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Wolpe Lectures & Reviews September - December 2008

Harold Wolpe LectureDebate: Cope vs Civil Society Mosiuoa Lekota, Ashwin Desai and Dennis Brutus (chair) 18 December

Wolpe Lecture on Zimbabwe (MDC, ZSF, Idazim) Thokozani Khupe 22 November 2008

Wolpe Lecture Panel: Zimbabwe Solidarity Today!Tendai Biti & Bishop Rubin Phillip 30 October 2008

Wolpe Lecture panel: Wasted Lives Muna Lakhani 25 September 2008

Harold Wolpe Lecture Debate with Mosiuoa Lekota,
Ashwin Desai and Dennis Brutus (chair) 18 December 2008

Face to face with ‘Terror’ in post-Apartheid South Africa
By Ashwin Desai

In 1955 a few thousand of our wisest and bravest ancestors gathered at a
place called Kliptown. It was a gathering of delegates from every racial
group in the country, comprised of women and men who believed in the
unprejudiced power of democracy and who sought equality and freedom for
all in the land.

It was a gathering that took place during a time of danger. The
government of the day served only the few, a minority, and it protected
the interests of this minority viciously. Despite the threat of arrest
and beatings, the delegates at Kliptown spent days fashioning the
Freedom Charter, a remarkable document setting out ten principles for a
future citizenship that everyone there knew would probably only come
after much of their own blood and of their children had been spilt. This
document came to define for many millions of people thereafter, the
aspirations of the oppressed in South Africa. To signal their unity in
the goals and values they would strive for, the delegates at Kliptown,
coming from separate organizations, gave this singular event a name of
its own, the Congress of the People.

These words, the “Freedom Charter” and the “Congress of the People” are
symbols every bit as foundational to the narrative of South Africa’s
struggle against colonialism and apartheid as the Declaration of
Independence is for Americans or the slogans Liberty, Equality,
Fraternity are for the French. I think comrade Terror here will
acknowledge that these words, “Freedom Charter” and “Congress of the
People”, are not idle words, they are not random words, or a-historical
words perhaps recently invented by a clever advertising man. No. These
words are words laden with promise and idealism and a sense of striving
for something new and fair in a society bedeviled by poverty, hurt and
oppression. They are words directed first and foremost at those who
experience poverty, hurt and oppression and they contain something
precious and easily abused - hope.

Now, I am not here this evening to rehash arguments about the legal
ownership of these words or ideas. These issues don’t particularly
interest me and I am entirely open to the idea that an entity other than
the ANC can brand themselves with these words or pledge allegiance to
the values that flow from them - as Cope has.

Rather, what I want to examine is to what extent the Congress of the
People, new as it is, is able to represent the interests of those
experiencing poverty, hurt and oppression in this country. This
examination is called for not because Cope is just any political party
which will electioneer for votes in a short while. No-one would think of
holding the Freedom Front Plus up to this kind of historical and
political scrutiny. The FF+ are what they are and, despite their own
incongruous name, we know what they stand for. Rather, Cope must be
scrutinised closely because we don’t know what it stands for. Its
strongest selling point so far is its conscious portrayal of itself as
the true – or at least better - custodian of the Freedom Charter and the
constitution than the present governing party. Added to this, Cope
actively seeks the support of people hoping for the social
transformation of our society, as the original Congress of the People
did. As it does so it will seek to distinguish itself from the ANC, a
party that, for better or for worse, has exercised a virtual monopoly
over the agenda of transformation over the years. The crisp point I wish
to consider is whether Cope presents as a rational option for those
wishing to deepen democracy and achieve transformation that benefits
those who are still left out of our society. By this, unfortunately, I
mean the majority: the squatter, the unemployed, the migrant, the Aids
orphan, the landless and the poor.

I am deliberately NOT considering whether or to what extent Cope - and
the way it is positioned - will serve the interests of any other stratum
of our society, such as big capital, the middle-class or BEE
millionaires. I have views on this but I do not want to approach Cope’s
existence in a needlessly Manichean way: such as by saying “if you
appeal to the rich, you must repel the poor”. I recognize that to a
large extent those living within South Africa, rich and poor, black and
white, have destinies that are intertwined. What I have been thinking
about is whether Cope is a vehicle for the very poor and excluded.
Whether it is for them a vehicle to rationally choose when it comes to
getting the best deal possible out of parliamentary democracy.

In doing so, I very loosely attend to whether voting in elections is a
viable, intelligent option for the very poor in the first place and
whether time and energy is not rather spent delegitimizing the system
that continuously bluffs them into five year periods of trickle-down
delivery. I sometimes doubt it. But I accept for the sake of this debate
that the very poor should vote for some or other party, so that there is
some sort of arena in which comrade Terror and I can contend.

I think the question about what Cope offers the very poor is an
important one for Cope to confront. So far we have seen packed arenas
and conference centres from Cope. However, when the ANC calls a meeting,
sometimes rather casually, even, er, “counter-revolutionary”,
“Cope-aligned” camera-men at the SABC cannot hide the full sweep of the
enthusiastic masses that pack entire stadiums. Cope has to confront what
the DA has been grappling with, minus the racial impediment. That is:
There are only so many middle-class people and pissed-off Thabo Mbeki
supporters to go around. For every one of them, there are ten poor
people waiting for a sign from ANY political party that his or her needs
are going to be taken seriously by the party for which they vote.
Whether it fulfills its mandate or not, the ANC and its allies are
already powerfully identified with the interests of the poor in a
general, historical way. Cope must make its pitch to this grouping.

Another reason to examine what Cope has to offer the poor and
downtrodden is the name you have chosen and the values you claim to
champion. The Congress of the People is a name deliberately chosen to
identify you with a certain political and historical legacy. You also
claim the Freedom Charter as an aspirational bedrock. You have claimed a
name and tradition. Let us judge you by it.

Comrade Terror has been elected president of Cope. Let me congratulate
you on this, sir. Let me also confess an admiration for your record as a
freedom fighter during the 1980’s, the heady days of the UDF. Let me
further confess a particular partiality to you as a representative of
the style of politics in the ANC that I personally think we could have
had a lot more of in the early days after the unbanning of the
liberation movements. Many of us watched with trepidation as the organs
of people’s power that had been so bravely built up inside the country
were dismantled in favour of the less transparent, more authoritarian
and opaque leadership style of the exiles and early Robben Islanders who
came to dominate the amalgam that was the ANC in the 1990’s. I always
had you marked as a sleeper for direct democracy, for responsiveness to
the mass and above all, for fearlessly speaking your mind, even to your
own comrades. Of all the groupings that later made up the ANC, the
cadres in the UDF seemed to me to be the bravest and the most
democratically minded. It was one thing languishing in jail or polishing
guns in Quattro (or polishing off whiskey in London), but the midnight
pamphleteering, the protest march, the instigation of ungovernability,
that was the sterling work of struggle that does not have the
recognition of a “veterans day”. And you comrade Terror, because of your
history, seemed to be a representative of that people’s power tendency
in the ANC, as opposed to the secretive, proud and Stalinist exiles or
the austere, aged and grandiose Islanders. Even when you first made
premier, I thought, well, maybe here we have someone who will
distinguish himself as a democrat as the ANC increasingly distances
itself from the poor and the working-class in its policies, actions and

You have distinguished yourself. You left cabinet in a whirlwind of
political controversy to eventually lead what many people argue is the
first serious challenge to the ANC’s overwhelming electoral majority and
dominance of the state. You have played a part in revitalizing a
democracy in danger of stagnating under a de facto one-party rule, some
people say.

Those who welcome the emergence of Cope note that the ANC has become
intolerant and arrogant under its present leadership. They note that it
is prone to corruption because it feels inviolable. They note that the
ANC has even deviated from core principles that once animated it, such
as the Freedom Charter, the Constitution and non-tribalism. Most
heartening of all, those heralding Cope argue that there is now
non-racial, non-tribal, progressive choice in the body politic. They say
this is healthy and necessary to ensure sensible policies from
government and not the self-serving delivery to party-hacks and cohorts
in the name of transformation that we have seen.

