The 2018 elections have come and gone. What remains is the disgruntlement over the processes and how they affected the outcomes.
Develop me: Tapiwa Gomo
That discussion, legal or political, will most likely not effect much change in the status quo. Just like previous elections, there is really nothing new that has come of this one, other than that they were new presidential contestants.
For the opposition, the million-dollar question is how to remain alive and relevant after the elections. But for the ordinary men and women in the country, there is now less appetite for who must or must not rule, but how they will put food on the table.
People are tired of futile elections and they want to move on with their lives. The two decades of our time was stolen by elections and bad politics. And in all those years, we prioritised elections over the economy.
We prioritised democracy over economic growth because in modern-day governance culture, democracy is assumed to be the foundation of economic growth. This is an ideal and not necessarily a prerequisite as there is not as many countries that have achieved democracy before growth. It is always the other way round.
There are countries that have recently witnessed rapid economic growth in the absence of the western type of democracy. Some of these include China and its Asian neighbours and the Middle Eastern countries, such as the United Arab Emirates and their neighbours as well.
Their economies have boomed massively to the extent that they are now strengthening the capacity and independence of their institutions of democracy.
Their growing economies are also empowering citizens with access to income and livelihoods, which is gradually giving them a voice, thereby making them active and influential players in national and political decisions.
This is not in any way suggesting that we dump the democracy project, as the country still needs to be unshackled from the capture by a group of people who think they own it and its resources.
The world is at a critical junction, where developed countries are becoming more and more selfish, protecting their economies and preserving what they have for their citizens.
We can no longer afford to pursue democracy at the expense of economic growth. The idea that the economy must wait until there is political change and democracy, frankly, is an approach rooted in old fashioned view of democracy.
One of the main reasons political change is difficult to achieve in Zimbabwe and many other poor countries is simply because the citizens do not wield enough capital and political power to destabilise a misbehaving status quo.
Capital power derives from a functioning economy and enhances people’s ability power to perform politically.
In the current situation, citizen participation is mainly seen in voting with the picketing or protest easily contained by the State due to weaker citizen power.
This absence of power has created a fertile environment for politicians to manipulate voters with short-term freebies and any autocracy would want to maintain that level vulnerability for political expedience.
Illegalities such as vote-buying are rampant because the citizens are in a weaker position to make bold and long-term political decisions without considering their immediate needs such as food.
In addition, in a situation where the economy is not performing, the symbiotic relationship between the people and the government is not as strong such that citizens’ sentiments of unhappiness are inconsequential in destabilising the status quo. This how dictators, mainly in Africa, maintain their hold to power.
As we start the new journey with the “new” establishment, what options are available to ensure that we grow our economy such that by the next election, we will have an empowered voter who is an active stakeholder? If political change has not materialised, we can change the attitude of those who govern.
We already know what we want. Let’s not accept that old school excuse that they need time to settle, but instead we should push them to hit the ground running. It is possible to turn around the economy in one term.
In Malawi, the late President Bingu wa Mutharika transformed his country’s food security situation to feed not only itself, but also its neighbours in one term.
He achieved that with very minimum support from the eternal funders. Ethiopia, Africa’s fastest growing economy, is another story to emulate, whose rise is particularly driven by an increase in industrial activity. In 2000, Ethiopia, was the third-poorest country in the world.
Zambia, too, has demonstrated political maturity, which has been rewarded by a growing economy that is owned and driven by its people. Voter manipulation is decreasing in that country as citizens are earning their voices through economic empowerment.
There is no doubt that Zimbabwe is an attractive country for investment. We have the natural and human resources and the means to get the economy moving, but we lack political stability.
We can make it happen if we channel the same level of energy that was put into monitoring the election processes.
That same level of demand for accountability is what is needed to stamp out corruption and instil confidence in the economy.
We must be beholden to reboot our economy, while simultaneously finding ways of strengthening our democracy. Zimbabwe can rise again, if we focus attention on the economy.