Omotoso: Church leader or Cult leader?

 

“My father in the Lord reverent Tim Omotoso gave my life back he reminded me that I am a human being, when I lost hope didn’t know myself at all, devel (sic) used me a lot but go to JDI was a blessing to me because teachings of my father wake up my soul now I can pray, I can read bible loving of gospel music my life has totaly (sic) changed through Dady (sic). May God bless JDI”

 

The above statement was extracted from the Facebook page of Jesus Dominion International Church- a seemingly charismatic religious movement located in Durban South Africa led by Nigerian pastor Timothy Omotoso who is currently on trial for  racketeering, human trafficking and sexual assault.

 

Like many others, the ongoing Tim Omotoso trial has caught my attention.

 

Of course, like anyone else he is innocent until proven guilty and he should be afforded the right to defend himself in court.

 

Nevertheless, the allegations of sexual assault and the circumstances under which the alleged sexual offences occurred (according to witness and former congregant Cheryl Zondi) makes one wonder why a so-called “man of God” would allow himself into such compromising positions in the first place.

 

For instance why were female church congregants living in his house?

 

Why would a church leader allow himself to be in a bedroom alone with a woman that is not his wife?

 

The ongoing melee concerning Tim Omotoso took me back to my university notes, from a few years ago when I did research on a Pentecostal church in Pretoria.

 

After reading around the matter, I resolved to determine two things in this article.

 

Firstly, whether or not Tim Omotoso’s group can be sociologically defined as a formal religious institution or conversely as a religious cult.

 

Secondly to determine how society can prevent or thwart the operations of cults and crime syndicates disguised as religious groups.

 

While Omotoso’s movement is definitely charismatic in the context that it embraces ‘charismata’ or spiritual gifts (which include speaking in tongues, healing by touch and prophesying) ostensibly it seems to fall short of a formal religious institution.

 

Below I’ve listed the characteristics of a formal religious institution according to sociologists.

 

Firstly, a religious institution must consist of a group of at least six people with established patterns of interaction, common goals and shared norms.

 

Secondly, a religious institution must have a clear structure and division of labour must be present in the group in the sense that each member has a specific role.

 

Essentially a religious institution must portray a form of hierarchy, and the individual members must feel and express a sense of identification with the group.

 

Third, a religious institution must be guided by a body of beliefs in the form of a sacred book sacred (eg .The Bible, The Koran, The Book of Mormon, and the Bhagavad -Gita etc)

 

Fourthly, a religious institution is characterized by a set of practices, rituals, worship dances and prayers.

 

Finally (and, perhaps most importantly) a religious institution must impart clear moral prescriptions in the form of strict differentiation between good thoughts or practices from bad.

 

Now I must highlight here that until I read about his arrest last year, I didn’t know about Tim Omotoso or his group.

 

This means that I like many others only have the information availed by Tim Omotoso on various social media platforms to judge whether or not we can categorize his group as a genuine religious institution.

 

Below are some of the observations I’ve made.

 

Firstly, neither the website nor the Facebook pages attributed to Omotoso’s group make any explicit reference to a church constitution, or a document of any kind which shows a hierarchy, a division of labour or organogram.

 

The absence of a constitution tacitly implies that the group is not governed by any formal or codified rules, and that is unlike a formal religious institution.

 

In short, from the information available online, the church has no official structure outside of Tim Omotoso himself- it is arguably a one man show.

 

This is problematic because it’s never good news for an unsuspecting congregation to be under the authoritarian leadership of a charismatic cleric who is not bound by any church constitution with clear rules.

 

Furthermore, the “one man show” issue raises a red flag, as history contains several examples of such cults claiming to be Christian churches, yet led by psychopaths.

 

One example is Jim Jones, founder of the Peoples Temple of the Disciples of Christ in which Jones fused Pentecostal preaching with the revolutionary ideals of the Sixties and Seventies.

 

Ultimately, Jones convinced his followers to move to a site in Guyana infamously known as “Jonestown.”

 

Soon after migrating to Guyana, the “Jonestown massacre” of 18 November 1978 occurred, where 918 of Jones’s followers (304 of whom were children) were persuaded to consume poisonous “Kool-Aid” leading to their deaths.

 

It was a mass-suicide and remains one of the greatest tragedies in American history.

 

Ms Wagner-Wilson, a survivor of Jonestown, had this to say:

 

“There’s a need. People want to be a part of something. They want to feel safe; they want to feel a sense of community.  

 

“There are still folks out there and they are running under the guise of religious organisations. I just want people to be careful. I want Jonestown to be a lesson.”

 

The escape of Ms Wagner Wilson from Jonestown betrays the existence of fear and anxiety among Jim Jones’s followers.

 

This is important, because fear and anxiety within a religious group is also indicative of a cult.

