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A philanthropic spirit encompassed with an entrepreneurial mind, I am passionate about technology and the things technology can help people to achieve.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Zimbabwe Permit Situation – “Playing Politics with People’s Livelihood”

Friday 31 December 2010 marks the final day of application for work, study and business permits for Zimbabweans based in South Africa, for many the festive period was the most hectic shuttling between cities and towns in South Africa in order to meet the deadline. At midnight on the 31st there will not be much pomp and fanfare associated with a New Year, Yeoville, Hillbrow and Berea will most likely put a subdued celebration into the New Year, there will not be much beer guzzling or throwing old furniture onto the street. The churches should brace for a higher turnout as many would seek solace in the arms of the Almighty.
Official sources within the South African Home Affairs put the number of applications received as at 22 December 2010 at about 130,000. Though there is much debate regarding the number of Zimbabweans in South Africa, the generally accepted range is between 2 – 3.5 million and according to Zimbabwe’s registrar general about 1.5 million of these do not have travel documents. This means a lot of Zimbabweans did not respond to the call to regularise their stay with a response rate of less than 10% however by the first week of 2011 we will be able to decipher how many exactly managed to apply. There is also reluctance by those who hold SA identity documents to surrender these in exchange for work permits, just how many of these make up the Zimbabwe population in South Africa cannot be established. Many were beneficiaries of RDP low cost housing and other benefits afforded to the citizens of South Africa only. It remains to be seen how the South African government will establish those holding such fraudulent documents, perhaps the little known Movement Control System developed by SARS will be used, and for example people with identity documents bearing South Africa as the place of birth who regularly make trips to Zimbabwe at certain intervals will be flagged. There is also talk of a new identity system for every South African along the biometric lines hoping to nab many of such during this process. Whatever the outcome; a lot of Zimbabweans face a grim future in South Africa.
It can also be noticed the South African department of Home Affairs did their best to regularize as many Zimbabweans as possible even relaxing the requirements to the extent that all one needs is a Zimbabwean birth certificate in order to apply for a visa, holidays were also cut short to improve the speed of processing. As at 28 December 2010 I saw no less than 30 officers coming to serve the crowds that thronged the Home Affairs offices along Market Street, they carried their duties with urgency and as early as 07:30am they were taking in people to assist. So when the Minister of South Africa Home Affairs says there will not be an extension it is on the back of this effort put. There is also the opportunity cost of deploying resources to assist with this project; it is not only Zimbabweans whom the Home Affairs offices need to assist.

Zimbabweans queuing at Home Affairs Office along Harrison St, Johannesburg on the last day of submitting applications for visa permits

About 20km away in Klopperpark is where Zimbabweans applying for passports are gathering, with the deadline fast approaching; queues as long as 2km formed; a massive number for the under resourced office. The service cannot be compared to the South African counterparts who are exercising diligence. The Zimbabwean Home Affairs is known for their slow service and an indifferent attitude to the plight of its citizens; it comes as no surprise that not more than 50,000 passport applications have been processed since the start of the program. Earlier in December the Zimbabwe Ministers of Home Affairs had made a visit to assess the situation; it is then that the South African government offered their Zimbabwean counterparts a printing press than can print 4000 passports per hour after noticing that Zimbabwe was failing to cope. Minister Kembo Mohadi and Theresa Makone were then to consider this offer and get back to the South Africa government.
We were initially made to believe the Zimbabwe cabinet has gone for a Christmas break and cannot deliberate on the issue this despite the fact that the offer was extended early in December 2010; there is also the line that Tobaiwa Mudede is yet to submit a report. To add insult to injury, Kembo Mohadi is quoted as saying he is on leave and therefore Theresa Makone cannot move without him. These are the same people who took a swipe at Zimbabweans when they visited South Africa early in December with Theresa Makone saying, “I am not going to engage in gutter fighting because I am an intellectual”. So with all the intellect what did she do to expedite the situation regarding Tobaiwa Mudede. News from other sources say the offer was turned down due to security reasons, this is but a flimsy excuse because the South African government had asked the Zimbabwean government to use the printer only, the paper, passport booklets, software; manpower was going to be provided by the Zimbabwean government. It’s a case of one taking a computer with data to a neighbour’s house, connect the computer to the printer, do the print outs, disconnect your computer; take your printed material then go. Now how does security come into the picture here? Even if the printer is so hi-tech, it only manages output fed through a computer command, the Systems Administrator can be able to clear all history of print jobs leaving no trace whatsoever. If it is that the offer was indeed turned down, who made that decision since cabinet was not involved. Was it Tobaiwa Mudede’s unilateral decision, or was the cabinet by-passed. There are half truths and lies in all this; from people who are relying on the diaspora community for income flows.
With regards to ZANU-PF it’s a known fact that they would not want Zimbabweans freely moving back to Zimbabwe to vote in elections so any means to disenfranchise them would be pursued. Tobaiwa Mudede perhaps dragged his feet to make sure this comes to pass. Zimbabweans go through a torrid time in South Africa, many left their families without a passport to seek a better life but many have found themselves working in conditions of exploitation because of lack of documentation; now here we are with politicians playing politics with people’s livelihood. Perhaps another decision will be made in the New Year to use the printer; this will help those who have already applied. What of those who could not endure the long queues at the consulate, those who had to choose between retaining their jobs and spending days at the queue. Spare a thought for that young girl who is forced to resort to prostitution and eventually die of AIDS, all because she could not access a basic document such as a passport, will these people’s blood not be on your hands Minister Kembo Mohadi and Theresa Makone? You are Civil Servants, put there to serve the people but you have a warped grasp of your duties, the officious display you made when visiting South Africa tells a lot, take a leaf from Dr. Nkosazana-Dlamini Zuma, she has much to brag about but sacrificed a lot to help your own people, history will judge you harshly, enjoy your holidays and rejoice in the misery of those who put you where you are. One day the people will be free and you will stand before them to answer for these matters.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Ivory Coast & Elections: "The New Africa Way?"

