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Zimbabwe needs a national dialogue

By Dr Tapiwa Shumba

The economic challenges facing Zimbabwe are symptoms of more dangerous weevils destroying the country. That the economy is on a downward spiral is now a settled fact. 

President Mugabe seen here with Morgan Tsvangirai
President Mugabe seen here with Morgan Tsvangirai

What we need to look at is how Zimbabweans can extricate themselves from the current troubles and a potentially miserable future.

The biggest challenges Zimbabwe faces today are neither sanctions nor nikuv. Zimbabwe suffers from a chronic disease called leadership paralysis. This disease is rooted in the political spine but it shuts down the entire economic and social system. To address the economic and social challenges we have to deal with the political challenges first.

There is no doubt among most right minded people that Zimbabwe needs a national dialogue of Zimbabweans themselves for only Zimbabweans can resolve the current situation. However, this potential dialogue is also stuck in the bankrupt leadership system. Although everyone recognises the need for dialogue, seemingly no one is willing to take responsibility.

It is conventional wisdom that a successful political dialogue has to be initiated by the ruling ZANU-PF with other opposition political parties and all other stakeholders. Therefore, ZANU-PF must for once shake off its cruel and monster tag and seek to pursue a solution for the country. It must initiate a national dialogue immediately before the country descends into the precipice.

The key issue is perhaps on the details of the dialogue and its intended goal.  This should be simpler than before. The country needs everyone to work together for a better future for all. It is high time that Zimbabweans realise that without a national consensus and cohesion, development is impossible. The time for greediness and fight for political power alone must be put behind us. The fight for political power has left the country and its people in a dire situation. We cannot continue to blindly pursue political.

 The new talks must aim to set up a transitional government that will serve the country. Although constitutionally ridiculous, I would suggest a 10 or 12 year transitional arrangement reviewable after every five years through a referendum for people to decide whether it should continue or not. This is one electoral option that the people of Zimbabwe did not have in 2013, that is, to choose a GNU, Mugabe or Tsvangirai on the ballot paper although many people still feel they were better off during the GNU.

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What should the transition and the dialogue be anchored on? Here, we must learn from our past. The previous GNU negotiations were partly misguided in that they almost solely focused on political power. Political parties were fighting too much for cabinet posts and other positions. We are back to square one because little substantive progress was made on the policy front.

Now, this dialogue and negotiations must of course discuss a mechanism for proportional representation in the political implementation of the transition, but the real negotiations needed are on sustainable policy and ideological positions which informs the trajectory of the country for the near and long term future.

Of course, based on the new constitution, negotiations need to focus on how to create a legal, policy framework that will guide the country into the future. Here I expect negotiations and agreements on legislation and policies pertaining to agriculture and the land issue, indigenisation, human rights, an economic blue print and all other key legislative measures necessary especially in line with the new constitution.

The necessary pieces of legislation must be negotiated, drafted and passed ahead of the political transition. It is only when there is consensus on the policy and ideological vision for the country that a political transition can be sustainable. The GNU had squabbles because of policy differences which were never ironed out in the beginning.

Another question which comes to mind pertains to the participants in the transition. I agree with the MDC Renewal Team on the concept of the “national Transitional Technical Council”. However, I differ on the appointment of purely technical persons.

Firstly, because no one will agree to just hand over power to someone from nowhere; secondly because political leadership is for political players who represent the political vision of their constituencies; thirdly because the root cause of the current challenges are politicians and it is them who should put their act together for progress sake to end the current polarisation.

Although the final agreements should be made by the negotiating political players, perhaps the key role of technocrats should not be to implement the transition but rather to draft the comprehensive transitional policy blueprint. This is because policy drafting (as was done with the new constitution) is best done by technocrats and academics with the necessary capacity and knowledge.

I would suggest that the ZIMASSET and the Agenda for Real Transformation (ART by the MDC) be the starting point of reference in drafting a comprehensive socio-economic and political blueprint for the transition. With some simple fine tuning, realignments and proper implementations structures, these two instruments are, in my opinion, a good starting point.

The main political players ZANU –PF, the MDCs and other political parties should participate in the transitional government. Other players such as churches, the civic society, workers and students must be involved in the negotiations and discussions but remain in their spheres to continue to serve their constituencies and maintain an oversight role over the transitional government.

In short, I suggest that the ZANU–PF government must initiate a national dialogue that will see us with a longer term transitional government.

The dialogue should focus more on creating a national consensus on fundamental policy and ideological issues that will be translated into legislation before a proportionally negotiated transitional government can be set up to manage the country and implement the transitional goals based on the ideological and policy consensus blueprint.

It is high time we as Zimbabweans realise that national dialogue is the answer and a national consensus and cohesion is the primary instrument for national prosperity. The fighting days have cost us lives and livelihoods yet we find ourselves back to the poverty of yesteryear. This is the best opportunity for building a new culture and a new value system for our country. Equally so, as this transition phases out the old generation a new crop of young leaders will emerge.