 

If members of any group ever at all start to fear the leader, or fear their fellow congregants for any reason, that is the moment that they should leave that group.

 

Psychologists say that fear is the human emotion that alerts us to the presence of danger… so I repeat, the moment that one starts to fear a religious leader, that is the moment one should leave the group.

 

The sociologically recognized characteristics of a cult are:

 

 Authoritarian Leadership- Meaning all power and authority over the group resides in the leader as was the case with Jim Jones.

 

 Exclusivism- Cults often believe that they alone have the truth. The cult views itself as the single means of salvation on earth.

 

 Isolationism-Cults can require members to renounce and break off associations with parents and siblings.

 

 Opposition to Independent Thinking- Some cultic groups discourage members from thinking independently and teach their members that the proper response is merely to submit.

 

 Fear of Being “Disfellowshiped”– in cults people are urged to remain faithful to avoid being “disfellowshiped,” or disbarred, from the group.

 

 Threats of Satanic Attack- Finally, as mentioned earlier, cults often use fear and intimidation to keep members in line. For example members may be told that Satan will attack them. Such fear tactics are designed to induce submission.

 

As I mentioned earlier Tim Omotoso is innocent until proven guilty.

 

In that light perhaps I don’t have enough information about his organisation and its operations in order to label it “a cult”, although ostensibly, his group is leaning in that direction.

 

I’m sure that the various witness accounts during the course of his trial will give us a clearer picture.

 

But still, he must be given a chance to defend himself in court.

 

Having said that, and in conclusion, I think it’s important for us as members of society to encourage more discussions focused around religious groups, their practices and doctrines.

 

Such discussions should take place in the mainstream media, in schools, in the workplace and even in families.

 

While I for one strongly believe in freedom of religion and freedom of association, I also think that it’s important for members of society to conscientize each other on what constitutes “good faith” or “bad faith” (i,e: good or bad religious practices).

 

In my view, the best way to empower members of society against cults is by conscientizing people on what a cult is, and how to identify a cult. That way people will empowered to make better decisions on whether or not to join a particular religious group.

 

One thing for sure is that there is an increasingly dangerous trend of fantasy religiosity occurring throughout Africa under the guise of Charismatic Pentecostalism.

 

Nowadays there seems to be an oversupply of “prophets” who thrive on the mystically bizarre.

 

In recent times we have heard about congregants who were made to eat snakes and sometimes grass by their “prophet” leaders.

 

In Zimbabwe we have heard of the so-called “prophets” speaking about “miracle money,” miracle pens” and “anointed condoms.”

 

Perhaps these “prophets” thrive because of the predominant poverty on the continent and the desperation of the people for quick-fix solutions.

 

Whatever the reason, the best way to protect our people from cults, is to ensure that they are empowered to make better choices through educational and informative programs.

 

Tau Tawengwa  Executive Director

 

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Zimbabwe is Open for Business: Time to Buy Zimbabwe

 

I recently had interesting discussions with family members and colleagues regarding the repeated reports about cement shortages being experienced in Zimbabwe and the causes thereof.

 

Of course, the usual defeatists, doomsayers and alarmists repeatedly made inaccurate reference to the so-called “political illegitimacy” that they guessed was somehow causing cement shortages.

 

Fortunately however, Zimbabwe’s major cement manufacturers publicly put to rest the pessimists by issuing a statement which read as follows:

 

“The [cement] consumption spike being witnessed is a very positive economic growth indicator, which may be attributed to a rise in mortgage finance as well as improved disposable income following a successful tobacco and maize farming season on the back of the Command Agriculture Programme.”

 

In summary, the cement companies stated that the recent spike in demand for cement, which resulted in a supply backlog on the market, is a positive signal of economic growth.

 

There are two interesting observations that I made during this “cement shortage” saga.

 

The first was that in our country we have what I call the subgroup of perpetual skeptics.

 

Arguably, the subgroup of skeptics consists of those ordinary citizens, politicians and even business leaders that choose to whine and whimper about socio-economic conditions without professing practical solutions to the problems thereof.

 

It is this sub-group of skeptics that I’ll be speaking to when I make my point later in this article.

 

The second observation that I made was simply this: If the demand of cement exceeds supply (in a country where we are constantly reminded by doomsayers and skeptics that unemployment is above 80%) then my question is: who is buying cement? Who is building houses?

 

Let me tell you who.

 

It is the farmers, the informal miners, the kombi drivers, the money-changers, the commodity-brokers, the cross-border traders, or in summary the members of that community that we commonly refer to as the informal sector.

 

Let’s remember that in 2017 some of Zimbabwe’s cement producing firms recorded up to 40% increases in profit.

 

To the discerning eye, it becomes clear that there is a vibrant consumer base in Zimbabwe, where people operating in both the formal and informal economies are earning enough to consider building houses.

