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Archive for June, 2009

Constitution Making Process: An Opportunity to Engage

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Wednesday, June 24th, 2009 by Moreblessing Mbire

Momentum in the Constitution Making Process in Zimbabwe is building up. Last week, the Ministry of Women Affairs Gender and Community Development organised a Women’s Consultative Conference which was attended by women from various professional disciplines. The Conference sought to de-mystify the Constitutional Making Process and raise awareness on the steps the process will follow.

I found Honourable D. Mwonzora’s presentation during the Conference very useful to me. It answered a lot of questions I had about the Constitution Making Process. He explained how the process was going to flow right up to the time a referendum is tabled. Of significance is the Select Committee’s (comprises Members of parliament from ZANU PF and the two MDC formations) efforts to ensure a people driven process through Provincial Consultative Meetings through out the country. While the Provincial Consultative Meetings are a noble idea in ensuring that the process is people driven, the general public are not aware of the importance of participation and therefore may not involve themselves. Women are part of this group of people that I fear may be left out in the engagement of stakeholders in different provinces of the country. The Provincial Consultative Meetings are scheduled for 24 – 27 June 2009 and that leaves little time for awareness raising and for women in particular to organise themselves and select their representatives.

One other aspect that may not be clear to many people is the fact that contrary to what has been reported in the media, people of Zimbabwe are going to make a new constitution thus the importance of involving as many Zimbabweans as possible. People are not going to revise a draft that has been worked on by representatives from the political parties. It may be a challenge however, to get people to participate both in rural and urban Zimbabwe as most are worried about bread and butter issues whose effect is directly evident in their lives.

I am particularly interested in women’s participation as this is an opportunity for us to ensure that our social and economic rights are guaranteed in the new Constitution. For us to see change, we need to raise awareness among our female counterparts so that they understand the importance of a constitution and how it affects their lives. This period is indeed an opportunity for Zimbabweans, constitutions unlike leaders are not changed every once in a while.

PM Tsvangirai’ Shock Reception at London’s Southwark Cathedral

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Wednesday, June 24th, 2009 by Dewa Mavhinga

Nothing could have prepared me, or, indeed I believe, Prime Minister Tsvangirai and his entourage, for the shock reception and outright rejection of his message to Zimbabwean exiles living in the United Kingdom. Like the more than 1 000 Zimbabweans who turned up at the Anglican cathedral to listen to the Prime Minister, by 11am l was already at London Bridge, frantically asking for directions to the famous cathedral, not wanting to miss the opportunity to hear Morgan speak. I saw and greeted numerous familiar faces from home, and eagerly joined a group of women who spontaneously broke into song and transformed the meeting into a rally of sorts. Although invitations to the meetings had indicated that the meeting would start promptly at 12, when the clock struck 1 with evidence that Morgan had arrived, no-one complained.

When the Prime Minister arrived people packed in the cathedral jostled to catch a glimpse of Morgan and his team, and to snap away a photo or two on their mobile phones. The Prime Minister was scheduled to address the people and then have a question – and – answer session, all in time for meeting to end at 3pm. However, just ten minutes into his prepared speech, the Prime Minister was forced to abandone his speech and the pulpit due to jeering and booing from the crowd. The shock treatment of he received was triggered by his bold declaration that the unity government had brought “peace and stability” to Zimbabwe in the last four months. He went on to say, “let me state it here boldly that Zimbabweans must come home!”

His call on Zimbabwean exiles to come home was greeted by an uproar and spontaneous chants of “Mugabe Must Go!” To his credit, the Prime Minister attempted some damage control and said, “I did not say pack your bags and come home tomorrow, but I said you must begin to think about coming home.” But the damage had already been done. He further tried to portray the unity government as a success stating matter-of-factly that schools are open, hospitals have re-opened and, again, my favourite, inflation has come down from 500 billion percent to just 3 percent. In the brief question and answer session that, was also aborted, one woman asked the Prime Minister where ordinary people are getting the foreign currency to buy goods that are supposedly now in abundance in Zimbabwe. If the meeting had not degenerated into utter chaos forcing the PM and his team to leave prematurely, I would have wanted to pose this question to the PM: ” What is happening to MDC Director-General Toendepi Shonhe – who is languishing in remand prison?”

