ZIMBABWEANS What next after March 31?

ONE could be forgiven for thinking that Zanu PF’s world ends on March 31. The party’s mindset has been so tuned to winning the election that it has become blind to the fact that there is April 1 and days, w

eeks and months to follow.

The state of the nation after March 31 — in the event of a Zanu PF victory — will be determined by policies being propagated by the party now. There is no attempt by the Zanu PF leadership to devise strategies that would rescue the country from its current isolation. Repression and demagoguery, which have kept Zimbabwe out of the community of nations, are being celebrated here as if they will put food on the table and create jobs for the multitudes on the street.

The Supreme Court ruling this week upholding the constitutionality of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act was feted in the state media as an important victory for the country.

Lawyers with Zanu PF leanings were wheeled into the TV studios to tell us that the judgement had cleared all impediments to the application of the law and that the ruling was a confirmation that Aippa was good legislation which did not inhibit the holding of free and fair elections and the operations of journalists in Zimbabwe.

That is dangerous delusionism which has been the hallmark of Zanu PF governance. No one will be fooled by the dross that Aippa is suddenly a good law because our not-so-respected Supreme Court bench has upheld its dictates. Aippa remains a patently anti-democratic law and an instrument to stifle public discourse. It will not receive international acceptance because Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku has declared it constitutional.

The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights in its recently adopted report on Zimbabwe recommended the amendment of Aippa because it is not in sync with regional and continental conventions to which Zimbabwe is a signatory.

Of late, there has been a spirited defence by the police of the Public Order and Security Act, which the African Commission also recommended should be amended because it is bad law. Our rulers will not take heed because demagoguery is often built on a connecting web of bad laws.

Zimbabwe has advertised its ill-famed credentials to the international community long enough but the Zanu PF government still believes in strutting its stuff as the tough guy standing up to international bullies. This, unfortunately, is foolish bravado that is making us poorer by the day.

As if this were not enough, we have Labour minister Paul Mangwana threatening to prosecute NGOs under the Private Voluntary Organisations Act for allegedly failing to account for monies purportedly raised for humanitarian purposes.

International donors who provided the funds are not amused by this ministerial intrusion. Local NGOs who have provided useful cover to government in feeding the poor in rural areas are also chafing at this attempt to label them criminals.

With widespread crop failure this year due to erratic rains and the usual problem of poor planning, Zimbabwe is a candidate for international assistance even if Mangwana and Agriculture minister Joseph Made want us to believe otherwise. In the absence of goodwill between government and international donors, the latter would rather channel aid through NGOs. Enter Mangwana and suddenly this arrangement, which averted a major humanitarian crisis in 2003 and 2004, is in jeopardy.

These are the fruits of government’s failure to focus beyond an election victory against the MDC. There is no plan in place to reintegrate the country into the international community and restore its image as an investment destination. There is no attempt to help Zimbabwe qualify for balance-of-payments support at a time forex shortages are about to deepen.
As things stand, we are not sure what Mugabe meant when he declared 2005 a “year of investment”. We are waiting for that to translate into jobs, houses and a revival of the manufacturing sector.

Meanwhile, the language of hate and intolerance persists.

Our asinine neighbours cheering Mugabe on should be reminded that Zimbabweans want to start living a normal life again. That cannot happen when people are hostage to a repressive system built around coercion and paranoia. If the region is to become a zone of peace and prosperity, Sadc rulers, and particularly South Africa, must stop abetting misrule in Zimbabwe.

Nothing will change after March 31 except for the worse. Zanu PF has no idea how to pull itself out of the hole it has dug for the nation. Facile self-deception is no substitute for policy.

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