The voice of the majority should be respected
By Shingi Chimwaza
If my memory serves me right, like it usually does, the need for a “democracy” that allows for the participation of ordinary Zimbabweans in the determination of the way they are governed, forms the backbone of Zimbabwean opposition politics and civic society activities in the 21st Century.
This assertion is particularly true given the level of discontent amongst the citizenry towards the turn of the new millennium, which saw an increased demand for participation in fundamental national issues such as the constitution making process, leading to the formation of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA).
This demand for participation, by the working- class, students, business people and ordinary Zimbabweans alike in the politics of the country also led to the formation of a party that was to be named the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Like most democratic forces in the civic society, the MDC as a party was suppose to be a people driven organization, whose policies were to be built from a list of people’s concerns in the short-term and long-term with an obvious aim to take care of the problems of the day and of the future.
Zimbabweans really needed, then and now, a paradigm shift, from a culture of a top-down style of communication, which has always been ZANU PF’s way of governance, where you hear of “Operation This” and “Operation That”, without much care about the hostile consequences to the ordinary person.
The power to choose a type of governance also means the people’s power to choose their leadership, and to prevent a minority to choose for them. Never mind the minority’s economic status, because half the times it is ill-gotten wealth!
In this breath, I call upon the grassroots in the MDC to fight for their right to determine whom they want to be led by, Morgan Tsvangirai, Elias Mudzuri, Tendai Biti, or Elton Mangoma. These leaders should also respect the voice of the grassroots.
The real first major dent to the people’s prolonged project has been the “Unilateral Declaration of Independence-UDI” by Lovemore Madhuku and his peers as they converted the NCA into a political party without following due process.
It was not procedural because they did not consult the constituency they claim to represent, the people.
I further choose to compare Madhuku’s actions to the pulling of Zimbabwe out of the Commonwealth by Robert Mugabe in 2003, with the later going on to refer to Zimbabweans as “My people”.
It was being shallow minded, to convert the NCA into a political party basing their actions on a ‘justification’ that the MDC had betrayed the struggle for a new constitution hence the need to get even with them.
You then wonder if it is now about the egos of a bunch of attention seeking “wannabes” or about the people. Or is it that the NCA leadership all of a sudden realized that they needed to think for the majority and dictate what is right for them?
I for one believe the NCA could still play an important role in the post COPAC era since it is not a secret that the new constitution is not the best, but was probably a good effort given the circumstances at the time.
The point here is, the NCA could continue lobbying for the constitution to be in line with their acceptable standards (people’s standards) whilst at the same time continue to play watchdog and expose the ruling elite’s breaches of “their own” new charter.
For example, right now we could be hearing the NCA commenting on issues to do with the scandals in the parastatals, electoral laws, the issuing of tenders in the mining sector, succession of the presidency and all other issues which the citizenry may need clarification on from a legal perspective.
It is true that they may still do it in their new status, but it now lacks “a credibility” they would have enjoyed had they remained a civic organization.
The NCA, with a more creative leadership was going to be a pillar to the opposition forces in Zimbabwe, just as ZCTU was when the country still had a respectable employment rate or maybe comparable to COSATU and its influence on South African politics.
A good leadership in the NCA, if it were to remain a civic organization could take a cue from the Centre For Constitutional Governance (CCG) of Uganda.
This civic organization is creative at propping the opposition forces in a country with a sophisticated dictatorship like ours, and the resulting effect pointing at more positives than negatives in the long-term future for that country and Africa’s Eastern region.
They relentlessly continue to find ways to mobilize the masses to stand up in protest against the regime in a Non-Violent manner.
The CCG has grown and has spread its tentacles into a significant number of East African countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan with what they refer to as a “cardinal goal of strengthening constitutional governance by bridging the gaps in governance and challenges in policy and regulatory framework.”
The CCG has realized that good ,constitutional governance in the whole region, would amount to increased pressure to the Museveni regime to realize the growing trend of leadership renewal and constitutional governance. Maybe it explains his (Museveni’s) unexpected hint to retire during his attendance of Mandela’s memorial.
The CCG’s efforts in East Africa under the leadership of Rtd Major Okwiri Rabwoni (Executive Director) and other leaders like Sara Bireete (Programme Director) definitely deserves to be applauded.
Lovemore Madhuku, being the professor that he is, was supposed to help strengthen governance and social institutions in Zimbabwe through the rejuvenation of the NCA as a pressure group as well as a centre for policy development and engagement in the country through promotion of research analysis, documentation and publications.
The NCA was therefore going to become a civic society organization at the heart of Zimbabwean politics, providing with an up to date database of the citizenry’s expectations, and also help provide with the legal implications of such expectations vis a vie the country’s constitution and the international law.
Instead of providing guidance and support to the people in their fight for democracy, Madhuku and his peers forgot their mandate and their actions exposes a lack of creativity in our civic society which often results in a shift of goal posts altogether, in a rather self-destruct manner.
So much about the NCA, after all they seem to realize their mistake; in light of the resignation of Blessing Vava and Takura Zhangazha although we await a full apology and not self-serving denialist statements just the same way we wait for one from Mugabe for pulling Zimbabwe out of the Commonwealth.
Shingi Chimwaza is from the Fletcher Summer Institute Alumni Network, a group under the International Center for Non-Violent Conflict. He writes in his own capacity. He can be contacted at [email protected]