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Stop using children to push political agenda

17 Jan 2019 at 00:08hrs | Views
The hallmark of a functioning democracy like Zimbabwe is that in any election, citizens are allowed to make a free choice about who should govern them. The voters get as much information as they can.

This, we are often told, is to allow the voter to make an "informed decision". So far so good.

For all its limitations, Zimbabwe has always tried to adhere to this electoral roadmap. While it is the mandate of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to conduct voter education, various other entities in the non-governmental sector and churches have been allowed to educate.

Political parties have had their share during their campaign trail: they will denounce their rivals while they praise themselves. From the cacophony, the voter must still make an informed decision about who to vote for. That is the only way we can strengthen our democracy, get our people to respect and have confidence in institutions that safeguard and promote the growth of our nascent democracy.

Unfortunately, what happened yesterday is the antithesis of all these democracy precepts — that is allowing our people to make informed decisions and choices.

The enforced stayaway was the culmination of threats by the opposition MDC-Alliance to disrupt President Mnangagwa's rule by instigating riots or demonstrations to make the country ungovernable. Lately, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have openly joined in, led by Crisis Coalition in Zimbabwe.

Yesterday the opposition and some labour unions decided they would put their desires to shut down the country into action. Of course, they couldn't succeed, but that's beside the point. The point is that the evening before, on Sunday, we witnessed an unprecedented flurry of messages on various social media platforms threatening havoc. At the core were threats of violence against anyone who went to work.

The terrorists threatened to burn vehicles, whether private or public, if they were seen carrying passengers. They threatened to burn down fuel service stations which opened. They threatened to burn down shops or any businesses which opened to serve customers. They threatened schools and teachers who opted to go to work. Parents were warned their children would be in danger if they went to school.

Finally, all routes leading into cities were barricaded. As we report elsewhere in this issue, terror tactics and intimidation won the day. It wasn't people making informed decisions to demonstrate against a review of the price of fuel on Saturday.

Kombis had long increased their fares anyway, claiming they were buying expensive fuel on the illegal black market. It is telling that the people demonstrating yesterday were largely youths who had been mobilised to cause mayhem. It wasn't teachers, or doctors, or factory workers. Or the motoring public desperate for fuel.

It was children being abused to push a political agenda, to provoke the Government. We want to be clear here: Government's austerity measures announced last year have not been popular. But part of the truth is also that for years the opposition and businesspeople have called for so-called economic reforms to turn around the economy.

All along they have accused the Government of refusing to bite the bullet, of lacking the will to implement economic reforms.

Austerity comes with pain; this is the truth business and opposition parties never told their customers and supporters. In President Mnangagwa, business and the opposition have found a leader who listens, is ready to execute economic reforms required to improve people's lives. But there is a lot of dissembling by opposition politicians playing on people's genuine pain.

They are pushing the pretence that dialogue and another GNU are the solution, minus the reforms they have been calling for. Zimbabweans should not be fooled by a few power hungry politicians trying to feather their nest.

Zimbabwe's economic challenges cannot be solved by cramming the top with good-for-nothing politicians who lost the elections and now want to pretend to have a solution. We believe it is wrong and disrupts our march to democracy when politicians mobilise unemployed youths to engage in acts of terrorism to destroy the national economy. It undermines our democracy when losing politicians seek to discredit our judiciary and electoral bodies so they can get into power through violence.

While it is everyone's right to demonstrate, we urge the Government to act with utmost firmness when dealing with rogue elements deployed to disturb nation peace and pose danger to human life and property. Those sponsoring such elements must be held to account. At this critical stage, Zimbabwe needs production, not demonstrations.

Source - the herald
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