Sunday, 26 November 2017

Zimbabwe's November 2017 Military Action: A Critique on Constitutionalism, Liberation Armies and Political Reality

First posted on the Centre for Criminal Justice and Human Rights, UCC, Ireland blog here.


From the time on 13 November 2017, when Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF), General Constantino Chiwenga issued a press statement ostensibly protesting against purges occurring in the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) party, there were debates, justifications and criticisms concerning military interference in the affairs of a civilian government.  On 15 November 2017, a mere two days after the General’s statement, the ZDF blockaded the centres of State power in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare although insisting that the actions were not a military takeover of government. The centres of state power are contained in a few colonial era-buildings clustered around the Anglican (Church of England) Cathedral of St Mary’s and All Saints in Harare, the proximity to the Church bearing testimony of the country’s colonial past. The buildings that were barricaded include the President’s and Cabinet meeting offices at Munhumutapa Building (Executive); the High Court, Supreme Court and Constitutional Courts mainly housed in the Mapondera Building opposite Munhumutapa (Judiciary) and the Parliament Buildings (Legislative). The ZDF military action was code-named “Operation Restore Legacy” and resulted in the eventual resignation of President Robert Gabriel Mugabe and the nomination of former Vice President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa as Mugabe’s successor.
The ZDF relied on the preamble to the 2013 Constitution of Zimbabwe to justify military intervention in politics. General Chiwenga indicated that people who had participated in the liberation struggle were being targeted by “counter-revolutionary elements” and hence the Zanu-PF purges signified disrespect for liberation struggles and violated the constitution. The constitutional preamble included the following phrase: “Exalting and extolling the brave men and women who sacrificed their lives during the Chimurenga/Umvukela and national liberation struggles and honouring our forebears and compatriots who toiled for the progress of our country” (ZDF Statement, 13 November 2017) (Constitution of Zimbabwe, preamble, 2013). This was mainly meant to pre-empt other constitutional provisions such as Section 211(3): “The Defence Forces must respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all persons and be non-partisan, national in character, patriotic, professional and subordinate to the civilian authority as established by this Constitution.” (Constitution of Zimbabwe, 2013)
In place of usual protestations aimed at usurpations of democracy and human rights, that usually accompany a coup d'état elsewhere in the world (See for instance the UN statement on the 2009 coup in Honduras), the ZDF military action was seemingly met with reasonable popular support and sighs of relief around the world and in Zimbabwe. The opinion would not be meant to serve as either a vote of confidence or no confidence in the military action, but to make a constitutional and political realist analysis of the ZDF’s actions. The analysis will seek to balance the context of the Zimbabwean political realities and liberation legacies with the dictates of an era of democracy, constitutionalism and human rights.


At both domestic and international level, there was general acceptance of the November 2017 military action. This was mainly as consideration for the unique status of affairs in Zimbabwe where the one-man Robert Mugabe rule has been a feature for the 37 years between 1980 and 2017. On 18 November, thousands of Zimbabweans took to the street in a solidarity march with the ZDF. In addition, in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, the country’s erstwhile colonial power, the Foreign Secretary issued a statements that “Honourable Members on all sides of the House have taken a deep interest in Zimbabwe for many years – and I pay tribute to the courage and persistence of the Honourable Member for Vauxhall, who has tirelessly exposed the crimes of the Mugabe regime, visiting the country herself during some of its worst moments… Every Honourable Member will follow the scenes in Harare with goodwill and sympathy for Zimbabwe’s long-suffering people”. (Oral statement to Parliament- Situation in Zimbabwe: Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s statement, 15 November 2017). Subsequently the leader of Zimbabwe’s neighbour, Republic of Botswana’s President Ian Khama clearly said that: “I don’t think anyone should be President for that amount of time. We are Presidents, we are not monarchs. It’s just common sense” (Reuters)
The November 2017 military action also exposes a number of realities about Zimbabwean politics, or indeed about the politics of post-colonial and post-liberation states. The events invite an analysis of the character and outlook of a liberation army turned into a national defence force as well as the growing acknowledgements of social and economic problems faced by the people of Zimbabwe. The November events reveal the following:
2.1.         Identity of the Zimbabwean Defence Forces as a liberation militia
The November 2017 military action highlighted the ZDF as a perennial liberation army that still beholds itself as a continuous product of a political and ideological process. In reality though, the ZDF was crafted from both military and political processes at the end of the Zimbabwean liberation struggle in 1979-80. At independence, the ZDF was built up from two main liberation armies, namely the Zimbabwe National Liberation Army (ZANLA) and Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA), which were military wings of Zanu-PF (and of the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union, ZAPU, which eventually joined Zanu-PF). Some units of the Rhodesian security forces were also amalgamated into the ZDF whilst extreme units of the Rhodesian army such as the Selous Scouts were immediately disbanded. Even during the integration of the armies with professional support from the United Kingdom, there was “some conflict between the agreed nature of the new force under training with Mugabe, whose ZANLA forces had been trained by the Chinese and who wished to adopt a people's militia model on one side, and the British who wished to create a more conventional, professional army” (Jackson: 2011)
Therefore, having originated in Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle, the ZDF leadership still views itself as involved in political and ideological warfare against neo-colonialism, as the ZDF Statement of 13 November 2017 shows. The ZDF posture had problems in a democracy where the army was supposed to be a professional entity subordinate to the civilian government. The ZDF desire to be on a footing with the militaries of countries such as the People’s Republic of China where the People’s Liberation Army owes its founding to, and was under the control of, both the state and the Communist Party of China, was a bit misplaced. The ZDF was no longer the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army for starters. Rather the 2013 Constitution of Zimbabwe clearly provided that: “Neither the security services nor any of their members may, in the exercise of their functions act in a partisan manner or further the interests of any political party or cause.” (Constitution of Zimbabwe, Section 208 (1) and (2))

