By Hopewell Chin’ono
We have had disputed and violent elections since the year 2000 and the last one ended up with innocent citizens dying at the hands of military live ammunition.
Elections have done completely nothing democratic for Zimbabwe, except removing the national cohesion and destroying the country both economically and morally through toxic politics.
These elections have cost the country close to a billion American dollars in the past 20 years, and yet they have not brought any peace or development to Zimbabwe.
This country is now in a perpetual election mode and nothing meaningful gets done as all the major parties immediately switch to election language the day after the Presidential inauguration.
After the removal of Robert Mugabe, we thought that we would be standing on a positive political cusp, but we have regressed back into deeper toxic politics that has done nothing except breed corruption, incompetence and nepotism within the state and beyond.
Our country is in a total economic and political mess, one that only those oblivious to our people’s painful suffering would dishonestly deny in pursuit of narrow and parochial objectives meant to self enrich at the cost of a broken nation.
We now have to ask ourselves deeper and uncomfortable questions in search of a ripple of political and economic hope that can put us back on the road to recovery.
We came off the rails in1999 when the Bretton Woods institutions stopped availing loans to us because we had irresponsibly stopped servicing our debts.
We are now here non the less, so we have to resolve the economic and political problems before us, non but ourselves can do it by restoring the lost dignity and glory that our country was associated with.
Last week I was invited to a Stanbic Bank board meeting luncheon and one of the fellow invitees was the Permanent Secretary for Finance, George Guvamatanga.
Guvamatanga was brought into government as a technocrat and like his boss Mthuli Ncube the Finance Minister, Guvamatanga is doing his best, and together they have successfully implemented some meaningful economic reforms.
Unfortunately some of the good work that they have done is not known publicly because of the government’s incompetent communications framework.
I asked Guvamatanga if the government understood that the country has a political problem and crisis that manifested itself through economics.
He acknowledged that such a reality is true and added that as a technocrat, he is performing his mandate, and also to his credit, he acknowledged the role of politics in our current economic malaise.
Business is largely happy with the economic plans being put in place by Mthuli Ncube and George Guvamatanga, but the corporate world should understand that these changes are mere tinkering until the political beasts move in place to do their bit and compliment what these two able men are doing.
We are all aware of endless meetings between government and folks like economist Professor Ashok Chakravarti and the broader business community to try and resolve the economic question.
However such meetings would not be necessary if the political elements were moving at the same rate as the economic ones in reforming the broken state.
Professors of Economics such as Mthuli Ncube are being made to look inelegant and foolish due to the politics and yet Mthuli Ncube is extremely sharp but only being let down by our politics.
Ncube is a great bookkeeper that has no control of the shop, what time the shop opens, who gets credit in the shop and when it gets re-stocked
The central question to the Zimbabwean crisis is, why are politicians not willing to move and reform the political framework, something that President Emmerson Mnangagwa used as his clarion call during the election campaign season?
I have spoken to many senior ZANUPF leaders both in government and at their party headquarters, and the common thread is that they are afraid that political reforms will expose them to an election defeat.
Jonathan Moyo famously tweeted a couple of years ago that ZANUPF cannot reform itself out of power, that to me sounded very simplistic at the time and it still does to this very day.
If President Mnangagwa had implemented these political reforms last year, he would have seen a positive response from the international community that he is yearning to court, but now that he didn’t implement the reforms, we have to work with what is before us.
President John Kufor asked me rhetorically in 2008, “…why are your leaders not empathetic to their people’s suffering?”
It is a question that our political elites on both sides of the political aisle should start asking themselves too.
It is also a question that corporate Zimbabwe should start asking itself because business is key to the social transformation of a country.
Are corporate entities like Econet and the banking sector happy to collect their profits in a country battered with abject poverty, disease and hunger, a country where rural folk now have a sub-standard life style worse than the one they had 45 years ago?
What responsibility do the elites have towards the folks groaning under the pain and suffering of poverty brought to them courtesy of politics and irresponsible economics?
Martin Luther King said that the world needs leaders that are not in love with money, but are in love with justice and their people.
To what extend has our political and business elites pursued justice for our people beyond token donations that they push in times of crisis?
Our people need to be allowed to work for themselves and not to be charity cases.
Business should fully understand that it also has a responsibility to use its voice in articulating such an important moral message, and not simply think of itself in isolation of the poor that it is accused of ruthlessly feeding off!
This article is my proposal for the way forward because both ZANUPF and the MDC have failed to govern this country, ZANUPF is in power but it undoubtedly lacks political legitimacy across the world.
Is that what its leadership wants to be remembered for or does it even care about how it is perceived rightly or otherwise?
Does the ZANUPF leadership want to go to bed every night stressed with the failure to govern properly and thinking of new propaganda tricks that now sound more plausible for a comic book than a national newspaper?
Our state media outlets lack any credibility and even government ministers and senior civil servants now acknowledge this self evident reality but we keep on repeating failed tactics, to what end?
MDCA has won elections but it has failed to get into power and govern, and the world can’t do much about it other than deny ZANUPF international and political legitimacy, the bread and butter of any ruling administration.
Now who suffers from such a politically abusive reality that we have been subjected to since 2000, up to this very day and still counting?
It is the ordinary people, the ordinary citizens of Zimbabwe that go to bed on empty stomachs, the men and women who have been making regular trips to the cemetery to bury their loved ones who would have died from easily treatable diseases in our public hospitals.
It is the crying doctors that lack the bare minimum like bandages, gloves, painkillers and many such basic health service necessities.
