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Democratic pursuit of regime change a human right

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Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009 by Dewa Mavhinga

I cannot help but notice, in great wonder and sometimes exasperation, how some politicians, who are now well past their sell by dates, now spit out the phrase ‘regime change agenda’ with all the  innuendos and insinuations that it is either treacherous or outright treasonous for a Zimbabwean to even think of regime change.

Recently, when confronted with a quite innocuous question from a journalist, the Head of State and Government, and Commander in Chief of the Defence Forces, His Excellency, cde Robert Gabriel Mugabe angrily cut him off, “now you are asking a regime change agenda,” he snapped.

The basic idea underpinning the concept of democracy is that ordinary Zimbabwean citizens have a fundamental right and should be entitled to freely decide who should govern them. In other words, the right to change a regime if they so wish. The process of translating that choice to reality is accomplished by way of voting, which is often done periodically, to enable ordinary people to make a clear statement about their leaders.

Another tenet of democracy, consistent with the first above, is that potential leaders must be able to, through various – peaceful means, present themselves, and their ideas through manifestos to the people – marketing themselves as the best leaders to govern and make policy decisions for the country. In this noble battle of ideas, whoever has the better idea should, ordinarily, following a vote to confirm them, be the new leaders of a new regime taking the country in a new, and hopefully better direction. The primary purpose of an election is to change or renew leadership. Even in situations where the incumbent is retained, the process of an election would have offered the public an opportunity to reaffirm his leadership.

This vital process, which I will, with Fungai Machirori’s recent, brilliant blog in mind, refer to as the nation’s shedding off of its old skin of failed policies and broken promises to reveal a new skin of hope and expectation, has been suppressed in Zimbabwe for the past 3 decades. Leaders are in denial – attempting to do the impossible – to defy nature. They vainly attempt to banish all evidence of the passage of time, tucking away strands of white hair and sagging skin, tragically locking the nation in a time warp. Imagine the snake clinging to its old skin, refusing to shed it off and make way for newness, for rebirth and revival?

For these leaders, elections are but a mere formality, their objective must never be to deliver regime change, but to endorse the status quo. Since elections are not really meant to deliver regime change, then it follows that it is not necessary to ensure free space for the contestation of ideas and free space for leaders of different political formations to market their vision for the country. The very concept of democracy would become, as a colleague is fond of saying, anathema to defenders of the indefensible status quo.

To ensure that the ideals of genuine democracy are defeated various instruments are deployed by incumbent regime. When the risk of losing power is deemed low, then the regime would simply fiddle with figures, rig here and there and ensure and outcome that restores prevailing balance of power. For good measure associates of the regime are deployed to oversee the counting of votes. For this reason, in African politics the counting of votes is much more important than the actual voting itself.

The bottom line for all these shenanigans being that power must be retained at any cost. While alternative democratic voices are denied space in national media to articulate their views, the incumbent regime is granted full coverage to propagate its ideas, which, often enough, it does not do but devotes its attention squarely to denigrate, demonise and abuse those advancing alternative views.

Where the risk of losing power is deemed greater, then there is no hesitation to deploy the threat of violence and violence in an attempt to alter the workings of democracy in the incumbent regime’s favour. On June 27, 2008, the day of the ill-fated one-man presidential runoff election, I offered a lift to a ‘war veteran’ who gave me an insight into this thinking. Quite unbidden, he commented on the election process,

“Holding elections is utter madness, how can people think that, by merely putting an ‘x’ on a piece of paper they can remove a president from power? How can a pen and paper have such an effect? We (presumably talking on behalf of so-called ‘war veterans’) will not allow people, just with the index finger (the one dipped in indelible ink as an indication that one has voted), to effect regime change. If that happens we will take our guns and go back to the bush.”

I believe the ‘war veteran’ gave and accurate diagnosis of the disease plaguing Zimbabwe – that the incumbent regime does not respect the concept of democracy and its corollary of regime change. After realising that indeed the wish of the people, as reflected in the March 29, 2008 elections, was for the country to renew its leadership and try fresh ideas, patrons and benefactors of the old regime quickly moved stop any peaceful transfer of power. Instruments of coercion were quickly activated to crush any dissent and ensure that the status quo is maintained at all costs.

The present arrangement, which primarily retained the status quo, albeit with a modicum of space at the high table for the true victors in the elections, derives its authority, not from tenets of democracy, but from undemocratic negotiations that the main political parties entered into in order to deal with a crisis triggered by a refusal to peaceful transfer power in accordance with democratic principles.