 

It’s also clear that the moment a person plans to build a house, he or she would know that furniture is also needed alongside, food, electricity-supply and water- all of which require the potential home-owner to have a constant supply of money.

 

In this context it again becomes clear that there is money circulating in our informal sector.

 

Simply put, people who are building will also need places where they can purchase goods and services, like supermarkets schools and transport, and the supply of those goods and services essentially means employment creation and consequently more tax revenue for the state.

 

This all points to potential economic growth as indicated by the cement producer’s statement that I highlighted earlier.

 

Nevertheless, why should all this concern you, the reader, as a citizen, potential investor or a business owner?

 

The answer is simple. Where there is going to be economic growth as is the case with Zimbabwe today, there is also going to be an increase in competition.

 

While the prospective arrival of foreign businesses, investors and capital is good news for our job-seeking citizens, the same prospect should alert local business-owners to adequately prepare for competition.

 

Studies in countries like South Africa, Botswana and Mozambique have demonstrated that when the economic environment is ripe to attract foreign businesses, we find that those foreign firms come in equipped with adequate capital as well as precise market intelligence and this often results in those foreign firms excelling in our markets and ultimately taking business from locals.

 

In summary, for any business owner, it’s important to plan and strategize on how to remain competitive, especially since we anticipate that more and more foreign businesses will be entering the Zimbabwean market very soon.

 

Here are some of the strategies that local businesses can implement in order to remain competitive:

  • Businesses should adopt global best practices and technology (particularly internet). This is particularly necessary in the tourism and hospitality sector where our foreign visitors should be charmed by our Zimbabwean hospitality.
  • Citizens and businesses alike should cultivate the “Buy Zimbabwe” culture. For citizens this means supporting local products, and for businesses this means producing products that are not only locally affordable but also globally competitive.
  • Local businesses should invest in substantive market intelligence. This involves investing in the various forms of market research which benefit business efficiency, explore brand reach and quality and even determine levels of customer satisfaction.

 

Judging from neighboring countries like South Africa, foreign businesses more often than not rigorously implement at least two of the three aforementioned strategies and as a result they excel more than local businesses.

 

As Zimbabwe, we should therefore avoid what is currently the South African situation where politicians and non-competitive local businesses blame their non-competitiveness on “white-monopoly-capital.”

 

Just look at the ongoing war between Uber and The South Taxi associations as an example.

 

Let us not be like that. Instead, let’s embrace the “Zimbabwe is Open for business Policy.” Let’s also Buy-Zimbabwe. But more than anything let’s do adequate market research.

 

If our local businesses follow that approach, they will undoubtedly see positive results in the near future.

 

Tau Tawengwa

 

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Zimbabwe: The Day after Elections

 

After months of politicking, the Zimbabwean 2018 harmonized elections have officially come to an end.

 

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has won the Presidential vote, and ZANU-PF has won a two thirds majority in parliament.

 

These were probably the most keenly followed elections by Zimbabweans at home and abroad and the international community at large since 1980.

 

This is because Zimbabweans across the political landscape are tired of the counter-productive and divisive types of politics that we have experienced as a country for close to two decades.

 

I think that we can all agree that the pre-election environment was the best that we have experienced as a country.

 

Prior to the elections, people could freely communicate their political views and openly debate about the direction the country should take after the polls.

 

This was unprecedented, because previous elections were largely characterized by fear and sometimes violence.

 

However this time round, we all followed the rallies of both the MDC-Alliance and ZANU-PF and we all listened to what the various political leaders had to offer at national, parliamentary and ward levels.

 

I must mention here that the MDC-Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa put up a good fight under the circumstances.

 

Given the untimely death of ex-prime minister Dr Morgan Tsvangirai and the scarcity of campaign resources on the part of the MDC-Alliance, Nelson Chamisa had the unenviable task of leading a shaky coalition and uniting a divided party into a do-or-die election.

 

Given the circumstances, he was probably the best man for that job, and he did the best job that he could.

 

Although I’ve publicly critiqued Mr. Nelson Chamisa’s political decisions before, I can say that his performance in the 2018 election will go down in history as one of the country’s closest contests.

 

Nevertheless having said that, it also indisputable that the efforts of Nelson Chamisa and the MDC-Alliance were inadequate to outmaneuver the well-resourced ZANU-PF machine.

 

I’ve argued elsewhere and I will state again here that politics is more about power than it is about popularity.

 

Furthermore, the ZANU-PF “dandemutande” campaign strategy is one that delegates authority from the party president and central committee members right down to the branch and cell levels of the party.

 

In essence, ZANU-PF effectively conscientized its own members to vote for the party en masse.

 

Perhaps where ZANU-PF could have performed better is in the area of mobilizing youthful “new” voters.

