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Archive for August, 2010

Lessons from Kenya: The Referendum

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Wednesday, August 25th, 2010 by Bev Clark

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) has just issued the following press statement:

ZESN sent a delegation to Kenya to draw lessons on the constitutional review process and the referendum. Kenya has come a long way on its journey in making a new constitution and finally on the 4th of August 2010, the Kenyans voted for a new constitution. Kenya shares a number of similarities with Zimbabwe, namely that both were British colonies in the past, both have had a Lancaster House Constitutions, and more importantly that both currently have power sharing governments that emanated from the contested elections results. They also experienced post-election violence after their polls. Similar to Zimbabwe as part of the power sharing settlement they had to make a new constitution before elections which are scheduled in 2012 after all the laws had been made.

While the two countries share some similarities, they are unique in a number of ways. Notwithstanding these unique attributes, a number of lessons can be drawn from the Kenyan experience and this statement provides reflections on the lessons we can draw from the Kenyan experience.

* In their efforts to draft a new constitution, the Kenyans did not begin from scratch. They built on the progressive aspects of previous drafts such as the Bomas draft, the Guy draft and the Naivasha drafts, all drafts which had failed to sail through but from which they were able to sift through and get the positive aspects.
* There was a commitment from the onset that Kenyans would do participate in the referendum meaningfully. This was ensured through the provision of civic education by the Committee of Experts and the civic society groups.
* A Committee of Experts was set up to be in charge of the drafting of a new constitution and this committee was responsible for taking submissions from the public in written form. After this process, the committee presented the first draft to the citizens to make comments on. It is interesting to note the stage at which the people participated in the process. Drafts of the constitutions were disseminated in a number of languages and millions of copies were circulated for people to make their submissions.
*  Kenya had a clear road map for the review process and there were timeframes for each activity that were adhered to, hence they were able to keep the timeframe for the drafting of the new constitution and putting it to referendum within the agreed timeframes.
* More importantly, the constitution review process for Kenya was rooted in an act of parliament entitled the Constitution of Kenya Review Act of 2008 which provided benchmarks for the constitution making process and the manner in which it would be done. In addition, Kenya had comprehensive referendum regulations which had been made by the newly sworn in Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC), an Electoral Code of Conduct and an Election Offences Act for political parties enshrined in an Act of Parliament. All these legal provisions provided for a transparent and open process that increased the credibility, openness, transparency and inclusiveness of the review process and the IIEC.
* There was a strong political will to follow the provisions of the legal framework that had been put in place for the review process. ZESN noted that all stakeholders were consulted in all processes; there was constant dialogue and collaboration between the IIEC, civic society, media, and the Committee of Experts. This solid relationship made processes such as accreditation of observers less cumbersome.
* The success of the referendum was a function of number of factors. There was the political will to follow the spirit of the laws that had been enacted specifically for the constitutional review process.
* Violence early warning systems were put in place by civic society organisations to provide early warnings for possible violent hotspots and deter the ensuing of violence. These were published in state and private media.
* The IIEC ensured that over 10000 observers were accredited for the referendum in order to protect the integrity of the vote.
* Agents for the green (groups in support of the constitution) and reds (groups opposed to the draft constitution) were accredited to monitor the processes.
* Campaigns for the constitution and against the constitution were closely monitored for the presence of hate speech and any aspects that violated the Electoral Offences Act.
* Results were announced timeously and in some polling stations counting was done live on television. The process of tabulating results was open and results were announced with 48 hours.
* While there was opposition to the draft constitution especially on issues of abortion and Islamic courts these issues did not take away the fact that the Kenyan constitution was a progressive document   crafted in an inclusive and participatory manner by all stakeholders.

In conclusion, ZESN observed that the constitution review process in Kenya was grounded in a solid legal framework with benchmarks that provided timelines and specifications for the conduct of the process. Processes were not left to chance. In additions, institutions responsible for the review and the conduct of the referendum that is the committee of experts and the IIEC respectively were independent in the carrying out of their mandate and were open to the scrutiny of civil society and all stakeholders.

The Spiral

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Wednesday, August 25th, 2010 by Bev Reeler

Once more we travel the spiral.

Once more, it is the dry season
beige grasses laid to waste on pink soils
dust and gold leaves drifting in gusts of wind

Tree of Life members from the communities and organizations meet at Kufunda to reflect on our journey
It has been a long hard walk
‘where have we been?’
‘where are we going?’

Slender resources  have begun to take their toll
faces in the circle are drawn with the hardships they have endured
they spoke of the difficulties of healing in the continuance of adversity
and of the debilitating effects of lack of funding
and of the first tremors of violence that begin to be felt in their communities as talk of the ‘constitution’ and elections fill the air

and we see  how this paucity allows us to loose our trust
and feel,
once again,
our isolation.