Although this arrangement dealt a severe blow to the development of our embryonic democracy, it by no means crushed the ideals of this enduring ideology. Even within ZANU-PF the institution, there is now a realisation that chickens of authoritarianism are now coming home to roost. Media reports indicate that elections in both ZANU-PF’s youth and women’s leagues were characterised by chaos and violence. Quite ironically, reports indicate that Mugabe pleaded with the youth league to respect election results and appealed to losers to magnanimously accept defeat in polls!

The creature called power-sharing government is only transitional; it can never replace the concept of true democracy and the right of every Zimbabwean to fully participate in the election of leaders of their choice. This fundamental right to regime change is recognised in article 13 of the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights and in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights whose article 21 provides that Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives, and more importantly, further that, the will of the people (as expressed in periodic, genuine elections) shall be the basis of the authority of government.

Relentless propaganda against regime change seeks to create the false impression that it is wrong to seek regime change, or to seek leadership renewal. It is not. It is a natural process that cannot be stalled indefinitely. It is a reality that, though it is temporarily denied, will surely come to pass.

Despite the hype about the liberation struggle and all, ZANU-PF came to power through the ballot box. In 1980 people were free to make a democratic choice. Likewise, Zimbabweans today should have the freedom to choose whosoever they wish as their leader. The right to regime change is a fundamental right that must be respected and be cherished by all.

Temporary setbacks and spanners being thrown in the works by elements resisting change cannot be reason enough to lose faith in the enduring power of the idea of democracy. Rather, it these challenges should spur activists on and strengthen their resolve to ensure that they exercise their right to vote, defend their vote, and ensure that the vote is counted and counts.

Remembering September 11, 2001

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Saturday, September 19th, 2009 by Dewa Mavhinga

The horrific terrorist attacks of the World Trade Center in the United States on September 11, 2001, shocked and enraged the world’s conscience. Events of that day are permanently etched in the memory of mankind. I, too remember how the world stood still as the news slowly filtered to the four corners of the world. I remember that the Daily News, (it had not yet been banned then) even ran a second, special edition of the paper detailing the 9/11 attacks. I also, with tears and much pain, remember another cowardly and dastardly act that was committed on the same day several thousands of miles away, in Zimbabwe’s small town of Chivhu, at little known Mboe primary school. Mboe primary school is in Chikomba district, which, on September 22 and 23 was scheduled to hold a parliamentary by-election to fill-in the seat left vacant following the death of ZANU-PF MP, war veterans leader, Chenjerai ‘Hitler’ Hunzvi.  On Monday, September 10, Mboe Primary School Headmaster, Felix Mazava, 47, returned from holiday at the nearby town of Marondera to prepare for the new school term. A truly committed teacher serving his country, Mr Mazava had elected to work at the remote primary school in the middle of nowhere, a choice only the dedicated, qualified teachers make.

At the end of the day, as Mr Mazava was closing his makeshift ‘office,’ his son came running to tell him that there were 7 men in two white pick-up trucks who wanted to talk to him. It was getting dark. Fear was written all over his son’s face. Campaigners for the ZANU-PF candidate, a one Makokove, in the by-elections had on several occasions threatened to deal with Mr Mazava for trying ‘to be too clever’ by bringing MDC influence into the small-scale farming community which was wrongly presumed to support ZANU-PF. Mr Mazava thought that he could amicably talk things over with the ‘visitors.’ He went to the road to meet the visitors who promptly set upon him, fists and boots flying, before bundling him into one of the trucks and driving off at high speed.

His son, who had witnessed the abduction, immediately set off running in the opposite direction, never stopping for the entire 13km -distance to his grandfather, Mavheneka Matsongoni Mazava, to raise alarm and seek help. Meanwhile, Mr Mazava’s abductors drove with him for some 20km to Masasa communal area, where they stopped and started interrogating him about his alleged support for MDC. They bludgeoned him, stabbed him and kicked him for several hours.

Mr Mazava cried out and appealed to the thugs to spare his life. The thugs did not relent. He cried out to people sleeping in their huts to come out and rescue him. No-one dared come out. None came to his rescue. For supporting MDC he was kicked and stabbed repeatedly. During the vicious and frenzied attack his arms were broken in several places, his ribs too. Finally he died just as dawn was breaking on Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001.

His attackers, after killing him, searched and stole all valuables from him, including school fees he was due to pay for his daughter at a mission school in the district, put a ZANU-PF card on his forehead and dumped his body in Masasa. Later that Tuesday morning, his father, following tip offs from Masasa villagers, recovered his body and took it for burial.  He died and left behind a wife and four children, the eldest daughter, then barely 18, was in her first year at university. Suddenly and violently, their world had been thrown upside down, they were in turmoil.

