Thursday, 19 November 2015

The Funding of Political Parties in Zimbabwe

By Nick Mangwana

One wonders why everything involving Zanu PF is turned into a controversy regardless of how straight forward it might be.  Last week this column had to discuss the relationship between churches and politics after a few rich churches were alleged to be involved in funding Zanu PF and this had caused some kind of negative excitement on social media and in the so-called independent press.  Next was the invitation sent out to the corporate world to come and partake in a fundraising dinner. Again there was some brouhaha from the same quarters leading to some getting the feeling or perception that there was some kind of impropriety in the corporate sector funding political parties.  

The fact of the matter is that there is no need for an uproar as everything is quite above board. There is a symbiotic relationship between business and politics.  Whilst those opposed to certain parties would really prefer the relationship between a long term incumbent like Zanu PF and business to be antagonistic they get disappointed  when they discover that it not only genial but in some cases quite affectionate that business is happy to write a few cheques in support of certain political programmes like the hosting of an annual conference.  There is nothing fundamentally corrupt about that.

A lot of Zimbabwean companies have been  listed and sanctioned by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) because of their association with the State of Zimbabwe or the ruling party. Recently there have been cries of, " boycott this or boycott that business"  again for the same reasons. The source of this clamour is never surprising because once the word "boycott" is uttered there is no price for guessing whose brainchild that is. As said earlier there is no violation of the law or generally accepted standards when companies show sympathy towards certain political parties, ideology or positions. Some decide not only to sympathise but to finance those causes or parties as well.

There has been a persistent rumour over the years that corporate magnates like Mr Strive Masiyiwa
have been sponsoring  certain opposition  politicians and their parties  and even acting as unofficial advisors. This can make one a darling of the opposition.  The opposition is always an underdog when in a dogfight with an incumbent therefore no one bats an eyelid if the opposition gets corporate funding.
The ruling party made a lot of noise a few years ago when one opposition leader had a triumphant smug on their gleeful face as they ogled a big pile of cheques they were receiving from commercial farmers. The ruling party alleged that these were payments to subvert the will of the people in as far as the Land Reform was concerned. At the end of the day whilst the morality and the political wisdom of this could be questioned by everyone searching their own conscience, there was nothing illegal about it.  If there is a nothing illegal about it then there is nothing wrong when it is Zanu PF.

Funding for political parties has always been a contentious issue both in Zimbabwe and abroad. Zimbabwe is guided by the Political Parties Finance Act 2001. This Act was first assented to in 1992, amended in 1997 and re-issued again in 2001. Its primary reason for existence  (which it has dismally failed to do) is to stop foreigners from interfering in Zimbabwe's internal affairs by obligating the State to locally fund any party that garners at least 5% vote in the general election.  Helpful ass this might be this funding is never enough and is never coming on time because of current economic challenges. So this leads to parties having to find another funding stream. The next source is membership through subscriptions and other contributions. There still remain a funding gap even after these.  That is where individuals and business come in.

In every mature democracy, the bulk of funding for political parties comes from business and the corporate world. In India 90% of funding to national parties in the 2013/2014 period was from business houses and corporations. In the United States the figure is 70% for the same period. The Republicans took 59% of the funding and the Democrats took 41%.

In the UK political parties can receive funding from any company or business as long as it is registered in the UK  and it carries business in the UK.  For an individual to donate to a political party both in the UK and the US, they should be on the electoral register and the donation itself should be registered.  The idea is the same as in Zimbabwe. That is not to have foreigners  or foreign corporations with  no local interests influencing  domestic  politics. You see, even the greatest meddlers in other countries' affairs do not want anyone meddling in theirs.

The other point is that if labour unions fund political parties all over the world, why can't business fund those political parties that they believe have an ideology that promote their interests as long as it is done transparently. If one takes the UK model, one would discover that the caveat to all this is that as long as there is a registration of the donation  and it is all transparent who has donated to what political party or what cause.  If in the future there are certain favours or tenders preferences then this can be scrutinised.

In countries like Canada there have been cases of business being so involved in politics that they have had an influence on which candidates participate in what elections.

