Monday, 10 December 2018

My new paper: '#AfCFTA 2018: The Continental Free Trade Area, Neo-Liberalism and Africa's Resource Curses'

By Lenin Tinashe Chisaira

My new paper: '#AfCFTA 2018: The Continental Free Trade Area, Neo-Liberalism and Africa's Resource Curses' appears in the Young African Leaders Journal of Development #YALJOD Vol II:2018

Read/Download Here

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Reflections from #WorldChildrensDay (20 November)

Reflections from #WorldChildrensDay (20 November): When I visited Kuntah Kinteh Island, The Gambia. My guide took time to show me a school he founded. Bravo for building a world where every child is in school and learning, safe from harm and able to fulfil their potential.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Zimbabwe’s 2018 elections: The end of a neoliberal beauty contest and the way forward

[First published, 18 August 2018 on Pambazuka News]

The historic Zimbabwe presidential and parliamentary “harmonised’ elections of 30 July 2018 have just been concluded. The final results tally saw President Emmerson Mnangagwa getting 2,460,463 votes (50.8 per cent), ahead of his nearest rival Nelson Chamisa who got 2,147,436 votes (44.3 per cent). The 50.8 per cent by the President meant he scrapped above the legal 50 per cent plus one vote necessary to avoid a run-off election. 

President Emmerson Mnangagwa (left) and Nelson Chamisa (right)
The 2018 elections will be remembered as the year where the opposition and the ruling party for the first time, behaved as Siamese twins in terms of presenting an equally neo-liberal economic outlook and for exhibiting similar problems with internal democracy as well as for calling for divine interventions in their political campaigns. On the last point, the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) ran under the prayer line “The voice of the people is the Voice of God” while the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change Alliance (MDC-A) used the phrase “God is in it”.

No ideological differences in the neoliberal ruling and opposition parties

However, as the results from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) trickled in, it became almost certain that the ruling ZANU-PF party of President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa (75) was headed for a landslide re-election. The main opposition MDC-A led by lawyer and Christian pastor Nelson Chamisa (40) was headed for a defeat. A perusal of the manifestos, however, makes the reader go at pains to see any differences in the politics and ideas of the two main parties. They went at length to embrace and campaign on the ideals of neo-liberal capitalist aspirations.

The manifestos of the two main parties seemed to be corporate strategy documents. For instance, in terms of neo-liberal economics, the ZANU-PF manifesto described its New Dispensation governable model in the following words:

“We are now in a New Dispensation under the leadership of ZANU-PF, where focus and preoccupation of the new administration is opening up the country for business…and promoting investment, economic empowerment and realigning to an investor-friendly trajectory that leads to economic growth…”[[i]].

Neo-liberal economists openly fronted the MDC-A, which strangely started off as a worker-led party but at the time of the elections, was led by neoliberal lawyers, economists and business people also issued a lengthy manifesto in the run-up to the election. The manifesto indicated that the Alliance transformation markers in government would include the following very neo-liberal economic measures:

Restoration of the land market and the issuance of title deeds to beneficiaries of the land reform programme;
Promotion of foreign direct investment and foreign portfolio investment through the enactment of a new foreign investment law and the ease of doing business [[ii]].
In hindsight, these opposition neo-liberal measures, notably a land market, were going to be rejected by the majority rural based farming and peasant communities. According to the 2012 census, 67 per cent of Zimbabwe’s population lives in the countryside, while 33 per cent is urban-based (See also, the ZEC Final Report on Biometric Voter Registration). In addition to anti-peasant policies, the opposition’s obsession with “ease of doing business” reforms (which are synonyms for anti-labour justice measures and laissez-faire economics) were out of sync with the ideals of a formerly workers’ party.

With the MDC-A, the tragedy was that workers and trade unions elites such as the leadership of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) still believed that the party was pro-working class. This illusion persisted despite the involvement of the party leadership in anti-working class labour matters such as the Zuva Judgement of 2015 [[iii]]. The judgement made it easier for employers to dismiss employees. In 2018, the lawyers who worked on the case on the employer’s side became the leading candidates and legal advisors of the 2018 MDC-A campaign. This removal of such illusions and the reclaiming of the opposition voice by the working class is the primary task for anti-neoliberal forces in the post- 2018 election season.

Foreign policy: Seeking to be willing servants of Western states

The elections exposed a desire by both parties to be puppets of Western capitals. The opposition was at pains to align itself to the Americans while the ruling party sought to endear itself to the erstwhile British colonial power. These alliances may likely have future implications on the state’s foreign policy as former allies like the Peoples Republic of China and Russia will seek to maintain the hold they have had during the days of Western-imposed isolation and economic, political sanctions that were occasioned by the anti-imperialist rhetoric of former President Robert Mugabe.

