HomeLocal News‘Hierarchy politics subvert democracy’

‘Hierarchy politics subvert democracy’

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe, who took an oath of office on August 22 subsequent to his crushing albeit controversial July election victory, announced a 26-member cabinet which includes three female ministers, besides 25 deputy ministers and 10 provincial ministers.

One of the key cabinet ministers, Information, Media and Broadcasting services minister Jonathan Moyo (JM) has made a dramatic take off like a Falcon HTV-2 –– the swiftest plane in the world with a faster-than-sound speed. To understand what Moyo is doing and how the current turmoil in Zanu PF is impacting on his programmes, Zimbabwe Independent Chief Reporter (OG) spoke to the minister this week.

Find below excerpts of the interview:

OG: Soon after your appointment, you met media stakeholders before going on a tour of media houses. Is this a charm offensive? What is the purpose of these visits and meetings?

JM: The notion of a charm offensive sounds Machiavellian.

There’s no placatory purpose at play here. What we are doing as a ministry and indeed as government is to implement President Mugabe’s instruction that we should foster, as a matter of policy, a national climate of opinion which is consistent with and reflects the electoral mandate arising from the outcome of the July 31 elections.

In its 2013 election manifesto, Zanu PF affirmed the importance of national unity as an enduring aspiration of all Zimbabweans and pledged to do everything possible after the polls to bring Zimbabweans together as a nation.

OG: What would you say is the state of media and journalism, including press freedom, in Zimbabwe?

JM: I think the media in Zimbabwe is at the crossroads.

As you know, media freedom and the practice of journalism are contextual, as they depend on the historical circumstances within which society finds itself including the prevailing interests of the moment. With this in mind, I think the state of the media in our country today is defined by two contrasting scenarios.

On the one hand, it is quite clear that the media has behind it a troubled past littered with dark moments stretching over some 13 years that have cost everyone involved dearly in one way or another.

On the other, the media has in front of it an exciting future full of real possibility of a progressive national agenda based on Zimbabwe’s founding principles and values as enshrined in Section 3 of our new constitution. This is a possibility not worth squandering.

OG: What is your view on the working conditions and salaries of journalists?

JM: By and large the working conditions and salaries of media practitioners in our country leave a lot to be desired.

There are many reasons for this, starting with the fact that the definition of a media practitioner remains elusive from a human resource point of view.

There’s also the challenge arising from the fact that political interests have in recent years polluted and corrupted the media profession by providing unsustainable parallel incomes that have distorted the working conditions and salaries of the media as an industry or an employment sector.

In this connection, those in the media who are calling for the formation of a National Employment Council to represent the welfare of media practitioners have my ear.

OG: What are the most salient issues that have come out from your tours and meetings with media organisations and practitioners?

JM: Although we still have some ground to cover by digesting the submissions we have received thus far, I can say now that there’s a consensus that the polarisation of the media has not benefitted anybody and that therefore depolarisation is necessary.

The absence of shared fundamentals on issues such as the pursuit of the national interest is palpable. Our engagement with the media has also confirmed something we all should have known in the first place, namely that media houses and media practitioners have common business and operational interests.

For example common challenges across the print media include issues like lack of affordable access to newsprint and a printing press, lack of effective distribution facilities, absence of training programmes, and the need for an enforceable code of conduct.

Concerns about the quantum of the publishing levy, poor working conditions and salaries of media practitioners and concerns about the regulatory environment of the media particularly in connection with some provisions of the law in Aippa, Posa and the Criminal Code that relate to the media.

With respect to the broadcasting sector in particular, salient issues have included poor business models, lack of adequate transmission capacity, failure to comply with 75% local content requirement and non-payment of royalties due to artists.

OG: You have said criminal defamation law will be scrapped. Is this an indication there will be more significant reforms in the media going forward?

JM: The time has indeed come for our media to operate as professional and business enterprises in line not only with the values and ideals of our heroic liberation struggle but particularly in line with our new constitutional dispensation without being encumbered by past legislative restrictions that were necessitated by challenges of the moment from which we have all taken our lessons.
As such, it is indeed necessary to review criminal defamation and some aspects of Aippa and Posa which may be inconsistent with sections 61 and 62 of our new constitution relating to media.

OG: Government has come up with Zim Asset, how will it be funded and implemented?

JM: If there is one major difference between Zim Asset and previous policy blueprints, it is the fact that Zim Asset is an implementation manual because it is results-based with very clear key result areas that are measurable and time framed.

The answer to the question as to where the funding will come from will be given in the 2014 national budget statement by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Patrick Chinamasa.

OG: How is Zanu PF going to implement its manifesto and policies given the apparent conflict within the party?

JM: The record will show that Zanu PF’s election pledges contained in the party’s 2013 manifesto have found concrete expression in Zim Asset, the government’s economic policy blueprint.

Zim Asset was first adopted by the Zanu PF politburo before it was adopted by cabinet.

More importantly, there has been no division or disagreement in the politburo or cabinet over Zim Asset.

I don’t think it is correct that there’s conflict within the party. No. What there is is a premature and poorly planned or organised election for provincial executives and that election is giving the false impression of conflict.

OG: I say so because Zanu PF won the majority in parliament in July and now it is focusing on provincial polls but there seems to be internal problems rocking the party. What exactly is happening?

JM: You are right. It is undeniable that our provincial elections have not attracted good news and that is unfortunate.
Extending the election mode beyond the recent primary elections and beyond the July 31 general elections is frankly not in the national interest given the fact that Zanu PF resoundingly won the polls.

Zimbabweans expect us to immediately focus on delivering what President Mugabe and the party pledged to the nation, they don’t expect us to become self-indulgent by looking inward and pre-occupying ourselves with badly organised provincial elections that attract or generate bad news at a time when Zimbabweans are desperate for good news.