 

What the 2018 presidential result shows is that traditional ZANU-PF members voted for ZANU-PF en masse, but youthful ‘new’ voters voted for the opposition.

 

This is particularly true in the Harare and Bulawayo metropolitan provinces.

 

Those are the areas where Nelson Chamisa’s message hit home, and consequently those are the areas where ZANU-PF has to work the hardest going forward.

 

Nevertheless, now that our elections have come and gone, I think we should take time as Zimbabweans to reflect and reunite under the realization that we are all Zimbabweans despite race, region or political creed.

 

That is what is most important, and that is what should take us forward.

 

We do not what violence, we want peace. We do not want divisions we want unity.

 

In this light, it is important for our leaders across the political divide to continue calling for peace.

 

Now that the elections are over, let’s all unite under the leadership of president Emmerson Mnangagwa and ZANU-PF and work to move the country forward.

 

To that end the famous Nelson Mandela quotation from his book ‘Long Walk to Freedom’ comes to mind: If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” 

 

 

Tau Tawengwa

 

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2018 Elections: Putting the Zimbabwean Revolution in Context

 

 

On the 4th of July America celebrated its independence day.

 

 

In fact in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 4, 1776 America made a declaration announcing that the thirteen colonies (which were then at war with the Kingdom of Great Britain) would regard themselves as thirteen independent sovereign states no longer under British rule.

 

 

This makes the United States of America 242 years old.

 

 

Interestingly, at the time that the American founding fathers made the declaration of independence, the economy was only beginning to industrialize, and this was essentially the process of expanding cottage industries (what we call in Zimbabwe “home-based-industries”) to larger scales.

 

 

Historians note that around the time of the American Declaration of Independence, most production in the 13 colonies was agricultural, and at least 90% of eighteenth-century Americans made their living on the land.

 

 

Of course, we cannot ignore that black slaves had been working on American plantations since slavery began in in 1619, and undoubtedly African slaves helped build the American nation into an economic powerhouse through the production of lucrative crops such as tobacco and cotton.

 

 

Nevertheless, my argument here is centered on the fact that at the time of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, America had three key economic assets. These are land, minerals, and labour.

 

 

Sound similar? Of course! That’s because on a smaller scale, Zimbabwe is also very rich in those three key resources.

 

 

However it was the deliberate and focused attitude of the American leadership at the time of the industrial revolution that transformed that country into the giant it is today.

 

 

 

The Industrial Revolution

 

 

 

 

The industrial revolution was largely characterized by automation based on the establishment of infrastructure, which in the American context were the railway and the steam train.

 

 

In our context, this is what President Emmerson Mnangagwa has repeatedly referred to as the mechanization of agriculture and mining and the widening of our infrastructure base.

 

Also, the industrial revolution saw to the urbanization of America’s rural communities and consequently the expansion of markets for goods. Ultimately this allowed for an increase in the American standard of living.

 

 

Furthermore the proliferation of free market capitalism (despite its flaws) incentivized scientific innovation and rewarded hard work.

 

 

All in all, one hundred years after its independence, America had become a global force.

 

 

In fact, by 1900, the United States had one half of the world’s manufacturing capacity and had overtaken Great Britain both in iron, steel production and in coal production.

 

 

 

Re-industrializing Zimbabwe

 

 

I have often heard people speaking negatively about vendors, and how the informal economy in Zimbabwe is nothing more than a nuisance.

 

 

I do understand the logic behind those arguments especially when they come from rate paying shop-owners and business-people that have to accommodate vegetable sellers who sometimes urinate at their shop’s door-step.

 

 

However, I have argued before and I will state again here that our informal economy in Zimbabwe is a constant reminder of our backslide from an industrialized, advanced middle-income economy to the informal economy we are today.

 

 

Yet if we ponder over America’s experience form 1776, we can see that our future is filled with possibilities.

 

 

We are rich in land and mineral resources like America was when it began its industrial revolution. We also have an expansive and educated pool of labour.

 

 

But more than anything else, we now have the political will to re-industrialize, after years of isolationism and counter-productive politics.

 

 

In this light I give credit to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s “Zimbabwe is Open for Business” program.

 

 

His efforts have once again put Zimbabwe on the international radar for the right reasons and over the months since November 2017 we have seen delegation after delegation from different parts of the globe coming in to register their interests in the Zimbabwe.

 

 

Clearly what we need now is to allow President Emmerson Mnangagwa to serve a full term in office during which Zimbabwe can undergo the process of re-industrialization.

 

 

Judging from American History, what is certain is that the re-industrialization of Zimbabwe is a real possibility if we focus as a nation after July 30.

 

 

At the end of the day, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s “Zimbabwe is Open for Business” program presents a real opportunity for Zimbabwe to under-go an economic revolution and consequently and economic boom going forward.

 

 

For that reason I believe he deserves a full term in office.

