Thursday, 17 July 2008


By Gershom Ndhlovu

Is MMD spokesman Benny Tetamashimba evil to suggest that the MMD should start looking for President Mwanawasa’s successor? Or is it simply that the whole nation is burying its head in the sand over Mwanawasa’s health status?

It is now close to three weeks since Mr Mwanawasa was taken ill while attending an African Union summit in Egypt and subsequently transferred to France for specialist treatment. According to foreign media reports, Mr Mwanawasa had an operation in Egypt to remove clots in the brain and another one in Paris, believed to be a tracheostomy, to ease his breathing problems. Tracheostomy is the opening by surgery of a direct airway in the windpipe.

The nation, probably out of emotion and the tradition of not discussing the fate of someone who is ill, does not want to face the inevitability of Mr Mwanawasa’s exit from the political stage.

Really, Mr Mwanawasa may not have the appetite to continue as President after suffering two strokes within two years. But another real possibility is that he may not be in a mental and physical state to perform the functions of the office of the president after his latest affliction.

Zambians in general and Mr Mwanawasa’s family in particular, let him down in 2006 when they forced him to carry on as President after he suffered the first stroke. Those who truly sympathise with him should let him retire, really.

Those who are genuinely concerned with Mr Mwanawasa’s health should seriously look at the Zambian constitution’s Article 36 “Removal of President on Grounds of Incapacity” reproduced below for the way forward.:

(1) If it is resolved by a majority of all the members of the Cabinet that the question of the physical or mental capacity of the President to discharge the functions of his office ought to be investigated, and they so inform the Chief Justice, then the Chief Justice shall appoint a board consisting of not less than three persons selected by him from among persons who are qualified as medical practitioners under the law of Zambia or under the law of any other country in the Commonwealth, and the board shall inquire into the matter and report to the Chief Justice on whether or not the President is, by reason of any infirmity of body or mind, incapable of discharging the functions of his office. (2) If the board reports that the President is incapable of discharging the functions of his office, the Chief Justice shall certify in writing accordingly and thereupon the President shall cease to hold office. (3) Where the Cabinet resolve that the question of the physical or mental capacity of the President to discharge the functions of his office shall be investigated, the President shall, until another person assumes the office of President or the board appointed under clause (1) reports that the President is not incapable of discharging the functions of his office, whichever is earlier, cease to perform the functions of his office and those functions shall be performed by: (a) the Vice-President; or (b) in the absence of the Vice-President or if the Vice-President is unable, by reason of physical or mental infirmity, to discharge the functions of his office, by such member of the Cabinet as the Cabinet shall elect: Provided that any person performing the functions of the office of President under this clause shall not dissolve the National Assembly nor, except on the advice of the Cabinet, revoke any appointment made by the President. (4) A motion for the purposes of clause (1) may be proposed at any meeting of the Cabinet. (5) For the purposes of this Article, a certificate of the Chief Justice that the President is, by reason of physical or mental infirmity, unable to discharge the functions of this office shall be conclusive and shall not be questioned in any court.

So, the first step that Cabinet must take, if they love the President, is to appoint a board of medical experts to determine whether or not Mwanawasa can continue to hold the office of President. The sooner this is done the better because the nation will avoid a situation where Zambia will be on standstill because the president’s indisposition. As it is, crucial decisions will have to wait until Mr Mwanawasa recovers fully which we don’t know when that will be.

Those suggesting that the nation should start looking for Mwanawasa’s successor like Tetamashimba may not, after all, be as evil as they are being portrayed. They are simply being realistic and are within the constitutional ambit cited above.

It will not do for the nation to avoid this issue given the circumstances under which it finds itself.

The crucial standpoint is that Mr Mwanawasa alive as an ex-president is better than Mr Mwanawasa who dies in office.

Friday, 11 July 2008


By Gershom Ndhlovu

Political events in Zimbabwe have showed what is wrong with the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) formed under the aegis of New Africa’s Partnership for Development (Nepad) whose major architect is South African President Thabo Mbeki.