2.2.         Political justifications of defending “the gains of the liberation struggle” and Anti-colonialism

The ZDF statement justifying interference in Zanu-PF politics, on 13 November 2017, stated that “…the Zimbabwe Defence Forces remain the major stockholder in respect to the gains of the liberation struggle and when these are threatened we are obliged to take corrective measures.” This statement conjured memories of past instances when the ZDF command evoked links to the liberation struggle to justify political involvement. The most comparative moment was on the eve of the 2002 Presidential Election when President Robert Mugabe and Zanu-PF were facing their toughest electoral challenge since 1980 at the hands of Morgan Tsvangirai and the newly formed Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party. At that time the then ZDF Commander General Vitalis Zvinavashe issued a statement: “We wish to make it very clear to all Zimbabwean citizens that the security organisations will only stand in support of those political leaders that will pursue Zimbabwean values, traditions and beliefs for which thousands of lives were lost in the pursuit of Zimbabwe’s hard-won independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and national interests. To this end, let it be known that the highest office in the land is a straitjacket whose occupant is expected to observe the objectives of the liberation struggle. We will therefore not accept, let alone support or salute, anyone with a different agenda that threatens the very existence of our sovereignty” (ZDF Statement, 9 January 2002) (Tendi: 2013).
On the day of the November 2017 military action itself however, contrary to the statement of two days earlier, further reference to the liberation struggle was markedly absent in the ZDF statement read out on the morning of the military action. The ZDF instead justified military intervention in an anti-corruption tone. They stated that their action was targeted at allegedly corrupt cabinet ministers who were mostly pro-Grace Mugabe and these ministers had long been reportedly involved in the corrupt handling of public funds, allocations of public lands and interference with the operations of local governments. In the second ZDF statement therefore, the mission of the military action was stated as: “…targeting criminals around him (President Robert Mugabe) who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in order to bring them to justice” (ZDF Statement, 15 November 2017). This highlighted that the ZDF was beginning to balance its own interests with the anti-corruption sentiments and interests of the majority of the people.
The ZDF also initially indicated that they were going to take action against “neo-colonialism”. It is widely argued and accepted that Third World countries such as Zimbabwe suffer from unfair economic and political relations with super powers as highlighted by the compositions of multinational institutions such as the United Nations Security Council, World Bank and International Monetary Fund among others. The military action and statements however gave no further helpful or tangible links of evidentiary value between “neo-colonialism” and the perceived “criminal elements” (i.e. cabinet ministers) who were allegedly detained at the KGVI (King George the Sixth) military barracks for interrogation.

2.3.         Acknowledgment of Social Economic Problems

In addition to addressing internal Zanu-PF politics, the November 2017 military action events partly sought to acknowledge socio-economic problems faced by the ordinary people. The ZDF 13 November statement stated that “As a result of squabbling within the ranks of Zanu-PF, there has been no meaningful development in the country for the past 5 years. The resultant economic impasse has ushered-in more challenges to the Zimbabwean populace such as cash shortages and rising commodity prices”.
This part of the statement was bound to evoke popular/grassroots support at a time where the country was facing economic and social problems such as cash shortages and administrative onslaught upon vendors and the urban poor.  The ZDF addressed issues of concern such as “cash-shortages” and “rising commodity prices.” Throughout the action they also acknowledged the importance of various sectors of Zimbabwean society such as the civil service, the judiciary, the legislators and the youths. These gestures were calculated at endearing the majority of the populace to the military action and judging by the mass marches of 18 November, the tactic worked.    


The November 2017 military action was still unfolding at the time of the writing. However, events surrounding the action have revealed a number of lessons and insights for the democracy and human rights movements in Zimbabwe and beyond. These include the need for an ever-vigilant and vibrant opposition and civil society sector, the need for clear-headed watchdogs for human rights and constitutionalism during the heady moments of a “revolution” and the need to check the implications of partisan military involvement on the future of democratic politics.
3.1.         The failure of mainstream opposition to develop alternative pro-poor economic policies
The main concern for people within Zimbabwe has been on organising around socio-economic challenges. In that regard Zimbabwe had had significant civil society, trade union and students’ movements at various stages of its post-colonial history. However, in the decade since 2005, there has been a marked failure by mainstream opposition parties and most of the civil society to develop pro-poor alternative economic plans. Instead these sectors have developed neo-liberal manifestos and pro-business policy briefs that have never resonated with the majority of the working class populace. In the absence of a pro-people civil society and opposition sector, the ordinary people saw the November military action as the clear salvation against the years of President Robert Mugabe’s economic and policy blunders.

