Tuesday, 23 December 2014

The Question of the Zimbabwean Diaspora Vote

By Nick Mangwana

The most prevalent carping remark provoked by any talk of a National Diasporan Policy is "We want our vote".  This has been a detraction from the main thrust of  a wider diasporan policy framework. We have therefore decided to focus on the topic of a diaspora vote this week.  Like all political debates, it will benefit more from  an open mind and maturity from all interlocutors.

The major argument being advanced by those who advocate to participate in Zimbabweans  elections from their bases  is that the diasporans contribute over $2 billion to the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) every year. This therefore entitles them to some recognition and should obligate their governments to facilitate them to vote from wherever they are based. Those that oppose this argument contend that this money is not going through the fiscus and therefore not taxation. Much of this money is for familial social support therefore whilst it covers a lot of what a government would have been expected to do for its citizens, it is still not taxation. One cannot say that simply because they look after their mother or siblings therefore they should be given a vote.  If everyone in Zimbabwe who looks after their folks was stopped from paying taxes then the government would not function.  At the heart of this argument is the fact that the Zimbabwean diaspora should not be lobbying for a vote unless they are prepared to pay taxes.  Is it taxation or citizenship which should determine who votes in an election? In Britain practically every tax payer votes regardless of their citizenship.

The United States levies taxes on its expatriates income and allows them to participate in all its elections and referenda. The old slogan "No taxation without representation" comes to mind. So Americans are taxed on everything they earn from anywhere in the world. Eritrea has started taking 2% of all UK earnings from its diasporans for use back home. One can already hear apoplectic shouts from the Zimbabwean diaspora against the mere suggestion that they pay part of their income to the Government of Zimbabwe (GoZ)!

Well, if people want to vote in the diasporan do they expect the few taxes levied against street vendors and on airtime and other micro-economic enterprise to be used to facilitate their vote in Birmingham, Gauteng or Dallas? Someone has to pay. How would you justify taking millions away from key services and allocating to the people that live in far off places to determine your  destiny?
  From the cost of campaigning to the holding of elections itself. Would you still expect an economically challenged and an overstretched budget to track down, register,  conduct voter education and campaigns and still hold an election with due integrity?  This is because managing a vote in all these places is quite expensive even if it based at the embassies. On the other side of this argument is that with modern technology electronic voting should be able to alleviate these challenges. Even this does not come cheap.  

How about the security of the vote itself?We have always suffered from the sore loser syndrome in African politics and particularly in Zimbabwe . Opposition parties never hardly ever concede an election loss no matter how flawlessly it is conducted. Will this not add another complex  dimension to the tired manipulation accusation? If one considers the figure of 3-4 million Zimbabweans in the diaspora  being thrown around, it means the value of the diasporan vote is not only of a swing value but if the turnout is good it will be more than 3 provinces worthy. This makes it very substantial and as a result very contentious.  This leads straight  to the question of whether everyone over 18  in the diaspora would be allowed to vote.

The United States allows everyone. Britain allows only those that have been out of the country for not more than 15 years only.  Most countries the average is 6 years.  Should we use the British system, most of the people in the diasporan would be excluded from voting in 2018 anyway. The United States is unlimited because of the issue of taxation.  In the same vein we have to ask ourselves who we should allow to vote in our national election.  The person that left Zimbabwe 40 years ago, his children and grand children or just him within 20 years of emigrating? To make it limitless would provoke the question of, how much attached and in touch are they still. How much engaged with the issues at home are they to be allowed to determine leaders of a country they have little to with now? In most cases they already vote where they reside and pay taxes, why would they be allowed to vote and determine leadership  in 2 countries (unless of course they pay taxes in both)?

How informed is someone resident elsewhere on issues on the ground? The proliferation of the internet and social media makes it a bit easier to be more or less au fair with the situation on the ground, but it is still different from the one that experiences it. If the people in Zimbabwe cannot boast that they are very much in touch with the situation on the ground in Britain, then the reverse also holds true.  Can a person based in Zimbabwe vote on matters in Britain saying they know all about it through social media and reading  papers and the worldwide web?

The answer would probably be that parties would come and campaign. Then the question of certain candidates having restrictions of visiting other countries is another issue to deal with. The playing field would not be fair as long as other key candidates are under sanctions. So a key step is for everyone to campaign for the removal of sanctions against President Mugabe and his family.

Currently Zimbabwe has a very simple attitude to the vote from their diaspora. If you register to vote in Zimbabwe, by all means be available on election day to vote.  This seems simple enough. But the diasporans do not want that. They want to vote from their countries of residence.  Over 120 countries allow some sort of voting in the diaspora and 21 of those countries are African. The next question is over the threshold. How many Zimbabweans should be in a  certain country to consider having a vote there? Mozambique says 1000. Maybe that's actually not a bad thing. If we ask those who would vote in a Zimbabwean election to go and register at their embassies as South Africa did in 2014, wouldn't that be a good starting point in computing that illusive figure of Zimbabweans in the Diaspora.  That figure is way too important for any meaningful policy formulation to be left  unknown.