You, comrade Terror, have made each and every one of these points in
favour of a new political party. And so Cope has been born, already an
old man in some way because your birth has been necessary to reincarnate
the historic role and to continue upon the historic path the ANC has
abandoned, the path of the Freedom Charter and the Congress of the
People of this nation.

I would dearly love all these things to be true. On the face of it, they
would benefit any parliamentary democracy. A party providing Choice!
Change! Accountability. Responsiveness. Clean government. Hope! That
about sums up what the pundits are saying and I would imagine some of
these words would find themselves onto posters in due course. Above all,
I would love there to be a party that really sought to implement the
values of the Freedom Charter. That would benefit the poor, for sure,
and might even start a policy bidding war between parties vying for the
heart and votes of this very large electoral bloc.

But a closer inspection of the main arguments in favour of your
existence, from the point of view of the poor that is, reveal certain

Choice is not a value in and of itself. Voters under apartheid were
presented in 1983 with the added “Choice” of the HNP, a party even more
virulently right-wing than the Nats. When Le Pen arose in France or the
BNP in England, the added choice hardly made for a more progressive
government or policy environment. Nor do we want Change for its own
sake. Change backwards? We need to know what the ideological content is
of any party that provides choice and change before we celebrate it.

Many commentators have noted that your economic policies are not much
different from that of the ANC. Indeed, we have the remarkable situation
where an opposition party (you and the DA) praises the current Minister
of Finance while the leading lights in his own party heap scorn on him.
It seems you offer more effective implementation of existing economic
policy, at best. It is not surprising. Until recently most Cope leaders
were in the ANC government at the highest levels and were enthusiastic
formulators and implementers of government policy. But is more of the
same good for the poor? Is it good for anybody, one might ask? We hear
nothing from Cope about the global re-writing of the rule books of a
waning capitalism, no recognition that it cannot be business as usual,
no warning lights about the impending surge in unemployment, or the
dead-cat that keeps bouncing. There is nothing visionary to deal with
rampant unemployment besides the fob-off of occasional public works
casual jobs and an emptied out - developmental state.

I am not saying that the ANC is any better. It is just as clueless on
these questions. What I note is that there is no rational basis to
prefer Cope over the ANC on the key and fundamental issue of economic

Instead you offer your lack of promises on this front as a valuable
commodity in itself. You criticize the ANC’s electioneering as being
unaffordable. I read in the newspaper your sterling words to this
effect. You said that you would “Tell No Lies, Claim No Easy Victories”,
comrade Terror.

Let me be the one to point out that, from the point of view of the poor,
“Telling no lies and claiming no easy victories” is NOT what is required
from your party. Saying that you will Tell no Lies and Claim no Easy
Victories is Not the same as Telling the Truth and Admitting Difficult
Defeats. You are promising a clean sheet in future. But you are avoiding
your own past. This is where you must start if there is any hope that
you will be taken seriously, I believe, by those millions of people
whose lives have not materially changed for the better under the ANC.

This is because, until recently, you WERE the ANC.

Let me explain what I mean. Correct me if I am wrong but Cope believes
that the HIV / Aids pandemic is a real and serious threat to the health
of the nation? Cope accepts further that HIV causes Aids and that a
comprehensive roll-out of anti-retro-virals is an essential element not
only in ensuring the viability of the economy but also guaranteeing the
most precious of rights, the right to life. Comrade Terror, you and many
of the top leadership of Cope sat in a cabinet collective where
decisions were made (and not made) that had the effect of unnecessarily
retarding the roll-out of ARV’s. Maybe you wish to add to your admission
of guilt, the rider: “in hindsight”. That’s fine. But I find it very
hard to accept the credentials of a party who seek votes from those most
afflicted by Aids, the poor, when these leaders have not reconciled
themselves with their past on this shameful, almost criminal part of our
executive’s history.

Two days ago, we celebrated the Day of Reconciliation. The Afrikaners
used to call it the Day of the Vow celebrating the Battle of Blood River
in which 3000 Zulu warriors were killed. A recent Harvard School of
Public Health study showed that conservatively South Africa suffered
300000 preventable Aids deaths as a direct result of cabinet negligence,
lead by your former chief, Thabo Mbeki, whose private and eccentric
views about the disease played a huge part in the policy mess on ARV’s
we have had. Do you know how many Blood Rivers your cabinet dithered and
denied over? It’s three months of Blood Rivers, one a day, every day.
And we are not even counting the infections, impossible to quantify,
that flowed from a president who gave out to the youth the strong, if
sullen, signal that Aids wasn’t real. It was the white man’s racist
projections. Do you remember Parks, comrade Terror? Do you remember
Nkosi Johnson and the debacle of World Aids Day? Do you know who wrote
the Castro Hlongwane tract?

You need to explain why you were silent and why under your leadership of
Cope this kind of group-think or yes-mannery will not re-occur. You need
to reclaim the spirit that made you such a trusted man-of-the-people in
the UDF but turned you and people like Shilowa and Ngonyama into mice in
the halls of power.

[Sorry comrade Terror, I withdraw the comment about “mice”. You already
have a zoo of animal comparisons following you around. I did not mean to
add to that].

Cope has taken issue with the corruption in the ANC and the ANC
dominated state. Corruption is the enemy of delivery for reasons we all
know. You would agree with me that by far the biggest corruption scandal
post-1994 is the arm’s deal. But you, comrade Terror, were in the
ringside seats during this episode. As a previous head of Intelligence
in the movement and as a previous Minister of Defense, you must know
what really happened? Or at least have a very good idea. Why keep quiet?
To the best of your knowledge and belief, was Joe Modise, your
predecessor, corrupted? That’s a direct question. To the best of your
knowledge and belief, was the ANC’s 1999 election campaign funded, in
part, by monies that originated from arms manufacturers?

If Cope is to be distinguished from the ANC on corruption, you need to
distinguish yourself right now, on providing full disclosure of what you
know about the arm’s deal. If you close ranks on the arm’s deal how are
your promises of clean government to be taken seriously? No more
old-boys-toys club. No more party loyalty. We want you to stop telling
lies, comrade. We want you to tell the truth.

Many in this hall will agree that the ANC has been quite intolerant of
dissent, quite insulting actually, in its dealings with those who
question it. But this is not new Terror. It occurred way before
Polokwane when you first became its victim. Labeling of opponents has a
long history in the Mbeki camp of the ANC. Clamping down on dissent has
a long history too. Who was it who berated trade unionists to show
“revolutionary discipline” and called them “counter-revolutionaries”
when they questioned Gear? When Mbeki was labeling as “ultra-leftists”
those who raised questions about the model of economic growth that he
chose and which has now been exposed as being deeply problematic, did
you not join in the chorus?

Let me remind you of these words brother since you seem to suffer from
selective amnesia:

The recent trend, on the part of some highly placed comrades, of
ascending platforms or by other ways criticising or agitating against
policies and actions of the movement, inside and outside Government,
smacks of a lack of revolutionary discipline…This undisciplined approach
has a number of negative consequences: It confuses the mass based
support of our movement; it lends itself to exploitation by our
opponents and opposition parties; it creates a climate in which agents
provocateurs can thrive and advance their counter-revolutionary agendas.”*

And what exactly did you say when Tokyo Sexwale and Cyril Ramaphosa were
slandered by the paranoid accusations of your former colleague, Steve
Tshwete as potential traitors and assassins? If the poor disagree with
the opinions of your experts when you are in power, will they be labeled
as something again. Will state agencies be mobilized again?

As for non-racialism, it is true that crude black nationalist sentiment
mixed with a Broederbond-like instinct to nepotism has become the
dominant rationalization for appointments and promotions in the civil
service and beyond. But remind us, Terror, what did you have to say to
your former boss every time he threw the race card out of the cot when
criticized by non-Africans? The very culture of chastisement you now
rail against was perfected to an art by Mbeki and Ngonyama when they
were in power.