3.2.         The palace coup that ended an era and the 2018 elections

The November military action was definitely a palace coup, in that it sought to replace a leader with another member of the elite, namely expelled Vice-President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa who had the support of the military. The long awaited ouster of President Robert Mugabe would likely remain the major contribution of the action. The military action, was however worrisome considering that the country was going for elections in mid-2018, and as in key Presidential elections in 2002 and 2008, there would likely be tacit support by the military for a Presidential candidate, namely Emerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa.  In the past years that involvement was very problematic for the outcomes of the elections and resulted in reports of the military being involved in torture and human rights violations of political opponents to the army’s preferred associated, with in the past has been Robert Mugabe.

3.3.         Human rights, democracy and personalisation of the liberation struggle

As indicated before, Zimbabwe remains a product of the liberation struggle. In that regard, the mainstream opposition parties’ reluctant efforts to acknowledge that history has continued to be their downfall especially at elections and mass mobilisation.
The liberation legacy has therefore ben personalised by the Zanu-PF elite, and of late by the military elite. In essence the liberation struggle legacy presupposes any opponent to be a “counter-revolutionary” devoid of human rights. Hence the worrisome military style raids and detentions of cabinet ministers who were deemed to be G40.


In conclusion, the November 2017 “Operation Restore Legacy” military action in Zimbabwe, highlight a state that was going through a social and economic crisis in addition to political uncertainty. These were fertile grounds for elite infighting within the ruling Zanu-PF party where military intervention unwittingly led to the end of the 37 years of the Robert Mugabe presidency, something which democratic elections and protest have failed to do. This was widely welcomed as a small but significant step towards a better and more democratic Zimbabwe. The November 2017 military action, no matter how it would play out to the end, will continue to be an interesting reference to the necessity of balancing demands for human rights, constitutionalism and democracy with an open-minded understanding of political reality.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Pics: Sakharov Prize Debate 2017 (University College Cork, Ireland)

These pictures were taken at the University College Cork, Ireland on 23 October 2017 . Master of Law students participated to promote human rights issues. This group consisted of Lenin Tinashe Chisaira (Zimbabwe), Mathilde Masmonetil (France) and Hannah Pickens (United States). They were supporting environmental justice and human rights activist Aura Lolita Chavez of Guatemala.

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thught is awarded by the European Parliament each year to honour exceptional individuals who combat intolerance, fanaticism and oppression.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Kwesé TV: It’s infantile for the poor to side with either Strive Masiyiwa or the Government.

Airtime vendor wearing an Econet Buddie bib
There may be a thousand and one neo-liberal reasons to sympathise with one of Zimbabwe’s richest man, Strive Masiyiwa over the furore around his Kwesé TV, talk of right to property, patriotism etc. But please job creation, labour rights, free expression, media freedom and benefits to poor Zimbabweans are not among the reasons. Let the elites (Masiyiwa and his fellow exploitative and rich government elites fight it out) fight it out among themselves and tear at each other’s guts.
I had a chat with a female friend of mine who had to send her two kids to the farms after her contact were without consultations downgraded to ‘volunteer’ status without even the curtesy of consultation from Masiyiwa’s Steward Bank.

Strive Masiyiwa took over a staggering TN Bank in 2013. TN Bank had 24 branches throughout the
Online petition over poor services at Steward Bank
country. The only innovative thing Masiyiwa did was to rename it Steward Bank and to retrench workers extensively, closing over 60% of the branches. The Board Chair of the bank became Bernard Chidzero, the son of the late neo-liberal Finance Minister Bernard Chidzero .Masiyiwa and his cronies are currently presiding over the most exploited bank workers in the country. The Zimbabwe Bank and Allied Workers Union (ZIBAWU) and the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) can testify from painful experiences.

Strive Masiyiwa
Strive Masiyiwa key business Econet thrives on extortionate service charges on one of the poorest countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Much money comes from airtime vendors who remain the poorest informal sector workers and all they get are worn out low-quality bibs that advertise Econet. At one time Econet ruthlessly admonished those Ecocash agents who were trying to raise their meagre income by also doing Telecash services.

Econet security and police raid The Source newsroom (Pic: TechnoMag)

Strive Masiyiwa and the government are not the part of the solution, but the problem. Much media means freedom of expression and of the media right. Masiyiwa and his colleagues do not share that view. In 2015 he sent his thugs to manhandle journalist at the offices of The Source newspaper in Harare, confiscating computers after they wrote investigative article exposing the shenanigans at his businesses. This was only once the preserve of government which had its POSA and AIPPA legislations. But now it was a private citizen, a philanthropist who was thuggishly forcing journalist to reveal their sources! Let him build offices in a fellow capitalist thug’s country, where the richest man in the country is President and whose workers are among the most exploited and ruthlessly managed in Africa.

It’s infantile (apologies to infants) to expect that Masiyiwa will suddenly be a benevolent capitalist just because he gets a licence for Kwesé TV and gets an opportunity to feed neo-liberal propaganda on our suffering people. It is only the naive who can close ranks with either capitalist Masiyiwa or the capitalist government in such a time. Let them butcher each other out while we watch. We need a bold new alternative system for the protection of our media rights, labour rights and the sharing of profits amongst the majority of our peoples in Zimbabwe and Africa. Strive Masiyiwa and the government are not the part of the solution, but the problem. #AbashaCapitalism 

(Lenin Tinashe Chisaira is an activist, socialist, writer and lawyer based in Harare. He blogs at and and tweets at @LeninChisaira)

An encounter with naked exploitation of workers at Chicken Slice

By Lenin Tinashe Chisaira

I had a 3-fold horrific encounter with wicked capitalism at a #ChickenSlice food outlet (Cnr 7th Street and Samora Machel Ave) on the night of August 24, 2017. Chicken Slice is by the way owned by Packers International, itself owned by Tawanda Mutyebere , who I hear is a “gospel” musician.