How about  allocating some parliamentary seats to the diaspora. This is not a new phenomenon.  Some countries have already pioneered this. France has 12 out of 331 reserved for the diaspora. Croatia allocates 6 out 152 seats to its diaspora.  Algeria has a parliament of 389 and 8 of the seats are reserved for the diaspora. Angola allocates 3 out 220 seats to the diaspora.  Our own neighbour, Mozambique allocates 2 out of 250 seats to its diaspora. This thrust is predicated upon the premise that these representatives will be dealing with matters  that not only affect the diaspora, but will bring an international perspective to the debate in the house which will also enrich it. At the heart of all these structural arrangements is an effort not to disenfranchise any citizen. In seeking a formula that works, every practical solution should be explored.

There is a global trend towards having a diaspora vote as a universal standard. The fact that over 120 countries allow overseas voting  does not necessarily mean that Zimbabwe is out of step with others. The government position is mainly based on economics rather than politics. Economic contributions to the fiscus would come with the political outlet. This is not putting a price tag on democracy. It is just being pragmatic to the reality of our circumstances. Goodness of an act must be measured by consequences on society.

We do not even know how many Zimbabweans are out there and  where they are. How can even talk of giving them the vote?  We are even fighting over the voter's roll in Zimbabwe. How much more will fight over the diasporan voter's roll? In any case who will be eligible to vote in these elections?  The fact that there are more questions than answers in this piece is probably a hint that there will be more peevish and querulous bickering emanating from adding a diaspora element to the conundrum of Zimbabwean elections. In all the arguments for and against diaspora voting out there, the major ones are not against the principle itself but are impinged on the practical feasibility. 


Cde Nick Mangwana is the Chairman of ZANU PF UK.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

ZANU PF UK Chairman end of Year Message

Season's Greetings

ZANU PF UK Chairman: Cde Nick Mangwana
As we approach our Christmas and the culmination of a New Year we take stock of our achievements and plan for the next year.

Our country is facing a lot of challenges in which everyone of us who is emotionally or otherwise invested in Zimbabwe has to play their part.  We can all sit back and blame our leaders but whilst that is a good pastime, it won't change our destiny or that of our children and their  inheritance. Zimbabwe needs all of us. Under the banner of  None But Ourselves we have already shown how much we can do if we remain united and focused.

We are privileged to have the leadership we have in Zimbabwe. Our President and First Secretary Cde R.G Mugabe is a former diasporan. He went to University in South Africa and taught in both Zambia and Ghana. In fact his revolutionary inspiration was nurtured by his presence in the diaspora when he witnessed Ghana become the first Black African Country to be independent. It does not even end there,  as we raise our families in different parts of the world we should do so in the proud knowledge that those children are not alone. For our First Lady Dr Grace Mugabe is also a child of the diaspora having been born in South Africa and only coming to Zimbabwe aged 5. In her our children have a patron.  It does not even end there, our Vice President Cde E.D. Mnangagwa experienced his adolescence in the Diaspora in Zambia where he finished his primary and did his secondary schooling. He joined the war there from.

My fellow Cdes, We point to these icons to illustrate that there is no regression relationship between your location in the diasporan and patriotism.  You have made so many personal sacrifices for party and country, that is appreciated.  The country continues to seek cadres that will work for it not as an investment for future entitlement and patronage.  But for the mere reason that it is the right thing to do.

In the new year we will improve on our organisation to try to make us a super efficient outfit.  As we focussed a lot on politics in this our maiden year.  Politics will remain on our agenda as we fight the negative perception and demonisation of our country. We however should engage a couple more gears and get into the economic mode in the coming year.  In our engagement  with the government and our mother party we will bring the issue of our Chamber of Commerce to fruition. We will continue to engage our principals so as to have a one-stop-hub for all diasporan matters. Be it a ministry or a department or at the very least a desk in an amenable ministry.  This has t happen as the Diaspora is a key constituent in the Zimbabwean discourse.  Even though our detractors are the primary beneficiaries of our efforts, we will continue with our thrust built upon a bedrock of positivity.  Negativity has never built a country or organisation.

In this New Year as we build structure we will also follow up on our efforts to  lobby the government to facilitate our children getting their birth certificates and National IDs in the countries we are based in.  In this regard we will assist the government in coming up with a mechanism for the registration of all Zimbabweans in the diaspora and collation of the statistics. This database will help inform policy. Issues such as democratic participation in electoral processes at home will continue to be reviewed.  We are ZANU PF and the governing party. We want our diaspora to be recognised as a National Asset and ZANU PF- UK will endeavour  to front this.

We have a very good relationship with our Embassy, they have been very helpful to the community. We will continue this as we welcome our new Ambassador.  We will try to avoid conflicts with our compatriots and try to build productive synergies with every Zimbabwean. However where others will see the need to push us, we will try to engage. Failure of that strategy, we will certainly push back. Even at that level we will remain a non-violent entity and will obey the letter and spirit of the laws of our hosting nation.

