WHY is the ovation for Nelson Chamisa so loud in the court of public opinion? It is not because he is Nelson, it is because for the first time Zimbabweans have seen a pathway to his political maturity to escape cheap political rhetoric.
Unfortunately, people are pigeonholed into imperialists, pseudo-supporters, patriots, and sell-outs. While I love philosophy and hate rigid politics, I do not want to lose focus of the fact that we must not maliciously turn freedom into a political hara-kiri.
Hara-kiri, also known as seppuku, is a form of ritual suicide by disembowelment that was practiced by the Samurai in feudal Japan. It was typically performed as a means of restoring honour to oneself or one’s family after committing a serious offence or to avoid capture or disgrace in defeat.
The act involved using a short dagger to make a deep, horizontal cut across the abdomen, followed by a vertical cut. It was highly formalised and solemn ritual, often carried out in front of witnesses.
Hara-kiri is no longer practiced in modern Japan. For the first time Chamisa got huge political capital without having to speak up or make a stand for anything.
They say the power of the people is greater than the people in power. At the heart of Zimbabwe's electoral ‘dispute’ lies a contentious inauguration, placing the issue into a proxy battle.
On one side stands President Emmerson Mnangagwa's Zanu PF, supported by those who argue for the preservation of liberation movements in Sadc. On the other side are what have been conveniently termed liberal political parties, labelled by the office bearers in some liberation movements like South Africa’s ANC as pro-imperialists.
The roots of this ‘dispute’ trace back to the 1998 intervention under "Operation Sovereign Legitimacy," which was meant to deliver liberation gains but transformed these movements into something different.
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The liberation movements went to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by invitation to safeguard self-interests and guard turf from Angola to Zimbabwe. The DRC intervention gave Sadc an ally, DRC.
They say if a royal family delays judgment, then the rich man is guilty. Without ado, the liberation movement theory makes the concept of a "proxy inauguration" plausible in many ways.
One, Mnangagwa’s inauguration has cunningly turned a purely legal and electoral ‘disputes’ into a proxy conflict. The leading praise singer has been Fikile Mbalula, who turned the ‘disputes’ in Zimbabwe's election into a proxy battle between two opposing sides.
One side to which Mbalula belongs supports President Mnangagwa's inauguration, while emphasising the importance of preserving liberation movements in the region.
The other side, composed of perceived liberal political parties, is seen as pro-imperialist or pro-west. This has even been linked to the removal of an American base from Botswana and possibly to Zambia if one followed some pitching by those who pigeon themselves as anti-imperialists.
Two, Mnangagwa’s inauguration has deliberately projected Sadc as a regional bloc with big brothers that shape opinions about shifting alliances.
Under this rubric, Mnangagwa's changing stance is not divorced from the non-alignment-to-being-aligned remarks recently in Russia.
Is he now showing that he is aligning with liberation movements and other like-minded countries?
Does this suggest that his inauguration might be influenced by external forces or alliances? But who would recklessly ignore a statement of public alignment diplomacy from a President?
To buttress the remarks, people like Mbalula would want the ‘stakeholders’ of liberation movements to believe Chamisa is a puppet of the United States (US)? My nerves!
If Mnangagwa’s public remarks are analysed even by any lower tier diplomat, he and his government are non-aligned somewhere and end of the matter!
Three, South Africa’s involvement is a deliberate ploy to make the election ‘dispute’ sound like a proxy jigsaw towards 2024. The year 2024 is South Africa in Zimbabwe 2023.
South Africa's involvement in the ‘dispute’ simply adds another layer to the proxy nature of the inauguration on the basis that in not-so-distant past, the same government accused Zimbabwean security personnel of defecting and committing atrocities in South Africa.
Did it care that Zimbabwe has one of the best ground forces then? South Africa has a tendency of conveniently internationalising the Zimbabwean conflict for its own win-win gains.
We have not forgotten that South Africa has elections in 2024 and doubtlessly external actors may influence the outcome.
Four, and perhaps septically (not sceptically), the influence of proxy institutions in most African countries has been doing rounds from Wagner, Nikuv and many other organisations.
The mysterious influence of any such groups raises concerns about undisclosed foreign interests affecting Zimbabwe's politics, potentially influencing the inauguration process indirectly.
Given these factors, the term "proxy inauguration" as used in this article alludes to the idea that Zimbabwe's inauguration of President Mnangagwa is not solely a domestic affair but is influenced by external actors, alliances, and power dynamics.