Treating ourselves to sham elections so soon after national and primary elections that sapped all our energies leaves a lot to be desired.

I think most rational people within and outside the party understand this and therefore there is every reason to believe and expect that sanity will prevail in the end. Momentary lapses happen in politics but they don’t spell the end of the world.

OG: Once again, we are hearing that these provincial elections are being fought on factional lines reportedly led by Vice-President Joice Mujuru and Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.

President Mugabe has previously denounced factionalism in Zanu PF. Please tell us once and for all, are there factions in Zanu PF led by Mujuru, Mnangagwa or any other person?

JM: Well, unlike in religion, in politics one cannot say anything once and for all. The existence of factions in the party cannot be denied not least because factions are the bane of political parties.

In developed and progressive political formations, factions grow out of ideas and are thus based on ideological or policy contests. The impact of such ideological factions can be positive.

But there are other situations, such as the one you refer to, where factions develop around individuals and their quest for power and for its own sake. The impact of such factions can be very negative and even destructive.

In terms of the issue at hand, the bottom line is that we are coming from a hotly contested election that was won in a big way by President Mugabe and Zanu PF on the basis of a very clear election manifesto that has been translated into Zim Asset as the government’s economic policy blueprint for 2013 to 2018.

In this scenario, there’s no room or justification for either ideological or personality-based factions. None whatsoever! The party and country are fully behind President Mugabe whom they have given a commanding 61% mandate to rule for the next five years.

Attempts to use that national mandate for factional purposes would be tantamount to political theft and it is hard to see how that kind of theft would be tolerated by the very same Zimbabweans who voted in their historic numbers for President Mugabe and who expect him to deliver on his election pledges which he repeated in his inauguration address on August 22 and in his speech at the opening of parliament.

OG: What do these Zanu PF factions represent, what are their ideological positions and policy content and programmes?

JM: I have already indicated or at least implied that what we have on the ground are not ideological factions driven by ideas or policy substance but we have some kind of mini-personality cults, factions based on support for individuals and not support for the party, that are content-free and that are ideologically bankrupt which is why you see these ill-advised attempts to hold ill-timed and poorly organised provincial elections which have predictably sparked unnecessary controversy at a time when our country needs good news which can only come from having Zanu PF and the government working together in a coherent manner to promote and implement Zim Asset in support of our president and the implementation of our party’s 2013 election manifesto to revive our economy.

OG: Factionalism has apparently flared up again in Zanu PF because of the party’s congress next year, which is related to President Mugabe’s succession issue.

Even if it is the people who will elect the leadership, don’t you think it is now time the succession issue is clarified once and for?

JM: But how does anyone succeed someone who has just led his party to a resounding election victory whose margin is of historic proportions? Just how does the succession issue come into this equation the day after the victory? In my view the issue does not arise.

Zanu PF has a constitution which is clear about how and when the party’s leadership is attained. In the same vein, the constitution of Zimbabwe is clear about how and when one can seek the country’s presidency. At the moment President Mugabe holds both positions by virtue of his having been elected to both.

So neither the Zanu PF constitution nor the national constitution is vague about how power is obtained to the point of warranting a succession issue or crisis.

Therefore, I don’t think it makes any sense for anyone to seek to challenge President Mugabe’s leadership of the party and government by hiding under the transparent cover of succession as if people cannot see through it.

If people want to challenge the president, who has just won a resounding election with a huge mandate to rule between now and 2018, they should come out in the open and say without hiding under some nebulous succession agendas and certainly without subverting party processes such as provincial elections in pursuit of succession purposes.

Otherwise I think the time has come for all of us to understand that this whole talk of succession is a political disease from which we need to be cured by simply understanding and following the constitutional and democratic process for attaining power.

OG: We have seen some senior Zanu PF officials being quoted talking about hierarchy in terms of the party leadership and succession. They say in relation to the succession issue, the party has to follow the hierarchy as defined in its constitution, which then suggests that if Mugabe goes, Mujuru then takes over.

However, there is another group that argues this is incorrect because the constitution does not say so. Some also say there is precedent already which saw Mujuru jump the hierarchy to the number two position on a women’s ticket. What is the correct position?

JM: I am not sure what you are talking about but the simple truth is that there’s not even one person who has risen to the leadership of the party on the basis of hierarchy.

The only way to the leadership of the party is by election in terms of the party’s constitution and the only way to the presidency of the country is also by election in terms of the constitution of Zimbabwe.

Both the party’s constitution and the national constitution prescribe democratic processes and the hierarchy you are talking about is an antithesis of democracy that Zimbabweans fought for during the liberation struggle led by Zanu PF.

Hierarchy is based on selection whereas democracy is based on election. This is because hierarchy presumes the supremacy of leaders whereas democracy presumes the supremacy of the people. Both the Zanu PF and national constitutions are premised on the supremacy of the people, not of leaders.

OG: We are hearing there are some senior Zanu PF leaders who want “guided democracy” introduced in the party. What is your comment on that?

JM: Again, like the claim to hierarchy as the way to leadership, the notion of guided democracy is a contradiction in terms with roots in dictatorship which Zimbabweans fought against during the liberation struggle.

Guided democracy implies manipulation and corruption of the democratic process by individuals in the service of individual agendas much to the detriment of the public good. Guided by whom, for what purposes? If it is guided, it cannot be democratic.

Otherwise, the only acceptable guidance to democracy is a system of election rules which must be enshrined in a constitution and in laws and regulations that are based on that constitution.

What we all need is to choose our leaders in our political parties and in our country’s elections based on constitutional democracy, not on guided democracy.

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