Factionalism and Coalition: The two sides of Zimbabwean politics

On 21st May 2017, growing factionalism in the ruling ZANU-PF provoked violence at the party’s provincial headquarters in Zimbabwe’s second largest city – Bulawayo. Party youths disrupted a meeting at the headquarters accusing the provincial leadership of supporting the embattled Minister of Local Government Saviour Kasukuwere and riot police had to be called to restore order. Although such factionalism and violence is not new to politics in Zimbabwe, given the continuing questions surrounding Mugabe’s succession and the prospect of an opposition coalition, ZANU-PF’s supremacy could be under pressure as elections approach in July 2018.

A number of senior cabinet ministers have been accused of challenging Mugabe’s leadership in the past and, based on very little evidence, have been attacked by sections of ZANU-PF. The most recent to fall foul of this is Kasukuwere, who has been accused of setting up parallel structures in the party in order to unseat Mugabe. Significantly, Kasukuwere is viewed as a leading member of the G40 faction, which is opposed to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa succeeding Mugabe as President and reportedly support the First Lady – Grace Mugabe. This suggests that Mnangagwa and the so-called Lacoste faction are attempting to asset their authority in the party and block any challenge from the G40 faction. Although large sections of ZANU-PF have publicly called for Kasukuwere’s removal from not only his cabinet post but also the party, it appears that the second vice president – Phelekezela Mphoko – supports Kasukuwere. This is significant as Mphoko is the chairperson of the ZANU-PF appeals committee and therefore reviews disciplinary cases brought against party officials. This suggests that the factionalist infighting that surrounds Kasukuwere is likely to continue in the coming weeks. Moreover, such infighting is unlikely to pass even if Kasukuwere is removed from the party.

Although Mugabe has been confirmed as ZANU-PF’s presidential candidate for next year’s election, it seems that this has had little effect on the factionalist politics associated with his succession. Considering Mugabe’s age, his increasingly frequent international health trips and his deteriorating public persona, it is unsurprising that factions are trying to establish their position in the party. Presently, Mnangagwa seems the most likely to succeed Mugabe, given the opposition to the G40 faction from within ZANU-PF and his strong links to the security forces. Such links are extremely valuable and are likely to become more important in a post-Mugabe Zimbabwe. The Commander General of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces’ recent warning to the influential War Veterans Association, regarding criticism of Mugabe’s leadership, demonstrated the security forces’ willingness to intervene in politics, which will be an important factor in Mugabe’s succession. Grace Mugabe would need her husband’s support and influence if she was to assume the presidency and as it seems increasingly likely that Mugabe will die in office rather than stand down, this puts Mnangagwa in the pole position to succeed him.

Whilst ZANU-PF is once again preoccupied by factionalist infighting, it seems that Zimbabwe’s divided opposition are finally coming together to provide a united front against the ruling party. Zimbabwe’s main opposition party – Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) – splintered in 2005 and 2014, leaving three smaller opposition parties: MDC-Tsvangirai (MDC-T); MDC-Ncube (MDC-N); and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Although the relationship between these parties’ leaderships has been strained at the best of times and hostile at the worst, they are putting aside their differences to form a coalition. The PDP’s leader – Tendai Biti – who once said that “we don’t share the same values with MDC-T” and stated that “Morgan Tsvangirai was a thief”, has now been welcomed back by the largest MDC faction (MDC-T) and its leader. Upon joining forces again with the MDC-T, Biti said that the opposition was “putting Zimbabweans first” and the MDC-N leader – Welshman Ncube – stated that “we owe it to future generations”.

Although the re-unification of the splintered MDC is undoubtedly important, significantly, this grouping has been joined by a new opposition party – National People’s Party (NPP) – which is headed by the former vice president and ZANU-PF stalwart Joice Mujuru. Mujuru was expelled from ZANU-PF in 2015 after being accused of trying to illegally remove Mugabe from power. On 19th April, the previous adversaries – Tsvangirai and Mujuru – signed a memorandum of understanding which outlined their commitment to field a joint candidate to challenge Mugabe in July 2018. On 20th May, Mujuru proclaimed that the “NPP and MDC are one and the same thing”. This is significant as Mujuru’s participation in the coalition could enable the opposition to attract support from outside of their urban centre strongholds. Unlike Tsvangirai, Mujuru was part of the liberation struggle and reportedly still has strong links with Zimbabwe’s security apparatus. This means that it will be harder for ZANU-PF to side-line her and it is possible that she may be able to draw support away from the ruling party.

