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Why citizens’ movements matter

Opinion & Analysis
Zimbabwean citizens must now wake up and realise that they can no longer outsource the creation of a future they desire to old tired politicians, who can hardly imagine the great Zimbabwe we see

Zimbabwean citizens must now wake up and realise that they can no longer outsource the creation of a future they desire to old tired politicians, who can hardly imagine the great Zimbabwe we see.


My ward is Highfield East in Harare. I last saw my MP in 2013 when he wanted help and advice on getting elected. Since then, I haven’t seen or spoken to him. This, I am sure, is the experience of most of us in Zimbabwe.

Our political system is not working in creating accountability and delivery to citizens, but has always been about loyalty to political party interests first. That needs to change.

It is clear that traditional party politics is dying a slow death as citizens realise that this beast is hardly designed to deliver to citizens, but rather to serve the interests of those in leadership positions.

It is interesting to note that even in so-called mature democracies, party politics is fast shifting to citizens’ movements as citizens choose to take responsibility in creating the circumstances which they want in their neighbourhoods without politics. Loyalty is for dogs as citizens demand better service and better performance from politicians in general.

Zimbabwe is a typical example where politics has been serving the vested and at times toxic interests of politicians, leaving ordinary citizens behind only as election fodder. The rise of citizens’ movements is, therefore, but an inevitable manifestation of citizens that are irked with non-performance, non-accountability and non-relevance of party politics.

The term Tajamuka, among others, succinctly captures this spirit where Zimbabweans, especially our youths, are now saying they have had enough of the traditional, tired, boring impotence of the old struggle politics of power, self-aggrandisement and greed.

Political ideologies are certainly interesting academic exercises, but we have seen in Zimbabwe that these are no longer relevant in a fast-changing information age.

People are no longer interested in what politicians think, but what they do. Philosophies and lofty ideals about the future do not deal directly with issues that affect citizens.

Political slogans at rallies may feel good, but they will not revive our economy or create the jobs we urgently need. They will not deal with poverty and create economic development.

It is with this view that we who seek to empower and serve citizens need to think anew if we are to create a developmental State in Zimbabwe. We seek a Zimbabwe that is characterised by inclusive political and economic institutions which deliver and are managed by those who are technically competent to do so. The people can never come first if we are using the same institutions that are mired in patronage because they simply will not deliver now and in the future.

We need new structures in our political architecture and I believe that local government is key to a deepening and participative democracy. The sooner we rid local government of contentious politics, the better so that citizens can for once be at the centre.

My take on it is that citizens’ movements that are accountable to the people and not any political outfit are better placed as vehicles for the creation of a new Zimbabwe, which is based on leadership integrity, performance and accountability to the people.

If we can do just that in Zimbabwe, I think we will have started to move in the right direction. Our current political structures must, therefore, die a natural death if we move into what I think will be a better future.

You see, every system is designed to give you the results that you get. Our current systems are created to deliver partisan politics and put narrow and selfish party interests above national interests. We must, therefore, change this system to achieve new results; there are no short cuts.

I always take the opportunity to stress that we can never expect different behaviours from the same structures. Change the structure and you change behaviours and you change results.

In my opinion, a paradigm shift which appreciates the irrelevance of traditional party politics and the prominence of citizens’ movements is the only way in which we can build a new developmental, inclusive and participative democracy in Zimbabwe.

Another Zimbabwe is possible!  Vince Musewe is an economist and author. He is also secretary for finance and economic affairs for PDP. You may contact him on vtmusewe@gmail.com