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Moses Tofa: History is not on the side of delusions, Prof Madhuku!

This article is directed to Professor Lovemore Madhuku. There is no doubt that Prof Madhuku is one of those who fought a commendable fight in the struggle against authoritarian politics and in the dispensation of knowledge in Zimbabwe. He is one of our finest legal minds. However, he is now walking in the opposite direction, a direction that is viciously corroding both his legacy and his intellectual astuteness.

This makes me to wonder whether it is his consciousness that has gone rogue, or something else. This article is not intended to malign the Prof, but to critically appraise the views that he shared concerning the “achievements” of the Political Actors Dialogue (POLAD) and the arbitrary detention of Job Sikhala, Godfrey Sithole and the Nyatsime 16. I will start with his rambling concerning what he regards as the achievements of POALD.

Madhuku’s disingenuous version of a multi-party state

Speaking about what he regards as the achievements of POLAD, Prof Madhuku said that “first and foremost, politically, POLAD has promoted the principle of a multi-party state.

That is very important. Multi-partyism is the very important understanding that democracy requires the proliferation of political players and that there must be more than one political player…so it’s more than one, and more importantly in Zimbabwe more than two.

So the mere existence of POLAD shows you that there are not two parties here, there are not three parties, there are many parties and that is important that that happens, it engenders and promotes democracy”.

This is a disingenuous interpretation of multi-partyism. First, multi-partyism is not essentially about the existence of multiple political parties within a political system, but about sincerely creating and consolidating a democratic space where political parties are free to participate in the political life of the state, including contesting elections that are regular, free, and fair. This is not the situation in Zimbabwe.

In Zimbabwe, the democratic space is closed: the main opposition is always hunted, the state and its institutions are brazenly captured such that there is a fusion of the state and the regime, the law is weaponised, and the electoral field is heavily manipulated. Zimbabwe is therefore an autocratic multi-party state. Dictators the world over are adept at allowing opposition parties to exist, but they use various tools to make it difficult for the opposition to operate. They use the existence of opposition parties to give a false appearance of multi-partyism.

Second, after the 2018 election, the MDC-Alliance vehemently contested the legitimacy of Mnangagwa, claiming that the 2018 election was stolen. It is against this background that POLAD was established with the intention to co-opt and stifle the opposition, especially the MDC-Alliance. ZANU-PF wants “acquiescent opposition”.

POLAD is therefore a tool from the dictator’s playbook that ZANU-PF is using to decimate the opposition, and consequently, multi-party democracy. The claim that POLAD is promoting multi-party democracy is therefore ignominiously false. Third, the claim that the existence of POLAD is evidence that there are more political players in Zimbabwe is extremely hazardous to multi-party politics.

It suggests that when opposition parties contest elections, when they have representatives in parliament and the local authority and when they criticise the ruling party, they are not political players. They only become political players when they take part in disingenuous and unconstitutional platforms such as POLAD.

It is a shame that such unconstitutional sideshows compete with or even supplant constitutional bodies such as parliament. To allow opposition parties to exist, but then victimise them so that they can be co-opted by the regime through bogus platforms of dialogue such as POLAD is in itself a desecration of multi-party democracy.

Prof Madhuku, the brutal truth is that you are in POLAD because you want to gain through POLAD, the things that you will never be able to gain through electoral support.

Madhuku’s wild goose chase interpretation of representative democracy.

While making the ignominious claim that POLAD is representing the interests of the masses, Madhuku stated that “political parties generally represent the people. To the extent that they represent the views that they have as political parties which they believe are shared by a significant amount of people.

You must not confuse electoral support and political representation. Those are two different things. A person has always one vote. You might actually appreciate what I stand for and support what I do, but when you get to the ballot box, because you have one vote, you might prefer that for that election, you vote for someone else for other reasons.

That does not mean that you will not support what I stand for. People who vote are merely a fraction of the entire population. It does not mean that those who did not vote in the 2018 election support the parties that win elections.

