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Full text: Dabengwa addresses Zimbabwean church and burial society leaders in Hillbrow

23 Jul 2016 at 16:38hrs | Views
Distinguished Guests

Leaders of Churches and Funeral Societies

Comrades and friends

Ladies and Gentlemen, All protocols observed!

The invitation to come and address Zimbabwean church leaders and leaders of funeral societies was a very welcome one to me and to ZAPU.

I am happy that many Zimbabweans such as leaders here today have overcome heavy obstacles to such an extent that they provide spiritual support day in and day out, but also maintain the capacity to provide service when bereavement surfaces. This combination of services is something that many take for granted, whereas I am sure that there was a time when dedicated support of this kind was difficult to get.

Zimbabweans do not deserve to be seen as "litter"

Some weeks ago when I came here on a health-related errand, a friend told me that someone had said that Zimbabweans are scattered around the region "like litter". When you consult dictionaries you see that litter has something to do with waste or rubbish, disorder or clutter, and scattering. In other words, litter is something that is not wanted. Of course, litter can be put to good use through re-use and recycling. What is more serious for me today is the very fact that Zimbabweans have in some cases been put in the same category as "things" just because their value has been debased through political ineptitude and economic greed by the regime in charge of the country, the ZANU-PF regime. Migration of labor and skilled people is a normal process as individuals seek opportunities and personal fulfillment, but we are in a crisis situation where in Zimbabwe today there is over 80% unemployment, meaning that the majority of people are now surviving in the informal sector. One result of this unfortunate situation is that the huge outflow of able-bodied people is beneficial to economic development in other countries but at times is also seen as threatening opportunities of locals.

Politics is the problem

Those of us who got into the politics of liberation and independence never imagined that we would be going backwards in the region while our neighbors became safe havens for  Zimbabwe's unemployed youth and even their older relatives. Our country is rich in mineral resources, arable land, natural resources (e.g. timber) and wildlife among others. We have a very literate and hard-working population and a developed infrastructure that was an advantage when we got independence.

Why do so many of our people need to live outside their own country? Our problem is clearly not our people or lack of resources with which to build a successful country. There are stories of Zimbabweans doing pioneering work in fields such as agriculture in South Africa and elsewhere, yet in our own country we have been transformed from a bread basket to a basket case. Buffer stocks are a thing of the past and we are now among countries that need development assistance or that are net importers of staple foods. When one looks at the politically-induced devastation of economic capacity one cannot escape the old saying that politics is a dirty game. In contrast, however, many games are not so lethal while politics has the capacity to destroy livelihoods through corruption and grand theft amounting to billions of Dollars, nepotism, tribalism, and other manifestations of regime desperation to withstand democratic change. Even good ideas like giving an economic stake have been undermined by the implementation of so-called indigenization, which has enriched a few and provided a route to asset grabs without providing collateral to those who started the enterprises.

Politics is also the solution    

For the past few years the Zimbabwe government has accused "the West" of maintaining sanctions against the country, and that this is the reason for economic meltdown. What is clear however is that resumption of normal relations with international financial institutions is difficult to foresee in the absence of an improved climate for investment. Economic mismanagement that was reduced during the life of the Government of National Unity (GNU) came back forcefully when that uneasy cohabitation came to an end. We now find ourselves restricted from withdrawing our money from banks in the regime's desperate moves to manage limited cash in the country. This worsens the liquidity crisis because when you restrict cash withdrawals you actually discourage people from saving with the banks but to horde their money. Apart from credit from international institutions, one answer to this cash crisis is the promotion of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country's economy. Thus re-engagement with the international community is a necessary medicine to drink, as it were, with its bitter taste. The movement of capital and the increasing globalization of trade are here to stay. A key factor that segments of our establishment have been reluctant to recognize is that security of investment is a prerequisite for attracting would-be investors. Even China and others who believe in state ownership of key sectors have been smart enough to provide security for investments and to guarantee repatriation of profits. A government in which ZAPU is involved has to bite this bullet and ensure that Zimbabwe becomes an attractive country for investment which will add value to our abundant resources and release the creativity of our people.

The general public is increasingly aware of the connection between escalating economic hardship and bad political governance. You are all aware of the crisis because you have been sustaining relatives and whole communities through the money and goods you have been sending over the years. What we can say here is that failure to prevent the cash crisis in particular lies at the feet of the government as regulator of the economy. The crippling cash crisis should have been foreseen when savings were dwindling partly due to the low or no returns on savings, accompanied by huge transaction costs on these savings. This has been discouraging those who would have wished to save but instead they were left at the mercy of the financial institutions (banks etc.) that have been making huge profits at the expense of the public. When you add indiscipline at para-statal institutions and failure by government to balance income and expenditure you understand why civil servants and other key personnel sometimes go unpaid or can no longer know when to expect their salaries. The country is not earning enough foreign currency to cover its import bill whether for essentials or for luxuries yet the biggest users of this scarce resource is the governing elite who are proud to cover foreign events at public expense. The restoring of social, health and other essential services is at the bottom of their priorities.

Commitment to civil liberties and restitution for past wrongs

There is so much going wrong on a daily basis that new atrocities like brutal beating of civilians after peaceful demonstrations is condemned but not unexpected. I personally went to visit victims of police violence in Makhokhoba high-density suburb in Bulawayo, and it has to be witnessed to be believed. In Ndebele (and I think there is a similar saying in Shona) the saying goes, "Isikwelede kasiboli" (A debt does not rot). We have to pursue the heavy-handed and callous disregard for the safety and integrity of our people at the hands of those who should be protecting and defending their constitutional rights.