The campaign period, by extension, started the moment the former President Robert Mugabe resigned following a military-led popular uprising in November 2017[[iv]]. On the international relations level, the campaign saw the two main candidates and parties going all out to seek the friendship of Western capitalist capitals. Mnangagwa went all out to court the annual World Economic Forum meeting at Davos, Switzerland and made pledges to re-join the Commonwealth grouping of ex-British colonies. The ZANU-PF Manifesto openly celebrated this:

“Cde Mnangagwa’s astuteness and principled stance on the role of the private sector in national development has seen him become the first Zimbabwean President to be invited to the prestigious 2018 World Economic Forum in the Swiss Alps at Davos [[v]].

In the main opposition camp, the foreign policy was a bit of the dramatic and the non-strategic. The opposition indicated “neutrality”:

“The MDC-A government will pursue a conservative foreign policy in respect of which it will remain non-aligned and will seek to make friends with every decent state in the world, that shares its values of democracy, constitutionalism, socially just transparency, openness and inclusivity”[[vi]].

Their actions, however, highlighted lack of competence to deal with foreign matters in the contemporary world. For instance, there was explicit support from the MDC-A for the problematic State of Israel. Nelson Chamisa even made a probably ill-advised “private” trip to Israel in the midst of the campaign [[vii]]. The pro-Israel sentiments further went against the grain of most African and progressive states outside Africa. This global political stance can be seen by, for instance, how the world voted against Israel/United States in the 2017 United Nations General Assembly Resolution on Jerusalem [[viii]]. All this was lost on the opposition and its campaign and policy advisors.

Furthermore, Nelson Chamisa and the MDC-A principals like Tendai Biti and Jacob Ngarivhume made trips to the Capitol Hill in Washington, DC pledging to be the future blue-eyed boys of American capital. Following the trips, at one of his ill-fated rallies in the diamond-rich Manicaland Province, Nelson Chamisa made a far-fetched, amateurish and non-strategic claim that United States President Donald Trump promised the opposition a US $15 billion-dollar victory present [[ix]].

In a nutshell, the foreign policies of both parties were neo-liberal in outlook. However, the opposition party was less strategic and ill-advised in its policy aspirations and conduct.

The way forward for the anti-neoliberal movement

The 2018 elections helped to open the eyes of the anti-neoliberal movement. The elections showed that the major parties of the moment in Zimbabwe are ideological twins. Hence only the building of a new alternative can at least represent the anti-neoliberal aspirations of the Zimbabwean people. The 2018 elections, therefore, present opportunities for the left in many ways. There is need for the continued perusal of the ZANU-PF and MDC-A manifestos to remove illusions from the ordinary peoples. Exposing the similar neo-liberal aspirations of the two main parties to the people is warranted.

Real leftists, to borrow from the words of Amilcar Cabral, must: “Hide nothing from the masses of our people. Tell no lies. Expose lies whenever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures. Claim no easy victories...”[[x]]. Such political measures will assist in the building of a new anti-neoliberal and anti-capitalist alternative for Zimbabwe and Southern Africa. The new movement should have safeguards from the beginning against the ideological infiltration and opportunism that have become the gravediggers of both the liberation era ZANU-PF party and the former worker-led MDC party.

* Lenin Tinashe Chisaira is a writer, lawyer, researcher and socialist based in Harare, Zimbabwe. He is currently studying International Human Rights and Public Policy at the University College Cork, Ireland.


[i] ZANU-PF, The People’s Manifesto 2018, p.1

[ii] MDC-A, New Zimbabwe Pledge For A Sustainable And Modernisation Agenda For Real Transformation, p. 26.

[iii] Nyamande & Another v Zuva Petroleum (Pvt) Ltd (SC 281/14) [2015] ZWSC 43.

[iv] See Chisaira LT, “Zimbabwe’s November 2017 Military Action: A Critique on Constitutionalism, Liberation Armies and Political Realities”, CCJHR blog, Ireland, 22 November 2017.

[v] ZANU-PF, The People’s Manifesto 2018, p. 5.

[vi] MDC-A, New Zimbabwe Pledge For A Sustainable And Modernisation Agenda For Real Transformation, p. 25

[vii] See The Standard, “Chamisa goes to Israel”, 1 July 2018.

[viii] Al Jazeera, “UN Jerusalem resolution: How each country voted”, 21 Dec 2017.

[ix] Business Daily, “MDC-A apologises for Chamisa $15bn lie”, 4 February 2018.

[x] Cabral (1969), Revolution in Guinea: Selected Texts.

Monday, 7 May 2018

Reflections from the Exercise Viking18 on civil-military cooperation in multinational crisis response and peace operations

This was a guest blog by Lenin Tinashe Chisaira (candidate on the UCC LLM International Human Rights Law & Public Policy programme) orginally posted on the Centre for Criminal Justice & Human Rights blogs page reflecting on his experience in the Viking18 civil-military training exercise in Custume Barracks, Athlone.