For the last nine years I have involved myself with community movements
resisting evictions, water-cut-offs and demanding a more responsive and
caring government. I do not wish to romanticize these movements, but
many of them have raised legitimate grievances in the face of extremely
harsh and arbitrary actions by ANC mayors, and MEC’s and councilors. It
is one thing being called a dog or a snake, comrade Terror. It is
another thing being treated as one. You, sir, were part of a government
that often unjustly sent in the Red Ants, or a police baton charge when
unworkable and unfair government policies were to be enforced. Your own
people had to take Mbeki’s ANC to the courts how many times simply to
access water or shelter or a pension. I know that it was not your direct
responsibility then as a Minister, but it certainly is your direct duty
now to speak out about these things as a politician seeking votes from
those your government has treated very badly.

Do we hear a peep? No, instead your speech in Bloemfontein casts you and
other leaders and supporters of Cope as victims of vilification, or
dangerous political forces about to be unleashed on the land. As if to
prove the point, newspapers talk about your right to assembly being
stopped arbitrarily by the police in Bloem when Cope supporters wanted
to cavalcade. You go so far as to mention the authoritarianism of PW
Botha and Vorster being manifested in the ANC today. Welcome to the real
world, comrade Terror. But pardon some of us if we find it difficult to
hide a smile. We remember that not so long ago, the suffering of others
who opposed the ANC and its policies, also left you cold.

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming you for past actions. Nor am
I exonerating the current ANC / SACP crowd. Zuma was as acquiescent on
Aids denialism as you. Blade Nzimande gave Thabo Mbeki left cover for
years. I am just pointing to the need for Cope to reconcile with the
past of its very own leadership before it gets overly high and mighty
about the sins of the ANC. To avoid telling lies in the future is not
the same as being truthful about the past. To avoid claiming easy
victories is not the same as admitting to your ignoble defeats. I
suggest to you that the latter approach is required before Cope can be
taken seriously by the bloc of the voting poor because, whatever the
excuse, the poor have not received the better life you once concretely
promised when you were in the ANC. The idea that the woes in the ANC and
delivery to the masses began with Polokwane is nonsense and if that is
the basis of your campaigning against the ANC, then it is awfully thin.

In the New Testament we read about a man called Saul who used to
persecute Christians. He was zealous about that. He had a hand in
killing the first martyr, Stephen. Scholars suggest Saul was outraged by
the Christian’s claim that Jesus was the messiah and that Jews no longer
had to follow the Judaic law to obtain salvation but simply have faith.
Then, on the road to Damascus, he heard a voice and saw a light. “Saul,
why do you persecute me?”, the voice asked. “Who are you,?”, Saul
replied. “It is I, Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” the Lord was to
have said. Saul fell from his horse. For three days Saul was blind and
during this time of helplessness underwent a conversion to the path of
righteousness and compassion towards all men. He became a great
Christian missionary, and spent the rest of his life helping the poor
and building communities of believers. To signal this change in
orientation he changed his name to Paul. We know from Paul’s letters
that he openly introduced himself to all in the Christian community as
their prior oppressor, Saul.

What is the moral of this story? It is not enough, comrade, to come up
with a new name. You must first fall off your high horse. And it will be
difficult for those you now wish to court to take you seriously unless
you admit to who and what you were, a member of a deeply problematic
cabinet who distinguished himself in persecuting dissenters, covering-up
arm’s deal corruption and practically martyring Aids sufferers.

Concretely, this conversion means signaling a break with Mbeki’s legacy
on a number of issues. Buti Manamela of the Young Communist League
accuses Mbeki of being the driving force behind Cope. I doubt very much
whether this is the case in any practical sense. But Mbeki is certainly
the symbolic reference point in Cope’s genesis, its pivot. It is
doubtful Cope would exist if Mbeki had won at Polokwane. You must agree.
It is doubtful Cope would exist now if Mbeki had not been recalled from
the presidency even after losing at Polokwane. You would probably agree
with that proposition too. Cope is thus tied to Mbeki with a symbolic if
not political umbilical. And yet you promise as a party to repudiate so
much of what he stood for. Don’t you see that? Mbeki was notoriously
prickly about race and refused to countenance limits to affirmative
action. You say differently. Mbeki was highly domineering and secretive
in his style of governance, you promise openness. Mbeki practiced the
politics of chastisement and labeling like nobody’s business. You
promise tolerance. Mbeki refused van Zyl Slabbert’s electoral reform
recommendations. Now that you are in opposition, you favour the same.
You promise sensible policies around HIV Aids. Mbeki was and probably
still is a denialist. It is simply not an option in a country as
stricken with Mbeki-ism to avoid repudiating Mbeki’s legacy.

Ironically, by kicking Mbeki out, the ANC is in a better position to
distinguish themselves from this appalling legacy than a silent,
loyalist Cope leadership. By recalling Mbeki, the ANC can repudiate
other aspects of the Mbeki years such as his notorious intolerance of
dissent, quiet support of Mugabe in Zimbabwe and delivery failures.
Indeed, the real value of Cope may well lie in the fact that you have
prompted a leftward turn in the ANC and if the ANC does not blink and
genuinely makes such an ideological shift, that may be your true
contribution to transformation in our society, however ungainly and
rough it might look in the hands of Gwede Mantashe, Zuma and Nzimande.
At Bloemfontein, Zuma went so far as to begin apologizing for the
direction the ANC government had taken over the last few years. For
goodness sake, you are now the opposition. If Mbeki is not a future Cope
recruit, what could possibly hold you back from making the same admissions?

The question I asked earlier was whether Cope was an electoral option
for the poor. Of the arguments put forward for Cope’s existence: Choice!
Change! Accountability, Responsiveness, Cleaner government, Hope, I
cannot say Cope has given any reasons to be recommended. Cope is not a
new party representing a new social force. It is largely still a
splinter group of the ANC associated closely with the dissatisfaction
that arose after Mbeki was recalled. Your speech in Bloemfontein is
dominated by your presentation of Cope as a bulwark against ANC
authoritarianism and intolerance. There is an element of truth to that.
But people in communities under threat of eviction or service cut-off
will tell you what real government bullying and intolerance is all
about. It is they who have had to go to court during your tenure as
cabinet minister, time and again, to get ARV’s or shelter or the right
to march and assemble and form unions. You have hardly distinguished
yourself as a champion of the constitutional rights of the vulnerable.
You have hardly given reason for Hope for relief from the intolerance of
homelessness, eviction, poverty. Until now, sir. And that is a worry!

Whatever is keeping the disparate forces that make up Cope together it
is sometimes difficult to fathom. Cope’s greatest strength is Julius
Malema and the distaste many feel towards the sometimes farcical Zuma
administration-in-waiting. Even where Cope can mobilize support on
superficial issues such as the present government’s approach to
corruption, Mugabe or Aids, Cope has failed to do so, largely because it
refuses to confront the history of its own leadership under a previous name.

In closing, let me offer you another story about a change of name in the
Bible that might cheer you up. Esau was Abraham’s eldest son and should
by rights have received his father’s blessing and inheritance of land.
But the younger son was very ambitious and usurped Esau by trickery.
That son’s name was Jacob and his supplanting of Esau caused a huge rift
between the once very close brothers. The nation was literally split.
Once Jacob received the birthright and inherited the land, he had to
overcome various other trials and tribulations. They mainly involved
having to work very hard to support his four wives as well as wrestling
with an angel of God (in Jewish custom, a dispenser of justice). After
surviving the battle with God, Jacob was renamed “Israel” by God,
himself. Jacob became, as it were, conflated with a state. Jacob's life
was a story of conflict. He won an incredible prize through his
double-dealing but he always seemed to be running from someone or
something—from Esau, from Laban, or from famine in Canaan. His life,
like that of all Israelites, to whom he gave his name, was a checkered
history of rebellion and flight.

I know there are some in Cope who see suggestive parallels in this last
story. But they should claim no easy analogy. At least not before
recognizing how much it is necessary for them take the speck from their
own eye, to see their own blinding light, to fall off their horse and
confess their own sins to those they now want to lead.

