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Push for democratic reforms must start now

November marks 12 months after the military took control of the country following months of brutal factional fights within the ruling Zanu PF.

November marks 12 months after the military took control of the country following months of brutal factional fights within the ruling Zanu PF.

develop me: Tapiwa Gomo

The ensuing events put an end to former President Robert Mugabe’s leadership of the country and the ruling party he co-founded.

Despite that, in what should be a modern-day democracy, the events of November 2017 came at the instigation of the gun, Mugabe’s resignation was received with wild jubilations.

The gun had succeeded where democracy had failed, most people thought.

Some viewed this partial political change as the beginning of total political reforms and a first step towards the promised Canaan.

People from different walks of life, for once, united to celebrate Mugabe’s departure. He was seen as the face of all the problems the country suffered over 37 years of his reign in power.

To give some semblance of dignity to the unconstitutional process of change of power, Mugabe stated in his letter that the decision to step down was voluntary and that he had done so to ensure smooth transfer of power.

That letter marked the beginning of the installation of the current President into power. So this month’s marks one year of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s presidency.

There have been mixed views over the past 12 months. Some see Mugabe’s removal as a ploy by the system to reassert its control against growing discontent.

Others are still holding on to their hopes by maintaining that the nation must give Mnangagwa a chance.

While differences of opinion persist, the realities on the ground are not selective.

Everyone is facing shortages of food, cash, fuel and other essential supplies and services. The past weeks have been unbearable.

The new narrative being dispensed by the new political dispensation is yet to translate into anything meaningful for ordinary people.

If anything, people see a further deterioration of the situation than the Mugabe era.

They are heartbroken and are losing faith in politics and their leadership. The intention of this instalment is not to give an account of how the new yet old dispensation has fared thus far.

In a context where a ruling political elite — that has been in power for nearly four decades — is in bed with a greedy oligarchy, the concepts of democracy, freedom and political change, need to be interrogated with the view to salvage them from an incestuous relationship between the two.

Economic growth will not be easy to achieve without replacing the system because the oligarchies have entitled themselves to all national resources.

With all the abundant resources and capacities the country possesses, Zimbabwe has failed to take off simply because any progress that threatens the interests of oligarchies will suffer still birth from the political elite who act on behalf of the former.

Replacing the political wing of the system, impossible as it may be, will expose and weaken the oligarchy, so the latter finances the safety of the former. This relationship defines the system.

It is the same system that decided that Mugabe was no longer serving its interests and that his wife and the G40 cabal were threatening their economic pursuits.

The army, the politicians and the people who participated in Mugabe’s ouster were all serving as fronts protecting the oligarchies.

The anti-Mugabe march sanitised and democratised the battle for the control of the country’s wealth and not the welfare of the people.

It was never about ordinary people, but the oligarchies’ interests and that is why they continue to fleece the country while ordinary citizens suffer.

What makes this situation even more complex is that some years back, the political elite created the oligarchies as surrogates to help them corruptly siphon national resources guised as business.

Over those years, the surrogates have grown into economic powerhouses to become monsters who control the elected politicians.

The oligarchies are now the biggest political movers and shakers. Economic and military power is deployed to diffuse any political change that threatens to replace the system.

Every five years, millions of people enter that small booth to cast their vote to choose who should lead them.

Each time they voted against the system in large numbers, their votes have amounted to nothing.

This process of elections has over the years been used as a smokescreen to portray the electoral process as a modern democratic political system.

This conundrum cannot be solved by elections but through a process of democratic reforms. By the time people go to vote, they will be sure that their votes will count.

Reforms are the beginning of democracy. The desire of those with power to advance their own interests will not die at the stroke of an “X” against them.

Historically, elites and oligarchies are known for fighting the expansion of voting rights, but the growing movement for democratic reforms forced them to curve in and retract to their spaces enabling the balance of power between the State, the people and the private sector.

As concessions are made, novel modes of democracy will emerge to ensure the balance of power. The process needs to start now.

Tapiwa Gomo is a development consultant based in Pretoria, South Africa