It was a few minutes towards midnight when I and some friends of mine,  decided to pass through and get some plain chips. First of the horrors was When we were in the queue, one of the young women who was serving suddenly collapsed , falling to the ground and hitting her head on some metal frame. She was obviously overworked, and suffering from the heat of the kitchen behind her. For about 2 minutes her co-workers continued to serve till we made an outcry .They then dragged her to some back room.

Then comes the second horror. Chicken Slice staff couldn’t call an ambulance. Despite all the ,money, customers and heat and other potential hazards, Chicken Slice doesn’t have a phone, a first aid kid and no airtime to be used even when one of the workers had such an emergency. The customers had to use their own phones and airtime to call an ambulance. 

The EMRAS ambulance came promptly after we the customers called…and I was confronted with another horror of capitalism. We discovered that all along there had been an ambulance parked outside the food outlet. It or its drivers most likely been in the outlet and they took no action at all. The unhelpful ambulance belonged to Nyaradzo Funeral Services.

I have been always openly communist, but that experience made me go to bed with the stronger conviction that capitalism as a system will never serve the people. The choice for these times is either building a an alternative socialist production and working model or continue with the barbarism that I witnessed last night. Down with #ChickenSlice. Down with Packers International. Down with Capitalism!


Thursday, 10 August 2017

Ward Fire Fighting teams Trained in Nyaminyami (Kariba Rural) District

Community fire fighting committee members being trained at Gatshe Gatshe Primary School (Pic: ZELA)
Ward based firefighting committees were established and trained in the 12 wards that make up the Nyaminyami Rural district Council on the shores of Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe’s Zambezi Valley.  The training was conducted by the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) in conjunction with the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) and the Nyaminyami Rural District Council and took place from 31 July to 5 August 2017. The trainings and provision of fire prevention materials supply were made possible due to support from the UNDP –funded Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund (ZRBF) project. In total up to 180 community based firefighting committee members were trained. The training was necessary since the Zambezi valley is a dry region and historically depended on wildlife resources, which are highly affected by wild fires.
The district’s Wards 1,2 and 4 were trained at Mola Ward Centre; Wards 5,6,and 7 were trained at Negande Ward Centre; Wards 8,9 and 10 at Musambakaruma Ward Centre; Wards 11 and 12 at Makande Business Centre whilst ward 2 which is furthest from the Siakobvu District Offices was trained at Gatshe-Gatshe Primary School. The main facilitators were EMA’s Geoffrey Mafunhwa, ZELA’s Lenin Chisaira and Action Aid Zimbabwe’s Edson Nyashanu.
The training of the ward fire fighters was opportune and long overdue. In 2016, EMA records ranked Kariba particularly Nyaminyami District as number 4 out of the 7 districts that make up Mashonaland West Province in terms of fire intensity and effects.
Map showing Fires and Land-use Affected in Kariba District in recent years (Source: EMA)

The emphasis of the trainings was on fire prevention rather than having to fight fires themselves. Hence the teams were provided with firefighting equipment in the form of knapsack sprays, shovels, fire beaters, slashers, helmets and gloves. They also received training on laws governing fire prevention in Zimbabwe, mainly the provisions of the Forest Act and S.1. 7/2007.
“Fire issues are not new,” said Headman Seremwe from ward 5. “We have always been uniting to fight fires and prevent fires. This training enhances that knowledge.” 
Further trainings will be conducted in August and early September as the fire season begins. The trainings will be conducted in two other districts within the Zambezi Valley, namely Mbire in Mashonaland Central and Binga in Matabeleland North Province.

Pictures From the Trainings in Nyaminyami Rural 
Training at Musamabakaruma , ward 9

The writer taking community members through fire management laws during a training at Gatshe Gatshe Primary School (Pic: ZELA)

Training at Gatshe Gatshe Primary School (Pic: ZELA)

Mola Ward Centre (Pic: ZELA)

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

My Appeal for Majazo Primary School (Nyaminyami/Kariba Rural District) #MajazoSchoolAppeal

Last week, when I was doing my environmental work in Nyaminyami (Kariba) Rural District Council, I came across this “school”. It's called Majazo Primary School and it was established in 1998. It is situated in Ward 9 (Musambakaruma). One of the children I had a chat with, was dusty from head to toe, from learning whilst seated on the stony ground and braving the wind and heat, then having to travel long distances to and fro school in the wildlife infested district.  I also had a chat with the school head, who then shed me and my colleagues around the school grounds. I promised that as soon as I get to Harare I would spread the word and appeal for any assistance. The school needs assistance with children’s tuition, stationary, building materials, development projects, etc. Anyone willing to assist, can inbox me or email me on and I will share the school head’s contact details, so you deal with him directly. #MajazoSchoolAppeal

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Cde Chinx (1955-2017): One of the last anti-imperialist artists to come from Zimbabwe

Cde Chinx (1955-2017)
The revolutionary artist and veteran of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle, Dickson “Cde Chinx” Chingaira breathed his last on 16 June 2017, a day when Africa commemorates the 1976 massacre of black school children by apartheid forces during the Soweto Uprising.