No, those who are out there support constitutional democracy, support multi-partyism, they would want a state of affairs where political actors keep engaging, so we have massive support in the country”.

Prof Madhuku, such a dishonest and boundless interpretation of representation is too toxic for the building and functioning of representative democracy. Here, Prof Madhuku claimed that POLAD principals have “massive support” from those who voted in the 2018 election and those who did not vote. Prof, these are grandiose delusions.

The argument that because people support ideals such as development, multi-partyism, and constitutional democracy, they, therefore, support any political party that claims to stand for these ideals is uttermost gibberish. People do not support a political party merely on the basis of what it claims to stand for, but most importantly, because they trust its ideology, ideation capability, sincerity and capacity to deliver change.

This is because politics is always associated with greediness and deceitfulness. In Kenya, after the Supreme Court upheld William Ruto’s presidential victory, many politicians who were elected under Raila Odinga’s Azimio la Umoja defected to Willam Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza.

Such behaviour makes it difficult for the electorate to trust politicians. Besides, political parties have the penchant to claim to stand for ideals that they actually fight against or they are incapable of delivering.

For example, from independence, ZANU-PF has always claimed that it stands for unity, peace and development. But for many Zimbabweans, it is a violent party, it is intolerant and divisive, and it is the epicentre of corruption.

Coming to POLAD itself, the parties that are taking part in this sideshow claim that they are fighting for development, electoral and political reforms, constitutionalism, and multi-partyism.

There are many Zimbabweans who believe in these ideals, but are not supportive of POLAD because they do not trust the parties that are in POLAD. These parties may claim that they stand for this and that, but they are seen as standing for their bellies.

It is criminal and abusive for POLAD to claim that it is representing people who do not trust it.

Prof Madhuku’s argument about one vote is inexpressibly crooked. First, is the issue of trust that I raised above. His argument that if people had five votes each, they would overwhelmingly vote for NCA is ridiculous. One of the reasons why many people did not vote in 2018 is that they lost confidence in political parties or the electoral machinery.

If you give such people five votes, would you expect them to use them? The same applies to those who voted in 2018. If you give each of them five votes, each person is likely to use only one vote to vote for a party that he/she trusts. You cannot expect them to vote for political parties that they do not trust simply because they have spare votes.

Second, political parties that are without electoral support such as the NCA are incapable of fielding even a small number of candidates in a general election. They are even incapable of contesting by-elections. For such parties to claim, for example, that during the 2018 general election, people did not vote for them because each person had one vote is amazing.

Assuming that each person had five votes to cast in the 2018 election, would voters have voted for parties that did not field candidates in many of the constituencies because they lacked the capacity to do so? How many parliamentary and council seats did the NCA contest in 2018, Prof?

Third, a voter has the liberty to vote for candidates from different parties if he or she believes that each party has some good qualities. For example, one can vote a CCC presidential candidate, a ZANU-PF parliamentarian and an MDC-T councillor.

The lie that the majority of Zimbabweans accept POLAD

Prof Madhuku fraudulently claimed that POLAD enjoys the support of the majority of Zimbabweans. He stated that “I think that the majority of the people accept POLAD. Those who are resisting POLAD are groups that are partisan. These are supporters of political parties that chose not to be part of POLAD.

Whenever I interact with people myself, I am able to realise that the ordinary person there, who is not politically partisan, who is not an active participant in party politics, appreciates the value and role of POLAD”. To claim that those who do not support POLAD are partisan and those who support POLAD are “not politically partisan” is gross dishonesty.

In other words, Prof claimed that those who do not support POLAD have no credible reasons not to support POLAD, except partisanship. He proceeded to witlessly evade the fact that those who support POLAD are ZANU-PF supporters. He did this by claiming that those who support POLAD are “ordinary people who are not politically partisan”.

Surely, the Prof should be venturing into his own time zone where he sees these strange realities. While it is his right to venture into his own time zone, it becomes a problem when he imposes the delusional realities of his time zone on our time zone, where the realities are completely different.