The year 2010 was ending on a high note, a successful hosting of the World Cup in South Africa, the usual circus had not come to town, and 2010 was going to be a relatively peaceful year without major incidents to ogle. November 2010 caught everyone unawares; nobody thought the melee we are seeing in Ivory Coast could be a possibility. Perhaps Laurent Koudou Gbagbo did not see it coming, maybe everything pointed to a victory for him. After a round of votes, he saw himself going into another round of elections.
The second round of the presidential vote saw Gbagbo square off with Alassane Ouattara to determine the winner of the vote, going into this round of voting Gbagbo had garnered 1,756,504 against Alassane Ouattara’s 1,481,091. However there was another candidate who was in third spot Henri Konan Bédié had managed to get 1,165,532. The fact that he was not going to participate in the second round meant that whoever would secure votes from his supporters would likely emerge as the eventual winner and sworn in as president. After some consideration Bédié chose to back Alassane Ouattara effectively handing victory to Ouattara. Though it can be disputed that voters have a right to vote whoever they want, a call to back one candidate over another is as good as rallying the followers to do likewise. So this is where Mr. Gbagbo found himself on the losing side, with the IEC barred from releasing results showing Ouattara victory, then the Constitutional Council annulling some votes as fraudulent swinging the victory to Gbagbo’s side.
It is evident that there was underhand dealing in as far as the Constitutional Council was concerned, perhaps conniving to keep Gbagbo in office. The world moved to denounce the action of Mr. Gbagbo refusing to hand over power, ECOWAS, UN, AU all backed Ouattara as the legitimate president, Kenya Prime Minister Raila Odinga called on AU to use force to remove Gbagbo. But apart from this outside criticism nothing has changed, bodies continue to pile up as a result of the post election tension. Though it is worthy of note that the African Union did not fold its arms as before, it is bad that precedent was allowed to set in starting with Kenya, then Zimbabwe. It’s the new African way; a sitting head of state loses an election and refuses to go, only to enjoy power through power sharing deals. It is bad that Thabo Mbeki was asked to help the situation in Ivory Coast, we hope that by the time he is reaching some form of normality it won’t be time for another election.
Dialogue is not the best option when dealing with leaders who have dictatorial tendencies,  perhaps Raila Odinga’s option was worth exploring, arrange for a peace force composing of AU and UN who would ensure the right thing is done in Ivory Coast. 2011 will come and the stalemate will still be there, bodies will be piling up on the streets and quiet diplomacy will be conspicuous by its absence and lack of palpable move to normalize the situation. In 2011 there will be another election in Zambia & Zimbabwe, even though the Zimbabwean one is not yet a certainty. If anything goes wrong there then SADC and AU will find themselves with their hands full. They have already accommodated dictators so undoing their cosy relationship will come at a high cost.
Zimbabwe is a particular concern, Mugabe has already shown signs of wanting to hold on to power through the backdoor, what with the top men in uniform also willing parties to the grand theft, the situation is volatile. In the Ivorian election, the sitting president lost the diaspora vote. Currently the South African government is busy with issuing documentation to Zimbabweans to make them obtain legal status; this has led to many previously undocumented Zimbabweans congesting the Zimbabwe Consular office to get documents. It is likely that Zimbabwean elections will take place after a new constitution has been approved through a referendum, the question of diaspora votes is likely to determine who gets to be the next president, could the Zimbabwean government’s dragging of feet to issue documentation be informed by an inherent fear that the diaspora community will side with the opposition? The South African government noted they can help if requested with printing passports but have not been approached to do so. Whatever happens between now and when the election in Zimbabwe must ensure that conditions have been created that do not allow the incumbent to cling to power. Perhaps having worked with the opposition in a coalition government, ZANU-PF might have made bridges of trust with those in MDC. Still a much tougher stance must be devised as a deterrent to stealing one’s way into power, dictators care nothing about belonging to groups such as SADC, ECOWAS, AU. It is high time Africa considers more harsh measures to stem the scourge of refusing to relinquish power.
Those whom you love you chastise so the African brotherhood must be seen to be doing more, till then we will pray and hope those in the corridors of power will move swiftly to stem the loss of lives going on in Ivory Coast, we have to resolve issues on our own as Africans, taking a cue from US, EU and UN will only show that we are in tacit collusion with those abusing power and stealing their way into office.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Wikileaks & Zimbabwean Politics