As Paul was once Saul, so Cope was once the ANC. Do you recognize your
own culpability in the mess that we have made of what was bequeathed to
us by the original Congress of the People? Do you see the light, Terror?

Until you do, I can see no reason at all for you to be trusted with the
votes of the poor or, more significantly for you, for Cope to survive as
a party with more than just the ejection of Mbeki from office and a dose
of disgruntlement to define you.

Topic for debate: Who can best represent SA's dispossessed? Electoral
opposition, or (un)civil society? (Both? Neither?)

Speakers: Mosiuoa Lekota, Ashwin Desai and Dennis Brutus (chair)
Date: Thursday, 18 December 2008
Time: 5:30-8pm
Venue: Howard College Theatre, UKZN Howard College Campus

The South African political situation is in flux thanks in part to the
rejection of new African National Congress leadership by the Congress of
the People, co-founded last month by Mosiuoa Lekota. Moreover,
long-standing grievances expressed in a world-leading protest rate - by
social movements and others in civil society - reflect a sometimes
unaccountable ruling party. Will a new electoral opposition to the ANC
be more effective than extra-parliamentary opposition? Is this a false
dichotomy? What is at stake in terms of political ideology? In answering
these and other questions, no chairs will be thrown, but Dennis Brutus
will ensure that ideas will be.

Mosiuoa Gerard Patrick Terror Lekota is chairperson of the Congress of
the People. He studied at St Francis College in Marianhill,
KwaZulu-Natal, soon gaining his nickname on the soccer pitch. After
expulsion from the University of the North and leadership of the South
African Students Organisation, he served eight years in the struggle
university at Robben Island, 1974-82, and in 1985 was sentenced in the
Delmas Treason Trial, gaining release in 1989 in an Appeal Court
victory. He was United Democratic Front publicity secretary and ANC
convenor in Southern Natal, and organiser in the Free State during the
early 1990s. He served as secretary of the ANC election commission and
chief of intelligence during the early 1990s, and was later the ANC's
chairperson until 2007. He was Premier of the Free State after
liberation in 1994, and then chaired the National Council of Provinces
before serving as SA defense minister from 1999-2008.

Ashwin Desai is a senior reseacher at the University of Johannesburg's
Centre for Sociological Research, and was educated at Rhodes and
Michigan State Universities. He was formerly a University of
Durban-Westville academic and a CCS honorary (voluntary) researcher
prior to a 2005 order preventing CCS from employing Desai in any
capacity at UKZN. His books (including coauthored works) include We are

Wolpe Lecture on Zimbabwe (MDC, ZSF, Idazim) Thokozani Khupe, at Rick Turner Hall, , 22 November 2008

(Report on CCS Wolpe Lecture of 23 November 2008: Thokozani Khupe on

'Mugabe Must Go!': An Update on The Struggle for Democracy in Zimbabwe
By Mandisa Mbali

What have we here? Poverty, diseases, death And corruption Democracy
becomes dictatorship SADC, you have betrayed our struggle -Unnamed MDC
Poet at the Rally The Zimbabwean opposition remains defiant and South
African solidarity for it is growing. I became convinced of this when on
22 November I joined a thousand South Africans and Zimbabwean exiles at
an MDC rally at Howard College Campus of University of KwaZulu-Natal in
Durban. Those of us who were assembled hoped to hear a speech by Morgan
Tsivangirai (leader of the Zimbabwean opposition).

Then history intervened. The Zimbabwean government declined Jimmy
Carter, Graca Machel and Kofi Annan visas to visit on a humanitarian
mission. This is nothing new. Those of your who read my last piece on
Tendai Biti (,22,5,1699) will have seen how he also alleged that the government has been blocking distribution of humanitarian aid in the country. So, Tsivangirai spent the afternoon in meetings with the three Elders (a group of eminent persons set up by Mandela) in Johannesburg to discuss the humanitarian
crisis. Meanwhile the planned joint Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and Zimbabwean Solidarity Forum (ZSF) rally went ahead with several speakers from the MDC and ZSF. Its keynote address was given by Thokozani Khupe, the Deputy Prime-Minister-elect and Vice-President of the MDC. Despite this setback I decided to stay and listen to the rest of the speeches.

The humanitarian crisis:

Starvation and the cholera outbreak
Any discussion of the situation in Zimbabwe has to begin with the dire
humanitarian situation in the country. Khupe (MDC VP) told those of us
assembled that the country's cholera outbreak is getting worse- with a
death toll of 400 and counting. Sanitation has all but collapsed in many
parts of Zimbabwe. Khupe told us that in her constituency there are no
functioning toilets, so people have to use bushes to relieve
themselves, a perfect storm for the spread of the epidemic.

Major hospitals are closing because of staff and funding shortages.
Those that remain open are death traps, from which patients depart in
coffins. Patients who go to hospitals which remain open have to bring
their own blankets, food, drips and syringes.

I would add that this public health crisis is spilling over into South
Africa. Cases of cholera have been identified in South Africans in
Limpopo Province. The TV news has depicted desperately ill and starving
Zimbabweans are crossing our border to seek healthcare, food and refuge
every day. For all our problems, South Africa is a functioning democracy
with a growing economy and it seems like our new Minister of Health
Barbara Hogan is addressing the cases of the disease in our country.
Zimbabweans who have remained in their country are not so lucky. The
countrys mortuaries are bursting at the seams. Bereaved families
collect their relatives bodies only to find that they are filled with

Khupe told us that Zimbabweans are also starving. Millions of people in
the country are surviving on maize husks and having to resort to killing
dogs to eat to ward off imminent starvation. Those who can are fleeing-
often to South Africa.

Only 5% of Zimbabweans are employed- not that that means much. Many
employed people, including skilled workers like teachers, walk to work
on an empty stomach. Industry in the country is running at 10% of its
former capacity, so those few factories which are open are not
producing anything because they can't afford imported parts or raw
materials. So the few employed workers clean machines and floors.

The collapse of the Global Provisional Agreement
Things were not supposed to be this way. The ruling party (ZanuPF) and
the opposition (MDC) signed a political agreement 8 weeks ago. The idea
was that they would share power to address the socio-economic crisis in
the country. Khupe said that the MDC leadership could now see that
Zanu PF's goal in negotiating the deal was not power-sharing but

The MDC won the March elections, but lost the rigged and blood-soaked
June elections. Between March and June, 400 were killed and 200 000
displaced in election violence. Nevertheless, for the good of the
country, the MDC entered into negotiations with Zanu PF. The main
outstanding issue in the negotiations is the equitable distribution of
ministries, permanent secretaries and ambassadors.

Some in the region, especially the inter-governmental Southern African
Development Community (SADC) have viewed this as quibbling over details.
This is a misrepresentation of the points of disagreement. There are ten
key ministries and in MDC's view, Zanu PF must have five and MDC five.

Also, apparently, the agreement has not been given legal effect. In
particular, something called amendment ninety is required to give legal
effect to the agreement. I can understand the MDC's reluctance to accept
what Khupe called responsibility without authority. While political
stability and economic-rebuilding must be restored, this will not be
possible without an agreement which is legally binding and deemed fair
by both sides.

Khupe pointed to Zimbabwean history saying that in 1980 Joshua Nkomo was given the Home Affairs ministry and then disempowered. Having learnt this lesson from history, the MDC wanted to do the right thing the first time around now. They were not in a hurry to be chauffeur-driven but want a deal which would guarantee that basic needs of the country's majority are addressed. Apparently, as far as the MDC is concerned there is no government in Zimbabwe at the moment and Mugabe is not the legitimate president. There will only be a legitimate government with him as President and Tsivangirai as Prime Minister, once the deal is finalized.

Growing frustration and radicalization of supporters One of the things I
noted at the rally was the growing frustration and radicalization of
Zimbabwean refugees. Many were wearing the red Mugabe Must Go!
t-shirts. Activists also had home-made signs with statements like
Mugabe, Your Time is Over, Mugabe needs a Psychiatrist and Cholera,
hunger, Mugabe Must Go!