Nepad was conceived about nine years ago when Mbeki came up with his African Renaissance ideals which were merged with Senegalese President, Abdoulaye Wade’s Omega Plan.

Nepad was to bring fresh impetus to the continent’s development and had a lot of support from the developed countries. It is not surprising that less than a decade later, Nepad, though existing at it’s South African base, is just another of the talking shops and it is doubtful if it still attracts the support of the developed nations as it did at its inception.

One of the primary objectives of Nepad is to halt the marginalisation of Africa in the globalisation process and enhance its full and beneficial integration into the global economy while one of its principles is the promotion of good governance as a basic requirement for peace, security and sustainable political and socio-economic development.

The mandate of the APRM is to ensure that the policies and practices of participating states conform to the agreed political, economic and corporate governance values, codes and standards contained in the Declaration on Democracy, Political, Economic and Corporate Governance. The APRM is the mutually agreed instrument for self-monitoring by the participating member governments.

The primary purpose of the APRM is to foster the adoption of policies, standards and practices that lead to political stability, high economic growth, sustainable development and accelerated sub-regional and continental economic integration through sharing of experiences and reinforcement of successful and best practice, including identifying deficiencies and assessing the needs for capacity building.

Today, Nepad lies dead in the water. So is its offshoot, APRM. The sad fact is that the Nepad’s main architect himself, Mr Mbeki has failed the APRM concept by refusing to submit Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to a peer review that should have told him where to go after losing the elections.

But all is not lost if what went on in Egypt, at the just ended African Union summit when some African leaders broke ranks and tradition of not criticising a fellow leader is anything to go by.

The new generation of leaders such as Zambia’s president Levy Mwanawasa who, unfortunately, missed the summit due to a stroke that has left him hospitalised in Paris, Botswana’s Ian Khama, Tanzania’s Jakaya Kikwete, and Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga who have spoken out on the political events in Zimbabwe.

Refreshing also is the fact that even old timers such as Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and a few West African leaders are changing and are speaking for democracy instead of defending tyrannical rulers like Mugabe.

One can only hope that this is the beginning for African leaders openly criticising each other on the so-called internal matters of another country. This should have been the spirit of how the APRM should have been functioning right from the start.

At the same time, this should be the beginning of a self-cleansing exercise by most African nations themselves so that when they criticise a member country, their democratic credentials are impeccable.

The African countries who lack these credentials must remove the log in their eye before they point at the forest in someone else’s eye. This is the reason why Mugabe is able to dig in and, cheekily, tell them that they themselves are not as democratic as they want to show and that their own elections, when they are held, are as chaotic.

Sadly, however, it appears that President Mbeki has gone back on his words as Deputy President when he addressed the United Nations University in 1998 on the African Renaissance theme:

“The question must therefore arise: What is it which makes up that genuine liberation?

“The first of these (elements) is that we must bring to an end the practices as a result of which many throughout the world have the view that as Africans, we are incapable of establishing and maintaining systems of good governance. Our own practical experiences tell us that military governments do not represent the system of good governance which we seek.

“Accordingly, the continent has made the point clear that it is opposed to military coups and has taken practical steps, as exemplified by the restoration to power of the elected government of Sierra Leone, to demonstrate its intent to meet this challenge when it arises. Similarly, many governments throughout the continent, including our continental organisation, the OAU, have sought to encourage the Nigerian government and people to return as speedily as possible to a democratic system of government.”

One is compelled to ask President Mbeki about what makes Zimbabwe such a special case that he is able to swallow his own well-spoken word at that United Nations University ten years ago for what has happened there is not any different to the above.


This is not a blame game. Whether President Mwanawasa was taken ill or not I would have written about it any way.

Foreign Minister Kabinga Pande and his Information counterpart, Mike Mulongoti mishandled the “ping pong” with Zimbabwe’s Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, and it lacked diplomatic etiquette.

Pande and Mulongoti’s response at an assembly of local journalists to parry Chinamasa’s accusations of President Mwanawasa’s firm handling of Zimbabwe’s shambolic elections gave an impression that diplomatic relations between the two countries had broken down. This is probably what stressed President Mwanawasa to an extent of suffering a stroke.