 

 

Tau Tawengwa

 

Executive Director

 

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Zimbabwe 2018 Elections: The Youth Apathy Factor

 

 

With Just over two weeks before Zimbabwe’s make or break 2018 elections, the political temperature is rising in the country as the nation prepares for this historic poll.

 

What’s clear to all and sundry is that the presidential election is a two-horse race between ZANU-PF leader President Emmerson Mnangagwa and MDC-Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa.

 

What is also clear is that on paper this election should be determined largely by the youth and women voters as these two demographic groups combined undoubtedly constitute the majority of the voters.

 

However,  it is not a given that these two groups will adequately pitch up to the party, primarily because of voter apathy at election time, which is increasingly being registered in the SADC region and in Africa at large- particularly so among youthful voters.

 

In this article I will attempt to unpack the causes of youth voter apathy in the region and attempt to address how youth voter apathy will impact Zimbabwe’s 2018 harmonized election.

 

 

Causes of Youth Voter Apathy

 

Studies in different parts of Southern Africa have shown that there are various reasons for youth apathy, and some of these can be listed as follows.

 

  • Unemployment. Unemployment plays a major role in voter apathy because someone who is informally employed or who does “self-job” in the Zimbabwean context arguably cannot afford the time to stop selling and go to vote, particularly so when our election is being conducted on the last day of the month when rent is due and other bills need to be paid.

 

  • Corruption. Corruption plays a part in youth voter apathy at election-time because the perception of corruption in the day-to-day lives of young voters make them feel disoriented and disconcerted with respect to politics, governance and leadership and ultimately this results in them being disinterested in politics.Corruption creates an impression among youths that politics only benefits politicians and their self enrichment agendas, and ultimately they refrain from voting as they feel they gain nothing from politics and voting.

 

  • Poor infrastructure. Poor infrastructure is a cause of apathy particularly in areas where there is little or poor development and key infrastructure like roads, piped water and electricity because voting becomes a secondary priority to day to day chores and tasks particularly among women and youth.

 

  • Poor education. In order to be politically conscious and active an individual must have a significant appreciation and understanding of politically centered issues. Where individuals lack adequate education and consequently the capacity to reason, then apathy is likely to be higher.

 

Now while it is true that the in Africa the predominance of the population is youthful, recent elections in various countries across the continent show that it’s not a given that young voters will pitch up on Election Day.

 

The issue of voter apathy among youthful voters has been registered in Botswana, where election observers noted that “increasing reluctance among youth to participate in politics and exercise the right to vote is particularly alarming and amounts to a weakening of democracy.”

 

Furthermore, observer reports highlight that in 1999, 51.42% of the youth in Botswana registered for elections, 55.67% registered 2004, whilst 56.30% of youth registered for the 2009 general. This means that around 45% of youthful voters in Botswana were apathetic in 1999.

 

Also, the Kenyan Human Rights Commission noted that “the youth participation was not as expected” in Botswana’s 2014 election.

 

Notably, in Malawi’s 2014 presidential, parliamentary and local elections, a total voter turnout of 70% was registered, and this figure was applauded as one of the highest voter turnouts in that country’s history.

 

Nevertheless, it should be observed that the 30% of voters that did not pitch up to polling stations and decided to be apathetic could have potentially swayed the result of that election had they actually voted.

 

Even in Kenya’s recent electoral run-off, high levels of voter apathy particularly among youthful voters were registered.

 

Zimbabwe faces a similar problem of apathy at election time.

 

If we look at the 2013 election for instance, close to 5.9 million voters registered to vote in that election, but only 60% of registered voters turned out on Election Day.

 

Now, with Zimbabwe’s 2018 election around the corner, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has noted that about 5.6 million people have registered to vote, and while the predominance of voters in this election will be the youth.

 

However, given regional trends of youth voter apathy, it remains to be seen whether the Zimbabwean youth vote will pitch up to the party en bloc on 30 July.

 

In my view this is doubtful, particularly because the continuous allegations being put forward by the opposition MDC-Alliance only serve to discourage the constituency that would potentially vote on their behalf.

 

At a time when parties should be rigorously engaging in voter education and encouraging their supporters to go out to vote in their numbers, the incessant allegations and accusations of vote rigging and manipulation that are being made by opposition politicians will prove to be counter-productive on Election Day.

 

This is because first-time youthful voters are unlikely to go and vote if they feel that their input will not make a meaningful difference.

 

There in this light, the there is likely to be a considerable amount of youth-voter-apathy come July 30.

 

 

Tau Tawengwa

 

Executive Director

 

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2018: What Zimbabwe can learn from Gabon

Recently, I assisted a friend of mine with his application for a visa to Gabon.

