With over a year since the GNU came into effect, it remains to be seen whether the little gains achieved to date will be consolidated or invalidated.
The onus, in my view, lies with the three principals in the GNU, namely, President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and the Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara to entrench the positives that have and can potentially be achieved in this transitional period.
The quality of the three leaders’ devotion to the GNU and its deliverables are key to the quality of Zimbabwe’s destiny. Many arguments have been put forward as to what has derailed meaningful progress with implementation of the political parties’ key outstanding issues with talk of sanctions topping the list.
However, other analysts have argued that the politicians’ outstanding issues are not necessarily the same with those of the people. The principals must therefore address the people’s issues now or else history will judge them. They have the opportunity and time to make right their wrongs.
The GNU was premised on key deliverables that were believed to usher in a truly democratic dispensation in Zimbabwe. Media, institutional, electoral, constitutional and other sector reforms were noted as key to positive change, but these can only be achieved if the principals’ utterances and ideological positions reflect that desire for reform.
True, some encouraging steps have been taken towards achieving the above reforms, but we continue seeing political parties’ interests taking centre-stage in what should be a people-centred initiative for change.
Several commissions have been put in place to achieve the necessary reforms, but there is clearly very little political will-power from some of the parties involved to see true change coming to Zimbabwe.
Personal interests are far outweighing the people’s wishes and for that reason, meaningful progress remains more of a pipe dream than a reality.
Zimbabweans have proved to be long-suffering and enduring in adversity, but they can only take so much. It’s time the principals walk the talk; and for the good of our nation openly speak and fight for full implementation of the GPA.
The ordinary Zimbabweans have suffered enough and what hurts most is that much of the suffering is as a result of a few self-serving individuals safeguarding their interests at the expense of the masses.
Talk of “national” interests when we know it is the average citizen who suffers the repercussions of the supposed protection of the same is certainly barbaric. How “national” are these national interests?
To quote Marcus Garvey’s “Africa for Africans at home and abroad” assertion, Zimbabwe is certainly for Zimbabweans at home and abroad, but what value is this safeguarding of interests and resources when they don’t benefit everyone? Any wealth that is not generational is useless and our leaders need to appreciate that they are only stewards of the land, its people and resources and are answerable to a superior authority in heaven.
Accountability and transparency must be a virtue in leadership. Disregarding the people’s suffering and views for personal gain is suicidal. It is only fallacy that one enjoys the ill-gotten pleasure of riding on people’s shoulders against their will because such a move will only hurt you the more when you fall. We are all citizens of this land and indeed a people together. The people’s wishes must always come first.
The Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC), a local churches mother body and Zimbabwe Christian Alliance (ZCA), a faith-based human rights organisation known for the Save Zimbabwe Campaign, together with other civil society partners in May this year produced a communiqué to SADC and other local and international stakeholders in the fight for Zimbabwe’s political salvation.
The communiqué, among other things, noted that what the political parties regarded as outstanding issues were not necessarily the people’s outstanding issues. The communiqué, which was penned after wide civil society grassroots consultations, cited deepening and widening poverty, high unemployment rates of over 90 percent, discouragement of humanitarian aid by some political authorities, slow recovery of the health and education sectors, poor service delivery, political violence and intimidation, discouragement of investment, delays in the making of a new constitution, ineffective national healing programme and continued harassment of human rights defenders as some of the key outstanding issues, among others. It is unfortunate that such positive input is oftentimes regarded as pushing for a Western agenda when civil society should, in actual fact, be regarded as an equal partner in development of the nation and poverty alleviation.
That the Parliamentary Select Committee (COPAC) and the Organ for National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration have set out to do their work towards the writing of a people-driven constitution and national healing respectively is encouraging, however, utterances that we continue to hear from certain politicians fly in the face of those positive strides. Such utterances have seen the continued derailing of what should be key progress in facilitating a transition from our past as reflected by political party hooligans and some overzealous and partisan individuals standing in the way of these reforms.
Reports of disturbances to COPAC’s outreach programmes in Masvingo and Chinhoyi as well as civil society organisations being denied access to violence prone areas for their national healing programmes, prove the potency of these unfortunate utterances by political leadership. The GNU principals must make it their pre-occupation to formulate a positive strategic framework towards positive change in Zimbabwe and to start with, they must avoid opening their mouths too wide and speak the right things.
That President Mugabe was conciliatory when he recently opened Parliament and at the recent Heroes Day commemorations, is a good sign and the same spirit must continue on every forum and be upheld by all the three principals. Speaking at the Heroes Day commemorations, the President highlighted that one of the key deliverables of the GNU, national healing was national and not meant to ferret out supposed criminals for punishment, but calls on all Zimbabweans to avoid the deadly snare of political conflict. This should set the tone for reform and the same message must be taken also to the die-hard and not-so-well-informed hooligans in Zaka.
Some analysts have argued that it is near impossible to achieve any success if the country is not enjoying peace. Speaking at a recent Organ for National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration meeting organised in conjunction with Zimbabwe Christian Alliance in Gweru, Prime Minister Tsvangirai said no country has ever progressed in the absence of peace. It is for this reason that we must heal the past and secure the future to ensure durable peace and economic success.
The Prime Minister, in the spirit of the GNU, said it was for the sake of the people that in spite of the animosity between him and the President, he had to join hands with President Mugabe in the GNU. He revealed that he had earlier in the day met the President and the Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara in a meeting where they agreed on the need to heal Zimbabwe. This was indeed encouraging, but unfortunately, the same spirit is not evident across Zimbabwe. Political temperatures that had somewhat cooled down appear to be on the rise again owing to the constitution-making process where the political parties are rooting for their positions.
On national healing, it seems some sections seem to be of the view that this a witch-hunting exercise. Any efforts by civil society in areas that are in great need of healing have been regarded with great suspicion or thwarted altogether. The principals therefore need to rally their supporters and leadership to speak with one voice. We have all hurt each other in different ways and ignoring that truth is retrogressive.
The principals also need to appreciate the need for working together with all progressive nations. Talk of national interests that amount to nothing in this day and age is not welcome. Given the souring of relations with the West, Zimbabwe developed a Look East Policy which, though I wouldn’t want to judge it, whatever positives it achieved were based on a smooth working relationship. The question which the principals, especially President Mugabe, needs to ask himself is what has come out of our sour relations with the West.
I don’t intend to be an apologist for the West or an advisor to the President, but it is true that many positives came out of our relations with the West especially after we won our independence and the same is true even under the current state of relations. It is only in the best of our interests that the GNU principals stand for the good of all of us. We can still be a sovereign nation enjoying good relations with the world. After all we are a nation blessed with natural resources and can set the terms for all our engagements.
It is only natural for human beings, politicians included, to speak highly of themselves, what they stand for and have achieved either for their own good or that of the people. However, they must as well understand that what you say about yourself is not important, but what the people say about you. In Ndebele they say, umuntu umuntu ngabantu, meaning you are what society thinks of you.
As the GNU slowly outlives its lifespan, the GNU principals must be free to do their politicking, enjoy the titles and power that comes with it, but remember this may be the only chance they have to stand and be counted as honest and people-serving leaders. We all know our history and the wrongs that we have made in the past, but it only takes the wise to build on those wrongs and restore our dignity.
To quote the President’s speech at the Heroes Day commemorations: “Hupenyu hwako kuti hunake kunge uchinatsawo hwevamwe (True happiness is derived from make others happy).” and this must be an open call to the principals to join hands in dealing with whatever has derailed meaningful progress and change courtesy of the GNU.
There is never too late a time to act and for the GNU principals, its either they stand up and be counted as true champions of democracy and positive change or shut up altogether.