Learn to be honest, Prof. You can support your arguments without having to be dishonest and delusional. History is not on the side of delusions, Prof Madhuku.

The delusion that POLAD is Zimbabwe’s ideation centre

There is nothing that drives and transforms societies as ideas. It is the ideation and application capability of a society that determines its political, social and economic progress. In his succinct explanation of the tragedy of Africa, Professor Patrick Lumumba argued that the problem with Africa is that those with ideas have no power but those with power have no ideas. Zimbabwe is a classic example of this excruciating tragedy.

Prof Madhuku claimed that POLAD’s second achievement “is the spirit of dialogue for national development, you need to exchange ideas, the best ideas come out of a dialogue process and that has happened”.

Prof Madhuku, it is outrageous for you to regard POLAD as Zimbabwe’s centre of ideas because of the following reasons: POLAD is a body that is constituted of a few political malefactors who have no representation at all, who have no ideation competency, and who threw principles to the wind so that they can stand for their bellies.

There are so many Zimbabweans, in Zimbabwe and the diaspora, who have ideas that can take Zimbabwe to amazing heights. Many of these Zimbabweans are not leaders or members of political parties. They are in varied constituencies of life: civil service, civil society, private sector, academic institutions, the church, etc. As a people, Zimbabweans need to liberate themselves from the belief that the deliverance of Zimbabwe is dependent on a particular political party, especially its leader.

An expansive society such as Zimbabwe cannot have its best ideas coming from a few political malefactors who are in POLAD. Great societies always harvest ideas from citizens across identities such as age, gender, geographic location, ethnicity, political affiliation, social status, and professional station. If the ideas that are coming from POLAD are the best for Zimbabwe, then Zimbabwe is cursed.

The delusion that POLAD has contributed to economic turnaround

Prof Madhuku claimed that “outside the political world, POLAD has been very critical in contributing economic ideas to the economic turnaround”. Where is the economic turnaround, Prof? Have we not witnessed a progressive decline of the economy? Is it not amazing that while other countries are celebrating scientific advancements that are out of this world, ZANU-PF is celebrating the construction of roads and the drilling of boreholes in urban areas in the 21st century?

Is it not self-evident that ZANU-PF has reached a political and ideation waterloo: its revolutionary glory has been entirely decimated, the so called re-engagement efforts have harvested nothing but thorns, corruption has gone haywire, the economy remains in a perpetual state of amazing dereliction, and the Chinese are recolonising Zimbabwe in the same way that Africa was colonised by Europeans in the 19th and 20th centuries.

After more than four decades in power, is it not self-evident, not only that ZANU-PF has absolutely nothing to offer to Zimbabwe, but most poignantly that each day that passes with ZANU-PF in power deals irreparable disinvestment into Zimbabwe’s future?

When ZANU-PF is very good within POLAD, but arrogant without

Prof Madhuku said that “I must tell the people that within POLAD meetings, ZANU-PF is a very good political party, very warm, very polite, they are never arrogant within POLAD meetings. I only see ZANU-PF arrogance outside POLAD. But within POLAD, they are like any other party”.

Prof Madhuku, If ZANU-PF is “warm” within POLAD and arrogant outside POLAD, then POLAD is useless because the fruits of POLAD can only be seen outside and not within POLAD.

What is good about a ZANU-PF that is “very good” within POLAD meetings; but refuses to implement reforms, deepens its capture of state institutions, brazenly violates the constitution, and continues to be a bastion of corruption?

Prof, it is either you are lacking political astuteness here, or something has gone rogue. Does it make any sense for ZANU-PF to be arrogant within POLAD, when the purpose of POLAD is to peddle the impression that the regime is willing to embrace and work with its political opponents?

Disowning and downplaying the glaring failures of POLAD

While it is good that at least Prof Madhuku acknowledged the “setbacks” of POLAD, he tried to disown and downplay them so that he can claim that POLAD has made some achievements and therefore continues to be relevant.

