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Tendai Biti: Goodbye 2017, Goodluck 2018

By Tendai Biti

Wananchi it has simply been a roller coaster of a year .

One that will permanently redefine our political landscape. One that has permanently changed the way we look and view things Our world outlook.

Former Finance Minister Tendai Biti
Former Finance Minister Tendai Biti

A year that simply was on steroids .

A year that left us grasping for breadth and plunged us into depths of toxic delirium which many have never recovered from and sadly many will never recover from.

Yet the tyrannies of change that swept the mother land had their roots in the West of the continent and in a way would conclude in the West.

It began with a late election in Ghana on 7 December 2016 that saw old friends of ours Nana Akufo-Addo and his running mate Mahamudu Bawumia and their New National Party defeat incumbent President John Mahana and his National Democratic Congress.

That President Mahana accepted defeat and peacefully handed over power was a small piece of evidence that in the long term the acerbic reality that African leaders are only removed from power by death and coups is a threatened narrative.

In little Gambia a small miracle took place.A united coalition of opposition political parties under the moniker United Democratic Party had in December 2016 defeated tin pot Yahya Jammeh who had seized power in a military coup in 1994.

Despite an initial concession and true to form Jammeh refused to hand over power on 9 December 2016.

It would take the threat of military action by ECOWAS to persuade Jammeh to flee Gambia on 21 January 2017 ,thus allowing Gambia to enjoy its first ever democratic transition since independence from the British in 1965.

Wananchi cataclysmic developments would also unfold in Angola where permanent President Jose Eduardo Santos who had been in office since 1979 stepped down and allowed Joao Lourenco to contest the August 2017 Presidential election as leader of the MPLA.

The little mountain kingdom of Lesotho claimed its small share of attention.Following three years of turbulence under Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili a general election was held on 3 June 2017 which was won by former Prime Minister Tom Thabane.

That election was key in loosening the grip of rogue army generals on the State who acted under the clear direction of Mosisili .

Wananchi the winds of change hit a dura-wall in Kenya where seating President Uhuru Kenyatta convincingly won a re run election pursuant to the unwise pull out by the opposition coalition NASA led by Mzee Raila Omolo ODINGA

The real game changer in Kenya’s never ending electoral imbroglio was the ruling by Kenya s Supreme Court on 1 September 2017 nullifying the result of the Presidential election held on 8 August.In a ground breaking ruling Chief Justice David Marange declared the election ‘invalid, null and void” and ordered a re-run.

It was unprecedented for an African court to unseat a seating President and certainly it won’t be the last.

Rwanda too questioned the matrix of elite transition whose precedence had been set in Ghana, Senegal, Gambia, Nigeria and Cote de’ivoire .

Wananchi on 4 August 2017 an old friend Paul Kagame was re elected to a third seven year term with a whopping 98.7 % of the vote. This is the kind of stuff that is manna from heaven to all Departments of Political Studies throughout global campuses.

Despite these set backs the winds of change continued to blow on the African continent.

December 2017 would see the ANC of South Africa ,against all odds hold a successful elective conference that would see Cyril Ramaposa become the new president of the ANC.

That the ANC could could survive the toxicity of a bitter fractious election and the avalanche of pre conference scandal including the scepter of State Capture is a remarkable testimony of its resilience .

It started in the West it would end in the West.

On 28 December 2017 soccer star George Weah won a run off election against a seating Vice President .This indeed was the first time in 70 years that power was transferring from one democratically elected government to another .

Wananchi the events described above can never be understated or taken for granted. In a cynical world where stability is the new buzzword 2017 reminds us all about the sacrosanctity of democracy.

About the fact that the ultimate sovereign authority are the people and that their right to choose, to direct their affairs is inalienable.

Wananchi but the story of 2017 must be Zimbabwe. Our Zimbabwe.

On 14 November 2017 army tanks rolled into the streets of Harare and took control of all strategic points.

In the early hours of 15 November we watched surreal images from Zimbabwe’s decrepit sole State owned broadcasting house. A well spoken army general, who in an act of brazen arrogance would later become the new foreign minister announced to the world the execution of a “ placating “ exercise that would later on be known as ‘Operation Restore Legacy”

The simple truth was that it was a coup.

One which on the face of it had been planned for years.

One which on the face of out was so well executed that even the old President half understood what was taking place .

The image of Mugabe attending a graduation ceremony, where he indulged in his favorite past time of dozing off, in the middle of coup will forever be one of the enduring memories of November 2017.