It is the dry season

but the days grow longer
and warmer
and life begins to stir
old familiar patterns….

Small explosions punctuate time
as Masasa pods split
flinging flat round seeds to the winds

The promise of the future forest

In the dry branches, feathers are displayed, nesting material  collected, territories  claimed
and birds of prey sit in the tree tops – waiting

As if touched by magic
the faded bush is lit with crimson flashes of flowering Erythrinas
and Masasas begin pumping underground water into new leaves of red and gold

waiting for the rains

Sitting under the thatch, remembering who we are,
the roots that hold us in this ground
Remembering the moments of inspiration
the magic of what has been done
and been forgiven
and how far we have come
and the faces lightened

Remembering the agreements which hold us together
the connections between us
and the web of people out there in the world who have held us in their hearts

remembering our resources

And at the centre of the circle there is the deep knowing that this is the work we have chosen to do,
the work of nourishing this growing forest
for it is only in healing that we can resist our old fears

Outside the thatched rondavel
the granite rocks echo our laughter
and small insects fill the air with a throbbing hum

life continues

Out there, in the confines of our tiny solar system,
Venus and Mars and Saturn and Mercury
slip past each other at sunset
and move to the other side
of our modest sized star

The rat in the A-frame has discovered a way of levering the fitted lid off the bird seed tin
does he stand on the top and bounce?

everything is everything

Pity the University Students and Graduates

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Tuesday, August 24th, 2010 by Marko Phiri

Everyone knows by now that Zimbabwe’s education has deteriorated to levels that will be tough to reverse without any radical policy changes. Other commentators have however opined that until there is a new political dispensation, we cannot expect any real change for the better, which could in effect rather ominously mean these woes will be with us indefinitely – of course with the post-September 2008 political power games being read as pointers to predict the country’s future. Others have pointed at the diamond windfall as just what the doctor ordered to fix the abject education and health services, but inveterate pessimists who know gemstones in the hands of an African politician are not holding their breath.

There still is unabated brains flight in the country’s once awed institutions of higher learning as academics apply for or are offered staff development programmes outside the country but never return to their varsities. And with good reason, some would say. Meanwhile, students who graduate with what have been mocked as unbaked degrees return as teaching assistants, something that would be frowned upon by serious academics. But then this can be found all over the whole education sector here where unqualified teachers are taking children for their O’ and A’ level classes and straight to university!

As we speak, for the umpteenth time the opening of some varsities has been pushed further and some students are already saying they are imagining the academic year may well begin in December when classes should have begun this month. I know a number of National University of Science and Technology students who have left for South Africa as they say they cannot just sit and wait for the unknown. While they have said they will be coming as soon as they are informed that classes have started, such stories have been heard before with many abandoning their studies altogether after having found jobs during their sojourn. All this despite the fact that once upon a time getting an opportunity to study at university was literally embraced with both hands as it was a guarantee that one was set for life. Now students abandon their studies without any second thoughts, after all they are failing to pay their fees, so why pay the exorbitant fees only to have lecturers absent from their posts? It makes sense then to exchange one’s academic cap for hustling in the mean streets of Johannesburg when a degree ought to provide one with a middle class lifestyle – at least in a normal economy.

Zimbabwean students themselves attending university here are witnessing how standards have gone down and one quipped that while some are quitting their studies and complain that they is no learning going on to give weight and meaning to “degree”, she will stick it out as long as in the end she gets that piece of paper that says she went to university and has “qualifications.” But the circumstances of young people who have university education become heart-rending when other countries we always thought viewed our education with awe become “suspicious” of these university degrees and have second thoughts about employing a Zimbabwean graduate.

A young man told a sad story recently about how his “degree” failed to get him a job in South Africa. You see, he got a degree from one of the “state universities” that were once teacher training institutions, but prospective employers in South Africa told him they did not recognise his institution and therefore his degree. He reports he was told the only Zimbabwean degree these people would accept would be from the University of Zimbabwe, but also with reservations. And their reasons? There is no meaningful education going on in Zimbabwe’s universities! How’s that coming from a bunch of people whose education standards is something people here have always mocked?  Now the young man is back in the country clueless about what to do with his future despite having invested four years of his life studying toward his now useless degree. The superiority of Zimbabwean education is no doubt under scrutiny not just among Zimbabweans themselves, but also in the region if not across the globe and the unfortunate part is that young people who enter university and those who acquire other tertiary qualifications have their sights set on regional and overseas job markets as there are no employment opportunities here to match their “qualifications.” So where does that leave them? Skills development is no doubt every nation’s richest investment that overlaps generations but Zimbabwe’s circumstances raise the spectre of diminished returns, after all students are already virtually teaching each other and graduates being produced out of those “interactions.”  The list of top 500 universities in the world was released recently and some watchers did not even bother to check where ours are placed.