He said that “There is a very critical setback. It is the slow pace of reforms in the electoral and political areas. At the beginning, we were very upbeat that we will before the 2023 elections, have full-blown reforms in the electoral field. POLAD agreed to about 16 proposals to amend the electoral act or to change electoral laws. Up to now, not much movement has taken place in that regard”.

Here, it is important to look at Prof’s choice of words. He claimed that there is a “slow pace” or “not much movement” in the implementation of reforms. The import of these words is that at least there is movement, albeit slow. This is how he downplayed POLAD’s failures so that he can claim that more effort needs to be put to accelerate the movement, especially after the 2023 election. This is being dishonest. What movement was the Prof referring to? If at all there is any movement, it is actually retrogressive.

For example, the independence of ZEC, the heart of our electoral machinery, was further eroded when Mnangagwa appointed commissioners who have strong connections with ZANU-PF. Apart from downplaying POLAD’s failures, he also disowned them by attributing them to ZANU-PF, not to POLAD. For example, he said that “the ZANU-PF government failed to implement the very good ideas that they were given”.

The intention here is to claim that the problem is with ZANU-PF, not POLAD. However, he also claimed that “some of the ideas coming out of those platforms have not been implemented or accepted”.

The intention here is to claim that some ideas were accepted and implemented, and others were not. This is not strange because ZANU-PF cannot be expected to accept every idea. For Madhuku, POLAD remains necessary because it continues to push for more ideas to be accepted and implemented.

When POLAD principals are public officials: Madhuku’s blatantly false equivalence.

Prof Madhuku made the outrageously unconstitutional claim that POLAD principals are “public officials” who contribute to “public discourse” and therefore are entitled to public resources. People of Zimbabwe, if we are not going to resist, condemn and stop this false equivalence, then we are ill-fated.

In his own words, Prof Madhuku claimed that “We are not in POLAD for the money. We are in POLAD out of our very strong belief that we must act. When we got the cars, the cars are just there to assist us in the work that we do. The public has a tendency not to appreciate what public officials do on their behalf.

So public officials also realise that from time to time, they cannot use their own private resources for public discourse. So the vehicles are merely to assist us; they remain government vehicles. These are not our personal properties. When POLAD comes to an end, those vehicles will be returned.

If they have to be given to the POLAD principals, in terms of government rules, they have to buy them, in terms of the rule that applies to purchasing a vehicle that you have been using. That law is not ours, it is the law of a country that if you are a public official, and have used a vehicle…”

To claim that POLAD principals are public officials is excessively unreasonable. It is an amazing false equivalence for leaders of political parties that collectively do not have even a single seat in parliament or local government and are taking part in a body that not only has no constitutional or legal foundation, but actually desecrates our constitutional order, to regard themselves as public officials.

In Kenya, after the handshake between Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga, opposition died and Odinga became a “government official”, effectively supplanting William Ruto, who was the vice president.

This is one of the factors that made Kenyans unhappy with Raila Odinga and he lost the 2022 presidential election to William Ruto. Under the current ZANU-PF, it is amazing that unelected, unelectable, delusional and bogus characters are being given ultras vires access to the soul of the state via the back door.

If you refuse to join POLAD, you deserve to be victimised: says Madhuku

While, speaking about what needs to be done to secure the release of Job Sikhala, Godfrey Sithole and the Nyatsime 16, Prof Madhuku said that “I think this could have been resolved by a dialogue process. They are now victims of their own political party that refuses to dialogue, that refuses to be part of POLAD… what would stop that political party to which they belong from having an audience with the president?

The role of the president there is not to interfere with the courts, but it will be to sometimes engage the NPA. We know that the Prosecutor-General is the one who would consent to bail and so on and he is also the one who would make arrangements for an early trial and so on.

Every political leader ought to know that these issues are political”. Two things are important to note here. First, claiming that it is justified for ZANU-PF to victimise the CCC because it has refused to be part of POLAD is strange reasoning. Prof, why would you say that if the CCC wants to be safe from victimisation, it must accept to join POLAD and be controlled by ZANU-PF?

