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Comment:Progress on Reforms Much too Slow

WE are three-quarters way through the first hundred days of the government’s reform agenda drawn up at the Victoria Falls. Are we as a nation making progress? “Half-half” would be the likely response.

The economy has stabilised thanks to the US dollar and the inability of the Reserve Bank to go on printing money.

Political prisoners have been released although their captors appear anxious to continue their detention. And ministers from all three parties are in many cases working together to fulfil an agenda of reform and recovery.

But there things get stuck. Wealthy donors are reluctant to do any more than provide humanitarian aid because they see only limited progress on the ground. They argue –– understandably –– that if Zimbabwe’s political parties cannot achieve progress, why should they be expected to help at a time when their own economies are under pressure?

A series of meetings between the principals last week and this week don’t appear to have made much progress. An agreement in Pretoria to review the appointment of governors, permanent secretaries, and diplomats has produced nothing as President Mugabe digs in his heels.

The same goes for the Reserve Bank governor and attorney-general who reflect partisan loyalties.
Arbitrary arrests, including those of productive farmers have raised international concern; so has willful disregard for rulings of the Sadc Tribunal. This is self-evidently still a government that only respects the rule of law when it suits it.

Giles Mutsekwa at Home Affairs has achieved little or nothing in curbing lawlessness or over-zealous elements in the law-enforcement agencies.

Mugabe won’t appoint Roy Bennett to office even though that step is required of him in terms of the Global Political Agreement. The spurious charges Bennett faces were dismissed when brought against Mutsekwa three years ago.

Mugabe has also demonstrated his obstructionist powers by arbitrarily reallocating the communications role of the ICT ministry headed by Nelson Chamisa. The more reactionary elements in government will now have their capacity to snoop on citizens enhanced.

Of particular concern to the media has been the bid by officials to pack the forthcoming media conference with dead wood. Individuals who have closed down newspapers and manipulated accreditation procedures will be given a say in what a “reformed” media landscape should look like.

These are the sort of obstacles being thrown in the path of the coalition government by those who are opposed to any concessions being made.

The response of donors is therefore hardly surprising. They have been supporting the new government with aid on a significant scale at a time when ministers have been arguing about what vehicles they should get.

The US-based Human Rights Watch summed up the dilemma.

Donor governments “should keep looking for creative ways to help vulnerable Zimbaweans but they shouldn’t bankroll Zimbabwe’s unreformed institutions of repression and those running them”, it said last week.

The MDC has been too anxious to secure external funding without first ensuring Mugabe and his gang of recidivist officials adhere to the terms they agreed last September.

If things go on like this there will be a stalemate in the government of the country which will undo the limited progress made so far.

MDC ministers should not be shy about identifying and denouncing those who are resisting change so the public knows where the problem lies when the 100 days are up.

In the short term, Human Rights Watch called on the power-sharing government to disclose the whereabouts of “disappeared” persons; end harassment of civil society activists and free those who have been illegally abducted; investigate allegations of torture and hold fully to account those found to be responsible; halt farm invasions, remove immediately those who have invaded properties since the GPA was signed, and respect private property rights.

Human Rights Watch also called for the government to carry out without delay reforms of the police, judiciary, prosecuting authorities, intelligence service, armed forces, and other state bodies that continue to abuse the rights of Zimbabweans.

These are benchmarks we should all support, reflecting as they do the reasonable demands made of any democratic government. Their fulfilment would signify more than anything else that there can be no going back.

What we can be sure of is the unwillingness of all Zimbabweans to return to the lawlessness and violence of the recent past. And we can be sure nobody wants to see the return of the discredited Zimbabwe dollar, symbol of a failed state.

Those who are working for change can be sure of popular support. But it is still too early to pretend that misrule has been effectively dealt with. It hasn’t and continues to haunt us as a nation deserving of better things.









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