The two ministers should have advised Mwanawasa to directly speak to his Zimbabwean counterpart, the Zambian high commissioner in Zimbabwe could have made representations to that country’s Foreign Ministry or, indeed, Zambia could have sent a “diplomatic note” to that country, etc. That, clearly, is a text book case of how not to conduct diplomacy.

Mugabe had lost the first round of the elections, Chinamasa had lost his parliamentary seat, so what did one expect from “wounded” men? Vitriol in all directions!

Friday, 4 July 2008


By Gershom Ndhlovu

The recent events in the southern African region have clearly showed that the Zambian government now and in the future should carefully choose who its friends should be.
It is clear that President Mwanawasa as the current chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has been let down by a number of member countries over the contentious political situation in Zimbabwe.
Both, latent and clear alliances have come to the fore in the manner the regional body has handled the Zimbabwean question.
Whereas a few countries like Zambia, Tanzania, Botswana and Lesotho have exhibited their disapproval of Mugabe’s tactics before and after the March 29 elections and the subsequent run off on June 27, countries like Namibia, Angola, Congo (in its silence over the matter), and Malawi which has “recognised” the Mugabe’s election have, in action and deed, sided with the murderous regime.
It is a well known fact that Namibia, Angola and Zimbabwe helped Congo during the war that involved Rwanda, Uganda and Congolese rebels with the Kabila regime several years ago. These countries have just shifted the alliance to help another ally in this case the Mugabe regime.
Malawi attempted, if it did not succeed, to clear Zimbabwe’s arms on the Chinese ship when it docked in Angola a few months ago. The Malawi government also stands accused of supplying tear-gas to Zimbabwe which was recently attributed to the death of 12 Zimbabwean activists during a protest march.
In a few days before the June 27 election run off, Namibian Defence Force chief, Lieutenant General Martin Shalli was in Harare assuring the government there that Namibia would remain neutral as Mugabe’s government beat, maimed, raped, jailed and killed opposition supporters. This position was later confirmed by President Hifikepunye Pohamba.
South African president Thabo Mbeki’s position on Mugabe and his government is very well known. It is the same South Africa with Russia and China who are opposing tougher sanctions on Mugabe’s government in the United Nations Security Council on which South Africa is one of the 15 countries serving on it.
It is not surprising though that Russia and China are opposing sanctions against Mugabe because their democratic credentials are, in any case, not anything to write home about.
At the time of writing the column, Mugabe was preparing to take his fight to the African Union summit in Cairo this week by saying that only those with clean hands should point a finger at the shambles of an election in Zimbabwe.
Among the countries that have spoken out against the goings on in Zimbabwe include Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, and Ghana.
As it is, one wonders how SADC leaders will look each other in the eye next time they meet for betraying each other in their support for Mugabe and those who condemned his actions.
This diplomatic fiasco called SADC needs to close shop instead of members pretending to be friends in agriculture and fisheries and other inconsequential fields when they have failed each other on what matters most, the political level.
The Zimbabwe Herald, the government mouthpiece, laughed off the failed troika meeting in Swaziland: "It was a bilateral meeting between two countries, it can never be a troika meeting. Troika means three and the deputy chair cannot call a meeting when the chair is there. Their resolution has no force in respect to SADC, let alone Zimbabwe. The two countries (Tanzania and Swaziland) are only expressing an obligation to the Western world."
Key members of the political, defence and security, Angola as troika chair and Mbeki as mediator, did not attend the meeting.
The SADC charade has badly been exposed. The best thing the members can do is to go their separate ways, turn the beautiful SADC headquarters in Gaborone into a shopping mall and life will continue for us as citizens without our taxes being wasted on the white elephant.
That Zambia has been betrayed in its efforts to resolve the crisis in Zimbabwe means that the government should realign itself properly on the international stage.
Zambia could benefit more if it enhanced diplomatic relations with the US, EU, China, Japan, India, Brazil and similar countries and organisations instead of being stuck with a bunch of time-wasters like those in SADC who only follow rules, regulations and protocols when it suits them.