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Zimbabwe — reforms first before elections

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If Zimbabwe is to have elections any time in the future, there should be, first and foremost, reforms.

If not, this will be a case of misplaced political priorities and full democracy will be at stake. Zimbabweans are now clamouring for a full democracy that promotes decent and democratic laws.

Against this backdrop, it is critical to remember Geoffrey Bould’s wise counsel: “Democracy is not just a vote at election time; it is a voice with which to express dissent against unjust laws.”

Despite claiming to be a democracy, Zimbabwe’s elections have been fraught with unjust laws, perpetuated by inter-party political violence, often widespread and bloody.

Chiefly in that claim, these progressive forces would like to fight against an oppressive regime and its current electoral laws, that have denied them a recourse to the law, leading to proper and democratic justice systems.

Perhaps with much stronger and sane political opposition forces coming to the fore, it is possible to give full democracy a chance.

The time to create that democratic space is now, denouncing in the process, political violence which has seemingly paralysed our society. Indeed, we need to live without that.

In a democracy, there will always exist forces to oppose the existing ruling state. There is no perfect ruling state. Yet the opposing forces must be much stronger to prevent an all-pervading ruling authority like we have been over-burdened with over almost three decades.

If a new and democratic constitution is rightfully crafted and a referendum timeously held, then we can begin to speak of at least full democracy. Opposition forces will be stronger, vibrant and more purposeful.

Hower, much remains to be seen as to what the strong opposition forces will be like, as Zimbabwe has been characterised by absolutely weak and token opposition.

Some of these have been known to divide the vote among the populace, others even appearing idiotic, seemingly providing “jokes for the year”, perhaps to appease an oppressive political environment and others appearing impressive on paper, but then with weak political campaigns and convictions to the populace.

If such political parties continue to emerge, arguing their right to participate as sacrosanct, they must be reminded to the need to express voices of dissent to unjust laws that help prop up oppression.

The Press must persistently prod these political parties to live up to their identities as genuine opposition parties.

Thus, the cardinal places for the freedoms for association, expression and assembly are created. If these freedoms are denied by a ruling state then democracy becomes unhealthy, insignificant and puerile.

Within a democracy, strong and well-focused opposition parties have some recourse to the law. Thus, they have more reasons to claim the right to challenge the ruling state.

Of course, a democracy can sometimes fail to react to changing forces within society.

A fair and justified sharing of political space and resources such as state machinery among different political parties is possible if incumbent national leaders on both ends of the political divide see themselves as part of the greater enterprise.

However, most of the time they are overshadowed by those with the “big party mentality”, the bootlickers, who don’t see themselves in that light.

They would sabotage any real attempt at reform to full democracy. And so too are some of the general supporters of the party. This sad scenario greatly undermines equitable distribution and sharing of resources.

Arguably, a genuine Zimbabwe political identity has emerged with the growth of strong and credible oppositional forces in the past decade or so. These and others to come will be the voices that will persistently express revulsion with oppressive and undemocratic regimes.

Zimbabwe’s democracy and political space has been abused for many years now and it is about time democratic voices continue to rise to unjust electoral laws in Zimbabwe.

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