It is clear that the Zimbabwean Solidarity movement is growing in South
Africa. When I co-organized a similar event at Pietermaritzburg campus
of UKZN about 5 years ago, we only had about fifty enthusiasts- who were
mostly Zimbabwean- show up. The turn-out alone was phenomenal for the
rally, which had a defiant feel.

It is clear that some young Zimbabwean refugees have had enough of the
status quo. In particular, when the chairman of the Zimbabwe Solidarity
Forum asked what the party should do if the deal failed, several people
in the audience called for war. I asked some Zimbabwean refugees in the
audience what they meant by this. They told me that some Zimbabweans in
the audience wanted arms and training to violently overthrow the
government. The speaker reminded the rally that the MDC was a peaceful
political party.

The thing is that it is clear that growing numbers of the MDC's rank and
file want Mugabe out of power by any means necessary. However, the
leadership calls on its members to remain peaceful and has committed to
a deal which keeps Mugabe as titular head of state.

I don't really think that the MDC has any feasible alternatives to
continuing negotiations- it takes time to build a guerrilla movement and
even then it would be vastly outmatched in terms of military hardware
and training. Such a strategy would also cost the MDC precious
international political support and legitimacy. Still, the situation in
the country is dire, so I can appreciate the sheer desperation driving
such calls. What is clear is that the movement, like the country, has
entered an increasingly difficult and dangerous phase.

The MDC remains committed to the negotiations My brothers and sisters,
as the MDC we will always be committed to the deal Khupe told us as she
wrapped up her address. In particular, she told those assembled that the
MDC would return to negotiations this week, which they have done. The
MDC VP also used a very African metaphor saying that they did not want
to jump into a river only to be eaten by crocodiles. Their long term
goals are: to finalize the deal on the transitional authority; to
finalize a new constitution and then to hold fresh elections in the next
two and a half years. These all sound worthy and feasible.

Some concluding remarks The humanitarian situation has deteriorated
since my last piece on this. The political logjam remains largely
unchanged. The two crises are interrelated. At the rally Rubin Philip,
an Anglican (Episcopalian) bishop told us that Mugabe is not committed
to fundamental change and desires exoneration for human rights
atrocities committed. In my view this is an accurate assessment of the
main blockage to an agreement.

International involvement remains vital. The only way Mugabe and the
military junta backing him will relinquish power is with domestic
resistance combined with improved regional intervention. Meanwhile the
MDC faces the difficult challenge of placating increasingly militant
supporters while holding out for a fair deal. ***

International Involvement:
I think the suggestions Bishop Philip made a few weeks ago stand, and I

1) Mbeki should be relieved of his role as facilitator in future talks.
This is because Zimbabweans lack confidence in him as a mediator.

2) The GPA is a recipe for sustained conflict because it is not based on
an acceptance of the will of the Zimbabwean people as expressed in the
March election. Instead a Batswana proposal must be dusted off, which
would involve a transitional government being constructed which would
rule for two years, which would focus on making a new constitution and
on holding elections for a Government of National Unity.

3) South Africa must hold the government to account: this is because our
government has played a mediation role and because we host the majority
of Zimbabwean immigrants.

4) South Africa needs to protect Zimbabwean refugees, it remains unsafe
for them to return to Zimbabwe.

5) People everywhere must demand that food distribution be allowed in
Zimbabwe without hindrance: this is a humanitarian issue, which must be

On Saturday, 22 November, the Centre for Civil Society, the Movement for Democratic Change, the South African Liaison Office and the Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum present the Harold Wolpe Lecture, by Morgan Tsvangirai

Audio from the Lecture

Date: Saturday, 22 November 2008
Time: 2-5pm
Venue: Rick Turner Hall, UKZN Howard College Campus

Transport and refreshments are offered for civil society organisations
thanks to the Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum and SA Liaison Office and the
Harold Wolpe Memorial Trust.

After the recent failure by the Southern African Development Community
to promote a fair resolution of Zimbabwe’s crisis, opponents of the
Mugabe dictatorship in both electoral politics and civil society are
again coming together to ask, what can be done to bring democracy and
social justice to Zimbabwe? The most authoritative voice belongs to
Morgan Tsvangirai.

Tsvangirai is founder of the MDC, and in civil society was formerly
secretary general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, chairperson
of the National Constitutional Assembly, and vice president of the
National Mine Workers Union. Chairing will be Rubin Phillip, Anglican
Bishop of KwaZulu-Natal and chair of the Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum.

Wolpe Lecture Panel: Zimbabwe Solidarity Today!
Tendai Biti (Movement for Democratic Change) and Bishop Rubin Phillip (Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum) 30 October 2008

Audio from the lecture

On Thursday, 30 October, the Centre for Civil Society and the Zimbabwe
Solidarity Forum present the Harold Wolpe Lecture, by Tendai Biti with
commentary by Bishop Rubin Phillip

Presenters: Tendai Biti (Movement for Democratic Change) and Bishop
Rubin Phillip (Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum)
Date: Thursday, 30 October 2008
Time: 5-7pm
Venue: Howard College Auditorium, UKZN Howard College Campus

That Zimbabwe's moment of truth has arrived in late 2008 partly reflects
the durability of civil society, especially grassroots and labour
advocates for democracy and socio-economic justice. These organisations
are attempting to make the transition both thorough-going in political
terms, and as free of imperialist influence as possible. But will
negotiations deliver a political deal? Is the deal dependent upon aid
and credit from the 'international community', including SA? What would
be asked in return? How can civil society safeguard Zimbabweans' civil,
political and socio-economic rights in the turbulence still ahead?
Answering these questions are two of the most qualified actors in the
Zimbabwe drama: the opposition's lead negotiator, and SA civil society's
leading church advocate for democracy and justice in Zimbabwe.

Tendai Biti is the Secretary-General of the Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC-Tsvangirai) in Zimbabwe and its lead political negotiator.
In 1988-89 as Secretary General of the University of Zimbabwe Student
Union, Biti led student protests against government censorship in
academia and against the early forms of Mugabe's IMF-inspired Economic
Structural Adjustment Programme. He served as a lawyer during the 1990s,
and was active defending many civil society groups. In 1999 he helped
found the MDC and in June 2000 was elected Member of Parliament for
Harare East. He has been arrested and beaten by police while advocating
democracy on numerous occasions.

Bishop Rubin Phillip is Anglican Bishop of KwaZulu-Natal. He is
chairperson of the Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum and Co-Chair of the
Solidarity Peace Trust, and is a board member of the SA Liaison Office,
a policy research group for Zimbabwe. He also chairs the KZN Council of
Churches. In April he and transport workers turned back a Chinese ship
aiming to unload military equipment destined for Mugabe, from the Durban
harbour and other Southern African ports.


Tendai Biti

Patrick Bond

The povo (and Dennis Brutus)

Faith ka Manzi

Molefi Ndlovu

Bishop Rubin Phillip

Poet Shepherd

Resisting Tyranny During a Total Economic Meltdown: A review of Tendai Biti’s talk at UKZN on October 30th 2008
By Mandisa Mbali

The world media has been transfixed by the closing salvos of the
American Presidential election campaigns. In the last few weeks, the
world media has also been awash with reports the sub-prime mortgages
crisis, popularly dubbed the ‘credit crunch’ and the recession which is
following it. From afar I have observed that the mood in the global
North appears to be swinging between highs of Obama’s optimistic
messages of hope and change and fears associated with an economic downturn.

For all the failings of the Bush administration and the negative
economic indicators, very few in the North have any idea of what it is
like to live under- let alone resist- real political tyranny. Or what is
entailed by the daily struggle to survive during a total economic
collapse. Yet this situation is happening in real time in Zimbabwe as I
write this e-mail.

I went to a really inspiring lecture on Thursday night by Tendai Biti,
the Secretary-General (second-in- command) of the Tsivangirai faction of
the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T). I wanted to share some of it
with you because I think it sheds some light on the courage required to
lead political opposition in these types of circumstances.