Any normal business would want to influence broad priorities on any political agenda. So naturally business would want to support the party that has policies that is consistent with their economic interests. Being at the same table and pressing flesh  with a decision maker helps one have a bit of intelligence, be informally heard as well as have some political leverage. Is that wrong?

Reaching out to business for financial support is not corrupt per se. It is just reaching out for corporate interests. It could have been any other special interests grouping. It just so happened in other cases that these have possibly deeper pockets and the feeling is that against a formidable incumbent with big financial backers the playing field will never be "even". In the UK Labour with its Union backing has struggled to financially compete against the Tories' wealthy donors.  

In settings like Zimbabwe where resources are scarce, there is always going to be a disparity between the funding each political party would get, with more funding  probably going mainly to those that are deemed to have the political power than to those that are likely to just be opposing.  Those that are accusing business and corporations are challenged to pick any country whom they believe to have a highly developed democracy and check out where the political funding streams run from. The bulk is from corporations and sometimes small local businesses at provincial levels.

Let us go back to the proviso that was alluded to  earlier. There should be no coercion or extortion. There should also be no backlash to those that decide to back the opposition or those that back a party that loses. Their loss should just be that they backed a loser.  The second issue if the model being used elsewhere is just to have a Register for Political Donations for public scrutiny.  The problem with this approach again there can never be transparency if "boycott brigade" takes a peek in the register and immediately  goes hysterical with the usual mantra, " Boycott this, boycott that because they fund the regime!" . This again can be considered some form of backlash. There should be no consequences against those that choose to fund a party and those that choose not to. There should be no threats veiled or explicit.  Anonymised donations should be very small amounts only.

Businesses have always tried to influence public policy everywhere. Zimbabwean businesses are no exception. As long as there is no extortion involved there should be no problem. If there was a sign today that the opposition was going to be in power then the corporate sector would be hedging their bets with them.  But that sign is not on the horizon and therefore the purse strings also remain tight.

Those that follow British politics are aware of the Media Baron Rupert Murdock's  controversies in its politics. His papers  take partisan political positions so does his company. Through this he has unfettered access to the rulers of the country as well as an influence on their domestic politics.  But let the relationship between the media and politics be a different instalment for another day. This week is about business in general.

So when 6000 or so members of Zanu PF and their guests meet in Victoria Falls in the second week of December, have their Conference and enjoy the accompanying shindig, let it be clear that it is not government money. It is Zanu PF money.  The only price which everyone has to look clearly at is the political price  to pay when one shows too much display of political extravagance.  The electorate may find some of that a vulgarity. But besides that, there is really no argument. 


Violence in Politics is Destructive

 By Nick Mangwana

Recent events in the party are said to have left the community in Chitungwiza in a state of shock.  Yours truly has spoken to a lot of people on the ground to get sense of what actually transpired. It is clear that there is not going to be a trial since the chief suspect took the coward’s way out and committed suicide rather than face up to the responsibilities of what he had done.  This is also quite tragic. You see comrades whenever there is a loss of life in a violent and avoidable way, it is a very heartrending.

It is said that all the deceased had just secured positions within the Zanu PF structures in their areas. It is also said that they had aligned themselves with two different leaderships of the party. It is also reported that there was an argument in which the subject involved the names of two Politburo members and one took strong umbrage towards both the results of the recent restructuring exercise as well as the language used by the other and therefore reacted very violently by hacking his comrades to death. As usual the European Union has already given its own two pence worth. It has already said that it is concerned by the violence “against” political parties. It then alluded to the Hopley Suburb violence by the MDC-T against the police and of course the Chitungwiza incident.

There is a clear distinction between the two incidents here. In the first instant, the violence by the MDC-T is institutional violence. They set out to disturb the peace and hoped that they could ignite something with their provocation which would send Zimbabwe on a pathway of massive violence and destruction. The police responded by arresting them. They responded by attacking the police. That is called institutional violence.