When I write – who can shut me up?

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Tuesday, August 24th, 2010 by Delta Ndou

In Africa, a woman writer is a revolutionary. In writing, the woman writer abdicates the role of being the silent spectator and dares to speak.

In patriarchal Africa, a woman speaking up or speaking at all is a revolutionary, going against the grain, intruding into the space otherwise reserved for her male counterparts – the space to define reality, to critique what is, to celebrate or to denigrate, to demand an audience where one would otherwise be denied.

For every woman who writes, presumes that she has an audience and that in itself – is a radical idea. A woman writer presumes that what she has to say is important, that her view and her voice matters and in writing she claims this space – the space to both speak and to be heard.

So when I write, who is going to shut me up?

The act of writing requires audacity, tenacity and above all, a commitment to one’s work, passion and destination.

To many; writing is an end in itself but to me, writing is a tool, a weapon I wield in a world that does not ordinarily afford women a voice. So of necessity, my writing is mostly protest.

In fact, I believe that my work is more political than it is artistic. It is political in the sense that it challenges the status quo. It is political in the sense that it interrogates social stratification.

It is political in the sense that it examines the power relations that obtain within society – relations that are largely determined by who has resources and who lacks them.

It is political in the sense that it scrutinizes who has choices and who has none, who has options and who has none, who has a voice and who is denied one.

So I write to protest. I write to disagree.

I write to simply state that I think otherwise. I write to flip to the other side of the coin.

In my writing I identify myself as a feminist. I do not make apologies for it. Because feminism as an ideological position reaffirming what I identify with – the pursuit for social justice for women in a world where patriarchy legitimizes the conditions of our subjugation.

Is Someone Thinking of an Energy Plan for Zimbabwe?

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Tuesday, August 24th, 2010 by Catherine Makoni

When I left work at 2pm on Friday I carried some work home with me. You see, l foolishly intended to do some work over the weekend. Foolishly, because like most Zimbabweans, l live with the reality of load shedding. Some have it worse than others. Like most Zimbabweans, the electricity goes when it goes and comes when it comes. According to the ZESA schedule, I was not supposed to have load shedding over the weekend, but at noon on Friday, it was lights out in my neck of the woods. It remained lights out until Saturday at about 3 pm. We had electricity all of 30-40 mins before it was lights out again, throughout the rest of the day and into night. Sunday morning came and went with no electricity. It only came back at about 3pm on Sunday. Needless to say, I could do no work; I was busy fretting about the putrefying veges and leftovers in my fridge.

I have relatives living in peri-urban Gweru. This used to be a thriving farming community before the farmers were “liberated” of their farms. These farmers would deliver tank loads of fresh milk to Dairibord, among other produce. Now of course that doesn’t happen anymore. The merry (in a manner of speaking) band of stragglers who resettled on some of these farms struggle to produce enough maize to feed themselves from one season to the next. Of course, the region is not a good maize growing region. But that’s another story. The story is that for the few remaining dairy farmers, the power outages have really hit them hard. On a typical day, it’s lights out at 5.30 and back in the evening or as late as 10 pm. How is anyone expected to maintain any level of productivity when you don’t have electricity for the main and productive part of the day? Think of the wheat farmers who cannot irrigate their winter wheat crop because there is no power. To think this is a story that is being repeated even as our long comatose manufacturing industry tries to sputter to life. It is being repeated in hundreds of thousands of homes where young people are trying hard to study for their “O” and “A” Level exams. It is being repeated in the hospital wards, labs and theatres where doctors and nurses are failing to give patients proper care. I would imagine the story is the same in the mining industry. As for business, you would be well advised to have your office in the CBD. Go 2 km out of the CBD and you are fair game for power cuts. It seems ZESA is determined to kill off what few businesses remain viable after the last ten years of madness in Zimbabwe.

What I am not hearing in all this talk of power (the political kind) is any talk of an energy plan. The truth of the matter is that the sub region is heading for a power crisis (of the electrical kind!). I hope for all our sakes, someone is alive to this reality or else we are doomed to be a nation of noisy, air polluting generators. City of Harare it would seem, has woken up and smelt the er…sunshine. They have started installing solar traffic lights. So how about streets lights to stop the muggings?

And who says, we should only have one power utility company in Zimbabwe?

Whose heroes?!

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Monday, August 23rd, 2010 by Fungai Machirori

On Zimbabwe’s Heroes’ Day two weeks ago, I had the great embarrassment to be among some South African friends. As the news on SABC – South Africa’s national broadcaster – came on with a report on the event, everyone in the TV room hushed down and turned up the volume. Anyone who was still talking was given a glowering eye which meant, “Shut up!”