After the shock events, together with fellow Zimbabweans in the diaspora we immediately subjected the meeting to a post mortem to try and establish why events at Southwark cathedral had been so unfortunate. A colleague blamed the PM Tsvangirai’s advisors and speech writers – ” Morgan was not properly briefed,” he reasoned.” “His team should have warned him that people are unhappy with the unity government and they do not believe that MDC is an equal partner.” Another friend ventured, “Well, what do you expect for refugees, asylum seekers and failed asylum seekers who do not wish to return to Zimbabwe? They do not want to hear anyone telling them to go home.”

For me, a more compelling explanation is one that points to a disconnect between messages by the MDC leadership and reality on the ground. It would appear to me that, if the message delivered by the PM in London is taken to reflect the thinking of the MDC leadership, then they are at serious risk of being completely out of touch with general membership and ordinary people. Perhaps to perfectly illustrate my point that the PM’s message is at odds with ordinary members in the party and views of the general public, the MDC has just published resolutions of an extra-ordinary national executive meeting of 23 June where they recommend that “the continued arrests, detentions and human rights violations be referred to the guarantors (SADC and AU)”.

It may well be true that a power-sharing government is the only game in town which should be supported. However, it does no-one any good to sweep critical issues under the carpet just to present a glossy and bright image of an otherwise white-washed tomb. The MDC may be exactly where ZANU-PF want them, doing public relations for ZANU-PF and in the process alienating traditional allies in civil society and slowly but surely chipping away at their membership base. Meanwhile, dubious convictions of MDC MPs are on the rise and the media remains muzzled.

If MDC dismisses the significance of events at Southwark cathedral believing that, after all, these people do not vote, and that the real masses are back home, then may recall the perfect shed well after the storm. There is no need to embellish and paint a rosy picture of a new Zimbabwe evidence is there for all to see that ZANU-PF is still up to its shenanigans.

You add, we multiply

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Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009 by Bev Clark

Hello Zimbabwe!

Soon Kubatana will be launching an audio magazine available over mobile phones and landlines. You add – we multiply! We’d like you to join the conversation and get talking and share your views on various topics. When we launch our audio magazine we’d like to launch it with You . . . members of our very broad and diverse network. So, how about leaving us your opinion on one of the following issues:

Africans are the most subservient people on earth when faced with force, intimidation, power.
Africa, all said and done, is a place where we grovel before leaders.
- Kenyan corruption buster, John Githongo

Facebook / Sexbook
Some people use Facebook to meet sexual partners. In the age of HIV, is this a smart or reckless way of using the Internet?

National healing begins, the newspaper headlines read. But politically motivated arrests and assaults are still happening. What should Zimbabwe’s reconciliation process look like – and are we ready for it?

Be heard: get your digits dialing . . . call +263 913 444 321-4 and give us your point of view. If you leave us a compelling message we might share it with the rest of Zimbabwe so please tell us your name and where you’re from.

The lines close at 4pm Friday 26th June.

Not much has changed

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Monday, June 22nd, 2009 by Bev Clark

Morgan Tsvangirai was heckled off the stage at an address in the UK recently. Many people are saying thats a good thing. Slowly but surely criticism has been building about MT’s glib comments on land invasions as well as his rather too chummy embracing of the man who ruined Zimbabwe: Mugabe that is, in case anyone had any doubt.

Of course I can see why MT is urging Zimbabweans to come home and rebuild the country. We are sorely bereft of new energy and creative ideas, those of us left here have in our many and varied ways, taken a battering. Which is not to say that life in the Diaspora is a bowl of cherries with Zimbabweans working sometimes 3 jobs to keep themselves and their relatives back home afloat on remittances – also known as the Diasporan Pension Scheme.

But asking Zimbabweans to come back home is rather premature in my book. MT might be flush with optimism in his small house position as PM but in reality whilst the supermarkets might be full, the prices are high and the majority of Zimbabweans are unemployed. Schools might be open but they’re teetering on the verge of closure. The media environment is backward and repressive. The list is pretty much endless but MT seems to be ignoring the fact that on the ground, where his feet clearly are not planted, not much has changed.

But at Kubatana we get a variety of opinion of all shades and spirit and I quite liked how passionate Arkmore wrote about MT’s recent booing in the UK. He emailed us a piece entitled Backward Diasporans . . . here’s Arkmore

I was part of the group that attended Prime Ministers address at Southwark Cathedral, London, on 20 June 2009. The Diasporas were not impressive. They are still politically backward.