Today, as I remember Felix Mazava, I wonder why died. For what cause did he have to meet such a cruel and violent death? What justice is there for him? What justice for his widow and young children? Soon after Mazava’s killing, police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena said ‘police will investigate.’ Today, 8 years later, nothing has come of that investigation. Today, 8 years later, scores more have met a fate similar to that of Mazava, with no justice.

Where is Zimbabwe’s conscience? What kind of society is it that we live in, where people, young people even, to advance a political cause, can shed blood without batting an eyelid? Where people live in the shadow of fear? Where people are forever whispering and looking over their shoulders? Where there is no freedom whatsoever?

As I remember the needles and cruel death that Felix Mazava suffered, and which many more continue to suffer, I am convinced that a political party that either explicitly or implicitly condones use of violence as a means of propagating its message is not worth supporting. It is the sacred duty of every citizen not only to not support such a political party, but to actively campaign against the use of violence of any form as an aid to propagating ideas or to winning votes.

There is a political party in Zimbabwe whose legacy, the way I see it, has made human life cheap. Human life has lost its sanctity and its inviolability. For a mere vote, life is dispensed of. For daring to speak your mind, life is snuffed out of you. For daring to defend your property from marauding, jobless and homeless invaders, you risk paying the ultimate price. It is as if, in the eyes of the powers that be, Zimbabwean life has been hit by inflation and has lost almost all of its value. As if to confirm this strange scenario, life expectancy in Zimbabwe is officially the lowest in the world.

Some people seem to have forgotten that simple truth that, no matter how glorious it may appear to be, there is no political or other opinion worth shedding blood for. There is none. This is not the stone-age. Regardless of whatever claim to whatever legacy, there is no party or person worth killing for. I believe we should strive to create a society an idea alone, persuades people, where the strength of a political party directly corresponds to the strength of the ideas it puts to the people, and is not based on the size of its militia or its ability to control and unleash instruments of violence and repression. Life is precious; it must be regarded as such.

Unless more and more people openly and absolutely reject violence and embrace freedom, Zimbabwe will remain shackled to the past, unable to face the future with confidence and hope. One can declare that Zimbabwe will never, never, never, become a colony again, But already, the majority of Zimbabweans are colonised by a crippling fear of a minority that itself is colonised by a wounded and tortured psyche that believes in violence and coercion as legitimate pieces of the political chessboard. To echo the words of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), Zimbabwe, ‘choose love.’

In memory of Felix Mazava and thousands of other people robbed of their lives for the cause of freedom, I make this rallying cry to all democracy-loving, love-loving and peace-loving Zimbabweans to get up and make a stand. I believe that was Felix’s dream. May the soul of this gallant son of the soil and this unsung hero in the battle for democracy and freedom, rest in eternal peace. And may his death not be in vain.

Zimbabweans Need a Radical Transformation of the Mind

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Thursday, September 3rd, 2009 by Dewa Mavhinga

It has often been said that the greatest battles are fought in the mind. This is certainly true in the case of Zimbabwe, particularly in our tortured struggle for democracy, good governance and human rights. If the struggle is approached with a mind already defeated and not open to possibilities, as is often the case, then there is small wonder how a very small group of predominantly old and frail men can subjugate millions of people for decades without as much as a whimper from the long-suffering masses.

Much like a bird caged and kept in captivity for most of its life, even when the cage is removed, the bird refuses to fly away, because, in its mind, the cage remains, making the physical absence of a cage irrelevant.

The Zimbabwean education system further compounds the crisis of a defeated mindset by lacking the ability to produce people who are critical and analytical, but perfect academics who regurgitate what they are fed by the teacher who is supposed to know all, but remain blinkered to the world around them. I will explain, lest one take offence at what, at first, may seem a reckless statement.

Our education system and socialisation has broken our collective spine, and prepared us to be meek subjects who shall obey authority without question and not empowered citizens with rights and ability to challenge authority. The MDC in government should seriously consider putting forward a proposal to inject civic education and critical thinking into our educations system from primary school level.

Back in the days as a student activist at the University of Zimbabwe I was often exposed to this attitude that to question authority is sheer madness, foolishness or utter stupidity. Whenever I pointed out the shortcomings of the then ZANU-PF government, often I would be dismissed with the following words: Ndivo vafana veku univhesiti vanoitira weti mumafiriji, havatendi hurumende inovapinza chikoro, musavatevedzere (These are the university boys who urinate in fridges, they are an ungrateful lot, do not listen to them) – this was in apparent reference to a students demonstration at the university of Zimbabwe where some students had, according to the State run Herald newspaper, overturned fridges at the institution and urinated in them in protest against poor catering services there.