 

During the process, I did a fair amount of research on the political economy of Gabon, which, it turns out, is one of the most prosperous countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

 

It is also one of the few African countries that requires Zimbabweans to apply for visas before entry.

 

Here are some interesting statistics about Gabon.

 

Gabon became fully independent from France on 15 July 1960. It is a small sparsely populated country with a population of 1.7 million people with a surface area of 268,000 square kilometers with forests covering 85% of the territory.

 

Gabon is an upper-middle-income country. It is the fifth largest oil producer in Africa, and it has experienced strong economic growth over the past decade, driven by oil and manganese production.

 

Gabon enjoys a per capita income four times higher than most sub-Saharan African nations, but because of high income inequality, a large proportion of the population remains poor. Nevertheless, Gabon has a per capita income of approximately USD$3,000 which is high by African standards

 

It also has a GDP of $14.47 billion, and 28% unemployment. It exports about $5.078 billion worth of goods per annum and imports about $3.224 billion worth of goods per annum.

 

It is ostensibly a well-managed and stable economy.

 

However, more interesting than anything else are the politics of Gabon, where Omar Bongo ruled since 1967 until his death on 7 May 2009. He ruled Gabon for 42 years.

 

Similar to other countries that have had long-time leaders (including Zimbabwe which was led by Robert Mugabe for 37 years) Omar Bongo’s critics describe his rule as characterized by autocracy, corruption and nepotism.

 

Critics also say that Omar Bongo mastered the extraordinary ability to sideline his rivals and ensure that no competitor, either individually or institutionally, could construct a power base to challenge him during his reign.

 

Nevertheless, after he passed on, Gabon regressed from 42 years of relative stability to instability.

 

He was succeeded by his son, Ali Bongo who narrowly won the disputed elections of 2009, and in 2016 he won the election by a slight majority of 50.66% of the vote against 47.24% of the vote which was garnered by his rival Jean Ping.

 

Ironically, Ali Bongo’s narrow victory in 2016 saw him delaying parliamentary elections in his country due to an alleged “shortage of funds.”

 

This is interesting, because Gabon is considered to be one of the top ten richest countries in Africa, alongside Seychelles, South Africa, Botswana and Mauritius.

 

What can ZANU-PF and MDC-T learn from Gabon?

 

Clearly, after the 42-year reign of Omar Bongo came to an end, the stability of Gabon and Bongo’s Gabonese Democratic Party (GDP) were affected.

 

While Omar Bongo was a master tactician who had a unique ability which enabled him to unite his party and co-opt his rivals simultaneously, the slight majority of 50.66% enjoyed by his successor Ali Bongo shows us that the successor of a long-time leader is not always as popular as his predecessor.

 

In Zimbabwe, a lesson can be drawn here by both the ruling ZANU-PF party and the main opposition MDC-T.

 

We recently saw Robert Mugabe step down as ZANU-leader and we suffered the death of Morgan Tsvangirai who had led the MDC-T for 18 years.

 

Now with Zimbabwe’s harmonized elections expected in July 2018, the sentiment on the ground is that Emmerson Mnangagwa is not as popular as Robert Mugabe was in ZANU-PF, and that Nelson Chamisa is not as popular as Dr. Morgan Tsvangirai was in the MDC-T.

 

In ZANU-PF it was actually the former first lady Grace Mugabe who was grossly unpopular among party members, and she is largely blamed for catalysing the events that led to the former president’s fall from power in November 2017.

 

Nevertheless, events around the primary elections in both ZANU-PF and the MDC-T show that there are serious fault lines within Zimbabwe’s two main political platforms.

 

For instance, after initially losing the ZANU-PF primary election for the Norton constituency, Chris Mutsvangwa (who is adviser to the Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa) apparently declared that “It is inconceivable that the President will win [the 2018 election}.”

 

Furthermore, the incumbent Norton legislator Themba Mliswa publicly stated that for ZANU-PF the 2018 election will be characterized by “bhora musango”, that is, protest votes and electoral apathy among the party supporters.

 

It goes without saying that in 2008, ZANU-PF’s presidential candidate Robert Mugabe lost the first round of the vote to his MDC-T rival Morgan Tsvangirai owing to “bhora-musango,”

 

The consequent 2008 run-off was characterized by intimidation and violence and its outcome was internationally disputed and ultimately this led to the formation of a Government of National Unity (GNU) comprising of both ZANU-PF and MDC-T leaders in 2009.

 

As is it stands today, ZANU-PF’s primary elections have been characterized by low voter turnout, disunity, and accusations and counter-accusations of factionalism. These are early signs of “bhora-musango.”

 

In this light it seems highly improbable that ZANU-PF will win the 61% it achieved at presidential level in 2013, or the two-thirds majority it achieved at parliamentary level in the same year.

 

More likely than not, the 2018 Zimbabwean election will see President Mnangagwa win by a slight majority similar to Gabonese president’s Ali Bongo’s 2016 slight majority of 50.66%.

