HomeOpinionBad Governance to Blame, Not Sanctions

Bad Governance to Blame, Not Sanctions

ZIMBABWE is a nation both blessed and cursed; blessed with an honest and hardworking citizenry. The residence of bad governance perpetuated by Zanu PF under the stewardship of President Robert Mugabe has, insidiously, become our curse.

Their agenda has become averse to the needs of the general populace in Zimbabwe.

What is their agenda? Simply put, it reads thus: “We do not say an eye for an eye neither do we say a tooth for a tooth.

Anyone who knocks out one of our teeth will have his jaw bashed in and one who pokes our eye will have his head chopped off.” Zanu PF is now literally feeding off the very system that our erstwhile liberation icon Josiah Magama Tongogara vowed to crush.

It has brought the common adage that, “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” into proper perspective.

The internecine tremors that have visited our socio-economic realms all have their epicentres firmly rooted in bad governance. Our Achilles heel as the citizenry of this once great nation has been, and is, our docile propensity vis-à-vis constitutional reform (the basis for governance).

The Constitution of a country is not sacrosanct, like any other document, it is written by men and hence can be changed by men.

The independence Constitution borne out of the Lancaster House Agreement signed on December 21 1979 did present major constraints on the Zanu PF-led government;

l Land could only change hands on a willing buyer, willing seller basis –– white commercial farmers were free to keep “their land”. Only underutilised land was to be compulsorily acquired.

 l Constitutional matters regarding land transfers and white participation in government were to beguaranteed for the first 10 years (1980 – 1990).

In return for the Zimbabweans guaranteeing existing property rights, the British agreed to underwrite half the costs of a resettlement programme. More than £630 million of aid was pledged at the Lancaster House conference.

The first phase of land reform began in 1980, and was mostly funded by the United Kingdom. It successfully resettled around 70 000 landless people on more than 20 000 km² of land. The Independence Constitution presented a window of opportunity for the megalomaniacs in Zanu PF and is the bedrock on which they have built a system of bad governance.

In the period 1990 to 2000 (20 years after our Independence) the issue of a new Constitution was not on the main agenda.

A Draft Constitution was rejected in a referendum held on February 12-13 2000. Instead of engaging stakeholders in their entirety and addressing their concerns, Zanu PF used the popular ‘NO’ Vote to kick-start farm invasions. Deemed “invasions” because the Independence Constitution recognised the white commercial farmers as Zimbabweans who had rights to farm the land and own it.

Being the revolutionaries they are, Zanu PF amended the Constitution –– Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No 17) Act of 2005. Do you first incarcerate a person for a certain action and then, in hindsight, pass a law making the action of that person an offence?

Such guerilla tactics may have served us well in the liberation struggle but in post-colonial Zimbabwe, where we claim to have a functional judicial system, they are redundant if not repugnant.

President Mugabe has always poured scorn on Lovemore Madhuku and the organisation he leads, the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA).

According to Mugabe, the NCA has but one member referring to Madhuku himself. His assertion implies that he is in complete denial about the urgent need for a new home-grown Constitution in Zimbabwe.

 If Madhuku was to go to Mugabe’s house and shout, “Look Sir, your house is on fire”, he would reply nonchalantly thus, “Why should I believe you Madhuku?

Ko vamwe vanotsigira zvaunotaura izvi varipiko? (Where are the people who back up what you are saying?) Besides, I am quite confident that it’s not the whole house that is on fire, part of it is still intact –– surely.”

Our Constitution should ensure that those we vote into office serve the people and not vice-versa. Morgan Tsvangirai when signing the MOU between his party, Zanu PF and MDC rightfully noted that there is no single individual in this country who has a monopoly of patriotism.

Constitutionally this should translate to a limit in the number of terms that one can serve as president. There has to be a guarantee that any Zimbabwean with true character, a good CV (not necessarily a liberation war hero), and has the ambition of serving his/her country in the office of the president, should have a fair mathematical chance of doing so.

We cannot leave it to one individual to just decree that there is no vacancy in this office; this office should have a vacancy after a set period of time.

We hope for a constitution that recognises the simple truth that, “Power will intoxicate the best hearts, as wine the strongest heads. No man is wise enough or good enough to be trusted with unlimited power.”

To that end, power should be decentralised. Constitutional bodies such as parliament and the judiciary must act as safety nets against dictatorial tendencies and undemocratic practices.

The president must have power, by and with the advice and consent of parliament (House of Assembly and Senate). This institution needs to be protected from any overtures from the executive.

The House of Assembly houses representatives of the people. Logically then, the president and entire executive should be answerable to this body. We say no to unlimited presidential powers.   

Unlawful detentions, beatings by the police, abductions by “unknown” armed men, are all common occurrences in Zimbabwe. Some of the latest victims are Jestina Mukoko, Broderick Takawira, and Pascal Gonzo (all of Zimbabwe Peace Project).

Why is it a crime to demonstrate peacefully, write an article critical of the president, strike for better wages, etc?

Is there no Bill of Rights enshrined in the Constitution that defends these most basic of citizen’s rights? If it’s there, Zanu PF treats it as irrelevant and immaterial because to them the violation of our rights is payment of homage to them for freeing us from the shackles of colonialism.

We look forward to a Constitution that promotes and protects all human rights with no exceptions. Let the people be educated on the Bill of Rights and not just on voting.

All state machinery and resources must be used first and foremost to defend the rights of every citizen in a non-partisan, non-racial, and non-sectarian manner.

We are all too familiar with the story of the man who built his house on a foundation of sand –– when the rain poured down and the rivers overflowed and wind blew against that house, it fell.

Zanu PF now points an accusing finger at the West saying that all our economic challenges are due to the “illegal” sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by Britain and its allies.

It is true that the sanctions have caused tremendous suffering for the ordinary man on the street. But these sanctions where not in existence from the start.

They came about as a result of bad governance.

lTonderai Mthembu writes from Bulawayo.


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