Cde Chinx was not only a veteran of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle, but a talented artist who chose to use music to advance the struggle against imperialism both before and after independence. It is not surprising that he was sidelined by the government. The post-independence Zimbabwean government had not hesitated to throw away a Leadership Code or to adopt the western-inspired Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP) of the 1990s.

 His key songs highlight the victorious fight against colonialism and settler rule (Maruza Imi), the fight against a government that was losing the socialist way of the liberation struggle (Rojer Confirm) and the importance of united struggles against imperialism waged by the exploited people of Asia, Africa and Latin America (Vanhu Vese vemuno muAfrica).

In his personal life, he died almost a pauper without any social welfare benefits. He also could not get medical assistance of note in a country where the leaders rush to treatments in foreign destinations. The house he built was razed down as an illegal structure in independent Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe has seen the number of artists surging up, manly as a result of democratized production of music especially by the Zimdancehall movement. However, the lack of ideological clarity also has seen these artists initially singing pro-poor songs, but within a few days of success, these artists resort to singing nonsensical music about sexual and drug escapades as well as materialist aspirations like flashy cars, money and clothes. Cde Chinx never did that, although at certain times indeed he had to join the throngs of hapless artists who would praise-sing for the Zanu Pf government under the guise of anti-Western politics in order to get recognition and food on the table.

In nutshell, many obituaries will likely be written about Cde Chinx. however, it is worthwhile to note that he, alongside the self-exiled Thomas “Mukanya” Mapfumo, Leonard Zhakata and Hosiah Chipanga, have been the last voices of truly conscious revolutionary music in Zimbabwe. Adieu Cde Chinx.

(Lenin Tinashe Chisaira is a writer, lawyer and activist based in Harare. he blogs at and and tweets at @LeninChisaira

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Boycottism is the new Patriotism at national commemorations.

On 18 April each year, since 1980, the Republic of Zimbabwe commemorates its Independence from colonial rule (and from a racist and fascist Rhodesian regime). The event is characterised by military parades, mass displays, the President’s speech and a soccer match at the National Sports Stadium in Harare. In any other county, a similar event would be characterised by wholesale patriotism. In Zimbabwe the event is mostly viewed with a partisan. A lot of Zimbabweans do not attend the Independence festive, rather they merely take advantage of the official designation of 18 April as a public holiday and they rest. The conscious ones willingly boycott the festive. In boycotting they seek to send a strong message that they are not complicit in the way the country is being run. To these, boycotting ‘national’ commemorations is a show of newfound patriotism.

 Patriotism, itself a not so progressive concept, relates to a one’s love or devotion to one’s country.  The concept can be observed when one celebrates the history, trials and triumphs of a nation. Zimbabwe’s dominant politics if jambajaism and insults results in a divided society based on one’s political party membership; people from the collective opposition are constantly denounced as unpatriotic and ‘sell-outs”. This denigration is accompanied by segregation when it comes to public processes such as Independence Day commemorations.

It was interesting that the President Speech at the 2017 Commemoration included the sentence that “every person has the right to a political; party of their choice”. The statements however remain hollow to a majority of urban based and working class Zimbabweans who chose to remain at home.

Indeed there is every justification for people to boycott national events. This will ensure that future governments and leaders will learn lessons and ensure that these events are not privatised for the benefit of a sole political party or class. However these boycotts should be organised and be pronounced. At the moment, the capacity of the ruling party to mobilise its supporters, by force or other means, and the resultant multitudes who attend the commemoration, can cover up the partisan nature of such commemorations to the untrained eye.

After over three decades of uhuru, Zimbabwe should be a more democratic, inclusive and participatory society. The fact that even the leader of the majority opposition party , Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC-T or the former Vice President Joice Mujuru who has been in government since 1980 until being purged recently, do not participate in the Independence Day commemorations, should be worrisome  to any organiser of such events.

As a final word, whilst the people should not be keen supporters of patriotism, since the concept doesn’t recognise the reality of class struggles and differences in a given society, the same people should oppose in every form, the dominance of partisanship and other divisions during the commemoration of past historic struggles and events such as the War of liberation, Unity Day, Independence day, Heroes Day and Defence Forces days.

 [Lenin Tinashe Chisaira is an activist and lawyer based in Harare, Zimbabwe. He tweets at @LeninChisaira and is interested in Economic Justice, Human Rights, Leftist Politics and Environmental Justice. He edits and blogs at ]

Friday, 17 February 2017

Zimbabwe: Dealing with environmental politics in a year of Cyclone #Dineo and Mbare typhoid outbreaks.

ex-Cyclone Dineo
The year 2017 has opened up with disaster scares in the form of typhoid, flooding in the high density suburb of Mbare in Harare and cyclone alerts in the southern parts of the country. Two people reportedly lost their lives whilst over a thousand cases were brought to the hospitals in the January typhoid fiasco. At a political level there were accusations ranging from the Harare City Council laying the blame on vendors whilst resident and vendor associations such as the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) and the Vendors Initiative for Socio-Economic Transformation (VISET) blamed the city and government for non-provision of safe water to lack of consultations when a controversial mall was built on water courses just outside Mbare. The residents rightfully remain convinced that the mall blocked water ways during the excessive rainfall that has affected Zimbabwe since the end of 2016. The water flooded and brought various pathogens and waste into people’s homes.