The opposition coalition will try to tap into the burgeoning discontent in the country due to its dire economic situation. This discontent was illustrated by the popularity of anti-government protest movements in 2016 such as #ThisFlag and #Tajamuka. Although these groups are working outside of the party system, it is likely that their followers will support the coalition.

Nevertheless, the coalition is in its early stages and it is not clear if it will be able to stay together until the election next year. Although the leaders of each party are promoting unity, members of both the MDC-T and the NPP believe that their respective leaders should be the coalition’s presidential candidate. It seems likely that primaries will be held to decide this, which will indicate the durability of the coalition. Furthermore, even after this is decided, the coalition will have to turn its attention to policy formation, which again will highlight the differences between the parties. Thus, although this is a positive step for the opposition, compromise and co-operation will be key to maintaining this united front ahead of the election in July 2018.

As ZANU-PF is entering a new round of factionalist infighting associated with Mugabe’s succession, the opposition is positioning itself to pose its strongest electoral challenge since the contentious 2008 election. If the opposition coalition selects a leader, formulates joint policies and remains united, it could potentially draw widespread support from across Zimbabwe. Although this unity is yet to be tested and ZANU-PF’s resilience should not be underestimated, the continuing factionalism within the ruling party is only likely to strengthen the opposition’s resolve.

Zuma Weather’s the Storm

In the early hours on 31st March 2017, President Jacob Zuma initiated a controversial cabinet reshuffle, which included the removal of Pravin Gordhan and his deputy – Mcebisi Jonas – at the Ministry of Finance. There had been rumours about Gordhan’s removal since it was reported in May 2016 that the Hawks law enforcement unit was investigating him. It was speculated at the time that the Hawks were working under Zuma’s direction and that Gordhan had been targeted due to his position towards the influential Gupta business family. The Gupta family are seen as being too close to Zuma and have faced allegations of “state capture”. Gordhan has long been viewed as a critic of the Gupta family and, to many, his removal last week was due to this criticism. This assertion is supported by the fact that, his successor – Malusi Gigaba – has a close relationship with the Gupta family.

Zuma’s cabinet reshuffle has already had a significant effect on both politics and the economy in South Africa. Following the announcement of Gordhan’s removal, the value of the Rand fell by 13 percent and on 3rd April, the global ratings agency ‘Standard & Poor’s’ downgraded South Africa’s credit rating to junk status. The agency cited Gordhan’s dismissal as one of the main reasons for this downgrade. Moreover, it seems that ‘Moody’s’ rating agency is going to follow suit, after putting the country on a negative outlook due to “the abrupt change in leadership of key government institutions”. Although Zuma has tried to reassure investors by stating that “policy orientation remains the same”, given South Africa’s widening budget deficit and high unemployment rate, the economic prospects for the country seem quite bleak.

On the political side, Zuma has faced criticism for the cabinet reshuffle, including from within his own party. Secretary General of the ANC – Gwede Mantashe – and Deputy President – Cyril Ramaphosa – both criticised President Zuma’s decision, with Ramaphosa calling the sacking of Gordhan “totally unacceptable”. It has also increased tensions in the Tripartite Alliance between the ANC, the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). Both the leadership of the SACP and COSATU were critical of President Zuma, and COSATU’s Secretary General – Bheki Ntshalintshali – described Zuma’s leadership as “inattentive, negligent and disruptive” and said that he is no longer the “right person” to be president. Although this appeared to be putting pressure on Zuma to stand down, on 5th April the ANC’s National Working Committee backed Zuma and said that the party would not vote against him in a vote of no confidence.

Outside of the ANC and the Tripartite Alliance, Zuma has faced fierce criticism. The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) have both called on Zuma to resign and for another no confidence vote in parliament. Although such votes have previously been blocked by the ANC’s commanding majority, the opposition are confident that they will be able to convince certain members of the ANC to vote against their party. Nevertheless, it is highly unlikely that they will be successful as party loyalty remains very important within the ANC. Additionally, civil society groups and opposition parties have called for a nationwide protest against Zuma on 7th April. These protests are expected to draw large amounts of people and could cause significant social unrest as the DA have claimed that they have received “numerous threats of violence” from “the ANC Youth League” in response to the planned protest.

