be told by government to re-instate their supply. We are told ‘on good authority’ that government owes Sable over 14 million – presumably for the supply of fertiliser handed out to ‘new farmers’.