GNU: Nothing has Changed Yet

HOW great would it be for the majority of Zimbabweans if the one month-old Government of National Unity (GNU) had brought about a new political dispensation!  

But alas, the GNU composed of Zanu PF and the two formations of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has not changed anything, yet.

Reference to the governmental arrangement might have been curiously changed from GNU to “inclusive government”, but the sun shines still by day, and the stars by night.

That is as much light as the majority of citizens enjoy. Power cuts still prevail. The dark horrors of the bad old days still haunt the land, through the nation’s collective memory, and through the gross injustices that still pervade the country.

The rule of law is still largely absent, the violation of civil liberties and basic human rights are still prominent features of the society, the struggle for real freedom for the majority of citizens continues, and the majority of Zimbabweans still languish in abject poverty.

Certain government lawyers are still guided in their execution of duties by political and executive directives instead of legal provisions that are codified in the Constitution and in the statute books.

A few illustrations on the lawlessness:  On February 12, just a day after the inauguration of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, my younger brother Cuthbert was accosted by soldiers around 7am in central Harare. 

He was bundled into an army truck, and driven away to some secluded spot on the outskirts of town.  The truck passed through the Roadport area wherefrom the marauding soldiers picked up a number of moneychangers.

My brother’s “crime” was that he carried a green bag, which allegedly looked like an army bag.  The crime of the moneychangers was that they changed money.

The bag plus US$80 which my brother had on him were automatically forfeited to the soldiers benefit. Whatever currency the moneychangers had on their persons was similarly confiscated, without any due process.

In October 2008, several citizens around the country were abducted from their homes at 3am, and at other ungodly hours.  Horrific tales have been told about the grossly inhuman, degrading and barbaric treatment that the abductees suffered at the hands of state agents.

Yet, after the renamed “inclusive government” was ushered in most of the abductees continued to languish in under-resourced detention centres. Other abductees were kept at secret detention centres, where they were subjected to sub-human treatment and badly tortured.

At least seven of the abductees are still unaccounted for.  High Court Orders for the submissions of reports on progress made by the state in investigating the whereabouts of the missing citizens, and for the immediate release of those who had been accounted for, were ignored.

Indeed, the disregard of court orders and judgements continues to be a worrisome trait of governance in Zimbabwe. We still listen on national television to public attacks on the findings of the Sadc Tribunal in respect of the farmers’ cases. 

If indeed the Tribunal did not have jurisdiction over Zimbabwe’s sovereign acts, then Zimbabwe should not have participated in the proceedings of the Tribunal in the first place.

Even after the installation of the new government, some members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (Woza) were beaten up by the usual elements, and others arrested for exercising their constitutional right of self-expression.

Student leaders have been arrested for expressing themselves through demonstrations.
Apologists might argue that Woza and the student demonstrators violated the law. 

The probable subject law would be the Public Order and Security Act (Posa). That is the other pointer to the stagnation of Zimbabwe’s political crisis: very repressive laws remain on the country’s statute books.

Posa, which replaced the colonial Law and Order (Maintenance) Act remains in place. The Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which was the tool used to destroy many publications, remains enforceable.  

Still on the list of Acts of Parliament is the Broadcasting Services Act under whose obnoxious application the monopoly of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation is maintained.  

Whilst the government speaks ill of foreign-based Zimbabwean broadcasting stations, the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe continues to be stingy with broadcasting licences by refusing to issue a single broadcasting licence to alternative broadcasters.

This unpalatable lamentation of woes has been sung before, and oftentimes in greater detail in other literary works.

However, a month after the formation of the GNU, these key issues must be raised again in making the point that nothing has changed, yet.

Some might says a month is too early a time to be judging the subject government.  Others could argue that the new regime features new faces.

Indeed, the leaders might be acting graciously to each other in times of grief, which is the civilised thing to do, but for the suffering abductee who has been denied his liberty for over 120 days, or the impoverished father who cannot feed his family, one day longer of the old order is as bad as a lifetime under a repressive regime.

In the final analysis, hope is all we have. We therefore can only hope that at the end of the second and subsequent months of the GNU/inclusive government, the material features that distinguish a free and democratic society from a totalitarian state, would have changed for the better.

Chris Mhike is a lawyer practising in Harare.

BY CHRIS MHIKE