Nonetheless, although Zuma has been heavily criticised for his cabinet reshuffle, which has brought divisions in the ANC to the fore and heightened South Africa’s economic problems, it seems that, as before, he has weathered the storm. But, at what cost? His continued presence at the top of the ANC is likely to increase internal tensions and divisions, which will be brought to the surface at the ANC Elective Conference in December 2017, where the party will be tasked with selecting his successor. Whoever succeeds Zuma will struggle to re-unite the party and his refusal to stand down is likely to reduce support for the ANC ahead of elections in 2019. The political instability caused by this is likely to increase economic uncertainty, causing further problems for the South African economy. Thus, although Zuma has managed to hold on to power for a little longer, the effect this will have is likely to be felt for years to come.

South Africa: Local Elections, National Impact

Africa Integrity have complied a report on the upcoming municipal elections in South Africa:

On 5th July 2016, President Jacob Zuma stated, “I hear people complaining when we say the ANC will rule fully until Jesus comes back, but we have been blessed”. The ANC entered 2016 in perhaps its weakest position since the party assumed power in 1994. Beleaguered by a faltering economy, corruption allegations and infighting, the party is vulnerable to a serious electoral challenge from a re-invigorated opposition. The municipal elections on 3rd August will not only be the greatest electoral test for the ANC but also an indication of South Africa’s political future and the party’s commitment to democracy.

To a request a copy of this report please contact us.

Prepare 4 Africa

Nairobi Cityscape

Culture Shock!

Habari yako? – your news? Habari za familia? – news of your family?  Habari za leo? – news of your day.  Za kazi? – of work?  Za safari – of your journey? And it goes on.  When will the questions end?

You are in Kenya, negotiating an oil concession.  You don’t have time for these extended niceties.  And, anyway, you don’t know how to respond.  In a hurry, you move on to business, ignoring the bafflement on the ministry official’s face.

As you leave, your host walks you to the car park.  He takes your hand in his and won’t let go.  This is unexpected.  You withdraw your hand, as tactfully as possible.  Your host again looks offended.

Your driver talks incessantly about “tribes”.  Why the obsession? Who cares about a person’s background?  What relevance is it to an oil company in Kenya?  This sounds like prejudice to your ears.

A policeman pulls you over and leans into the passenger side window.  “Habari?”, he smiles.  Here we go again – but he quickly gets to the point.  He’d like a “soda”, or some “chai”.  Why is he telling you?  Your driver is nervous,– he hands the policeman something and whispers “I will add it to the fare”.  Has something wrong just happened?

In your hotel room, you relax – until the phone rings.  The man who sold you air-time on the street this morning has just come by to “greet you”.  Habari!  How does he know where you are staying? What does he want? How do you respond?

You haven’t made time to see the baby elephants or the giraffe centre on the outskirts of town.  Or to visit the new Caramel Restaurant that everyone was talking about.  Despite this, you were pleased to leave Nairobi.  The problem is that the man from the ministry now refuses to take your calls.  Maybe you should have held his hand?

Find out with our Prepare 4 Africa (P4A) training courses.  Designed for first-time business visitors to Africa, P4A is a hands-on, practical one-day course that will help ensure your business trip to Africa is pleasurable and profitable.  You will learn about, amongst other things: the protocol of business meetings; the importance of greetings; recognition and mitigation of corruption; personal security; the best places to stay, visit and eat in your chosen destination; how to get about safely and quickly; and the language of negotiation.  Courses can cater for one to ten people and are delivered by experienced lecturers in African cultures.  Please contact us on enquiries@prepare4africa.com or visit our website www.prepare4africa.com for further details.

Elections in 2016

There are a number of important elections across Africa scheduled for 2016 and over the next year, Africa Integrity Insights will examine a selection of these. As an introduction to the upcoming publications we have compiled a list of countries where elections are set to take place in 2016, including the scheduled date (when available) and the type of election.

  • Benin: Presidential (28th February)
  • Burkina Faso: Municipal (31st January)
  • Cape Verde: Parliamentary and Presidential (February & August)
  • Central African Republic: Parliamentary and Presidential Run-off (31st January)
  • Chad: Presidential (April)
  • Côte d’Ivoire: Parliamentary (December)
  • Comoros: Presidential (21st February)
  • Congo-Brazzaville: Presidential (20th March)
  • Democratic Republic of Congo: Legislative and Presidential (27th November)
  • Djibouti: Presidential (April)
  • Equatorial Guinea: Presidential (November)
  • Gabon: Parliamentary and Presidential (December)
  • Gambia: Presidential (1st December)
  • Ghana: Parliamentary and Presidential (7th November)
  • Niger: Parliamentary & Presidential and Local (21st February & 9th May)
  • Rwanda: Local Government (8th, 22nd & 27th February and 22nd March)
  • Sao Tome and Principe: Presidential (July)
  • Senegal: Constitutional Referendum (May)
  • South Africa: Municipal (May-August)
  • Sudan: Darfur Referendum (11th April)
  • Tanzania: Zanzibar Re-run (20th March)
  • Tunisia: Municipal and Regional (30th October)
  • Uganda: General (18th February)
  • Zambia: Legislative and Presidential (11th August)

