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Comment: It’s Political Delinquency

CHRISTMAS, which all over the world is described as the festive season, is upon us. Unfortunately for Zimbabweans there are no festivities to speak of. As memories of the September 15 signing of the power-sharing agreement between Zimbabwe’s three main parties fade, and for some turn into a nightmare, ordinary people now wonder aloud: What went wrong?

As the promises of economic recovery and national renewal politicians made ahead of the March 29 elections fade into the mists, ordinary people wonder what happened.

As hunger and a devastating cholera epidemic stalk the land without any indications of urgent action on the part of government, people understandably ask: Does anyone care?

Needless to say, in Zimbabwe’s badly polarised and poisoned political environment the answer one gets to these many questions depends on their vantage point on the political divide. We have become past-masters at the blame game without anyone accepting responsibility for the debilitating political stalemate in the country which is taking a huge toll in human lives.

There is also no doubt that more Zimbabweans have been trying to leave the country since it became evident that there was no meeting of minds between the major political players, President Robert Mugabe and MDC-Tsvangirai leader Morgan Tsvangirai. To us that is a vote of no confidence in those who had promised to serve and save the nation from the current state of economic and social collapse.

What has also become evident beyond question is that what is at stake in the stalled negotiations to form an inclusive government has nothing to do with meeting people’s needs but the desire by the political leadership for dominance. There have been more efforts expended in trying to accentuate the differences between Zanu PF and the MDC-Tsvangirai than what the two parties share as representatives of the people of Zimbabwe.

In this regard it is futile to keep referring to the March 29 elections as the magic wand to unlock the political deadlock as if there were a decisive winner in the presidential race. In fact, the outcome of the vote in both the presidential and House of Assembly tallies points to the need for an inclusive government. It is therefore dishonest for either party to demand in the negotiations a dominance it failed to achieve through the ballot.

Another convenient argument has been that Tsvangirai and the MDC deserve to rule because Zanu PF and Mugabe have been at the helm for the past 28 years and have in fact precipitated and presided over the collapse of Zimbabwe’s economy and social services.

This argument misses the point that politics is about gaining power and retaining it. It is not about entitlement merely because the incumbent regime has failed. Power has to be won in an open contest, which is what both parties failed to do in March according to Zimbabwe’s electoral laws.

Most damaging however has been Zanu PF’s use of force to coerce voters to see things its way.

Democracy dictates that a political party seeking power must win the hearts and minds of the electorate by the force of its message. It was in this respect that the ruling party lost the contest in March and it must accept the need for compromise and sharing of the power it has held alone for nearly three decades.

To us the solution to the country’s woes does not lie in the blame game. This is a betrayal of the people.

The answer lies in the leaders of the two main political parties examining and accepting their limitations and agreeing to work together. What is needed urgently is to alleviate people’s suffering, not who wields what power in an inclusive government. This is an entirely selfish agenda which can only deepen, or lead to another, dictatorship.

While there is clear merit in the MDC’s demand for a fresh election as another way to resolve the stalemate on who should lead the country, this exposes a disturbing detachment from the ordinary people and urgency of the issues affecting them such as hunger, the cholera pandemic and shortages of basic commodities all round.

It also shows an inability to evaluate the actual state of the economy and whether it can sustain further elections whose outcomes are not guaranteed to yield an enduring solution.

If anything, this option is dependent on foreigners funding the elections and then deciding on their own terms who the victors are. It bears the same political barrenness which dictates that economic recovery in Zimbabwe can be achieved solely with foreign aid while Zimbabweans themselves quibble over ministerial portfolios.

We believe an election can wait while politicians attend to the urgent needs of the people and also work on new electoral institutions to remove the anomalies which have led to electoral disputes in the past. Anyone who cannot appreciate the daily suffering of ordinary Zimbabweans while he pursues personal glory doesn’t deserve to rule this country.

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