The Economic Collapse: “Like maggots feasting on a dead body”
According to Biti, the economic situation in Zimbabwe is as grave as it
gets. Quite simply the people of Zimbabwe are starving- four million
people are dependent on food aid. In the last few months there has been
no water in many urban centres- this has resulted in cholera outbreaks
in the last few months. Thirty people died at one clinic in the outbreak
(120 have died nationwide since mid-September). It is worth noting that
the last time there was a cholera epidemic in the country was apparently
in 1932!

The nation’s graves are multiplying with 4000 people are dying per week.
This is apparently a higher weekly mortality figure than in the
country’s war of liberation. Hyperinflation in Zimbabwe rivals that of Weimar Germany with inflation at an eye-watering 18 trillion percent. At the moment there is a shadow, informal economy in illegal currency trade, illegal fuel trade and black market goods. He compared the profiting of the elite off this illicit activity “like maggots feasting on a dead body”. He argues that the body (economy) is now totally destroyed.

Unsurprisingly, for a leader of the opposition, Biti blamed this squarely on the Mugabe dictatorship.

The March 2007 Negotiations
Biti argued that the MDC-T was forced into dialogue with the ruling Zanu
PF “to allow Zimbabweans to live” and to democratize the state. He
argued that the March 2007 dialogue came after the infamous brutal
attack on Tsivangirai (the leader of the opposition) on his way to a
prayer rally at a township outside the Highfield township.
The Secretary-General argued that former President Thabo Mbeki feared
that the radicalization of the opposition would pose danger to the
state. From the MDC-T’s standpoint, the aim of that round of talks was for a new constitution to be adopted before the next election would be held. A constitution was apparently then agreed to but Mugabe refused for it to be finalized.

The Stolen Elections and the Subsequent Blood-bath
Can you imagine the disappointment following winning a Presidential
election campaign only to be robbed of victory? This has happened in

In the opposition’s view, hasty elections were called to throw them off
balance. The MDC-T nevertheless put together an election campaign under
difficult and dangerous circumstances. For instance, with 90%
unemployment it was difficult for the party to organize in workplaces.
Towards the end of the campaign they sensed that they would win the
election because of the massive crowds they started to get at rallies.
Also, they had wrung some concessions from Zanu-PF at the earlier talks.
One of these was that there would be an audit of ballot papers at voting
stations before and after counting. The other was that results would be
posted outside polling stations. The opposition then appointed 66 000
election agents, who had mobile phones with cameras, who photographed
the results.

On March 30th 2008, the MDC-T declared victory. However, Biti argued
that “they did not win the state” on that day or in the weeks and months
that followed.

This was because it was then that the vote rigging really started. The
election commission took *five weeks* to announce the results! According
to MDC-T, 400 of its activists were killed by the government or people
acting in its name up to June 27th 2008, when the current round of talks
began. Then there were the 100 000 people who were displaced.

Although Biti did not mention it (probably in the interests of time), it
is worth mentioning that Zanu-PF won the second round of election.
However, it is worth noting that the second round of elections- the
Presidential run-off- were a violent sham. Therefore, Tsivangirai
withdrew from these elections. These second Presidential elections can
in no sense have been called ‘free and fair’ against the backdrop of the
campaign of orchestrated state-sponsored violence.

The Total Collapse of the Recent Global Provisional Agreement (GPA)
It is clear that the September 15th agreement is for all intents and
purposes a corpse. Biti blamed the collapse of the agreement on Zanu PF.
He said that the party was at the table but was not ready to engage with
the MDC-T as equals. Mugabe and his allies in the party engaged in the
negotiations primarily to obtain international legitimacy- this is
evidenced by the fact that he swanned off to a UN conference shortly
thereafter. The MDC-T felt that they were coerced into signing the
agreement by Mbeki, who was given a mandate by SADC and the blessings of the AU and UN to assist in the mediation.

The allocation of ministerial posts is what has caused the talks to
collapse. This is apparently based on a refusal to acknowledge that the
MDC-T won the elections. The MDC-T has conceded that Mugabe can be a
ceremonial president but they are not interested in being junior
(subordinate) partners.

Zimbabwe is being run by a military dictatorship
Biti also pointed to something that is not said often enough: Zimbabwe
is currently being run by a military junta. In this system, the national
security council oversees the work of the dreaded intelligence agency.
As Anglican Bishop Ruben Philip argued in a discussion session, it
should not be Southern African Development Community’s (a regional
intergovernmental body’s) role to rubber-stamp rigged blood-stained
elections. Mugabe was not democratically elected, yet SADC treats him
like a legitimate head of state. This is despite the fact that he
violated SADC’s own principles on free and fair elections.

Until Zanu-PF returns to negotiations in good faith, the government it
leads lacks any shred of legitimacy and should be treated as such. This
may sound like strong language, but what kind of government denies civil
society organizations access to its citizens to distribute food aid? Or
locks up women activists (such as those from Women Of Zimbabwe
Arise-WOZA) for peacefully demonstrating for humanitarian aid to be
freely delivered to those in need?

The fact of the matter is that as Biti argued, there has been no
paradigm shift on the part of Zanu PF. The denial of a passport to
Tsivangirai to attend a SADC meeting indicates this. The sad fact is
that from MDC-T’s perspective “the dialogue is dead” and it’s seen by
MDC-Tas being Zanu-PF’s fault. South Africans may be interested to note
that Biti referred to Mbeki as being a ‘card-carrying Zanu-PF member’.
Any trust which may have once existed appeared to have eroded to the
extent that Mbeki lacks credibility in this role for the opposition (see
more on this below).

Stepping up the resistance
MDC-T is returning to re-engaging the masses. I was amazed by Biti’s
optimism in this regard. He managed to focus on the positives in a
pretty dire situation. He argued that the opposition had time, whereas
Mugabe did not. He mentioned the importance of international solidarity
(more on this later). Lastly, the economic collapse meant that Zanu-PF
would eventually be forced to return to the negotiating table, more
willing to offer concessions.

For Biti, the regime’s violence was a sign of desperation. He saved the
most poignant part of the speech for the end. “Every struggle has its
Chris Hani” (a South African anti-apartheid activist killed by
right-wing forces in 1993), he argued. The question is will Biti be that
martyr to the cause of democracy? Or can South Africa and other
influential countries force Mugabe to start offering real concessions to
resuscitate the negotiations?

Ideas on international solidarity from the Bishop who Stopped the Bullets

Bishop Rubin Philip led the successful dockworkers’ blockade of a Chinese shipment of arms to Zimbabwe from Durban.
He gave a short talk after Biti’s suggesting next steps in terms of international solidarity:

1) Mbeki should be relieved of his role as facilitator in future talks.
This is because Zimbabweans lack confidence in him as a mediator.

2) The GPA is a recipe for sustained conflict because it is not based on
an acceptance of the will of the Zimbabwean people as expressed in the
March election. Instead a Batswana proposal must be dusted off, which
would involve a transitional government being constructed which would
rule for two years, which would focus on making a new constitution and
on holding elections for a Government of National Unity.

3) South Africa must hold the government to account: this is because our
government has played a mediation role and because we host the majority
of Zimabwean immigrants.

4) South Africa needs to protect Zimbabwean refugees, it remains unsafe
for them to return to Zimbabwe. 5) People everywhere must demand that
food distribution be allowed in Zimbabwe without hindrance: this is a
humanitarian issue, which must be resolved.

The event was organized by the UKZN's Centre for Civil Society under the
auspices of the South African Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum (ZSF), a civil
society coalition aimed at showing solidarity for Zimbabwean’s struggle
for democracy:
They have a google group:

They also accept articles on the Zimbabwean crisis for their monthly

Sunday Independent, 1 June 2008

MDC’s dynamic second-in-command by Maureen Isaacson
If Tendai Biti has many faces, it is because he is versatile as well as changeable. He says his is “a story of struggle”. As the secretary-general of Zimbabwe’s oppostion Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), he has a date with destiny.

