THESE are trying times we find ourselves in; the election has come and gone. Peaceful voting was met with excessive use of force by the police and army, which resulted in the regrettable loss of life. The President got away with his “independent commission” smoke screen, which he mentioned again during his inauguration speech which though constituted, is yet to begin its work. The opposition filed a petition at the Constitutional Court to challenge the result of the presidential election, which they then went on to lose with costs. A lot will be said about the outcome of the court challenge, but one thing is for sure, President Emmerson Mnangagwa will be the President for the next five years. He now has the people’s mandate, it is up to him and his administration to show if Zimbabwe truly is “open for business”.
guest column: STAKES CHIGS
Citizens of Zimbabwe have hopes and dreams for themselves and their children, hopes of a life without a shortage of basic necessities and with access to basic human rights. We voted because we wanted an ideal environment that builds, that fosters growth and development thereby creating a platform for transformation. For now, this remains a dream; for a long time our government has remained a fossil, devoid of leadership and afraid of change. Promises have been made; we all heard the speech. Now, we want delivery.
In my view, there are two vital pillars towards “fixing” our country:
As countries developed worldwide, democracy flourished. The general populace embraced the idea of electing an individual of their choice to lead them; a person of merit they deemed qualified enough and deserving of the title. If such a person were to abuse power, they could be held accountable for their conduct and brought to book for their policies (as it should be). Africa, Zimbabwe in particular, was late to the party. Colonialism did not do us any favours although most countries claim to have a democracy; it mostly seems to be on the piece of paper their Constitution is written on. This, on its own, spells disaster for the country and the current state of many African countries shows exactly how. The government advocated for free and fair elections (phrase of the year) and while some have endorsed the election as free and fair, the African Union chair included, there is a lot that could have been done differently. The government should not be commended for “allowing” what should be the norm. Opposition intimidation was still prevalent, while not as terrible as yesteryear, it is still not acceptable. Citizens should be free to exercise their rights in accordance with the Constitution; choose whoever they want to represent them without fear. Civil engagement is key to a vibrant political landscape; for everyone in every corner of the country. With dialogue, ideas can be communicated with integrity, compromise and humility, without the need to destroy the opponent. Seeking facts through analysis, reasoning and listening is the way forward to solve our country’s problems and achieve our set objectives. Though it may not be an unpopular opinion, now is not the time for partisan politics. Bipartisanship does not mean that one has abandoned the values of one’s party. We should not value our political affiliation at the expense of the people; humility is not a sign of weakness. Showing up and doing what needs to be done should be the ultimate goal for an elected official.
Former United States President Barack Obama stated that “the strongest democracies flourish from frequent and lively debate, but they endure when people of every background and belief find a way to set aside smaller differences in service of a greater purpose”. This does not mean that we forget what the government has done in the past; they have to own up and atone. We cannot just move on without reconciliation. If it is, indeed, a new a government, then it should address its past misdeeds.
Citizens should be encouraged to actively participate in the system; the rule of law should apply to all citizens and civil procedures must be administered fairly and without bias. I regard the people as the epitome of political authority. After all, they voted for those in power and the Constitution itself is quite clear; power is derived from the people. With a political environment like this (fairy tale as it might seem), they have promised it will be different. Conflicts are unlikely to arise and if they do, they will be solved through dialogue. This is almost like finding a needle in a haystack in the current political landscape where the previous government served its own interests. I see democratic governance as a vital cog in the machine for change that Mnangagwa has promised.
The failure of the government to do its basic duties led to a disgruntled public. As a government fails, poor standards of living lead to hunger, unemployment, disease and the struggle for survival. The result is a populace that is ready to do anything to better their lives — anything. The incoming government has vowed to focus on growing the economy with a mantra that has almost become an anthem . . . accompanied by the infamous scarf. How they are going to do this remains to be seen. Deals have been signed with much fanfare; memorandum of understandings have been heavily touted. On the ground, our eyes are open and we are ready. The government should find new ways for sustainable growth and renewable energy and prepare for the future. The Gwanda project is a terrific idea bar one miscreant involved; it’s time to modernise and go with the current times. Regional trade will be vital; the presidents must accept that globalisation is the future and that they can’t do it all by themselves. Some of the deals from the previous government need to be renegotiated, as they are one sided and without much benefit to the locals, us. Investment in youth is investment in the future and the government needs to overhaul the education system to teach programmes that are vital and useful, as intellectuals will continue to grow the society. Knowing what to do and actually doing it are two different things. The president should implement a structure of administration where capable people are in charge and incompetence is not tolerable, contrary to existing structures where nepotism reigns supreme.
As a child, I was often told that a hungry man is an angry man. It is my belief that a State that has a fully functioning economy, facilitated by good democratic governance is unlikely to collapse, as it can provide what its citizens need in the form of education, healthcare, employment and fulfilment.
In his book, War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy asserts that the strongest of all warriors are time and patience. We must acknowledge that there is a long road ahead and it will take hard work and perseverance to achieve progress and undo the disaster of the past years.
The President can only start the journey to recovery and the baton will have to go on to the next President who should continue with the development. Transformation will not occur overnight, but it will. It is not a sprint, but a marathon. To paraphrase Tolstoy in his War and Peace, it would be wise to assume that we know nothing; we can only do what we can to make the future better as we do not know what it holds for us. We are living now, and we must better now.
It was former UN secretary-general Ban Ki Moon who said, “Only Africa can provide a solution to Africa’s problem.” This remains true to this day.
Only Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans can provide solutions for our country’s problems. If we work together as a united country, we will end up better off than when we started.
Stakes Chigs is a lawyer with a keen interest and focus on democracy and public governance. He can be contacted by email email@example.com or via Twitter @stakeschigs.