 

There is also something else of particular importance.

 

If ZANU-PF fails to retain its two-thirds majority in 2018, this will complicate its legislative agenda going forward, as the party will not have the quorum to amend the constitution, essentially meaning that post 2018 elections, ZANU-PF will have less power than it did when it was voted into power in 2013.

 

This is a notable fact, given that as of 2023, constitutionally, the two vice-presidents of the country will no longer be appointed, but will have to be elected as presidential running mates.

 

Consequently, this means that failing to win a two-thirds parliamentary majority will complicate post-2018 politics for ZANU-PF for two reasons.

 

Firstly, it is more likely than not that come 2023, the Zimbabwean diaspora (comprising approximately four million people) will vote in that election.

 

This will adversely affect ZANU-PF because under the current circumstances, ZANU-PF will not win the two-thirds parliamentary majority in 2018 that it needs to amend the constitution in order to prevent the diaspora from voting in 2023, or to change the clause that stipulates Vice Presidents will be elected and not appointed as of 2023.

 

Secondly, in 2018, about 65% of Zimbabwe’s voters are below forty years old, and youthful voters often (not always) support youthful leaders. Come 2023, approximately 75% of voters will be below forty, further complicating things for ZANU-PF which has an average age of 66 among its top five leaders.

 

The situation is no better in the MDC-T which split after the death of Dr. Tsvangirai into a faction led by Nelson Chamisa and another led by Thokazane Khupe. Up to date, the two factions are battling in court over which is the legitimate MDC-T and who is the legitimate leader of the MDC-T.

 

Also, recently Jesse Majome- a well-respected lawyer and MDC-T legislator for Harare West- has chosen to run for Harare West constituency as an independent candidate citing irregularities in the MDC-T’s primary election procedures.

 

As a result, it is clear that like ZANU-PF, the MDC-T is much more divided, and factionalized in 2018 than it was in the 2013 elections.

 

The Prospect of a Government of national Unity post 2018 election

 

Wherever they occur, elections should be free fair and credible so as to show the world that whoever seizes power post-elections has the unanimous mandate of the people to govern the country as its legitimate leader.

 

It is no surprise then, that after achieving a controversial and slight majority of 50.66% in the 2016 election, Gabonese President Ali Bongo delayed parliamentary elections.

 

Clearly, he is aware his slight majority demonstrates that the nation is deeply divided.

 

Accordingly, since 2016 he has avoided parliamentary elections, and has instead chosen to appoint Emmanuel Issoze Ngondet as the prime minister of Gabon, and has tasked him to form a Government of National Unity comprising members of opposition parties in key posts.

 

Perhaps this is a viable option for Zimbabwe post-2018 elections, especially given the that president Emmerson Mnangagwa is likely to win the presidency, but only by a slight majority.

 

Also, ZANU-PF is unlikely to win a two-thirds majority at parliamentary level.

 

As a result, in order to substantially gain the trust of Zimbabweans and international investors alike, it will take ZANU-PF and the MDC-T to come together and share power for a period of time, in the same way that they did during the 2009-2013 Government of National Unity.

 

 

Tau Tawengwa

 

Executive Director

 

Email

zimrays@gmail.com

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Zimbabwe 2018 Elections: Power versus Popularity

 

As we approach the July 2018 elections, I have been hearing more and more debate among Zimbabweans about which presidential candidate is better than the other, or which political party is best for the country.

 

There are quite a few arguments circulating particularly on social media. I will highlight a few here.

 

The first is that President Emmerson Mnangagwa and ZANU-PF do not have what it takes to win the election. That is a misconception and I will attempt to show why in this article.

 

The second is that Nelson Chamisa has a real chance of attaining presidential power in 2018.

 

This too is a commonly held misconception, and in this article I will attempt to demonstrate how the field we commonly refer to as politics is a field that focuses more on attaining and retaining of power, than it does on popularity.

 

Essentially, if politics was about popularity, perhaps Hillary Clinton would have been the American president today.

 

ZANU-PF the Power Broker

 

“And here comes in the question whether it is better to be loved rather than feared, or feared rather than loved. It might perhaps be answered that we should wish to be both; but since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved.” Niccolo Machiavelli (1469–1527).  The Prince.

 

When I was younger, I used to think that politics was about good debate at the dinner table, loud arguments, stubbornness, and popularity.

 

Now, after years under the mentorship of my father and other national leaders, I have realized that politics is more about what is unsaid than what is said, more about the covert than the overt, and more about power than popularity.

 

When I consider ZANU-PF and its brand of politics, the Zimbabwean 1980 general election comes to mind.

 

After a protracted bush war that lasted almost 15 years, by the time that the Lancaster House conference began in 1979, it was clear to all and sundry that the Patriotic Front guerrillas had effectively captured most of the rural hearts and minds.