To be fairly critical of authority’s misdeeds is to label oneself a pariah. Everyone must conform to the norm. Do not put your head above the parapet, or it will be chopped off, or so the advice goes. To many in Zimbabwe, decency is about being careful not to rock the boat, not to ruffle feathers, but to avoid any confrontation and get through life quietly, meekly.

The late iconic Zimbabwean singer Leornard Dembo, perfectly captured this mindset in one of his songs entitled Manager, where he admonishes those who confront the manager at work because they forget they have families to feed. A relative of mine also reflected this mindset during my days at the university when she advised me thus: “Don’t you forget your background. Your parents struggled in abject poverty to send you to school, and you have seven siblings – don’t you start trouble at university. The moment other students start demonstrating, take the first bus out of campus and come home and lie low until it’s over.” It is advice I gladly ignored, but which, I am sure, was not uncommon.

This mindset focuses on short term gains of being safe in the crowd but, sadly, compromises on the bigger picture. It normalises the abnormal and celebrates fear and mediocrity. The few people who keep trashing our rights can do so with impunity because the majority have accepted as normal that which is obscene. Joseph Chinotimba can boast, with all the audacity, that he “farms people” and no-one bats an eyelid. Muchadeyi Masunda, Harare Mayor on a Movement of Democratic Change ticket can use government resources, in such difficult times, to buy himself a US$152 000 luxury vehicle – and that is normal! To make matters worse, there are people within the purportedly progressive democracy movement who will be upset when the issue is raised. Why? Because leaders should not be questioned, they are always right! Or some such load of rubbish.

But what I find most astounding about this mindset that has crippled Zimbabwe’s democracy and human rights movement is the quite illogical expectation that someone must fight on their behalf to bring about change. In beer halls, in churches, in schools, at work, Zimbabweans analyse, they know exactly what is wrong with governance, they are fully aware of the root causes of our multilayered crisis. But that is as far as it goes. A learned colleague has found a term for this phenomenon: paralysis of analysis. They do not want to take action themselves, at an individual level. But moan that not enough is being done to liberate Zimbabwe! Of what use is your thorough and superior understanding of the crisis if you are not prepared to act on it?

Sometimes I come to the conclusion that we get the leaders and type of governance we deserve. Do we honestly believe that ZANU-PF, so comfortable in the seat of power, will voluntarily give up power? Or that democracy and fundamental rights will be presented to us on a silver platter? To entertain such hopes is to dream in broad daylight. We must say, “Enough is Enough,” and then, at an individual level, commit to playing each his or her part to liberate the country. I will borrow this statement from the English and say, “Zimbabwe expects each man to do his duty.” Be the change that you want to see in Zimbabwe. The mantra should be, “None but ourselves!” If not yourself, then who should act on your behalf while you remain in your comfort zone?

For democracy, good governance and a culture of respect for human rights to thrive it does not just happen. There must be a critical mass of people prepared to advance and defend these ideals at all costs. The collective mindset must accept that it is right, a sacred duty even, for one to defend principles and ideals of democracy and to openly declare that position without having to look over the shoulder. The collective mindset should focus on the greater goal of justice and freedom for all ahead of short-term personal security which, in any case, cannot be guaranteed even if one thinks that the safest way out is to collaborate with the oppressor.

Unless there is a radical transformation of the mind, individually and collectively, which leads to action from within Zimbabwe, then victory for democracy and human rights will be postponed indefinitely. Even if new leaders or new political formations come on board, without a change of mindset, which catapults us from meek subjects to bold citizens with rights and who know and stand up for their rights, the result will be the same. That is, a few people in power will continue to trample on the dreams   and rights of the majority and get away with it.

Already Muchadeyi Masunda, the rogue Harare Mayor, has shown that his MDC jacket does not stop him from taking people for granted, but, is it not with the implicit consent of Harare residents?

As you reflect on our individual role and contribution, to either aiding or resolving the crisis in Zimbabwe, ask yourself: Am I a subject or a citizen? What action will I take as my personal contribution to the development of a new Zimbabwe?

Greed Driving Zimbabwe Crisis

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Friday, August 7th, 2009 by Dewa Mavhinga

I had not realised the true extent, and impact of the Zimbabwe crisis on ordinary Zimbabweans until last weekend I embarked on a four and half hour drive from Johannesburg to Kabokweni, a tiny, far-flung township situated in a valley near Nelspruit, in South Africa’s Mpumalanga province.

