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We want true democracy now


A WEEK or so ago I had a rare opportunity to attend a virtual political discourse organised by the Southern African Political Economy Series Trust. The discourse focused on constitutionalism and militarism.

Eminent persons comprising the “who is who” in our nation’s politics partook in the discussion. It was made translucently pellucid that Zimbabwe is far from being a constitutional democracy as militarism has been pervasive, especially after the November 2017 coup.

This does not mean that the soldiers have always been in the barracks. The military has always been part of our politics from the late 1960s when our liberators decided to resist both politically and militarily those who oppressed us.

This civilian-military relationship continued after independence and was brazen during the Gukurahundi atrocities of the early 1980s.

Although the military was not actively involved in our politics during the 1990s, this state of affairs changed drastically after the year 2000 when Zanu PF suffered its first defeat from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and organised civil society during the February 2000 referendum for a new Constitution.

By the time we went to the June 2000 parliamentary and March 2002 presidential elections, Zimbabwe had transformed into a fully fledged military State. Since then, we haven’t known peace. There’s no iota of doubt, therefore, that Zimbabwe needs to move in the direction of constitutionalism by abandoning the politics of militarism we have today.

In theory, the Constitution guarantees us fundamental human rights and freedoms. As such, we are allowed to belong to any political party of our choice and to freely express ourselves, including through peaceful protests.

Apart from the November 2017 demonstration that was sanctioned by the military, subsequent protests have been violently suppressed to cushion you, Your Excellency, from any form of scrutiny. This gross abuse of the security forces and blatant violation of the supreme law of the land cannot be tolerated. Sir, it’s one thing toppling a tyrant from power and it’s entirely another thing to assume the very characteristics of the tyrant you deposed in a coup. We’re discontent with the manner in which Zimbabwe is being governed. Since November 2017, thuggish elements have been on the rise and it’s time to return the country to civilian and constitutional rule.

Our daily struggles revolve around legitimacy and democratic breakdown. You cannot, in all earnest, claim to be democratically elected and upholding the Constitution when your very rule is inimical and antithetical to democratic development and consolidation in Zimbabwe. We’ll not allow the oppressive Zanu PF or the partisan security forces to determine how we register our discontent.

Evildoers can’t speak on behalf of the oppressed, we do. You can’t be in power for 40 years and still think you’re capable of addressing the challenges confronting the modern State. The bush and terrorist mentality is pervasive in Zanu PF. It’s only us who can unfetter ourselves from the entanglements of the regime and we’ll exercise our constitutional rights in seeing to it that military dictatorship ends in our country.

It’s quite encouraging learning that the Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander General Phillip Valerio Sibanda has indicated that the people will be allowed to protest peacefully. This is where all of us come in.

We need to fight for a more just and democratic Zimbabwe by articulating our dissent in ways that are consistent with the dictates of our Constitution. Dictatorship will only end when we all play our part in this struggle against tyranny.

We, as a people, must never forget that change never happens by accident. It is within our power to reverse current conditions and trends. If it was just to fight against our colonial oppressors, then it is even more imperative to resist our municipal oppressors.

I have listened to the threats made by political ignoramuses in the mould of Zanu PF secretary for finance and acting information secretary Patrick Chinamasa as well as the ruling party commissar Victor Matemadanda.

For a nation that claims to be democratically governed, it’s heartbreaking to come to terms with the fact that Zanu PF blames opposition MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa for political violence in Zimbabwe, even during times of mourning. If Chamisa is politically spent as you claim, why are MDC-T acting secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora and acting party leader Thokozani Khupe so important to Zanu PF? What is it that you discuss with these behind closed doors?

Whatever you do with these will not transform Zimbabwe from being a military dictatorship into a constitutional democracy. It’s a shame if we believe the challenges we’re facing can be addressed by the likes of Chinamasa. We need to have the opportunity to serve our country and we can’t allow halfwits to personalise the country as if they gave birth to it. It’s ours too!

There’s talk of potential protests beginning July 31, 2020. A single protest on a single issue cannot change the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe, even if that issue were corruption. In countries whose protests have had transformative results, initial inertia was overcome by sustained protests.

And, it’s possible to have a government we truly deserve if we exercise our freedoms responsibly. Zimbabwe has great potential. We’re only being hindered by President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the military which imposed him on us. For the security forces who are often abused to thwart peaceful protests, we know you’re decent human beings.

Please, refuse to be used. We want your professionalism to contribute to democracy.

In modern democracies, access to education, health, housing, and social protection is guaranteed. We aren’t enemies, but are fighting for all of us against those you’re protecting, the junta that’s been eating on our behalf for 40 years. Without doubt, most of our people who aren’t fortunate are really struggling outside the country and yet they remain indefatigable as they work to sustain themselves and their families back home.

Please, think of these before you resort to brutality against fellow citizens. It’s not going to be easy, but I hope to speak to your individual consciences so that this becomes personal. Will your children be proud of you when they learn how you brutalised those who wanted a better life for all, your children included? You’re not alone.

We’re together in this and God is in it. Think about these matters.

In conclusion, you have been looting for a record 40 years without mercy. As the people are seeking to express themselves, please kindly listen to them and respect their voice because their voice is, indeed, the voice of God.

Allow us to be and to freely choose who should lead us. This isn’t a negotiable matter and cannot, unfortunately, wait to be decided in 2023. If we speak now, we want the solution now.

’Til next time, have a great week ahead, Your Excellency!

Mutsa Murenje is a social activist. He holds a PhD in social work from The University of Newcastle in Australia. He writes here in his personal capacity.

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