They viewed the Prime Minister as an opposition leader, and therefore expected him to deliver an opposition speech, which he didn’t. In fact, an MDC rally than a Prime Ministers address was envisioned. He was expected to lambast President Mugabe; denounce state institutions such as the police and the absence of the so called rule of law. In particular, they expected him to say: ‘stay here in the UK; things are still bad in Zimbabwe’. The Prime Minister said none of the above.

On the contrary, he nicely persuaded Diasporas to go home and help in rebuilding Zimbabwe.  Most do not want to hear this. They tend to scratch for negatives and ‘but’ to justify their stay. When the Prime Minister told them basic commodities are now available and schools are now open, they said: ‘but’ they are not affordable.  When he said the security situation in now almost conducive for reconstruction, they said: ‘but’ Dr Mushonga was beaten!

Violence should not be condoned, but whenever there is a transition, there are always unruly elements that oppose it. Zimbabwe, like any other country, is diverse and cannot be expected to be as peaceful as heaven. Recently, there were attacks on Romanians in Northern Ireland, but I don’t think a native Irish could claim asylum in any country because there is ‘no rule of law’ in Northern Ireland. There are situations that can be ‘part of life’ for some time, but would be swallowed by the evolutionary processes. The inconvenient truth is that sporadic waves of violence in Zimbabwe are no longer powerful enough to justify our staying in Diaspora!

Of course, some Diasporas are no longer interested in going back to Zimbabwe. Their stay – visa and asylum applications – is based on ‘violence’ in Zimbabwe. There are also psychological and social challenges.   The Diaspora wave of early 2000, forced many to sell their assets – houses, household goods and vehicles – to obtain capital for new life in the UK.  Expectations were high: well paying jobs enabling asset rebuilding back home, or even double the initial.

This has not been the case. Jobs are not easy to find here. Besides, UK is a capitalist country and what a worker gets is just slightly above subsistence.  How then do we expect someone who sold everything that he or she owned in Zimbabwe to go back empty handed? It’s just embarrassing! Even if they agree to go back, there is no life starting formula.

As the Prime Minister rightly puts it, a revolution did not take off, and the only way out of Zimbabwean crisis is through an evolutionary process, namely the GNU. This may not be easily acceptable to Diasporas mainly because they have participated in and probably read about the Zimbabwean struggle, but many did not and are not feeling and experiencing it.  It has been, and is still, a painful process, with loss of limbs and lives, which challenges us to utilise this rare opportunity.

The hoodwinked

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Monday, June 22nd, 2009 by Mgcini Nyoni

A party meeting in informal settings. A club of some sorts. The party comrades are drinking whisky, except the party president, who is drinking fruit juice.

WALTER: It was humiliating comrades. I had to sit outside whilst that boy Tsvangson held meetings with all those western diplomats. Damn the imperialists. Who do they think they are?

BOB: Look at the big picture comrade: Isn’t Tsvangson busy telling the British that I am indispensible and irreplaceable. A few months ago he was telling the whole world that the country could only be revived if I vacated office. That boy is so spineless it is hilarious.

PATRICK: But shefu, they are still campaigning for the removal of Gideon from office that could seriously harm our financial standing. Those people campaigning for the removal of Gono don’t realize that whatever he did was under our instruction and calling for his removal is tantamount to calling for our own removal…

BOB: They would love to see us go comrade, they would very much love that. But with Tsvangson doing all the PR work and rigorous fundraising. We are very much safe in our positions. I wonder what the boy will say come elections time: MUGABE MUST GO.

JOSEPH: At in the meantime, we don’t have to pretend we give a damn about the land. We might not even have to cry crocodile tears over mass graves in Chimoi.

They all laugh long and hard.

To be continued . . .

ZANU-PF Communiqué on Constitution-making Vindicates Madhuku

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Monday, June 22nd, 2009 by Dewa Mavhinga

Despite indications to the contrary by MDC in government, on the 17th of June 2009 ZANU – PF politburo in Harare issued a communiqué endorsing the so-called Kariba Draft Constitution as the basis of consultations on the new constitution-making process.  The position taken by ZANU-PF is the clearest indication yet, that the former ruling party has no intention of embracing a genuine people-driven process and that it already has set positions on what it wants to see in a new constitution, that is, views expressed in the Kariba Draft, a document crafted by a few male lawyers on a luxury cruise boat on lake Kariba.