There has been a lot of talk regarding the sanctions issue, broadsides were thrown towards Morgan Tsvangirai, culminating in Jonathan Moyo calling for his resignation & prosecution. Many supporters of MDC were rattled by this to the point of hating Wikileaks, however such is politics, not for the faint hearted. To open the discussion I decided to quote an excerpt of the leak in unedited form for the benefit of those who cannot seem to locate it, so here it goes:

***Quoted Text***

15 (C) Sanctions were discussed in all meetings with government officials. Mugabe portrayed the West as unfairly targeting people in the Unity Government for no reason. "What do you expect but hostility when you expel the children of my collaborators from universities in your countries? This hurts us." He uses the sanctions in the media, saying, "You are making the people of Zimbabwe suffer, trying to force regime change from the outside." Clancy noted, "One would think. that sanctions would be a gadfly to him - nothing more than annoying. But they bother him enormously because they do not apply to the MDC." The officials with Mugabe stated that the targeted travel measures do not matter, but indicated the measures against parastatals do. Unsurprisingly, Tsvangirai does not want sanctions lifted. He says the process needs to be a two-way street, so there is no reason to lift them when there has been no progress.

16. (C) Out of the three, Mutambara spoke the most about sanctions and claimed they only help Mugabe. Without sanctions, he said, the GPA could move ahead, as Mugabe would have no excuse. (NOTE: Considering that Mugabe claims the GPA is finished, the delegation did not share this assessment. END NOTE) Mutambara asserted that the West must follow the advice of Africa leaders. "If Zuma says so, then you should not bat an eye." He seemed surprised to hear from the delegation that Tsvangirai did not agree. Mutambara said that any progress would require considerable engagement with Zuma. "You must get African leaders to put pressure on Mugabe. He will not listen to you."

17. (C) The Zimbabwean Ministers said the African Union and SADC have asked that the sanctions be lifted, so "why don't you listen to them?" Minister Carlsson asked how they reconcile asking for respect for SADC's views on sanctions when the GOZ had pulled out of the SADC Tribunal because of its views (a reference to the case brought by Mike Campbell, a white farmer). Displaying a capacity to "create reality"

***End of Quote***

So this is the source of the din we've had to put up with. Now first let me highlight that at no point did Morgan Tsvangirai call for the imposition of sanctions from this excerpt on which Jonathan Moyo's accusations are based. All what Morgan said was that if there is to be any removal of sanctions, then there must be reciprocal action on the part of ZANU PF as it is indeed a two way street. Before sanctions came they had destroyed the economy, the do business like a drug cartel from Tijuana destroying everything. Even the Chinese did not find Zimbabwe a good place to do business because of the unsustainable chaos. It is important also to note that this delegation came to meet MDC, Mutambara, ZANU PF, this was a fact finding mission on progress on the ground. In politics like we have, the negotiation unfortunately takes the distributive nature, bargaining points once conceded cannot be recovered. But one might ask, why not lift the sanctions if African leaders are in unified chorus for the sanctions to go? The thinking in Africa is that if sanctions are not there Mugabe will have no leg to stand on, but they are wrong, he can pull a cow out of a hat and say MDC is funded by the west let them declare their source or we don't negotiate, he is like that hoping from one place to another or worse still demand that him and his cronies will not have any property confiscated plus amnesty.

It is also important to note that African leaders have failed Zimbabweans, remember the days we would pin our hope on SADC election observers to call a spade a spade after elections, notably 2000, 2002 and 2005 elections? Then the next you hear elections were credible by SADC, AU would follow and say the same noting minor irregularities. The West has learnt not to trust these African bodies, why then listen to the leaders? Can you trust SADC or AU election observers to be a jury where you are the accused?

I think Jonathan Moyo is just trying to account for the money he is being paid, if he says nothing then factions within ZANU PF will have him for a meal, he is already loathed no doubt so he has to yarn propaganda to have a semblance of being relevant. He must dig deep into the propaganda budget or seek the service of Ari Ben Menashe. For now we dismiss his rants as horse play, a lapse of his thought faculties.

Case dismissed with contempt it deserves.