Most people are comfortable defining institutional violence as violence that is employed by an organisation as a means to achieving its objectives.  When such violence happens then the institution or organisation can be labelled “violent”. So here we make the distinction between the incident in Chitungwiza and the Hopley suburb one. In the Chitungwiza incident there was no political objective whatsoever. The subject of the argument could have been politics but the incident was not political. One could replace that subject with any other and the outcome would have been the same. These individuals could have been discussing football with one side supporting Dynamos and the other Caps or Highlanders and there still would have been bloodshed.  This is because in this particular incident it is very clear that we are dealing with someone who was very disturbed.  His psychological instability just manifested in the political realm. This is where part of his passion was. If his passion was women, he would have killed for a woman.  

That violence would have been attributed to him and him alone and not to his amorous liaisons. The same applies to this case. The violence perpetrated by this sick individual who eventually took their own life should be attributed to them and them alone and not Zanu PF.  What political objective would have been advanced by this callousness?  The answer is that there was none.  This was about a bruised ego, misdirected passion or simply pride hurt by a disagreeable outcome. The result was a purely criminal act. There is no affiliated political reason.  Possibly there was alcohol and other illicit substances involved as well. Saka marambadaro (those that can’t handle their alcohol) are not only found in politics.

Now let us compare that to the Hopley Suburb violence. It had all the hallmarks of institutional violence with the MDC-T as the institution. That is political violence.  There were political objectives to be met. That was to try to ignite a fire that would make Zimbabwe ungovernable and therefore effect political change in Zimbabwe through unconstitutional means.  A peaceful society is never achieved through violent means. This is what the MDC-T has to learn.  If they want to live in a democratic country, then democracy is the way that they have to use to achieve their democratic objectives. Subversion of the people’s will is never going to achieve that.

Zanu PF has a violent history. It’s all purely justifiable in the sense of the Liberation Struggle. That was a justifiable cause and it is the type of violence one should be proud of.  But beyond that Zanu PF should win the intellectual argument.  Nobody should be pummelled into submission. Only those people that would have lost the intellectual arguments turn to violence.  But let us face the fact that the right tool has to be used for the right job. If there is a violent confrontation, then if violent is deployed as a weapon that may be understandable. But if the confrontation is intellectual and one wants to win it with violence, then the conclusion is that they are intellectually challenged and therefore resort to animalistic behaviour. 

Where Zimbabwe is now is where the brain is the weapon of choice. It is the heart and mind of the voter that has to be bought in by sound programmes as well as sound arguments. They say you catch more flies by using honey than by using vinegar. It means that the power of charm and persuasion should be deployed to win the heart and mind.

Violence might appear to do good, but the good that comes from violent methods is ephemeral. A wise man once said, “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent”, and boy, was he right!


Thursday, 12 November 2015

Churches and Politics In Zimbabwe

 By Nick Mangwana

Christianity is a lifestyle. So are many religions. A thumping 85% of Zimbabweans are said to be Christians in one way or another. At least they profess to be one.  Politics is what it is.  Some define it as the use of intrigue, strategy, gimmickry and strategy to obtain a position of power or control. Imagine then that 85% of Zimbabweans decide not to mix their religion (way of life) and politics and leave themselves to be ruled and governed by their inferiors.  Those ones who just want gain control and power for the sake of it. 

Those who want to gain a position for what it brings to them rather than what it enables them to do for the nation and their people? What disturbing world will that be? Even in the current mix nations are being ruled by terrible people who profess Christianity.  That maybe provides them with a bit of moral check. One of course just hopes.

The other heathendom political world seem to be what  some people and a Newsday  editorial  for the 6th of November  titled  “Keep Churches out of politics” seem to be calling for.  Among other things it alleged that Zanu PF was so desperate for money that it was hoping to raise funds  for its conference from a couple of the most prominent so-called " prophets" Messrs Makandiwa and Magaya. Maybe it's Magaya and Makandiwa as it is alleged that these two are fighting for their own pre-eminence so the order by which they are written down might be a "political" issue.  This columnist’s views on this new movement of Pentecostalism are well documented. Suffice to say that they are unflattering. But that should not detract from the fact that the call for  these two and the rest of the churches to stay out of politics just because they are thought to be associated with Zanu PF is ill-conceived  and very self-serving. It is a fact that this type of a call only comes whenever there is church's association with the Ruling Party involved.  That being said, raises the debate whether as the call to keep churches out of politics is a good call, one just happened to cross the mind at the time when the rich pair was associated with Zanu PF?