It suggests that the inauguration may serve as a symbolic battleground for various regional, self, hidden, and international interests, potentially overshadowing the domestic electoral process and the will of Zimbabwean voters.
Analytically, if the ‘dispute’ has morphed into a proxy battle, pitting liberation movements against liberals, the result follows the cause. While these movements once fought colonialists (we thank them for that), they now face accusations of resisting true freedom for all under what they always call ‘their interests’ and never ‘our people’s interests.’
Instead, they are accused of holding onto power through anti-imperialist rhetoric or cheap political statements, refusing to let others lead even on allegations of losing an election.
In fact, they have been accused of comprador governance where focus is on ‘the time to eat is now, it’s our time to eat, or Uncle John will come back, or the pigs don’t sleep on the floor,’ kind of animal farm governance.
They have been seen as organisations that brought ‘independence without freedom,’ something that shows how many people live miserably under their stewardship although they may develop investment platforms that serve as bastions of capitalism.
On shifting alliances, Mnangagwa's wavering stance, from claiming ‘no longer non-aligned’ in Russia to aligning with Sadc’s liberation movements, raises questions about his true intentions.
Is he seeking to make them such movements his followers in dividing Sadc on Chamisa’s call for fresh elections, or is there a more complex agenda that goes back to this war against liberation movements at play? Well, perhaps South Africa's involvement adds a layer of complexity.
Accusations of Zimbabwean security personnel defecting and committing atrocities in South Africa have strained relations. And now South Africa's upcoming elections may be influencing its stance on Zimbabwe. Centrifugal and centripetal forces all over, are they not?
In all this, Mnangagwa faces a legitimacy crisis bigger than the V11 residue of 2018.It seems the most crucial issue beyond his inauguration is the legitimacy crisis. The inauguration of a president before resolving a pertinent election dispute under Sadc’s sub-regional purview represents a "brutum fulmen" - an empty threat.
This suggests that the government relies on historical sympathisers rather than voters to maintain power, undermining internal institutions.
By turning an election impasse into a proxy or political standoff, we see clearly how self-interests are jumping national interests (who defines them) to focusing on geopolitical or strategic interests but treading in a highway that may lead nowhere.
The liberation parties are now advancing their own agendas, which may not be in any way related to the election disputes. Sadc is expected to realise that an election dispute resolution involves the systematic and impartial assessment of election-related grievances, aiming to find a fair and legally sound resolution to these disputes.
While Sadc’s revised election guidelines are soft law, soft law should not be simply seen as not binding. They give content to the hard law in Zimbabwe’s Constitution and electoral laws.
This typically enjoins Mnangagwa’s party to follow established legal and institutional frameworks, including Sadc. The goal is to ensure that the election results reflect the will of the voters and adhere to democratic principles.
What becomes clear is that making an election impasse sound like a proxy issue is simple: the primary objective is not to resolve election disputes but to use them as a tool for broader political interests.
This is different from the goal of an election dispute resolution process whose goal is to address grievances through impartial assessment within a legal and democratic framework, with the aim of achieving fair and legitimate election outcome.
Mnangagwa’s inauguration amidst an election ‘dispute’ has thus raised the simple question: whether an election impasse is being used as a pale proxy or is part of a genuine dispute resolution process?
While one may say it is a story ending: Sadc will be divided into a proxy war for liberation movements against liberal governments, it is crucial to know that time is determined by a careful evaluation of motivations and dynamics behind the Zimbabwean crisis which is unique.
Sadc is expected to devise appropriate strategies to address the election impasse without being swayed into some proxy matrix.
While it is said ‘water is for drunk people, we don’t judge,’ and lest we be judged by history wrongly, the proxy battle between liberation movements and liberals has outlived its usefulness except pliably.
Inaugurating a president before resolving the ‘dispute’ within Sadc reflects a dangerous reliance on historical sympathisers, potentially eroding the foundations of democratic governance.
Of course, hardline realists will say zvaendwa/ndikoko or wukurai (it’s game over), but if it is a game, we can play till the clock says 0:00. Something is somewhere!
It is like asking a girl why she is beautiful and she retorts with a smile, ‘I don’t know!’ Proxy threats are situational. Not everyone drinks milk, probably water. Someone might ask, how about wine? Simple is the best: if you do not show those you lead the roadmap, they may show you, their resolve. Never delay kissing a girl you like or drinking fine wine!
- Hofisi is a lawyer, conversationalist and trans disciplinary researcher. He has interests in governance and international law. — [email protected]