Before the news and shock of typhoid has ebbed, the Meteorological Services Department in the midst of February 2017 warned of an upcoming disaster in the form of Cyclone Dineo. The cyclone was expected to hit the southern parts of Zimbabwe and her neighbouring coastal states of Mozambique and South Africa.

Against this background, there is need to question whether the governments in the various states will prioritise environmental justice, that is, catering for the rights of marginalised groups in society in relation to their benefits or challenges from nature. In Zimbabwe, exactly three years ago, in February 2014, over 7000 people had to be evacuated and then rescued by well-wishers after government failed to provide adequate disaster management systems following the shoddy workmanship and breakdown of Tokwe-Mukosi Dam in Masvingo Province.

The government should engage itself in understanding the politics of geographical locations. Areas like Masvingo, Matabeleland South, Manicaland and Mbare which are the main areas of concern in this article, are characterised by unfavourable economic conditions as well as geographical nightmares, and hence are prone to poverty, pollution, drought and marginalisation.

The government should deliver on its mandate of empowering departments and agencies that
First reports of ex-Cyclone Dineo (eNCA)
are critical to public health, e
mergency management and disaster prevention of both natural and man-made hazards, such as the health sector, National Civic Protection Committee and the Civil Protection Directorate. Furthermore, there must be prioritisation of the alignment of legislations such as the Civil Protection Act, Environmental Management Act, Rural District Councils Act amongst others, to the 2013 Constitution of Zimbabwe.

Human lives, disaster management and public health are of fundamental social concern. Any government or local authority worth its salt must provide its people with safe, clean water, ensure that there are conducive environments for access to basic nutrition and health services. Unfortunately for most impoverished and forgotten communities that has not been the case.

The government and Ministry of Health officials should pull up their socks in documenting, researching and mapping on the lifestyle choices, social and economic circumstances as well as weather patterns that affect the nation as a whole. They should have spent more time on these and less on petty fights, corruption and human rights violations.

The ordinary people themselves must be able to organise themselves and demand that their rights are protected and upheld by so called “duty bearers”. People are paying taxes and rates and these should be utilised more on disaster preparedness, public health and socio-economic issues and less on foreign trips, smear media campaigns, parties and rallies.

[Fadzai Midzi studies Geography and Environmental Studies at Midlands State University. Lenin Tinashe Chisaira is an activist and environmental legal and policy researcher based in Harare.]

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Zimbabwe: Can Parliament help reverse the Marange diamonds curse?

A blog on Parliament’s visit to the Chiadzwa/Marange diamond fields on 13-15 January 2017.The authors were part of the widely reported field visit. #ParlyVisit2Marange

Zimbabwe legislators in the Marange diamond fields
Where is the missing $15 billion from Marange diamonds? This is an eminent question that is likely to be asked in any public discussion on the Marange diamonds. A state owned enterprise, the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) was created under the guise of promoting greater transparency and accountability in the management of Marange diamonds. The 8th Parliament of Zimbabwe through the Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy (PCME) is one of the stakeholders that have sought to hold the government and ZCDC accountable. Public hearings have been conducted at Parliament targeting the ZCDC and its parent the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development (MMMD). Currently, ZCDC is mining concessions that were previously held by Marange Resources and Diamond Mining Company (DMC). ZCDC has not been able to start mining operations in diamond concessions owned by Mbada diamonds, Anjin and Jinan due to a February 2016 contested consolidation of diamond companies which has since spilled into the courts. 
Arguably, the role of Parliament as a critical stakeholder in the governance of mineral resources has been a contentious one among civil society and development partners. Of course, Zimbabwe’s challenging political economy where the executive has a well-documented history of whipping Parliament into line is the fodder which many critics use. The PCME has however, been handy in some instances. The widely acclaimed Chindori Chininga Report (October, 2013) on Marange diamonds is a case in point.

To gain first hand appreciation of what is happening in Marange after the contentious consolidation of diamond mines, the PCME, with the support of the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) visited Marange and Arda Transau on 13 and 14 January 2017. Parliament had to get clearance to conduct the field visit. Regrettably, the clearance constrained the hand of PPCME to interact with the affected community members and the workers.

The tour commenced with a meeting between the legislators, journalists and the ZCDC management and staff at the ZCDC Boardroom at Chiadzwa. The team went through safety and security presentations from the ZCDC Head of Security.

The ZCDC mining processes are divided into portals. The first port of call for the parliamentarians was Portal Q, which is the area that was formerly mined by DMC. There the participants witnessed earth movers and Lorries extracting the ore for transportations to the mining processing plants. The plants themselves are not connected to the national power grid, hence they use diesel powered generators. The ZCDC management indicated that they were working towards the connection to the national grid. They said they were using up to 20,000 liters of diesel per day to run generators to power the mining processes. This is not desirable both for feasibility reasons and for environmental considerations especially huge carbon imprint of such an operation. ZCDC indicated that ZESA was stonewalling their efforts to get connected to the power grid.