Wananchi it is however 18 November 2017 which we will take to our graves.

On a bright Saturday morning hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans took to the streets of Harare, Bulawayo, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, London and New York demanding the immediate resignation of President Mugabe.

That call and demand was not an endorsement of the coup let alone an endorsement of Emmerson Mnangwagwa who would later on be sworn in as President on 23 November 2017.

It was a call for change and change alone.

We needed a break. President Mugabe and the system he presided over had suffocated us for too long. We needed to breadth.

We had no illusions about the army and its dangers.That was tomorrow s fight.Today s fight was Mugabe .

Wananchi, for us in the opposition. For us who were there at the beginning when we formed the MDC, this was the real FINAL PUSH.

That we marched with the army was purely fortuitous and a reflection of the deep elite rapture that had occurred inside the dark chambers of the Securocratic State that Mugabe had presided over for the last 37 years.

Of course the deep contradictions in ZANU must be acknowledged fully as the trigger to 18 November.

The unresolved succession wars in ZANU had reached a point where they could only be resolved through physical implosion, which would leave only one faction standing.

The toxic crude and crass vitriol of Grace Mugabe was a torching moment. Her diatribe in Bulawayo and in Harare before members of the Apostolic Church was equivalent in impact to the assassination on 28 June 1914 of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria leading to the First World War.

Whosoever killed a skunk and left it rotting in Grace Mugabe s mouth did her husband and their cabal no favor.

Wananchi five years ago we had foreseen this, spoke about, wrote about it..

We argued then as we do now that there was going to be an implosion and that only a National Transitional Authority could save Zimbabwe.

Naturally no one listened . Thankfully Ibbo Mandaza, Tony Reeler and my friend Brian Kagoro come to the party.

With the reality of the coup now a permanent feature of our polity the key question is what next for Zimbabwe ?

Wananchi, the events of the past few weeks have shown beyond reasonable doubt that the coup was all about settling internal ZANU scores.

Two factions were at war. One was outsmarted and out witted. But it had the last laugh. It brought out the boys from the barracks, thanks to systematic years of State Capture.

More than that the coup has resulted in the majestic consolidation of military control of the State .

Wananchi, the State has moved from the era of a veneer of civilian rule under the common model of Party -State conflation, to an elevated Military-State conflation.

For all intents and purposes ZANU the political party is now absolutely irrelevant .

What matters is KGVI ,or rather Josiah Tongogara Barracks and nothing else.

More crudely with the elevation of General Chiwenga as Vice President and Minster of Defence ,power is now at Defense House in Kwame Nkurumah avenue .

Wananchi for those of us like Morgan Tsvangirai ,who have spend the rest of our lives fighting for democracy ,the battle has just become steeper.

How does an unarmed civilian structure through use of peaceful democratic and constitutional methods dismantle a military -State construction well served by years of patronage and neo patrimonialism.

Put simply how does Zimbabwean revert back to legitimacy.

To normal civilian rule.

So Wananchi the search for our democracy continues.

That search ,as we have argued before is ‘Waiting for Godot ‘ .An on going plot to find the solution that may not be successful and will take ages to find.

But 2018 is on us.

Wananchi we are internal optimists.

2018 must offer a chance for redemption.

The new authorities in town must know that nothing other than absolute change will be good for our people.

69 % Of the population are vibrant Youth many of whom do know the inside of a work place.

They want real change. We saw them register to vote in their millions.

We have lost a lot of time and we need to catch up.

We are four decades behind South Africa.

Our annual budget of $4 billion is the budget of Erkhuleni Town in the Gauteng.

So we submit the following road map as a way foward

1. the execution of genuine electoral reforms 
2. The holding of free fair credible elections 
3. The execution of an inclusive economic reform package centered on structural reforms
4. The carrying out political and institutional reform including pushing for devolution and concluding the land question
5. The de militarization of the State and the adherence to constitutionalism and the rule of law
6. Resolving the country s debt question
7. International re engagement 
8. Constitutional and legal reforms including harmonizing current laws to the new constitution
9. Addressing people s livelihoods ,poverty and collapsed social infrastructure 
10. Restoring the social contract through a program of national healing and a separate agenda for transitional justice

2017 was a long and difficult year .But it had its moments .

Moments that have defined our generation.

We are sure that 2018 will be better.

That we will capture our dreams in the same.

This is not too much to ask for ,surely

God bless you and a great 2018 to all You.

Zikomo zikomo .