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Whither Zimbabwe at 34!

16 Apr 2014 at 10:10hrs | Views

Presentation notes by ZAPU President Dr. Dumiso Dabengwa at a meeting by Bulawayo Agenda & SAPES Trust.

Special Independence Meeting, 15 April 2014
Small City Hall, Bulawayo

Good evening!
Ladies and Gentlemen,

All protocols observed!

In a few days, on 18 April, Zimbabwe will be 34 years old. In some countries people of that age can become President, let alone other influential posts in government and the corporate sector. This debate is therefore appropriate as an honest assessment of where we are and where we ought to be. I will deal with this theme in the format communicated to me.

1. Ideals of the liberation struggle

Our slogan in the National Democratic Party (NDP) in 1960, the predecessor of ZAPU, summed up the core demand that would make all related freedoms possible: "One man, one Vote!" The proper language today would be: "One Person, One Vote!" This slogan defined the key target of national liberation, i.e. removing racist white minority rule so that all adults could vote and determine their governance. Today this is not a remarkable demand but there was a time that the likes of Ian Smith would vow that there would be "No majority rule in my lifetime; not in a thousand years!"

Universal suffrage (i.e. majority rule) was seen as a means to protect and promote the interests of the black majority who were at the mercy of white voters and their discriminatory governments in Rhodesia and elsewhere in Southern Africa. Discriminatory laws, regulations and practices that were used to control the lives and access to opportunity of the black majority would be removed.

Human rights, particularly the idea of equality of all human beings, were an underlying ideal of the whole national liberation struggle. It is sometimes forgotten that one of the worst aspects of colonial racism was the cultural denigration and hence humiliation of black people, the notion that one was assigned a social status purely on the basis of color regardless of capacity and attainment.
2. Post-independence developmental aspirations of Zimbabweans

Beyond the attainment of the right to vote and beyond the dismantling of the racist system, the previously oppressed majority expected the resulting freedom to enhance their lives socially, economically and politically.

First and foremost, the idea was not just the attainment of formal democracy but instead that there would now be truly accountable government, one that would do things in consultation with "the people". Nothing would ever be so good that it would be necessary to impose it without consent.

Another aspiration and to which so many of our people of all ages sacrificed resources, opportunities and even lives, was for higher standards of living compared to what they and their offspring were condemned to under the colonial regime.         

3. Has the Zimbabwe Government lived up to the ideals of the liberation struggle?

If only one word is required, the answer would be No! However the answer needs to be more nuanced. There are achievements, but these are outweighed by the failures and omissions.

The most immediate achievement is that the previously disenfranchised majority are now the principal voters. There is nobody we can blame for our policy choices; we can now mismanage the country for ourselves because we removed racist rule!

 Before independence our people excelled in the few opportunities they got in the education sector. This was expanded very well in the early years of independence to the point that we got some of the highest attainments in the world.

Our education, health and social services generally grew tremendously after independence, although this was soon undermined in the Matebeleland and Midlands provinces by the genocidal "Gukurahundi" killings and the insecurity that came with that campaign.

The Lancaster House compromise left us with vestiges of the colonial apparatus of repression (detention without trial, control of gatherings, monopoly of information dissemination etc.) that was soon used to stifle political dissent and to consolidate power in the hands of Zanu-PF, to create a virtual one-party state.

The monopoly of state power by Zanu-PF and its coercive use resulted in Dr. Joshua Nkomo being forced to accept the so-called "Unity Accord" in 1987 and the swallowing of ZAPU because he wanted to stop the killings of innocent people targeted by "Gukurahundi". As you all know or should, this campaign of terror was conducted by the Fifth Brigade of the National Army on political and ethnic considerations.

After the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP) economic hardship hit wage earners in industry and the public sector. Also the long-delayed land re-distribution got underway, but with the chaotic land grabs, multiple-farm ownership and lack of infrastructural support that would have ensured efficient utilization and productivity. The recommendations of the land commissions were not followed with regard to criteria for acquisition and the resolution of land titles (with repercussions on banks and other lending institutions etc.). The Zimbabwe Dollar currency crisis was an inevitable consequence.

The effects of political impunity were compounded by increasing corruption which led to collapse of institutions, vandalisation of medical care, power and other utilities and inability to pay even civil servants that help run government itself.

4. What next; where do we go from here?

The new Constitution has laid some of the foundation for democratic elections although there are some "outstanding issues" to be sorted out. The completion of the democratization agenda depends on pressure by political parties and civil society now that Zanu-PF has a majority in parliament.

Ironically the victory that Zanu-PF engineered for itself through control of the Voters' Roll and other manipulations like the use of voting slips that could not be verified against the Voters' Roll is only the beginning of problems for the ruling party and the country. They have no game plan for resuscitation of the economy, and unemployment is high and growing, affecting the youth and household incomes.

We need to strive for implementation of real devolution of power because that is one way to ensure effective control and use of natural resources by all regions in the country. This will help to reduce lack of accountability such as shown by the looting of resources (Chiadzwa etc.) and the gravy train in the centrally managed parastatal entities.

Effective devolution of power is also the answer to perennial problems like the de-industrialization of Bulawayo by a remotely controlled process with its remote priorities. Talking about priorities, water for Bulawayo through the construction of a pipeline from the Zambezi has been one that practically all stakeholders in the city and in the pipeline corridor have seen as an obvious answer to development.

Finally, all forms and avenues of pressure should be explored to make sure that the independent commissions in the new Constitution get adequate support and the capacity to carry out their mandates. This is particularly important for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) because its efficient operation will ensure that the mechanisms for political change and succession are well-oiled.

I thank you for your attention and am ready to engage on specific questions directed at ZAPU.

Source - Dr. Dumiso Dabengwa
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