Most of the equipment being used by ZCDC is on a ‘for hire’ basis, which is an expensive move for the company. There were questions raised about the sustainability of depending on hired machinery instead of purchasing own equipment. Members of the PPC expressed concern that equipment hiring is prone to corruption, especially if there is no oversight over procurement procedures and systems.

There were various issue updates that surrounded the tour. For instance, the acting ZCDC CEO Ridge Nyashanu took the legislators through the mission, vision and core values of the ZCDC Company. He also reiterated the challenges facing the company, namely the court proceedings. On top of that there seemed to be challenges in raising capital, having to hire expensive equipment, water shortages, high security costs, legacy issues as well as absence of a reliable skills base.

He also indicated those mines that had not been secured by ZCDC due to court challenges were being protected by the Zimbabwe Republic police (ZRP) Support Unit under an operation code named “Operation Chengetedzai Upfumi”. Procurement contracting is needed to prevent corruption, inefficiencies and leakages of resources which have impacted on the profitability of ZCDC’s operations. Ultimately, accruable benefits to the state such as corporate income tax and dividends will be hurt by corrupt procurement practices.

In terms of geological challenges, the company was yet to identify the kimberlite pipeswhich would be the actual source of the diamonds. At the moment there is only alluvial mining taking place at the Chiadzwa/Marange diamond fields.

Prof Gudyanga who is both the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development and an ex-officio Chair of the ZCDC gave an update on the status of ZCDC before the tour. He highlighted some of the challenges that were being faced by the company.

Among the challenges were the legal challenges faced by the company were as follows:

v    Legal Challenges
ZCDC faced legal challenges from companies who were operating the mines before their licenses failed to be renewed by the Minister of Mines, Hon. Walter Chidhakwa in February 2016. ZCDC had already won court cases against DMC and Mbada Diamonds. However, there was still an outstanding challenge from Anjin and Jinan. Through bilateral discussions held between the Zimbabwean and Chinese governments, Anjin and Jinan are expected to drop their court challenge.

It is remarkable to note that government has sought the alternative dispute resolution route aside from litigation to resolve the disputes around diamond mining claims. The court process by nature is long, costly and can rapture relationships with investors in this case. This is the route that should have been pursed diligently from the outset. Notably, the protracted legal disputes have caused a sharp drop in diamond production which has a telling effect on foreign currency shortages. Diamond export earnings could have eased the foreign currency crises that is hurting socio-economic development. Already, the Zimbabwe Medical Association (ZMA) has issued a stress call on low stock levels for essential drugs caused by foreign currency shortages.

v    Relocations of Villagers from mining areas
ZCDC announced the intention of completing the relocations of people from the mining areas. However, this was said to be hampered by lack of financial resources as the company was just operating two mine portals.

However, a relocation plan must be put in place, an open plan with clear targets to allow communities to monitors the relocation exercise. The ideal scenario is that relocations under Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) should precede mining activities. However, it looks like ZCDC is looking to raise funds for relocation from the proceeds of mining activities. Potentially, this might escalate community rights violation if cash flow challenges are experienced and from other competition priorities like capitalization.

v    Employees
There were plans for former employees of the previous diamond mining companies to be absorbed into ZCDC. This was pending the outcome of the ongoing legal proceedings.

There is need for disclosure of the numbers of employees that were affected by the consolidation and the total debt ZCDC has accrued as a result. It will be interesting for CSOs to carry out a study focusing on socio-economic impact of consolidation focusing on affected workers to show the human cost often overshadowed by economic considerations

v    Diamond Exploration
The mining taking place was mainly for alluvial diamonds. A huge investment is being made by ZCDC towards geological surveys and mapping underground pipes.

It is clear that ZCDC is facing capitalization challenges. Given the high costs associated with exploration, it is hard to see a situation where meaningful diamond exploration of diamonds can be undertaken by ZCDC. Therefore, ZCDC must prioritise the engagement of a sound technical and financial partner to explore and exploit diamonds in Marange.

v    Consolidation and ZCDC’s legal status
The permanent secretary explained that there is a misconception that ZCDC is an initiative to consolidate the diamond companies that were operating in Marange. Rather, the consolidation process refers to the mines. It was also explained that ZCDC was registered under the Companies Act (Cap 24:03).

On the denial by Prof Gudyanga that ZCDC was neither a successor company to neither the previous diamond miners nor a consolidation of their business, there arises many questions about the real status of the company. The absence of an act of parliament makes it questionable as to what sort of a parastatal it is. Furthermore, if it is a private company, then there will be questions over the way it got the license over the diamond, which are supposed to be strategic for the economic development of the nation.

v    Production statistics
ZCDC’s annual diamond production for 2016 stood at 963,000 carats against the targeted production of 1.3 million carats. In 2015, diamond in Marange stood at 2.3 million carats.  This was caused by ZCDC’s failure to mine diamond concession owned by Mbada, Anjin and Jinan due to the legal disputes.