 Religion is said to structures one’s way of life, and politics modulates it. The whole Bible is based on

the interaction between politics and religion. There is a whole Land Question which emanates from a People occupying others land based on a religious promise they alleged to having been given to them by God. That is an issue that has absorbed the whole world to this day in what is known as the Palestinian Question.  It is one where religion could not be kept out of politics. In talking of Biblical promises and politics the fact most religious leaders then were political leaders cannot not be ignored.
As one traverses the Bible they come across the Crucifixion whose basis were both a religious and a political accusation.  There was confusion of about Jesus’ declaration that he was King of the Jews. Some felt this was a rebellion against Caesar and the political order of the day while others saw some religious sacrilege somewhere.  The end result was a political leader in Pontius Pilate releasing Jesus to the Jewish religious sects of Pharisees and Sadducees resulting in the most revolting and sadistic from of religious martyrdom.  And we are here today talking of a religion that was founded upon that religio-political martyrdom.

But that happened in far off foreign lands. let's bring it closer to home.  From the days of Father Gonzalo da Silveira all the way to  Robert Moffart  tracking through the Liberation Struggle to this day organised Religion and Politics have always been inseparable in Zimbabwe. The occupation of many African lands had the double edged sword of the Bible and the maxim gun. The infamous 1883 Letter to Imperialist Missionaries by King Leopold II comes to mind in illustrating this inseparable combination.

More positively, during the Liberation Struggle, Catholic periodical known as  Moto Magazine was banned by Ian Smith in 1974 to only emerge in 1980 after Independence because of its position against the Rhodesian  Regime and its perceived support for the Liberation Movements. When it comes to the nationalists themselves (however they ended) the nation had clerics such as Ndabaningi Sithole founng president of Zanu,  Abel Tendekayi Muzorewa  prime minister of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia and  Canaan Sodhindo Banana the first State President of an Independent Zimbabwe. Weren't all these cases an interaction between church  and politics. Isn't just rich (pun intended)  that suddenly there is a voice that says Makandiwa and Magaya stay out of politics? 

How many times has Zimbabwe experienced political rallies packaged as Prayer Meetings? Hoo zvakanaka zvichiitwa navamwe kana zvava zve Zanu PF mavara azara ivhu (Is it only acceptable being done by those opposed to Zanu PF but it becomes foul when the ruling party delves in religion)? Why is the nation not hearing these cries to keep politics out of religion when Bishop Bakare calls for his “Convergence”?

Doesn't  whole outlook  Civic Society in Zimbabwe have a veneer of Christian work?  Is civic service only that which is opposed to the State? Churches  are allowed  and should be allowed to deal with civic issues such as human rights, governance  and justice.  But those that want to rally behind the status quo should also be allowed the same space to advocate and finance such causes without risking demonisation. One can argue that if the State is accused of religious persecution (rightly so) and intolerance when it falls hard on churches it perceives as a  front for certain political parties, then it is naturally the same accusation should go to those demonisation those churches identifying with the status quo.

Churches  be  left alone to be outspoken against political excesses, but by the same token they should
also be allowed  outspoken support of  the status quo and even fund it if they so wish. If churches provides a moral voice, such a voice should not be prescribed by the media or such pseudo-democrats.  Those religious supporting the status quo should not be seen as collaborators/accessories  where as those that oppose are seen as heroes. For religion is an issue of conscience. And everyone has a different one.

When church provides a moral voice in a political discourse, it doesn’t always have to be anti-establishment.  All political parties are aware that churches complement or oppose their work.  And naturally  both politics and religion are divisive and naturally they will always have a strained or complimentary relationship.

If there is nothing wrong with  Levee  Kadenge issuing statements against the government, maybe there is  also nothing wrong with  people like Rev Andrew Wutaunanshe are deemed to hold either Pan Africanist or Nationalistic slant in their life outlook issuing pastoral sermons deemed to identify with the same ideals as Zanu PF?   If there is nothing wrong with Pius Ncube delivering religious edicts against the government, what would be wrong with Mapositori uttering supplication for the health of Zanu PF leadership?