The Exercise Viking18 on civil-military cooperation in crisis response and peace operations was conducted from 16th – 26th April 2018 at sites in Brazil, Bulgaria, Finland, Ireland, Serbia and Sweden, with over 2,500 military personnel and civilian humanitarians simultaneously working on the same fictitious scenario in real-time. The Swedish Armed Forces are the primary coordinator and host of the exercise, in conjunction with the Folke Bernadotte Academy (the Swedish agency for peace, security and development). The Viking training exercises are held every four years; therefore 2018 was an opportune time for the dozen law and international relations students from University College Cork who applied and got selected to participate in the exercise. It was an informative and hectic week for students interested in international humanitarian law.

The exercise is conducted in real-time. The Exercise Viking focused on the fictional State of Bogaland, whose map, however, is modelled on Sweden. There is an excellent level of seriousness from both military, police and civilian participants and that makes the whole exercise worthwhile. The Exercise Viking indeed develops a sense of ‘on the ground’ experience for all participants.

In Ireland, the exercise was conducted at Custume Barracks in Athlone, County Westmeath. The participating UCC team was joined by other students from University College Dublin and NUI Maynooth. Students were divided amongst dedicated Irish Aid mentors, and they participated in the simulated ground operations of some humanitarian aid agencies. These agencies included the Red Cross, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), UN Mission in Bogaland (UNMIB), the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and non-governmental organisations (NGO).

As UCC students, we had some helpful prior pieces of training in Cork, conducted by our UCC coordinators Dr Dug Cubie from the School of Law and Dr David Fitzgerald from the School of History. We also had a briefing from Comdt Laura Fitzpatrick, from the Defence Forces Ireland. She is also the Chief Instructor at the United Nations Training School Ireland (UNTSI).

As a participant, I was first deployed to the Red Cross office and then to the OCHA office due to the availability of experienced mentors. My day during the exercise would start at 0700hrs each morning with breakfast and then going over the events of the previous night. Information was shared via email, telephone and especially dedicated social media and newspapers. I would draft emails to seek clarity on specific issues with the military side of the exercise.

There were also daily briefing meetings. As a participant, I attended the OCHA briefing meetings with humanitarian agencies where we planned activities such as the deployment of secure aid convoys to disaster-affected regions of Bogaland. This participation in meetings was very informative as it informed how civilians and the military should communicate in a conflict zone.

I also managed to attend some army briefings as an observer, notably the morning Commanders Briefing and the Operations Briefing. During the Commanders Briefing, leaders of each army unit from intelligence, operations, legal and others would brief the commander about the situation on the ground and discuss the planned activities for the next 24 hours. This method was also the situation with the Operations Briefing.

On the overall, the Exercise Viking was a critical and practical element to my LLM experience in Ireland. I imagine that it was similarly helpful and practical for all the other participating students, civilian, police and military personnel from around the world. It added a real-world dimension on what life and interaction would be like in a humanitarian situation, in conflict areas.

The only downside is that the exercise is only held every 3-4 years, which means such an opportunity would only be availed to students and other stakeholders in the year 2021.

For future participants, the training is a once in a lifetime event, and it adds to the practical side of learning. It is a welcome experience that holds together lessons from international humanitarian law, international relations, development planning, crisis response, and conflict resolution and human rights sides. And yes, in the end, we were awarded #Viking18 pins and certificates for successful participation in Exercise Viking 18.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Six Political Facts concerning the Zimbabwe Election 2018

By Lenin Tinashe Chisaira

It has been long since I visited this blog, mainly as a result of settling in Ireland for my studies and also being away from Zimbabwe. However, I have made some observations which I ought to share about the Zimbabwe Election in 2018. The contest is likely to take place in the period between June and August 2018. The main contestants seem set to be President Emmerson Mnangwagwa of Zanu-Pf and Nelson Chamisa of the MDC Alliance. Anyway here are my six political facts.

1: The Zimbabwe election 2018 is an election without an alternative. ED will woo UK-based, and Chamisa will woo US-based capitalists. Only opportunists see a choice between the two.
MDC Alliance leaders Nelson Chamisa (far left) and Tendai Biti (third from left) reporting to the US Congress in Washington DC (December 2017)

2: Zanu PF has purged economic empowerment factions and any semblance of progressive economic policies and seeks to overturn its own land reform programme.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa with International Monetary Fund's (IMF) Managing DirectorChristinene Lagarde at the WEF 2018.

3: MDC Alliance has purged workers from leadership. I struggle to find ex-trade unionists with any real power in the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions-formed opposition party. Now its led by wealthy lawyers and business consultants

4: Prez Emmerson Mnangagwa and Nelson Chamisa have been in the same government before. That is in the Government of National Unity (2008-2013). Both have been around for at least 15 years in Parliament or Government in Zimbabwe

5: Both Zanu-PF and MDC Alliance use and abuse excitable and unemployed youths under the hashtags #EDhasMyVote and #GenerationalConsensus respectively.
Zanu-Pf youths dance at the launch of the #EDHasMyVote Campaign in Harare.

MDC Alliance #GenerationalConsensus organisers

6: In the Zimbabwe 2018 elections there is nothing new & whoever wins, the country  is headed for a period of human rights abuse, social and economic disaster.  The hope is in progressive activists and campaigns fighting back.

Follow on Twitter @LeninChisaira