Angola: Bracing for Unrest

This month’s slump in the price of crude oil seems to suggest that the slight recovery seen in May-June 2015 was premature. On 6th July, the Brent Crude oil price fell below $60 per barrel for the first time since April and it has since remained there. At the time of writing, it is trading at $56.84 per barrel. This continuation of a low oil price has not only hit the economies of Africa’s oil exporters but also caused a ripple effect in the political sphere and across society. One such country which has felt this is Angola.

Angola’s economy and government are highly dependent on the country’s oil exports. Oil sales represent over 70 percent of government revenue and account for 90 percent of foreign exchange earnings. As a result, the fall in price caused: the government to cut its budget by $17 billion in February 2015; Angola’s currency – the Kwanza – to weaken 15 percent against the dollar between 1st January and 30th June 2015 (the Angolan government devalued the Kwanza on 4th June 2015); inflation to hit a more than one year high of 7.73 percent in February 2015; and the government to increase borrowing to $25 billion for this year. In addition to this, Angola’s petroleum parastatal – Sonangol Group – announced on 13th July 2015, that it plans to find $1 billion in cost savings by the end of the year. This came shortly after the company denied claims in Portuguese media that it had gone bankrupt. Although Sonangol’s Chief Executive Officer – Francisco de Lemos Jose Maria – reportedly said that the company probably won’t fire workers, there is no guarantee that this will be the case if crude oil stays at its current price or falls even further. The World Bank has already reacted to this unfolding situation by agreeing to provide Angola with $650 million in financial support on 2nd July 2015. However, its country manager – Clara Ana de Sousa – was reported as warning that “given the current global environment, Angola needs to put in place a fiscal policy to be able to continue its efforts to diversify the economy, with greater discretionary expenditures, while protecting the poor and most vulnerable”.

Such economic conditions have unsurprisingly impacted Angolan politics. The MPLA government of Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who is in his 36th year as Angola’s president, appears to be worried that the falling oil price will lead to unrest. Oil revenue has long been the financial backbone of dos Santos’ regime, which has used it to buy support and quash opposition to its patronage politics. The president, his family, and senior government figures have all been accused of exploiting their positions and stealing money from the Angolan state. An IMF report from 2011 showed that during the period 2007-2010, $32 billion, or 25 percent of GDP, could not be accounted for. This level of corruption is also reflected in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index 2014, which found Angola to be the 14th most corrupt country in the world. As falling oil prices have hit government revenue, the dos Santos regime is acutely aware of its diminishing ability to placate opposition through buying them off. Cuts in government spending have already hit a key support base for the MPLA – government employees – which may alter their allegiance if conditions do not improve. Thus, the party are conscious of the fact that they need to be prepared for the possibility of increased popular opposition.

As a result, the government have cracked down on youth opposition groups. On 26th June 2015, the government released a statement informing the public that over the past week the security services had arrested 15 youth activists for allegedly preparing acts of collective disobedience to overthrow the government and unseat dos Santos. This was followed by the arrest of Captain Zenobio Lazaro Muhondo Zumba, an intelligence officer allegedly connected to the detained youth activists, on 30th June 2015. In addition to this, the government has reportedly increased the military’s presence in the capital Luanda. This is highly significant as Luanda has long been a strong support base for the MPLA. Thus, it appears that the government are preparing to combat unrest amongst its supporters.

Furthermore, dos Santos has also postponed his succession in reaction to the current conditions. In a statement provided to the state-run news agency – Angop – dos Santos said “in restricted circles it was almost a given that the president wouldn’t carry out his mandate until the end, but it’s evident that it’s not wise to consider that option under the current circumstances”. This seems to suggest that dos Santos is concerned that a change in leadership combined with the current economic conditions could pose a threat to the MPLA’s rule. Nonetheless, his current mandate finishes in 2017 and due his age and rumours about his health, it is likely that he will want to resolve the succession question by the end of his mandate.