 

While some historians have argued that the pre-Lancaster, “internal settlement” showed that Muzorewa was somewhat popular (with an estimated national support of between 50 and 63 percent of the population), the relentless guerilla power of the Patriotic Front overwhelmed Muzorewa’s assumed popularity.

 

As a result, Ian Smith and Bishop Muzorewa had no choice but to invite ZAPU and ZANU to the negotiating table.

 

Come 1980, two critical factors played a part in ensuring that ZANU won the election by an outright majority.

 

The first was that ZANLA guerrillas remained armed and in the bush during elections having declared that they would continue fighting if at all ZANU PF did not win the election.

 

Secondly, given that ZANLA forces had captured the hearts and minds of the rural populace, by the time that elections arrived ZANLA commissars had adequately conscientized the rural populace using a mixture of the Machiavellian “fear and love” principle.

 

In the end ZANU-PF emerged as the outright winner of the 1980 elections, perhaps because of its popularity, but more so because of its power.

 

You see, since the guerilla days, ZANU-PF has positioned itself as the main power-broker in Zimbabwe.

 

In fact ZANU-PF’s role as key power broker in the country was demonstrated again by events in November 2017.

 

While the late Dr Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC-T had gallantly fought for leadership renewal in Zimbabwe for the best part of seventeen years, he never actually managed to achieve that end.

 

It took events encircled around Operation Restore Legacy to achieve what the late Dr Tsvangirai had attempted for nearly twenty years, despite his popularity.

 

In essence, it took ZANU-PF in its role as national power broker to introspect and achieve leadership renewal in Zimbabwe, and not the popularity of opposition politicians.

 

How did they do it? They used hard and soft power simultaneously.

 

Again, I assert: politics is about power, not popularity.

 

Why ZANU-PF will win in 2018

 

In real terms, the position of ZANU-PF as power broker in Zimbabwe’s political economy remains and it is inconceivable that will change in the short term.

 

While the Machiavellian principle that “it is better to be feared than loved” still applies, the consistency of the ZANU-PF’s benevolence will also play a role in its 2018 electoral victory.

 

For instance the ZANU-PF government has consistently  distributed inputs to the rural populace under the Presidential Inputs Scheme.

 

Furthermore, the ZANU-PF government’s assistance of farmers through command agriculture also demonstrates that the governing party has a benevolent side, and this will play a significant role in winning votes for ZANU-PF in 2018.

 

Recent assistance forwarded to doctors, nurses and teachers in the form of pay increases also demonstrates ZANU-PF’s benevolence, and this too will play a role in winning votes for the party.

 

However, more importantly than anything else, ZANU-PF will win in 2018 because the main opposition in the form of the MDC-Alliance is relying solely on its self-assuming popularity as adequate political capital to win the elections and take power. This is a misconception.

 

In fact, that’s the same misconception that was held by Bishop Muzorewa in 1980, Dr Tsvangirai in 2013 and now Nelson Chamisa in 2018.

 

In simple terms, politics is about power, much more than popularity.

 

Conclusion

 

While in the UK, it is reported that Nelson Chamisa had this to say: “We expect Britain and the EU to speak for free and fair elections. There’s a very disturbing trend in the context of the British government in Zimbabwe.

 

“We have seen that there has been a bit of a shift on the part of the British government in terms of focusing more on political stability and trade and commerce at the expense of democracy…We’re seeing the inclination to align with one political party against another. That is disturbing, particularly in terms of the issue of just setting the basic standard for free and fair elections.”

 

That statement summarizes the political difference between the MDC- T and ZANU-PF.

 

Clearly, the MDC-T has always relied on western empathy and sanctions to achieve its political ends. In the above statement Nelson Chamisa again shows that he is maintaining his predecessor’s politics.

 

However, what Mr. Chamisa doesn’t seem to understand is that Britain is reeling from Brexit, and is consequently looking for partners globally that will boost trade.

 

In summary, the British political-economy as a whole is much more important to Britain than the narrow political interests of the MDC-T.

 

Furthermore, it is now clear that Nelson Chamisa does not have the courage to attempt to boycott the 2018 elections, as this will cause a split in the MDC-T similar to the split that occurred in 2005.

 

Also, neither Nelson Chamisa, The MDC-Alliance nor anyone else in Zimbabwe’s opposition has the power to cause the so-called “national shutdown” that they are threatening post-elections.

 

The fact is that if  Chamisa’s calls for a nationwide strike after elections are ignored, it will not only show that he is not as popular as he thinks he is, but also that he is powerless.

 

Ultimately, the principle remains, politics is not about popularity, politics is about power.

 

Tau Tawengwa

 

Executive Director

 

Email

zimrays@gmail.com

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