Last week he dazzled an audience at a Wits Public Conversations forum with his chilling run-down of a country facing a run-off for the election in which the MDC beat Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF party.

The bizarre upshot of Zimbabwe’s rocketing inflation is that a packet of sausages costs ZIM$1,8-billion; a loaf of bread costs ZIM$300-million and Mazoe (a powdered orange drink) costs ZIM$2,5-billion for a 5kg bag. He recalled that when he was at boarding school it cost 20 cents for three months’ supply of Mazoe.

It is a long time since he was a boy in Form 1 who knew he would not lead “an ordinary life” as an adult. But he is no rich man’s son. He was born on August 6 1966, in the working class suburb of Dzivarasekwa in Harare. He was lucky enough to come into the world laden with gifts - of intellect and of oratory. He is also a champion chess player, a singer, a great reader and, according to his peers, an excellent strategist.

‘I am frustrated, I want to go home’ When I interview him at a Sandton hotel, Biti is not the same man I met at the Wits forum. To begin with, he is wearing a cap that renders him barely recognisable, and his charisma is on hold. Either way, this lawyer makes a compelling argument for the world to heed the call to stop “the madness”.

Evidence of his own nervous condition lies in a tic in one of his hands. “I am frustrated, I want to go home,” he says. “But the [MDC] leadership insists that I stay here.”

Augustine Chihuri, Zimbabwe’s Police Commissioner, has threatened Biti with unspecified action when he returns to Zimbabwe. Chihuri accused him of illegally declaring the results of the March 29 elections and “urging and abetting political violence”.

In a menacing letter to Biti, which was published in The Herald newspaper, Zanu-PF’s mouthpiece, Chihuri wrote: “What is very conspicuous in the Zimbabwean political arena today is your prominent role in urging and abetting political violence through unbridled rhetoric of incitement.

“You know for sure, your violation of the country’s laws by declaring presidential results which was, in deed, in contravention of Section 110 of the Electoral Act, Chapter 2:13 and is still to be attended to by the police.” Chihuri has warned that “the swift arm of the law will always catch up with the evil doer”.

Biti says Zimbabwean prisons are desperately overcrowded. He has been detained “every year since 2000”. His gruelling report, on behalf of the Zimbabwean Human Rights Lawyers, of the March 11 beatings and torture at Machipisa Prison, where 40 leaders of opposition parties and civil society activists were arrested en route to the Save Zimbabwe Campaign prayer meeting at Zimbabwe Grounds in Highfield, Harare, is deeply affecting.

“When we were being beaten on 11 March they [the policemen] were enjoying it and competing to beat Morgan [Tsvangirai, the MDC leader],” he said at Wits.

He mentioned that Grace Kwinjeh, a member of the MDC’s national executive committee, took the brunt of the beatings in that room.

Kwinjeh, who lost part of an ear during a beating with a metal rod, says Biti’s bravery is not in question. “Just being the secretary-general of the MDC over the past five years requires bravery, and it takes great leadership courage to deliver the kind of result we did in the election - as well as a great deal of work and administration.”

Biti says Zanu-PF’s military intelligence is targeting key players in the MDC structures - such as Tonderai Ndira, a young MDC leader who was recently killed.

Since the March 29 election, more than 50 people have been killed. Harvest House, the MDC’s headquarters in Harare, is flooded with refugees, including women and babies, who are fleeing Mugabe’s war. Biti is Gandhian in his approach: the MDC’s principled non-violence is symbolised by the open hand of the logo, as opposed to the closed fist of revolution.

“There will be retribution. And when it comes, the MDC, a democratic movement, will become irrelevant. The youths are radical. Please do something before there is a catastrophe”, is his appeal to the international community.

“There cannot be a run-off because we won this election. And therefore by agreeing to participate in the run-off we are supporting the kleptocracy. But there has to be a political solution. We have to create conditions for the rehabilitation of our country.

“But the fact the MDC has defeated the tyrant; the perpetrator of genocide, is remarkable. Especially since Mugabe has instilled the idea in the psyche of the nation that we [the MDC] are not people; we are “sellouts”, we are like the cockroaches, the name the Hutus gave to the Tutsis [in Rwanda].”

Last week, Biti warned, presciently, that the “xenophobic violence” in South Africa would destabilise the borders of neighbouring countries as it has done in South Africa.

“You mark my words. We know the cause of xenophobia, it is President [Robert] Mugabe. People are being killed in Zimbabwe.”

Critics of the MDC, who believe the movement is indeed in the pockets of “the West”, are watching Biti. It is widely believed that if Tsvangirai does not become Zimbabwe’s president, Biti will. Would he like this? “Absolutely not,” he says.

“I love the law. I may stay for three years in the party, sorting out the mess.” At Wits, he said: “When we craft a solution there will have to be a transitional national healing. There has to be transitional justice. You cannot have a Kenyan solution which subordinates the victor.

“You have to be careful. Mugabe must be promoted upstairs. Give him guarantees of personal safety and tell him, if you want to play golf with Kenneth Kaunda, by all means do so. There can be no vindictiveness. The people of Zimbabwe cannot have an elite pact.

“The core of our struggle has been the issue of constitution: we demand a people-driven constitution - by the people for the people. You have to give the same guarantees for everyone. You cannot tell people to forgive. We need to write a constitution based on mistrust.

“We are going to put a limit on the terms of office. Zimbabwe is at a crossroads. The issue of land is critical, the issue of compensation must be dealt with. We have to look at the farms that have been nationalised then deal with the demand side of land reform. Are you going to give back the white farmers their land? We will have to rationalise this on the principle of need and ability: do you need it? Can you farm it? We cannot have multiple ownership. There will be voluntary surrender, the return of the land market.”

Biti admits that the MDC is “not a perfect movement”, that it has had to root out corruption and that the split between Tsvangirai supporters and supporters of Arthur Mutambara was “tragic”.

Yes, there has been violence, but the split was not caused by this. Zanu-PF’s ugliness has contaminated everything in Zimbabwe.

Biti says it is well known that Tsvangirai “listens too much” to what others say.
How well does Biti listen?

Kwinjeh says when he disagrees with what you are saying, he does not listen. “Tendai has to improve on gender equality. We, the women, think he can do more. Let’s deal with patriarchy, I think.” She also says he is a brilliant lawyer and a principled leader who has stood by Tsvangirai when many have not done so.

Rehad Desai, a film-maker who knew Biti when he was a student leader in the 1980s, says Biti’s hardcore Marxist-Leninist line was modified and adapted to the Zimbabwean situation when they met.

His leadership qualities were already on show. He was the leader of the study group, the International Socialists of Zimbabwe.

“When the Zimbabwean Congress of Trade Unions was flexing its muscles, we began to form links and joined the MDC.”
Patrick Bond, director of the Centre for Civil Society at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, who was completing a PhD on Zimbabwe in the late 1980s, says: “You could see that Tendai could one day become the president.”

Biti’s old leftie comrades from the heady 1980s worry that the United States and United Kingdom will turn Zimbabwe into a neoliberal enclave. He insists that he has received not a bean from either country.

Many remember him as a firebrand: “I threw stones at Mugabe,” Biti himself recalls. Bond says that “Zanu-PF was brilliantly outfoxed during Thabo Mbeki’s mediation in the run-up to the election. Some activists - like National Constitutional Assembly leader Lovemore Madhuku - called the talks a ‘sell-out’, and yet the trick of immediately transmitting cellphone photos of official results from polling stations was the neatest bit of political jujitsu I’ve ever seen, and may make the crucial difference in Zimbabwe’s democratisation.”

Biti is willing to defend himself against accusations that he himself has sold out. How could the country’s promising young human rights lawyer be bought by a top-drawer commercial law firm, ask those who decry his partnership in Honey & Blackenberg.

He shrugs off the idea that “the real turning point came in 1997” when he defended the Standard Bank in a labour case. “The Standard bank is a client of my law firm and as such I was obliged to defend it. I am the lawyer who represents more trade unions than any other lawyer in Zimbabwe.

