Comment: GNU: Let’s have the Change People Desire

ARE we witnessing the beginning of a new era or simply seeing the old guard purchasing a new lease on life?


It has to be said, while newspapers may be duty-bound to exercise some scepticism over an arrangement that allows President Mugabe’s dead-wood cronies to hang on to office when their dismal record is only too evident, at the same time there is room for cautious optimism as a new generation takes charge at various levels within the country.

The MDC now governs most of the nation’s urban centres, including its four largest cities. It has a majority of parliamentary seats, 14 cabinet posts, and the posts of prime minister and deputy prime minister. Several governorships are on their way, we gather.

Whatever the obstacles to change laid in the path of the party’s agenda, it cannot claim an absence of capacity. What it lacks is experience. But that is a problem common to new incumbents around the world.

Tony Blair and nearly all his cabinet were new to office in 1997. So was Nelson Mandela in 1994. What the MDC needs to do is seize the goodwill going for it at home and abroad and make capital out of it.

There are a number of litmus tests which the new government will face. In his Glamis Stadium address, Tsvangirai referred to restoration of the rule of law as a priority.

That will mean the release of the remaining political prisoners, an end to abductions and torture, and a complete overhaul of the law-enforcement regime aimed at instilling professional behaviour. Giles Mutsekwa as co-Home Affairs minister has a mountain to climb in getting this done.

Tsvangirai said he wanted to see a country in which people are not afraid to express their opinions. That for the media means allowing a diversity of views to contend. In particular we want to see a public media where people of differing viewpoints have access.

For too long the country has been “served” by a partisan and unprofessional media which denounces the ruling party’s perceived enemies. Their inept coverage of Tsvangirai’s swearing in tells us all we need to know about their usefulness.

As was pointed out at a Jomic meeting last week, once ZBC opens up to a proliferation of views, there will be no need for exiled broadcasters. We must allow our own nationals to return home and extend a welcome to foreign correspondents.

We have for too long heard about the evil of sanctions without being told of the evils that gave birth to them. Even as the swearing in ceremony was taking place, the state’s apologists were dutifully claiming that the nation’s crisis stemmed from sanctions.

Sadc, the AU and shamefully even Arthur Mutambara were adding their voices to this mendacity without calling for a restoration of the rule of law and the release of political prisoners.

It is important to remind ourselves that the circumstances that led to the imposition of sanctions  — political violence, illegal land seizures, misgovernance — persist. That is why we need a professional police force and an independent judiciary that is not afraid to uphold individual rights, particularly the right to liberty.

Tsvangirai has his work cut out for him. He reminded his audience at Glamis Stadium on Wednesday that it was exactly 19 years to the day since Nelson Mandela walked as a free man from imprisonment in Cape Town. Wednesday’s events were just the beginning of a similar journey, he emphasised. It would be a “long road to freedom” for his party with so much on their agenda.

One of his priorities will be the collapse of the health system. The cholera scourge stalking the land is the direct product of political delinquency. If funds allocated to fleets of vehicles for ministers, generals and judges had instead been spent on proper sanitation systems, we could have saved thousands of lives.

Some of Tsvangirai’s ministers will think they have been given a ticket to jump aboard the state’s gravy train. He needs to disabuse them of this view and light a fire under those sleeping on the job.
The people voted for change. They want to see change. They want a unity government only in so far as it delivers results.

Now let’s see it do that.