Whether people like it or not, politics and religion will always interact and political parties will deploy them to their own ends. It’s all down to who can do it more creatively and in a more productive way. Churches cannot only be recognised as a  vital force to foster moral conscience oppose the State and be accused of collusion when they work with the government of the day.

The attack of seemingly hostile clergy does not only come from those opposed to the government. Those in power have also  issued what could be deemed to be unholy edicts against religious organisations and  individuals.  If this is unacceptable, then it should go both ways.

On their part religious organisations riding roughshod over politics by choosing when to utter their 2 pence worthy through the so-called pastoral letters, retreat and claim unfettered freedom of worship when politicians return fire.  That is tantamount to them having their cake and eat it. If politicians can be scrutinised and attacked, those religious organisation which rightly get involved in politics should be given their political just deserts like everyone else.  After all who can separate religion from politics? And politicians should also be free to use churches  as fishing ponds, after all that's where 85% of the voters are. Let politics and religion interactively co-exist , after all what actually is the difference between the two?

Religion is both a unifying and a diving element in society. Just the same as politics but generally religion has killed more than politics. And this is not about the current wave of terrorism and the accompanying outrages to extremism. The reality which everyone must live with is one cannot separate religion from politics. And politicians love giving moral authority to their nonsense by quoting religious texts. It is known the most favourite scripture to be quoted by an incumbents in political positions and those that support them is the one that says every leadership or dominion is ordained in heaven. How self-serving!


Tuesday, 3 November 2015

A Case For Parastatal Reform

By Nick Mangwana

"We are not going to hesitate to put some parastatals under the hammer. We should be able to say, you are not performing so please get out. We must be harsh enough to say this because tiri kunyarana.” This statement was said by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development Cde Patrick Chinamasa quite recently.  "Putting under the hammer" was widely interpreted as meaning that the government was going to privatise some of its parastatals that are underperforming. 

There has been calls from certain quarters that companies like the GMB, National Railways of Zimbabwe, Air Zimbabwe and ZUPCO and a few others are a drain on the fiscus so should be privatised.  Over the years the government has been giving subsidies to these State Enterprises. But where because of budgetary constraints the government has been unable to do that the enterprises ended up huffing and puffing as most of these are currently doing. So some people have felt that there is a need for government same and place them into private hands.

Accusations of cases of corporate rot in parastatals is no longer headline grabbing. There are cases of abuse of both financial and physical assets of these companies which are owned by the tax payer. Because profit is has never been the major driver one can find that most parastatals in Zimbabwe pay much more than private firms. But these highly paid executives don't seem to have the creativity that is normally called for in the private sector and are inefficiently run. So because when privatisation is done properly it tends to bring micro-economic efficiencies.

But in this clamour for more privatisation one should never forget that most of these firms
were set up with a political perspective in mind. Say the GMB for example; at the heart of its objectives is food security of the country. It is not profit. So in placing it in private hands considerations should be given the original allocative objectives and whether they can still be met.  The answer to this question is likely to be negative. The next issue that must be addressed is the one about retrenchments. In most cases layoffs always follow privatisation. And with the high rate of unemployment at the moment is it the right time to even consider trading efficiencies for unemployment?  But then the counter argument is that in most of its depots there is more wooden pallets than grain anyway. So resources which are being used to keep it afloat could be deployed elsewhere to meet other socio-economic outcomes.

Over the years as much as 25% of the national budget deficit was going towards subsidising our loss making parastatals because they themselves cannot sustain profits. Companies like Zimbabwe Power Company have dominance on the market but that has not allowed them to make profits and if the power cuts and load shedding that is going on is anything to go by then it also very clear that they are  probably is not the most productive asset of the economy.

