By CiZC Information Department
On Wednesday, December 20, 2017, the President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa made a State of the Nation Address (SONA) which was his first since the military coup. The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition notes with reservations the SONA delivered by interim President Mnangagwa. It is our considered view that the President’s statement is more of a wish list and less of an action plan for socio-economic and political stabilization and recovery. It fails to address major issues that have led to social and economic deterioration in the country over the last 37 years. Major developments since the 14 November coup and the ascendancy of Emmerson Mnangagwa to power are all pointing to a heavily overt militarisation of the state. Mnangagwa’s SONA represents nothing more than the same political mantra Zimbabweans have been subjected to over the years.
Below are our humble submissions;
On Political Governance
We maintain our position that the ultimate test for any government is the assumption to power through popular democratic processes (credible, free and fair elections). The current government rose to power through a military coup. We reiterate that the citizens’ march against the Presidency of Robert Mugabe on 18 November 2017 should not be conflated with an approval of the military dictatorship in Zimbabwe. While we appreciate restructuring in our governance architecture, we maintain that the government must respect Parliament as a constitutional entity that should discharge its constitutional mandate free from undue influence and manipulation. We reiterate our calls that Zimbabwe must immediately return to the constitutional order and the next government must be as a result of a free, fair and credible election. We maintain our position that the current set up is unconstitutional and illegitimate and is not in the best interest of the democratic order that we aspire for Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe’s economy continues to border in the red zone with an increase in prices of basic commodities, multiple pricing regime and an uncurbed parallel exchange rate. All economic fundamentals have not been addressed at a policy level despite rhetoric that the government will review investment laws and the economic environment. We equally are worried that there has been no mention and thought on the effects of the new proposed economic paradigm which will see the opening up of the economy in a similar manner as the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme of the 1990s. The pursuance of neoliberal economic policies has proven beyond doubt that it will leave the citizen more vulnerable to market forces and erodes bargaining power as a liberalized labour regime strips labour’s protection. We maintain that Zimbabwe should implement a social market economic model (a hybrid model of state welfarist and market forces) that will regulate and protect the citizen from market forces while allowing market forces to flourish.
Zimbabwe is deeply embedded in the scourge of antidevelopment corruption. While the President, Emmerson Mnangagwa has vowed to curb corruption (and in recent days we have seen the arrest of individuals accused of committing acts of corruption), our worldview is that corruption is endemic and systematic going beyond mere individuals aligned to the G40 faction. Corruption is not a factional issue but a national problem that needs stringent measures and enforcing the constitution and critical institutions that include the Auditor General and the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission. Apart from a few known members of the G40 faction, no meaningful arrests have been made to date. Zimbabwe needs a clear roadmap on how the government intends to weed our corrupt individuals and the scourge of corruption as a practice and system
On International Re-engagement
We are worried with indications that Zimbabwe under the leadership of President Mnangagwa will pursue Economic Diplomacy and Transactional Diplomacy. Our understanding is that the government will buy international recognition using the country’s economic resources. This policy sidelines the very foundations of our democratic struggles shaped by a desire to uphold human rights, the return of the rule of law and legitimate state power derived from popular citizen consent. The State of the Nation Address fails to address our fears where an illegitimate government that came into power through a military coup is on the verge of selling economic resources to gain legitimacy from the international community.
On National Peace and Reconciliation
Zimbabwe is confronted by a national scourge of genocide and the current president is implicated in the Gukurahundi Massacres that took place in the Matabeleland and Midlands provinces in the 1980s. The plea for a redress of the past violations is louder than before, President Mnangagwa’s SONA clearly shows that his government will not prioritize National Healing and has in his individual capacity failed to acknowledge his role. This pending matter is further compounded by the deployment of the military in communities under the disguise of a military operation to restore legacy and the recent violence against vendors, touts and ordinary citizens waged by the army is disturbing and is a serious threat to human security in Zimbabwe. It is our view that the redeployment of military personnel to key state institutions further instills a sense of fear among citizens stripping citizens of free expressions enshrined and guaranteed by the constitution.
On 2018 Elections
We applaud the President for mentioning that there is a commitment to ensure free and fair elections in 2018. While the diction of credible, free and fair elections has always been the bedrock of our struggles for a democratic order, we are worried that the State of the Nation Address fails to lay out a roadmap for the realization of free, fair and credible elections in 2018 and beyond. The pronouncements by key figures in the ruling party that include the Presidential Advisor, Mr Chris Mutsvangwa, raise alarm on the deep entrenchment of the military in civilian politics. The military have no role in elections and their conduct should be guided by the constitution as a nonpartisan force. Free, fair and credible elections can only be realized if the following reforms are implemented:
- Demilitarization of Elections and Civilian Politics. The military have no role in elections and should not be used to campaign for the current government.
- Steps must be taken to ensure that the new voters’ roll produced after the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) process is accessible to stakeholders and the voting public can check whether or not they are registered.
- The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) secretariat must be demilitarized and every semblance of military or security/ intelligence presence in the ZEC secretariat must be flushed out as a matter of urgency in order to instil confidence in the electoral body.
- The public media must be depoliticized and all parties must be given equal access to electronic and print media, both public and private. The state broadcaster for example must not in any way act as the public relations arm of the ruling party. Section 155 of the Constitution speaks clearly about the imperative of fair access to the media.
- Partisan distribution of food aid must be stopped as it is undemocratic and unconstitutional. Public figures must stop distributing inputs, tractors, rice, maize and clothing secured by government on behalf of the people on party lines.
- Traditional leaders must not be used as commissars for political parties as is still the case in many rural areas where traditional leaders are used to mobilize people for meetings of the ruling party. This is a clear violation of section 281 of the Constitution and the Traditional Leaders Act.
- Some senior members of the security establishment continue to embed themselves in partisan politics and openly siding with the ruling party. This is a violation of the Constitution.
- Government officials and bureaucrats still being used as an extension of the ruling party.
- The slow pace of Constitutional alignment is a cause of concern with specific mention of the Electoral Act which 7 months shy away from the 2018 elections remains in conflict with the constitution.
- Civil society organizations and ordinary citizens continue to be denied space to exercise freedom of assembly and association. Organizations are forced to notify the police about all meetings and those without memoranda of understanding are subjected to persecution.
Zimbabwe’s recovery and stabilization can only be possible when the nation and its leadership open up to a national dialogue, create a framework for the restoration of constitutional order, return of the rule of law and the conduct of credible, free and fair election in 2018.