The violation of human rights and disregard for human dignity is almost as old as our independence, with periods of relative tranquility here and there. What is striking is that instead of individual incidents there is a recognizable pattern of impunity, starting with the infamous "Gukurahundi" killings of over 20,000 civilians in Matebeleland and the Midlands in the early 1980s. This week I attended the launch of a new book by Professor Kenneth Mufuka in which he portrayed the rigidity and self-centeredness of President Robert Mugabe.  The book provides evidence of a deliberate plan and process to unleash terror unrelated to the so-called "dissident" menace that was used as a pretext for the killings. It also chronicles the lack of remorse or official apology to the families and affected communities, let alone a program for restitution. To a lesser extent, the chaotic and  violent  seizure of farms owned by whites, and later the "Murambatsvina" destruction of unregistered houses bear some of the hallmarks of callousness shown in the ethnically-inspired (simply genocidal) killings in Ndebele-speaking areas of the country.

The adoption of the new Constitution in 2013 provides a window for Zimbabwe to make a transition to a more democratic society. Once again, it is not surprising that the ZANU-PF government shows no enthusiasm for the full implementation of reforms envisaged in the new constitution. However, anything short of full implementation of this constitution is no less than sowing seeds of instability and political strife whose harvest will be reaped by the "born free" generation (as those who grew up or were born after independence are styled).It is a legacy that our youth and not-so-young (36 years after independence) do not deserve.
Unity for change: opposition unity imperative

A prerequisite for democratic change is the peaceful removal of ZANU-PF rule. Election rigging is still a big threat to our right to democratic change. This is made easier when the opposition parties are numerous and uncoordinated. As ZAPU we have experience of effective united fronts and a standing policy of teaming up with other parties when the need arises and a common position can be crafted. During the liberation struggle we tested this approach most successfully in the Patriotic Front that jointly negotiated the Lancaster House settlement that preceded independence. Prior to the 2013 harmonized elections ZAPU attempted an alliance with the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by Prof. Welshman Ncube but this was stillborn for various reasons. More recently we were among the four parties that negotiated the framework document for the Coalition of Democrats (CODE). Although we did not sign the document we have retained an observer status and will be discussing that initiative at our Congress being held 25-27 August 2016. We are exploring ways of working with other parties that are also not signatories to CODE, because fragmentation is not a serious option for opposition parties as we approach the 2018 elections.

Envisaging a bright future for our children

There was a time when age meant being a fountain of wisdom and looking forward to retirement. Sadly, this is not an orientation in the "winner-takes-all" politics of the ruling party that has made purges an art and sycophancy a rule of survival for political appointees. I hope that we shall somehow leave a bright future where principled debate is not equated with revolt or, worse, a desire to overthrow by unorthodox means those in power. Peaceful competition is enshrined in the constitution but practice has yet to catch up within the ruling elite's enforcers and in official attitudes to opposing views.

Let me direct a comment to younger members of this audience. Those of us who are in our twilight years would like and have a duty to leave the country better than we found it. We are not doing well (to say the least); so I hope those coming into leadership should do much better. The solution to our democratic challenges is not just change to get rid of old, tyrannical leaders. Younger dictators are as unwelcome as their older accomplices and pioneers of evil policies. Inter-general equity can only be realized if a culture of accountability and humility becomes the norm. I am happy that this audience has people who appreciate the importance of conscience in leadership and the concept of servant leadership.

Taking moral responsibility
At the beginning of my talk I made reference to the important role that church leaders and burial society leaders play in the lives of our Zimbabwean community outside the country. These leaders among you today provide an indispensable service in counseling people in their daily lives and when bereavement strikes. Those of us living inside Zimbabwe appreciate the importance of this caring community, assuring us that in the middle of hardship and absence of close family and old friends there are people who have tried hard to bridge the gap. It is still a tough experience to receive coffins and caskets bearing dear ones who left in good health because of pressures beyond them.

Providing our own support to change
Today I am in a role that is never my favorite; that of appealing to people who have many competing priorities to take care of. My source of comfort is that you will appreciate that we have survived so far by our bootstraps and not been compromised by anybody's ill-gotten wealth. Our membership has fortunately understood that independence of thought is economically expensive. Consequently they have dug deep over the years to keep the party alive.  This is increasingly difficult as the economy declines. We still think that the choices of our people should not be compromised because of leaders who may be willing to mortgage the country for personal power and expensive life-styles they cannot afford without donor money. We shall maintain integrity but we need support as we approach our 8th Congress.

 Ultimately, corruptly-procured money should also not give undue advantage to those who thrive on rent-seeking behavior (i.e. who mange national resources to derive inexplicable riches that cannot be credibly linked to their salaries and business ventures).  

ZAPU postponed its congress from last year for completion of structures but also because of resource constraints (transport of delegates, food, accommodation, regalia etc.). I hope in conclusion therefore that Zimbabwean leaders of churches and burial societies can contribute to our cause, so that we can in turn make our contribution to a better Zimbabwe.
I thank you!

Source - Dr. Dumiso Dabengwa
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