Credible reforms are the only way forward

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President-Emmerson-Mnangagwa

THE political and economic reform agenda has dominated Zimbabwe’s political discourse for over two decades, but consensus remains distant because the ruling Zanu PF party has rebuffed attempts at every turn as it views such talk as a foreign-sponsored regime change agenda.

For the ruling party, reforms are about correcting discriminatory historical legacies, buttressing its political hegemony against growing opposition to its misrule, and feeding political patronage and self-enrichment.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa appears to have conveniently forgotten his inauguration pledge to institute sweeping reforms, and chosen the easier path that guarantees him a long stay in office.

If only the President could be reminded that no regime is permanent, the better for him. Both him and everyone else like-minded must learn to adjust to that reality.

Change will certainly happen in the same manner this happened during the first republic and will it during our time. Change within Zanu PF or outside — is possible.

This is despite what Mnangagwa has, over the past four years, done to make some changes that have entrenched his hold on power and dispensed with any pretence to being democratic. He changed the Constitution to give himself power to choose his own deputies, hand-pick judges, essentially creating an imperial presidency.

Opposition formations and civic groups, on the other hand, view reforms as an opportunity to strengthen governance, the rule of law and tackle the array of democratic deficits that underwrite Zanu PF’s incumbency.

So, as long as the governing party keeps its hardline stance, expecting far-reaching reforms to be implemented ahead of the March 26 by-elections and the 2023 general elections would be like “Waiting for Goddot”.

The opposition should consider itself its own worst enemies after it fluffed a golden opportunity to push through the agenda when it commanded parliamentary majority during Morgan Tsvangirai’s era.

Instead, the opposition legislators slept at the wheel and allowed Zanu PF to crawl out of the woods to reclaim its political dominance again.

Now that the opposition’s representation in the House has been relegated to an afterthought, and civic groups face an existential threat, chances of successfully rekindling the debate are next to zero.

Zanu PF has, on several occasions, made it clear that it would not reform itself out of power, and seems determined to block any changes that make it vulnerable.

While we hold no brief for the opposition, we believe reforms are for the common good and should not be sacrificed on the altar of political expediency.

Besides promoting good governance, they also help in levelling the political playing field to ensure that the next elections do not produce contested results.

Some of the notable changes involve demilitarisation of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission — which is a key requirement if the country is to avoid another contested electoral outcome.

Therefore, a more robust approach, both publicly and behind closed doors, is necessary, to keep the flame alive. This time around, stakeholders must have clear benchmarks and timeframes to ensure it doesn’t become another exercise in futility, but a real move to entrench rule of law and good governance.

With the general elections just about a year ahead, key stakeholders have to ratchet up the pressure and avoid being railroaded into another election before implementation of the necessary reforms.