Although the dos Santos regime appears to be concerned about the MPLA’s future in light of the low oil price, it is unlikely that any opposition could currently challenge their rule. Angola’s opposition parties are weak and the MPLA have the full support of the country’s security services. The fall in the price of oil will undoubtedly put pressure on the regime and its patronage system but it’s unlikely to pose a major threat in the near future. Nevertheless, if prices remain low it’s possible that the regime may begin to struggle to pay the security forces wages, which could potentially lead to a far more dangerous opposition. However, it will be a priority of the government to avoid this from happening and at the time of writing it seems that this is a highly unlikely occurrence. The only concern which remains is the question of dos Santos’ succession. The longer this remains unresolved, the greater the threat it could potentially pose to the ruling party. Dos Santos has delayed the process so as to try to ensure that the MPLA have weathered the storm of falling oil prices before the decision is made. However, if the decision is forced on the MPLA through dos Santos’ apparent poor health, the party may struggle to contain unrest while trying to select a new leader. Thus, it is likely that dos Santos will try to resolve this question before the end of his mandate.

The Social Media Myth

Since the Arab Spring in 2010 it seems that any revolution, mass protest or social upheaval has become defined by its relation to social media. Many point to social media as a catalyst for such events, with groups using platforms such as twitter as an organisational tool. However, in reality, this does not appear to be the case, particularly in Africa.

One major impediment to the influence of social media in Africa is simply the lack of access to it. Although internet penetration has increased rapidly over the last few years, according to figures produced by Project Isizwe (an NGO which aims to increase Wi-Fi access in South Africa) only 18% of Africa’s population had access to internet in 2014. This percentage had increased to 26% by January 2015 – according to We Are Social (a social media PR and marketing agency) – which, despite being a significant increase, still means that 74% of Africans do not have access to the internet. Moreover, internet penetration varies dramatically between different African countries. This was demonstrated by a World Bank study which showed that there were over 40 internet users per 100 people in South Africa, Egypt and Tunisia in 2013 compared to fewer than 2 users per 100 people in Burundi, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Guinea, Niger, Sierra Leone and Somalia.

Thus, it seems highly unlikely that social media would play a major role in precipitating political protest in the majority of African countries. As Professor Wisdom Tetty noted at the LSE Africa Summit in April 2015, social media platforms are privileges of the middle class. Social media therefore tends to be a lagging indicator of large scale unrest or political change. This was illustrated by a graph produced by Topsy (a social media and analytics company) and published by IRIN News, which showed the twitter activity associated with Burundi between 13th April and 13th May 2015. The graph showed that a spike of activity occurred only after the attempted coup took place on 13th May 2015. This indicates that twitter is predominantly associated with reporting, as also shown by the #lwili hashtag used during the Burkina Faso uprising, and is therefore not a useful intelligence tool in predicting events.

Even in terms of social media’s role in reporting, this is primarily used by people outside of Africa. As a report in the Mail & Guardian on 5th May 2015 showed, only 7% of Africans access their news through social media. This is compared to 46% that use radio and 37% that use television, which also indicates another hindrance for social media: illiteracy. As a UNESCO report showed, in 2012, the African adult literacy rate was 59% overall and in Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Sierra Leone it was under 50%. Thus, social media’s influence in Africa will continue to be limited by the region’s relatively high illiteracy.

It seems that many commentators have become obsessed with social media and its role in political opposition – to the point that we overlook the fact that such events have taken place for centuries. If an event such as the Soweto Uprising happened today, it would almost certainly be attributed, at least in part, to social media. The importance of radio communications and civil society organisations are far too often overlooked. In Burundi, the closing of independent radio stations was a far more significant development than any internet blackout. Moreover, in Burkina Faso, the actions of Le Balai Citoyen were far more important than any hashtag. Even with regards to significant political change through the ballot box, social media is no replacement for old fashioned political organisation. As Funmi Iyanda – a Nigerian broadcaster, producer and journalist – noted at the Royal Africa Society’s ‘How to Fix Nigeria’ event in May 2015, “most of the people who went out to vote were not the people on social media, they were the people going out on a daily basis everyday”.

Nonetheless, this is not to say that technology has no part to play in political organisation and protest. It appears that we have skipped a step in explaining how technology aids the creation of political opposition, overlooking increased voice communication through the use of mobile phones. In contrast to internet penetration, Project Isizwe showed that in 2014 70% of Africans had a mobile handset. Professor Tetty also noted the importance of mobiles in fomenting political discussion in Ghana through radio phone-ins. Moreover, mobile voice communication is not hindered by high illiteracy rates, making it accessible to everyone. Thus, with regards to increasing the ability of people to organise political protests, it is far more likely that mobile phone communication is playing a bigger role than social media in Africa.

[The above is an extract from Africa Integrity’s upcoming June 2015 newsletter. To request a copy of this newsletter and join the mailing list please contact us]