ZANU-PF has shown its true colours, and, in so doing, has vindicated Dr Lovemore Madhuku – Chairperson of the NCA – who repeatedly warned that government cannot and must not be trusted with constitution-making. Currently Zimbabwe’s executive wields too much power to all for a genuinely people-driven and democratic process to take place; much of the power, de facto, is vested in the office of the president of Zimbabwe – Robert Mugabe. As a matter of fact, one of the catalysts and driving factors for the initial call for constitutional reform was the need to strip the executive of the monstrous powers it currently enjoys.

Sadly, many did not heed Madhuku’s call, perhaps because the MDC had endorsed a parliament-led constitution-making process and had assured the nation (through constitutional affairs minister Eric Matinenga) that the parliamentary process would be genuinely as inclusive as possible and would not use the Kariba draft as a basis for consultations. I understand even donors abandoned the NCA and shifted their support to the government process. Now, even before the process gets underway, ZANU-PF, first, seeks to postpone consultations, and now, decides as politburo, that a particular draft must be used as a basis for all consultations. I wonder what MDC’s response to this will be.

But clearly, these developments underline the need to approach this new government with great caution and not to rush to abandon civil society initiatives simply because MDC is now “in government.” Rather, the international community should continue to support and strengthen civil society, especially local organizations like the NCA, so that they continue to keep government in check and to be the conscience of society. With the MDC in government Zimbabwe desperately needs stronger and not weaker civil society organizations.

ZANU-PF and MDC should not proceed with consultations on the new constitution without taking all major stakeholders on board. If government pushes ahead with its version of consultations based on a Kariba draft that is widely rejected as illegitimate there is a real risk that we will end up with the same result constitutional referendum result of February 2000; an outright rejection of government arrogance by the people and a resounding no vote to rubberstamping undemocratic government initiatives.  We should learn from the past so that we do not have to wait for constitutional referendum results to get the message which is already loud and clear.

With some in the MDC (collectively) desperately defending and sanitizing disastrous ZANU-PF policies and practices, the need for an independent voice linked to ordinary people on the ground becomes even more urgent. What with utterances like ones made by Arthur Mutambara to ZBC in response to a fair and balanced assessment of the human rights situation in Zimbabwe by Amnesty (that the human rights situation remains precarious and reforms progress has been woefully slow) that “Amnesty International is hallucinating! And has no moral authority. ”

Well, need we closely examine Mutambara’s own moral authority to speak for the people of Zimbabwe as their Deputy Prime Minister? Need we recall how he lost a parliamentary seat to a little known MDC activist in the dormitory town of Chitungwiza? Is it hallucination to observe that WOZA women are being beaten and brutalized by police? Is it hallucination to note that MDC Director-General, Toendepi Shonhe is languishing at remand prison on trumped up and ludicrous perjury charges? Is it hallucination when four journalists are denied their fundamental right to cover a COMESA summit in open defiance to a directive by the Prime Minister and a valid High Court order?

Evidence is there for anyone to see that all is not well in the new power-sharing government. Why should anyone pretend otherwise? All these leaders want to hear is that Zimbabwe’s inflation came down from 500 billion percent to 1 percent in a day, a pyrrhic victory if you ask me, because it means little to mothers in Budiriro who no access to US$ government international trips travel and subsistence allowances. Suddenly, literally in the twinkling of an eye, the truth and call for justice, which for long defined MDC’s struggle, has become quite inconvenient. Demands to end impunity are inopportune, they should be swept under the carpet lest they upset His Excellency and scuttle the deal, which we are constantly reminded is the only game in town. We are being short-changed by our leaders, we deserve better.

The mistake that we Zimbabweans risk making is to assume that, since the language of democracy, human rights and good governance was on the lips of our leaders yesterday, then those values remain forever embedded in their hearts, making it virtually impossible for leaders with the surname Democratic Change, to be undemocratic. Nothing can be further from the truth. Words are cheap; deployed to win support when it is convenient, but soon abandoned and forgotten. That, I am told, is the game of politics.  On that note I end by quoting from a speech made by Robert Mugabe to the people of Zimbabwe on 17 April, 1980, on the eve of our independence “As we become a new people we are called to be constructive, progressive and forever forward looking, for we cannot afford to be men of yesterday, backward- looking, retrogressive and destructive…Our new mind must have a new vision and our new hearts new love that spurns hate, and a new spirit that must unite and not divide.” I rest my case.