“Very few people are using the courts and the law as I have done in favour of workers. I specialise in constitutional law and labour law, but I end up doing everything that has to be done. I am a lawyer’s lawyer, a kind of advocate. Law is my passion,” he says. “I have been fortunate that everything I have been doing as a lawyer, [including human rights cases] highlights Zimbabwean history.”

Miles Larmer, an academic at Sheffield Hallam University in the UK, remembers Biti’s determination at university to make a difference and his impatience with those far lefties “who stayed up talking all night, achieving nothing”.

Biti’s appointment to the presidency would be welcomed by Themba Nolotshungu, of the conservative Free Market Foundation, who says: “I would expect them [the MDC] to be more centrist and more inclined towards free market and to understand to what extent the state would be involved in terms of economic policy. They are pragmatic, rather than ideologically driven.”

But those on the other side of the fence accuse Biti of selling his socialism down the river. He responds emphatically: “I am still a socialist. I have not changed. Socialism is not an ideology of poverty, but of maximum production and equitable distribution.”

Desai says: “Tendai is still with Morgan because he still believes in socialism and the working class and the peasantry of Zimbabwe as a social force as it was before.”

Biti refers me to the MDC manifesto, in which he had a hand, and which he says is no neoliberal document. He refers me in particular to the MDC’s economic doctrine “… which says let us cross our own destiny so that the imperialists do not have a say in our life; our economy is so vulnerable. Let us look to outsiders on our own terms. We will pay back debt owed by Zimbabwe. The manifesto is very clear that we carry out an audit and we will repute all the odious debt”.

He is referring to the debt carried over from Zanu-PF, and to the international moral principle that has established that this need not be paid by a new democracy.

Despite Chihuri’s menacing, Biti will continue to speak to an international audience, as well as to an African audience, about assisting his country.

He says: “We will allow dual citizenship. We have shown we can defeat a dictator and one of the biggest challenges of these struggles is that it is easy to mirror that which one is trying to remove.”

Desai describes Biti as a loner. He says Biti’s dedication to the struggle has cost him his relationship with the mother of his child.

He is moody, saddened, yet he allows himself to be humoured as he gears up for his date with fate. He says: “I am ready to face what is waiting for me.”

The Zimbabwe Political Deal:
A commentary by Bishop Rubin Phillip, presented at the Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum, Centre for Civil Society, SALO supported Harold Wolpe lecture at the
University of KwaZulu Natal, Durban, 30 October 2008

Progress so far
On the 15th of September 2008, 3 political parties in Zimbabwe (ZANU
PF, MDC –T and MDC Mutambara) signed the Global Political Agreement
which was to move Zimbabwe from a state of paralysis to a new
beginning. The signing of this agreement came after a series of talks
brokered by former South African President, Thabo Mbeki, acting on
behalf of SADC with a Reference Group that included the AU and the

The signing of the GPA gave rise to expectations both in Zimbabwe and
outside that the parties involved would urgently get down to the
serious business of implementing the agreement and moving the country
from a state of paralysis to the new beginning. Regrettably, the
situation in Zimbabwe at the moment is worse off than it was on 15
September when the GPA was signed, and indeed worse off than it was
when the MoU that set the framework for the talks that led to 15

4 weeks after the signing of the GPA, 2 civil society leaders – Jenni
Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu are languishing in prison. They were
incarcerated on 16 October up to today, denied bail for expressing the
view that there is a national disaster in Zimbabwe and that food must
be given to all the people.
120 people are reported to have died of cholera in Zimbabwe between
February and October 2008; at least 25% of these died since the GPA
was signed.
The food situation in the country has been deteriorating further since
the signing of the agreement.

The signing of the agreement has not had a positive impact on the
people of Zimbabwe; it has not enabled Zimbabwe to be restored to
normalcy at the polical, social and economic levels. The single most
important expectation from the signing of the agreement had been the
restoration of normalcy in Zimbabwe’s political arena. The
restoration of normalcy in the political arena is seen as the key to
resolving all the other aspects of the crisis bedevilling Zimbabwe.
What we have had instead since the agreement was signed has been talks
and talks about the agreement. On Monday 27 October, the world learnt
that the talks on the implementation of the agreement had collapsed.

Collapse of the talks
The collapse of the talks has been a result of failed Regional and
Continental leadership on Zimbabwe. The consequences of resolving the
Zimbabwe crisis outside of talks and dialogue are too ghastly to
contemplate. Indeed, dialogue is critical for any process that seeks
to create a democratic dispensation.

However, that dialogue needs to be guided and underpinned by
democratic values, and this is what has been lacking from all sides in
the talks in Zimbabwe. The facilitators and the guarantors of the
agreement such as the SADC and the AU, have demonstrated a lack of
principled stand on Zimbabwe and Robert Mugabe, particularly their
ambivalence on the election of Mugabe in the sham elections of 27
June. In fact, from as far back as the March 29 elections, Regional
and Continental leaders have been reluctant to invoke the democratic
principles and values espoused by our own continent when the ZEC
refused to announce the results and violence was unleashed on MDC and
civil society activists. Even in the face of condemnation of the
Zimbabwe government by African institutions, no sanctions were taken
by the African leaders to bring Robert Mugabe, his government and
party to account.

While SADC adopted the principles and guidelines for democratic
elections, the position conferred upon Robert Mugabe as President of
Zimbabwe, and accepted at the various forums of the SADC, AU, and UN –
means that at whatever level of engagement, Mugabe is regarded as a
legitimate head of state besides the fact he has grossly disrespected
the principles of democratic elections as espoused by SADC.

The point we are making here is that talks that should bring about a
democratic dispensation need to be underpinned by democratic values.
It is our view then that whoever engages with Robert Mugabe needs to
know and acknowledge that they are dealing with a rebel. And all
forms of pressure that are exerted on rebels to engage must be applied
on Robert Mugabe.

It is sad and ironic that throughout these talks, the MDC T is keen to
present itself as an equal to ZANU PF – a situation where the
oppressed see themselves in the image of the oppressor. There is no
way the MDC can be equal to ZANU PF given that over 100 of its
supporters were killed since 29 March; thousands others were
internally and externally displaced; MPs were arrested while attending
Parliamentary business etc. The MDC, and the mediators as well as
those guarantors, need to see the MDC as an alternative to ZANU PF,
and as a legitimate force ZANU PF and the region need to reckon with.

The question of imperialist interest
Throughout this presentation, we have projected the failed
responsibility of African leadership in solving the Zimbabwe crisis as
an African problem. This failure has led to a severe deterioration of
the living conditions in Zimbabwe. We have a situation right now in
Zimbabwe where the state has no relevance to the well being of its
people. The state is no longer a reference point for health,
education, protection, housing etc. Citizens from all walks of life
will hook on to anything that would make them survive – be it

Wolpe Lecture panel: Wasted Lives
By Muna Lakhani, 25 September 2008
Wasted Lives - Waste, abuse of energy and pollution are rampant in the
South African economy. This dynamic slideshow presentation interrogates
the waste of resources in a country that has deep systemic social,
economic and environmental problems. Lakhani suggests ways forward that
represent a genuinely sustainable economy, to deliver on government's
most advanced environmental, social, political and economic mandates.

Muna Lakhani is a renowned environmentalist, the founder/coordinator of
the Institute for Zero Waste in Africa and a member of EarthLife Africa.
He is a researcher, analyst, practitioner, educator and activist, and
has made numerous innovations in water/sanitation, energy and waste,
ranging from practical projects to policy/legislative inputs.



 Tribute to Harold Wolpe plus links to selected seminar programmes
 A Tribute to Harold Wolpe 
 The Wolpe Trust 
 UKZN History Seminar Series 
 Articulations: A Harold Wolpe Memorial Lecture Collection 
 WISER Seminar Series 
 Online Audio and Video Recordings: UC Berkeley Lectures and Events  
  Philosophy Seminars 

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