The ZISCO/Zimsteel saga is over documented that there is no need to dwell on it. The issues of the challenges faced by parastatals is not a new thing. There have been quite a few Commissions of enquiries over the years in these assets to see how they can be turned around. The deficits and inefficiencies have continued unabated. And surely the reader is challenged to name a parastatal that has not suffered from the so called "soft budget constraint". The State has been called upon over and over again to bail them out. Parliament is getting experience in debt assumption debates as the government reaches out to stop some its enterprises going under. So the proponents of privatisation would identify with Minister Chinamasa's call. They argue that privatisation itself raises money in selling off these assets. There is also the point that all the borrowing that was being done to keep the enterprises afloat will be lowered. 

Resources that were being used in the sector will allocated elsewhere. Thus those who are
finding resonance with the minster's warning or is it a threat see macro-economic stability being set in motion and the people's suffering being reduced. They point to examples like the partial privatisation of Kenya Airways where the government owns only 29.8%, KLM 26.7% and the rest in very private hands on the stock exchange. They point how it is an airline that is incomparable to our own Air Zimbabwe.

Some of those opposed to the idea point at the popularity of the re-nationalisation agenda in Britain, especially when it comes to the railway transport industry. This was a sector was initially set up with the commuter in mind and not profit. But since its privatisation and introduction of competition, there has been an escalation of fares and the efficiencies have only been witnessed in the number of profits that being made. So sometimes the introduction of competition does not automatically bring in efficiencies. Another case in point closer to home is the opening up of the urban commuter industry in Zimbabwe and the havoc that followed with the Kombis crowding out ZUPCO and yet the road safety and anarchy  became a nightmare. But those who defend this would point to the lack of regulation rather than the principle of reform itself.

The political establishment seems to have confronted the inevitability of the fact that the public purse is not deep enough to continue to run some of these enterprises the same way. There are of course those highly sensitive and strategic that a small country like ours cannot privatise without compromising national security, those should not be privatised. However the much vaunted "Corporate Governance Reform" should not be just a phrase in season. It should be real. It is about 2 years since the first publication of the ridiculous public sector executive remuneration packages in some of these companies. It is disheartening that there are reports that it has carried on unremittingly. 

There are cases where there has been a general consensus over reform or privatisation and in some cases private public partnerships(PPP) but the management of the process itself has been fraught with inefficiencies, ineptitude and downright incompetence which is highly masked in fogginess. The ZimSteel/ Essar Deal comes to mind. This of course was something that seized the GNU and the current government and simply now ended up with the deal itself seizing up with no alternative on the horizon.

So it appears the journey is much longer than it ever needs to be. Firstly the making of the decision to privatise itself is very protracted and a fingernail pulling processes. When that decision is made the implementing (if it happens) is another challenge. The public confidence is dented and acclamation is now replaced with derision when deals are announced. It shouldn't be kind that, and it doesn't need to be like that.

There is no question that the utility industry in Zimbabwe needs reform. However privatisation is another question altogether. There has been a lot of talk and blaster about bringing in good corporate governance. It's just a sound bite at the moment as after a bit of time everyone is always surprised that those parastatals executive are still earning those ridiculous remunerations.

One thing that can never be ignored is that there are always political ramifications to any privatisation.

People have always argued that there is a lot of money either to be made or saved by privatisation but it's not as straight forward as people would like everyone to believe.

Government divesture in some of the companies in Zimbabwe at the moment may not yield value for money as they are currently undervalued because of the way they are run. The companies seem primed to only benefit the executives and in some cases board members. That has haemorrhaged their worthy. So if a decision to sell off is made, it should be borne in mind that there is a price to pay.

The UK experienced this by selling its utility companies below fair market value but now there is an agitation by the new leader of the opposition to go back to State control because of too much profiteering by these private utility companies. These companies have now made a lot of profits which the public has found too high to accept.

There is no country under the son that will not consider political objectives in the sales or reform of their public sector industry.

Most public enterprises are set up for a mission. That mission is normally to fulfil a certain socio-economic agenda, there has to be a balance in opening up the market, bringing in competition and loosening the degree of control that allows for the meeting of the objectives for which the enterprise was set up for in the first place. That may mean bringing in an independent regulator. What is clear is that the current scenario is unsustainable. The nation cannot afford to have a National Railway that is struggling to stay afloat. A national airline that is now not seen in most G7 cities and a power company whose name is now used by children to curse each other in the play ground.