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A people driven civil society is what Zimbabwe needs

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Elections in Zimbabwe came and left so many unanswered questions diffusing victory celebrations for those who won. Every political party engages in elections to win and sometimes the result is not always a favorable one especially when the playing field is biased. Whilst losers lick their wounds and go on soul-searching missions, victors embark on a difficult task of fulfilling election promises. The benefits of winning an election are you doing what you want in your own time even when it harms the nation.

International observers endorsed the recently held election and this has raised questions as to whether the Zimbabwe problem had become a burden for far too long for the regional bodies. At the same civil society in Zimbabwe failed to expose the irregularities in a compelling way to the international community. The blame cannot rest on the shoulders of the civics alone; key political players in the inclusive government had a critical role to play in ensuring, for example, a clean voters roll and the fulfillment of a variety of reforms before engaging in elections. The “participate and protest later” strategy adopted by opposition political parties saw ZANU-PF reigning supreme.

The outcome of the just ended election provides an opportunity to reflect on the role of civil society in Zimbabwe. As calls and accusations of election rigging quickly die a natural death, the new political dispensation offers a great opportunity for success to those who failed in the last election as compared to those won. Of late civil society organizations have been accused of being political appendages to certain political parties. Civil society in Zimbabwe is being criticized for failing to push for a peoples’ agenda. Principles and benchmarks were abandoned during the run up to the July 2013 Harmonized election as some members of civil society became aligned to certain political parties.

At a lively debate dubbed “July 31 Election Outcome: Challenges and prospects for democratization in Zimbabwe” hosted by the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute in Harare panelists from civil society reflected on the just ended election and strategies of moving on as a genuinely people driven movement. Instead of spending time antagonizing over the outcome of the elections civil society was urged to utilize the new space created to regroup, organize and engage the new government in order to reclaim its rightful place in the Zimbabwean political landscape.

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