Cdes, Let us all merry make and feast in our festivities but stay safe till we meet in the New year.

Aluta Continua


Thursday, 18 December 2014

Magnanimity is Graciousness

 By Nick Mangwana

Cde Nick Mangwana is the Chairman of ZANU PF UK
One of the greatest speeches of our time was made by President Mugabe in 1980 on the eve of our first Independence Celebrations, then as the incoming Prime Minister of a new Zimbabwe. It was statesman’s speech. A speech which he himself quoted extensively during the Zanu PF  6th  National People’s Congress.

In that speech President Mugabe said that those who hated each other yesterday should embrace each other with love. He said that it is folly to revive wounds and grievances of the past and not to forgive past wrongs as people embark in nation building.  He did not  advocate for the burying of the past but said that the past should only be used to provide a lesson rather than justification for revenge. He used the terms “national interest” and “national unity” extensively.

Now let us set the context for all this; this was some weeks after the Lancaster House agreement and a ceasefire that was violated over and over again by the Rhodesians. Those who were around during this periods would remember how many of our heroes were killed during the so-called ceasefire. These are people who had survived the war but were slaughtered by the so-called peacemakers. This was just  4 years after the massacres at Nyadzonia and Chimoio where thousands innocents were moored down by the murderous Rhodesian military machine. 

A mere  6 years after President Mugabe had been released from more than 10 years of incarceration during which he missed the funeral of his then only child. A time in which the natural thing would have been to be bitter and vindictive.  But not so with President Mugabe, his personal feelings and hurt had to play second fiddle to the common good. And the common good was nation building and magnanimity in victory. National interests a had to take precedence over personal sentiment.  This is what made him an extra-ordinary human being. This was the first time this had ever been done in post conflict colonial Africa. Even President Mandela only preached reconciliation after taking a his cue from this extra ordinary act of graciousness.

Let us fast forward 34 years later when Zanu PF went through an internal “tsunami”. It cleansed itself and in true form of a revolutionary party, made some revolutionary decisions. It got rid of some chairmen and members of its leadership who had lost their way when it mattered most. Some of the acts for which they were purged were  quite treacherous, abominable and quite abhorrent really.  The party has shown its fine mettle, cleansed itself and re-aligned itself back to its socialist and Pan-Africanist ideology.  Those of us who always wanted certain people to be at the helm celebrate the culmination of that dream, but we don’t engage in triumphalism. We also wish some of our cdes would also not engage in vindictiveness and spite as well. 

There is no glory in hitting a person when they are down. One might even lose support of the neutrals for doing same. In our triumph we will be better people if we put aside our antagonism and ingrain in ourselves a spirit of graciousness.

If we fail to learn from the father of reconciliations; President Mugabe, at least let us learn from the magnanimity shown by his prodigious student, Vice President Emerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa.  The reader is challenged to come up with a quote where the Vice President has engaged in triumphalism. He has been gracious in victory throughout and a consummate diplomat towards his perceived vanquished comrade and rival. "Perceived" because he has always denied that he harboured any ill-will towards her.  He has uttered no disparaging remark, no controversial statement, no pregnant slogan. Just the trademark Pasi nemhanduuuuuu. It is on this platform that we can continue to build our party and country. Not on permanent spite, hurt, hate and bitterness. These sentiments do not take courage for they are primate in nature. It is a sensitivity and magnanimity that require our higher senses.  Where there are issues of criminal justice in nature, we are a better people if we let the law take its course.

Of course unity and peace comes with a price. Should these lost comrades decide to form another party or join forces with those that unleashed suffering on our country though calling for sanctions then by all means we can vent all our potent venom on them. For from that moment they would have ceased to be Zanu PF and therefore deserve our fire and brimstone. We may even add a dose of burning sulphur to the cocktail. But not when they are still saying they are children of the revolution.  We should embrace them with vigilance of course. Lest we are given a Judas kiss.

If there was someone who had the right to be bitter, it is Vice President Mnangagwa who was deprived of at least 10 years of vice presidency. But he is not. Not only that, there are reported efforts and schemes out there to prematurely terminate his life. But he continues to take it in his stride. He does not dwell on the negative focussing on bringing people together and delivery of positive outcomes for the country. Both the President and the vice have chosen to be the bigger persons. They surely expect us to follow suit.  Why would the President ask us to repeat, " Peace begins with me...... Love begins with me, ..........unity begins with me, begins with you, begins with all of us," if he did not mean it?

At the 6th People’s Congress there were empty seats for Cdes Joice Mujuru and Dydmus Mutasa. This is despite of accusations of attempts to assassinate him. Not only were seats reserved for these two comrades, they were even on the programme! This is the pinnacle of rising above adversity.  Should we learn from the most powerful people in our country we would be a better nation and avoid unnecessary conflict.  

In 1980 the President said we should turn our swords into ploughshares. Those words are apt this very time.