They go home dejected after certifying another unnecessary death, certifications that they do by the dozens daily.
The political and business elites have not missed their caviar or salmon and blue label whiskies due to the economic and political crisis, some have even made more money that they envisaged on the back of this twenty year old crisis.
Would the political fat cats care about the need to reform the country and take it on a new path to national prosperity?
Would the business crooks feeding off the national carcass want to see their corrupt feeding troughs removed?
No they won’t, they will resist and even sponsor factions in political parties in order to retain their grip on the corruption tiller!
But is that morally right, do you go to bed and sleep well knowing that for twenty years, there has been generations of your own young people who have been permanently denied a chance in life?
I have seen generations that have left school and all they did was to wait for their time to die, courtesy of our politics that has given birth to a terrible and predatory economic environment.
The lucky ones have found menial jobs in the belly of a ruthless South Africa that is cruel to foreign Africans.
The not so lucky ones have met their maker on arrival in South Africa in the brutal streets whilst trying to eke a living, they have been turned into just another nameless crime statistic.
Another one gone, another parent left grieving for a life that could have been otherwise, if only we had responsible politics in Zimbabwe that allowed our economics to transform the lives of our people.
Why can’t we sit down NOW as a country and do the right thing for our people, surely we could if we cared about their lives after seeing brutal economic struggles that they endure daily just to put a meal on the table for their children.
If we don’t do it now, those beaten by the economic vagaries in Mbare will soon cross over the railway line into the Northern suburbs to help themselves evening in and evening out, Zimbabwe’s posh suburbs will be turned into a robber’s paradise.
Some say that it has already started, that is the natural manifestation of an economically stagnant country, survival has to go on and the choices that the poor are forced to make will impact on the not so poor and the wealthy.
That is what happens when a people have nothing else to do or eat from, they will feast on what is next available in pursuit of basic survival.
WHERE TO NOW?
My proposal is to shelve elections for the next ten years because they will not produce a legitimate result, they will only bring more misery to our people at a huge economic cost as they are being done merely to tick a box.
They have become a choreographed ritual whose real outcome has no bearing to the existence of the voter, but whose contestation becomes the soundtrack to the poverty waltz that defines our suffering.
Currently everyone is a loser including those who think that they are winning, because their fortunes will not be secure in the future, ask the Abachas and their many friends across the African continent.
This country needs a national unified government for the next ten years, a united administration that will focus on reconstruction of the country without any election to talk about and think of.
A ZANUPF government will not politically reform because they think that it will be their electoral Waterloo, the MDCA and Nelson Chamisa will not countenance supporting any government born out of what they consider to be a stolen electoral victory!
The military will scaffold ZANUPF rule because of the history of our liberation struggle, Zimbabwe’s military was born out of ZANU and ZAPU’s military wings, so to this day the two are Siamese twins, and when they sense a defeat they become intractable.
Democracy, which is a foreign concept and Western prescription, does not take care of local political complications and as such, there is always a political problem that ends up being resolved with brute force to the detriment of the country and its citizens.
So ZANUPF and the MDCA cannot continue being stubborn to the detriment of our people, this crisis has taken more lives, more than those lost to the liberation struggle.
Do these political elites want to continue feeding such a terrible and bloody historical statistic?
What we now need is a roundtable between the ruling ZANUPF party and the main opposition MDCA because they have electoral mandates.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa must realize that his current dialogue with the 18 losing Presidential candidates is seen as a comical act that will hold NO political currency at all both home and abroad.
The real discussion with the MDCA should give birth to an agreement that will do away with elections for ten years and form a United Government of Zimbabwe.
This will allow for the required and pertinent reforms to take place because ZANUPF will not worry about losing elections and the MDCA will be on the table governing together with ZANUPF and implementing these reforms.
The two parties will present their agreement to the country in a referendum and if it passes which it will, they can then take it to the rest of the world as an agreed national position.
This will also resolve the issue of sanctions conclusively because those that imposed them can benchmark the demands against a timeframe, and suspend the sanctions as a goodwill gesture.
Institutions like the Army, the Police, the Secret Service (CIO) and the Prison Service will be able to operate without the pressures of political actors using them as party political resources, and the Finance Ministry folks will be able to do their work successfully.
Zimbabwe badly needs local and foreign direct investment, it will only come when we resolve our currently toxic politics, we are only getting buccaneer business investors who are adding NO invest value to our nation.
ZANUPF and the MDCA supporters have families to feed, school kids to send to school and pensions to build because if they retired today, they will wallow in abject poverty.
At the moment all the folks in the economics and business world who will tell you that things are fine and on track will be waffling and ignorant to how politics and economics work together, there can be NO economic success without a normal political resolution, and that is not an opinion but a FACT!
Failure to accept the consequences of not acting will become the burden of those in power and the rest of the political establishment.
They have to choose whether they want to genuinely govern the country with success or they want to merely use power as an end to crudely pillaging the country’s natural resources, and building fortunes that they might not be able to protect in the fullness of time.
Hopewell Chin’ono is an award winning Zimbabwean international Journalist and Documentary Filmmaker.
He is a Harvard University Nieman Fellow and a CNN African Journalist of the year. He is also a Fellow at the University of Oxford’s Africa Leadership Institute.
Hopewell has a new documentary film looking at mental illness in Zimbabwe called State of Mind, which was launched to critical acclaim.
The recently departed music superstar Oliver Mtukudzi wrote the sound track for State of Mind.
It was recently nominated for a big award at the Festival International du Film Pan-Africain de Cannes in France and in the UK at the Heart of England International Film Festival.
You can watch the documentary trailer below.