Is this not the same POLAD that you claimed has promoted multi-party democracy? If I am to summarise your arguments, here is the summary: POLAD promotes multiparty democracy, any opposition party that refuses to join POLAD must be victimized by ZANU-PF. This is oxymoronic.

In Uganda, Kaguta Museveni is doing the same thing: punishing the opposition for refusing to be controlled by the ruling party.

Second, Prof introduced a strange and unconstitutional doctrine of political-legal dichotomy. While it is true that Sikhala and others are being politically victimised and that urgent and extra-ordinary measures must be taken to secure their release, it would be dangerous to let the political subsume the legal.

It is oxymoronic for Prof Madhuku to claim that the CCC should seek the intervention of Mnangagwa and that Mnangagwa can intervene and facilitate the release of Sikhala and others without interfering with the courts. It is actually the political influence that he has over the courts that enables him to intervene. He should be asked not to interfere with the courts. We should not use political tools to deal with legal matters.

I agree with Fadzai Mahere’s view that “it would set a dangerous precedent if the right to bail for CCC members became a political question and not a constitutional one”. This is because if this happens, ZANU-PF will use it as a weapon with which to force the CCC to accept compromises that it is not comfortable to accept.

The CCC will be entirely dependent on the mercy of a rogue regime, and never on legal recourse. The legal route would become meaningless as judges have to take orders from the regime. It is the politicisation of our courts that should be condemned.

Prof also said that Job Sikhala, Sithole and the Nyatsime 16 “are now victims of the failure by their political party to know that politics is about engagement. Politics is not always about fighting. If they have good leadership in that party, they would be out by now”.

I agree with the Prof on the idea that engagement is important in politics. But this is something that has to be discussed separately from the issue of Job Sikhala and others.

If you want to know more about my ideas on the issue of dialogue, I will shortly publish an article that is titled “Discourse on how to take Zimbabwe out of the bottomless dungeon”. I encourage you to read it when it comes out.

See evil, but don’t speak against it: Prof Madhuku’s false yardstick of wisdom

According to Prof Madhuku, it is not wise for the opposition to criticize the courts for lacking independence. He said that “every political leader ought to know that these issues are political. So you don’t go out there on top of the mountain and just say that the magistrate is a political outpost, or the judge is a political outpost when you still need the judge in your own other cases. You don’t do that, in fact, you still make arguments before the judges”.

Prof’s reasoning is defective in that it does not seek to address the root causes of Zimbabwe’s problems. State institutions have to be trusted by the public. For them to be trusted, they have to be independent or at least be seen as independent.

It is a constitutional requirement that state institutions be independent. Should the opposition, for example, stop saying that ZEC lacks independence because they will participate in elections that are managed by ZEC? Citizens have the right to express their lack of trust in state institutions.

The problem is not that the opposition does not have confidence in our courts, but that our courts are captured and therefore incapable of dispensing justice. Such a justice system is not good for anyone, including those who have captured it. One day, when they are no longer in power, such a justice system can be used against them.

Look at what is happening to Mary Mubaiwa. It is grossly inhuman. Look at how the courts could not protect Mugabe and G40 members after the coup of November 2017. We have to build institutions that are good for everyone, those with power and those without. Prof, it is self-evident, from your arguments, that something has gone rogue. Is it your consciousness, or something else?

Whatever it is, always remember that history is not on the side of delusions and that integrity, principles, and decorum should not be traded for anything.

The choice is yours, but I am afraid that you are viciously undoing your legacy and you are in danger of leaving a repugnant legacy, a legacy of trading principles and intellect for a morsel of bloody bread. Comradely and Brotherly, Moses WaTofa.

About the author: Moses Tofa holds an Msc in International Relations from the University of Zimbabwe, an MA in International Peace and Security from King’s College London, a PhD in Peace Studies from the University of Kwazulu-Natal and a PhD in Politics from the University of Johannesburg. He works as a Senior Researcher with the African Leadership Centre. He wrote this brutal article in his personal capacity. He is reachable at [email protected] If you have any feedback regarding this article, please reach out.