I was visiting my two brothers, a cousin, a nephew and an uncle who now, due to circumstances back home, are trying to eke out a living there. To my utter amazement I soon discovered there are literally hundreds of Zimbabweans there, perhaps without a thought of returning home soon. Commenting on how he has been forced to put away his degree certificates and resort to doing odd, often degrading jobs just to survive, all that my uncle said to me was, “Look what Mugabe has done to us!” I felt a deep sadness in the depths of my soul and began to agonise over the root causes on the crisis in Zimbabwe.

This morning, while taking a shower, that is usually my time of greatest inspiration, it suddenly occurred to me that the primary driver of the crisis in Zimbabwe and the consequent misery and suffering of the people is greed on the part of those in authority. For the avoidance of doubt, authority in Zimbabwe resides in ZANU-PF and its allies the so called war veterans, green bombers, and security forces.

Greed has so consumed those in authority so much that they have ceased to care about anything except their excessive desire to accumulate massive wealth which they neither deserve nor need. Political power, for them, is the vehicle through which they can satisfy their greed, and therefore, they would be prepared to shed blood to acquire and retain that political power. In their twisted sense of logic, they are therefore justified in unleashing waves of electoral violence and coerce people to ‘vote’ them into political power, or to use other fraudulent means to attain political office.

Understanding that greed is the primary driver of the Zimbabwean crisis would lead to a better understanding of the paradoxical situation of Zimbabwe that, in the midst of all this suffering, you find multi-millionaires in United States dollar terms, on the streets of Harare. This also explains how a person like Joseph Chinotimba, a mere municipal guard (no offence to this humble profession intended), who was virtually penniless before he discovered the benefits of ZANU-PF membership, can claim that due to loss of his mobile phone for just a week, he had lost business worth US$19 million! And this is not one of those Chinotimba jokes doing the rounds. What business is he into?

Clearly there are a few people who are directly benefiting from the suffering on millions of Zimbabweans. That same group of people is reaping where they did not sow. Again, this is not just a figure of speech, scores of those aligned to ZANU-PF are currently on an invasion spree of white-owned commercial farms and are literally reaping where they did not sow. Zimbabwe has enough resources to support all those who live in it, and also to support the region, but a few, politically connected and greedy people are busy plundering Zimbabwe and eating everyone’s share. I would not be surprised if there are people in Zimbabwe whose daily prayer is that the crisis never ends!

Greedy political leaders who do not care about the people they purport to represent invariably breed misery and suffering. This breed of political leaders often have the following distinctive characteristics: (1) Although generally incompetent and lacking in business acumen, they are involved in all kinds of businesses; (2) they measure they political achievements by the amount of wealth accumulated or cars they own; (3) they publicly speak against the West and pose as pan- Africanists while privately sending their children to school in the West, drink wines imported from the West and do not miss on their monthly satellite television subscriptions; (4) all their ill-gotten wealth is derived exclusively from their political connections; (5) their lavish, and outlandish lifestyles are at odds with their professional salaries (for example, it is not surprising in Zimbabwe to come across a mere journalist working for state media, but with powerful political connections, owning several properties that he can never acquire on his journalist’s earnings).

This breed of political leaders is beyond redemption and cannot be expected to reform and be like the biblical Zaccheus, the chief tax collector who repented and gave away his ill-gotten wealth. Politicians of this kind, who unfortunately at present dominate the political scene in Zimbabwe, must be removed from office and mechanisms put in place to ensure that this breed becomes extinct. This legacy of leaders who doggedly pursue self-serving interests must be broken. Without such a paradigm shift, charting a new political direction for Zimbabwe will remain a pipe dream. It is worthwhile noting for political leaders in government, particularly those in the MDC whom many of us look up to in hope, that greed is not a trait confined to leaders from one particular political party.

Zimbabwe desperately needs political leaders with integrity, who deeply care for others, and have the ability to self-transcend. Political leaders are judged not on the basis of the political party they belong to, but on content of their character and their service to humanity. I am absolutely convinced that if we had leaders who really cared then Zimbabwe would not have gone through the horror, pain and suffering which characterised the past decade and continues. It is not an act of God, neither is it a freak of nature, that Zimbabwe finds itself in this multi-layered socio-economic, humanitarian and political crisis. The issue boils down to want of able political leadership. Want of leaders who have already distinguished themselves in their private and professional lives who now take up public life leadership roles to serve, deriving satisfaction from putting a smile on an old woman’s face.

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.

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.