By Magari Mandebvu
IT is not surprising that Alexander Kanengoni in his article “Who silenced the Daily News?” (Independent, October 10) remains the voice of a Zanu PF faithful in the in
I, too, was for a long time a fervent fan of Robert Mugabe and I know how breaking with the political love of one’s life can be as painful as a divorce in marriage. So I don’t blame him for his position, but we must acknowledge that what we get from him will be the true faith of the old-time Zanu PF stalwarts. Unfortunately, the true faithful, like Kanengoni, seem unable to admit when their faith conflicts with the facts.
In his article, Kanengoni misinterprets the rejection of the government’s constitutional proposals. The issue is not Robert Mugabe or Zanu PF, but the structures of power. A change of government without essential constitutional changes would leave the new government with as much power, and the same temptation to misuse it, as Zanu PF, and we don’t want that.
Modern politics tend to encourage politicians who have an excessive love of power: they need it to win. Therefore I wouldn’t trust a four-times winner like Mugabe and his party with the power our present constitution gives them. I wouldn’t trust his favourite enemy Tony Blair with 20 years in power and I wouldn’t trust George W Bush (or his cleverer backers) not to rig the next US presidential election, just as they rigged the last one. I wouldn’t trust that very pleasant man Morgan Tsvangirai with the powers Mugabe now holds. That would be too much of a temptation for anyone. The voters showed in the referendum that they have learned that we must frame our own constitution to ensure that the people we vote for remain, as far as possible, answerable to us.
Voters showed they don’t want government concessions that give us an executive president or a prime minister appointed by the president, but a prime minister who is head of the government and answerable to parliament.
Twenty-five percent of the seats in parliament filled by “proportional representation” but 100% filled by some form of proportional representation, which could mean a system that counts the voters’ second and further preferences, as is done in Ireland, Australia and Malta. What was offered would have given a party that won 45% of the vote and no constituency seats only 45% of the remaining 25%, ie just over 10% of the seats, while in the German system, such a party would end up with 45% of the seats. We wanted democracy, which means the fairest representation of the people’s wishes that fallible human systems can provide.
Voters rejected the government’s proposals because after they had been consulted, their wishes on these points were disregarded.
As for the answer to his main question, “Who closed the Daily News?” the first answer is the police using the pretext of a law that is still under challenge because it appears to deny us certain fundamental rights enshrined in even our present imperfect constitution, and then by removing the paper’s computers and refusing to return them when so ordered by the courts. They must bear responsibility for the closure.
Kanengoni’s argument seems to be that the Daily News provoked the unconstitutional and illegal way it was closed. That doesn’t justify unconstitutional and illegal action by the forces who are supposed to support the law and the constitution.
His argument is even weaker when we see that it relies on factual inaccuracies. The Daily News never called on outsiders to impose sanctions on the people. If by “us” Kanengoni means Zanu PF and its closest supporters, that is another matter. The only sanctions that have been imposed have been carefully targeted at the leadership of Zanu PF. I don’t suffer any loss if our president and his good lady cannot go shopping in Paris and London.
I wouldn’t even suffer if Bishop Kunonga could not go to a church conference in Canterbury. I don’t suffer because those hateful British make a visa so expensive that I can’t go shopping in London. I can’t spare any tears for anyone else who can afford the airfare and the visa, but won’t be given a visa. Until a very few years ago, none of us had much difficulty buying what we really needed here in our own beautiful, productive Zimbabwe. I do suffer because the country can no longer produce enough maize seed to feed us all even if the coming rainy season is good. We all know that we can’t blame Tony Blair for the shortage of seed, and we know who we can blame.
Now, I am aware that anyone who falls out of love, as I did with Zanu PF some time ago, runs the risk of turning his love into hate, but on re-reading what I have just written I can only see facts that contradict Kanengoni’s true faith. When that happens, those facts need to be taken seriously, which means the faith must be re-examined.
I agree entirely with Kanengoni that we need Zimbabweans to sit down and talk sensibly without prejudice or preconditions about our present difficulties in order to solve them. I admit the implication in his argument that we have some citizens, and some vocal ones, who, when they fell out of love with Zanu PF, found the easiest way to live with the divorce was to turn their love into hate. But are those people the only ones who are dissatisfied with our present situation, or our present political leadership? Who broke off the latest attempt by concerned leaders of our churches to bring the two parties together round the conference table? The Daily News? The MDC? Or someone else?
I could remember a few more facts and ask more questions:
* Which party had some 20 000 civilians killed in trying to suppress a very small group of dissidents in Matabeleland in the early 1980s?
* Which party committed itself for may years to creating a one-party state in Zimbabwe?
* Magari Mandebvu writes from Hatfield in Harare.