2016, diamond production in Marange fell by 59%, from 2.3 million carats in 2015 to 953 000 carats in 2016. Considering the peak diamond production of more than 12 million carats in 2012, the Marange diamond wealth now ominously looks like a squandered opportunity. ZCDC is not living up to its promise on improving transparency and accountability. As an example, diamond production statistics are not disaggregated to show gem, semi-precious and industrial diamonds. Disclosure of disaggregated diamond production data is very important as high valued gem quality diamonds are highly susceptible to theft, smuggling and undervaluation. 

v    ZCDC’s expansion plans
The company was trying to optimize production at the mines sites which it currently operates. Then there were plans to start mining at the Mbada and DTZ claims. In terms of capitalization, the company was working towards purchasing equipment, refurbishments as well as getting connected to the national power grid instead of using diesel fueled generators for power.

v    Security of diamonds

Another key issue shared concerned security of the diamonds. ZCDC was developing a product tracing system that will track the diamonds from the mine to the sorting house. There was also remote monitoring of production processes with different security teams expected to produce occasional reports separately from each other. There were also plans for the use of drones to monitor the mining and production processes.

v    CSR and Community Enterprise Development
ZCDC indicated that as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes, the company is buying vegetables and chickens from the community for its canteen. In addition, ZCDC would want to build a university a hospital among other community social investments the company is making.

ZCDC must however have a clear and open CSR policy which can be monitored by the communities and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs). Whilst the act of buying vegetables and chickens from the host community is good, ZCDC can do more to help with community enterprise development. For instance, all the goods and services that are not complex and technical should be given to the local communities

v  Employment
Currently, ZCDC is employing 440 workers comprising of 401 males and 39 females.
In sectors such as Finance there was just one female to 12 men, in engineering there was 1 woman to 78 men. The percentage of locals employed by ZCDC is 49.7%.

The gender disparities in terms of employment opportunities are quite glaring and most likely widen inequality gap between men and women. Women labour constitutes roughly 9% of the total employees at ZCDC. Whilst it has been generally alleged that women to lack the technical skills needed in the mining sector, it is shocking to note that even the finance department has huge gender disparity, 1 female and 12 men. It is difficult to argue that there is shortage of skilled women in the market


On the 14th of January which was Day 2 of the tour, the PPC visited Arda Transau. This is an area where the villagers from the Chiadzwa/Marange area were relocated to. ARDA Transau is situated about 20 kilometers from Mutare, the Manicaland provincial capital.

The parliamentary team managed to meet and hear the concerns of the relocated villagers. The major concerns included the following:

v  Overcrowding. Most of the families reported being settled in one-family quarters together with elder children and their families as well. This led to lack of privacy and outbreak of water-borne diseases. Recently communities bury one person every week.
v  Inadequate health and school facilities. The villagers indicated that there was just a single doctor and a single nurse at the Arda Transau clinic. These were supposed to cater for a community of over 5000 people.
v  Inadequate land for cultivation. The team observed that each family was allocated a mere 1 hectare for housing, livestock kraals and cultivation.
v  Unfulfilled promises. These mainly centered on an irrigation project which has not been developed since the relocation began around 2009. Even when it will be completed each family will only be allocated half a hectare. This is hardly adequate for just subsistence agriculture, not to mention commercial.

The concerns from the villagers were gathered by parliament for future redress. The team also managed to visit the places where ZCDC itself settled 23 families in December 29016. The area’s roads have not been serviced and the health facilities were situated about 10 kilometers away, which was hardly adequate for the community. ZCDC indicated 18 of the 23 families had received disturbance allowances but the relocated families indicated they were still awaiting receipt of the said funds. The PPC asked questions on whether ZCDC had a relocation plan and had standardized amenities before relocating communities.

ZCDC indicated that they had no resources and once resources become available they will work on a relocation plan. ZCDC was asked how many more families needed to be relocated and indicated that approximately 400 families. The families relocated in 2011 indicated that in fact ZCDC must halt any plans to bring more people to Arda Transau because their married children who had been promised housing never received any and decided to occupy some houses that remained unallocated. In fact, the families claim that the Mutare District Administrator now claims that their children are illegal occupiers from Mutare who unlawfully much to their shock.  The lack of a relocation policy left Arda Transau communities in sad situation.


Mineral resource governance challenges are still festering in Marange. Zimbabwe’s diamond mining industry is well known for an executive-reported missing US$15 billion. Transparency and accountability is still a great challenge as the public is in dark with regards to the quality footprint of diamond production. Alluvial diamond mining boon is gone judging by the production which has plummeted to 953 000 carats from the pick production of 12 million carats in 2012. A stern remainder that minerals are a finite asset and the opportunity must never be squandered. Clearly, ZCDC’s capacity to undertake much needed exploration, mining of conglomerate and kimberlites is questionable. The state enterprise is in need of a sound financial and technical partner to turn around the rot in Marange. Community engagement and local development initiatives being undertaken by ZCDC are a mockery especially when compared with the likes of Zimplats. It now remains to be seen how the Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy will use the knowledge and experience gained through the field visit to further its oversight role in the management of Marange diamond resources and reverse the curse.

[Mukasiri Sibanda (@mukasiri) is an economic governance officer. He is interested in mineral resource governance. He blogs at .Lenin Tinashe Chisaira (@LeninChisaira) is a lawyer and activist. He writes on economic and environmental justice, human rights and leftist democracy.  He blogs on . Mukasiri and Lenin work with the Zimbabwe Environmental law Association]