And so the report came on. And there he was – our 86-year-old president – telling everyone in the west to go to hell in a speech delivered at the hallowed Heroes’ Acre where all the ‘patriotic’ sons and daughters of the soil are laid to rest. There was even a shot of a few ardent supporters holding up a banner that read, “To hell, hell, hell, hell!”

I cringed.

My South African friends laughed.

And then the sadness came over me.

Zimbabwe is the joke of southern Africa – if not even the world! People everywhere tune up the volume on their televisions and radios to listen to the rantings of a man so uniquely obsessed with Britain and the US that it makes for what I can only describe as verbal masturbation. After all, he did once tell Tony Blair to keep his England while he kept his Zimbabwe!

Now, the reason I am writing about this all is because a good friend of mine, Delta Milayo Ndou, recently posted a quite fascinating commentary on her blog about the role that Zimbabwe’s youth has to play in rebuilding our woeful democracy.

Because, so often, Zimbabwe’s young people are excluded from discourse around reform, we remain clueless and disinterested. We flock to other nations with better infrastructure and opportunities for self-actualisation, thereby leaving our own nation barren and desolate. I remember quite vividly a television jingle – shot around 2003 when the land reform was still in its strength – that showed a group of young people in a twin cab  dancing and singing about their future being “this land of ours, our Zimbabwe”. I was 19 years old then and believe me, no amount of propaganda could have ever made me interested in picking up a hoe and planting anything!

So as Delta questions, how can we ensure that Zimbabwe’s youth indentify with this nation’s future?

Well, since I began with the example of Heroes’ Day, let me continue with it. For as long as I can remember, Heroes’ Day has always been an event about honouring people who died in the liberation struggle; about guts and gore and guns and corpses.

Heroes Day has never been about ordinary people. Instead, it’s almost always been a guilt trip with people being made to feel like they should be eternally grateful because the ‘freedom’ that they now enjoy is founded upon the death of someone who heeded the liberation maxim that stated Tora pfuti uzvitonge (Take a gun and rule yourself).

Now, that was more than 30 years ago. And appreciative we are. But progressive we also are. When a hazy picture of some liberation hero competes with the hazy idea of success for a young person, trust me that the latter will win out.

You can’t keep Zimbabwe’s youth interested through guilt and propaganda that doesn’t speak to any of their aspirations! It will not work.

Why, I ask, is the definition of a hero so narrowly defined anyway? Should one have died for their nation to be defined as such? Should one get the 21 gun salute to simply qualify?

Heroes abound among us – living and dead. My heroes include people like Oliver Mutukudzi who have put Zimbabwe’s music on the global map; Haru Mutasa who has shown other young black female Zimbabwean journalists that they can make it onto the international media platform; sporting legends like Kirsty Coventry, Peter Ndlovu and Benjani Mwaruwaru who have dazzled the world – all the while making us proud to say “Vana vedu ivavo!” (Those are our children!)

Other heroes are entrepreneurs like Strive Masiyiwa, Nigel Chinakire and the late Peter Pamire who have all shown that age should never be a deterrent to being financially successful and prosperous.

But Heroes’ Day doesn’t appreciate that. Its symbolism is too deeply entrenched in war and victory and what ZANU PF has done for Zimbabwe.

It is too much engrossed in the past to resonate with our youth who are flooding out of Zimbabwe’s border posts because of their disenchantment and disillusionment with the way this amazing nation called Zimbabwe is treating them, as well as everyone else.

Thirty years is a very long time to continue to laud past efforts.

And don’t get me wrong – the British and Americans still remember their war heroes too. But they also provide space for emerging leaders in different fields – look at the way living legends get knighted by the Queen of England or how getting a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame is such a prestigious thing for Americans.

Do we have anything similar? Do we have well-recognised national accolades or awards that are instantly recognisable?

Of course not. If your remains aren’t interred into the Heroes’ Acre, you just aren’t really a hero of any kind.

New heroes have been born since 1980. And while we remember the old, let’s also celebrate the current ones.

If we don’t get Zimbabwe’s young people excited about Zimbabwe, then who will rebuild our stumbling nation?

The solution I offer is to do as a popular South African song instructs – make the circle bigger. Only by applauding the good works of heroes that our young people can actually identify with can we ever hope to get them interested in building on the legacies of so many great Zimbabweans.

I am not saying do away completely with the old. Absolutely not! I am just saying we need to increase the options – across all sectors and within all fields.

Zimbabwe urgently needs a redefinition of what a hero is. And for me – and many others – the real heroes of my time aren’t the people who lived and died before I was born. They are the people I see myself in; the people I stencil my future against because of their singular focus on an unsubstantiated dream that could only become real through self-belief and faith in the elements.

I therefore call loudly – and without inhibition – on the establishment to take the time to seriously ponder celebrating Zimbabwe’s new heroes.