HomeCommentEditor's Memo: Test Lies Ahead

Editor’s Memo: Test Lies Ahead

PRIME Minister Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday announced the resolution of a number of sticking issues which had continued to divide the inclusive government, while frustrating social and economic delivery.

The resolution of the outstanding issues –– with the notable exception of the Gideon Gono and Johannes Tomana matters –– will be welcomed by all those who were beginning to lose patience with the three political leaders in government who had continued to tear at each other’s throats, not just over power, but also the trappings of public office – positions and attendant benefits.

Tsvangirai told journalists in Harare an agreement had been reached on sharing of the positions of governors, ambassadors, Roy Bennett and ministerial mandates.

He also spoke on the rule of law and fresh land invasions as well as on media reform. His remarks on the media in particular were salutary. We need that sort of commitment to push the reform agenda forward.

That is why journalists interested in media reform must put on their thinking caps and avoid being frozen in old and tired strategies of engagement, idle protests and writing poisonous articles attacking each other.

Media reform is central to the democratisation agenda. We urgently need the media environment to be opened up so that we have plural, diverse and responsible media platforms for public debate and engagement. We need new and hopefully refreshing newspapers. We also need new television and radio stations in the market.

Compared to other countries in the region, even poorer ones for that matter, Zimbabwe still remains backward. That explains why most people now resort to foreign TV and radio stations to express or entertain themselves. They can’t stand the soporific ZBC TV and its radio stations.

Now that most of the remaining issues have been cleared, government must focus on its core business. It must move with speed to address the social and economic problems buffeting the country’s long-suffering population.

Government must now deal with fixing dilapidated schools, hospitals and clinics, roads, supply of water and electricity, the revival of collapsed industries and companies and provision of humanitarian aid.

In tandem with this, government must pursue political and economic reforms.

In its first 100 days in office, this government simply failed to tackle these issues, largely because it spent most of its time and energy either quarrelling or indulging in pointless political manoeuvres and rhetoric.

Government leaders and ministers must be serious about their work. They need to have a sustainable framework for delivery. They should not think the idea of being in office is about status, luxury cars and travelling at the expense of the taxpayers.

There must be no room for corrupt and incompetent officials. The culture of cronyism (which takes the form of regionalism, tribalism, racism and nepotism), and looting must be stamped out.

The two MDC factions must be careful not to be associated with some of these retrogressive things.

Already there are worrying signs of cronyism and self-aggrandisement in the two MDC groups. Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara must nip this in the bud.

The danger is that if they don’t, we will follow what most other African countries have experienced: a destruction of their economies by immediate post-colonial leaders and their replacement with people who are more or less the same, if not worse.

To ensure an irreversible transition, the inclusive government must stamp out repression in its various manifestations, including political violence, and introduce reforms. This will be a good start. It does not need money do so.

Currently, we have not yet entered a transitional period, we are in a pre-transition. Unless we push hard for substantive change, the risk of getting sidetracked into an abortive transition or plunging back into the dark era of repression remains real.

To avoid this, there must be genuine and irreversible democratic reforms. These should be anchored in a new democratic constitution.

A new constitution should replace this repressive one under which all sorts of horrible things, including killings and detentions, happened.  

The benchmarks of success or failure for this government are simple. We want to see evidence of schools opening in full, hospitals and clinics working again, roads being fixed, companies re-opening and jobs created and food on the people’s tables.

This is the real test for this government.

There is obviously the bigger problem which this government must guard against.

It needs to avoid the fate of similar arrangements mainly in Africa. Governments of national unity (GNUs) have had a dismal track record on the continent.

They have failed almost everywhere. They did not work in Sudan, Somalia, DRC, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Angola, Burundi and Zimbabwe before.

In Kenya and Zimbabwe the current GNUs are shaky and may well suffer the same fate as in other countries.

An attempt to establish a GNU in Zimbabwe in 1980 failed after just two years and was followed by fierce repression and massacres.

Elsewhere in Africa, failure of GNUs gave way to civil wars or poisoned political environments. Zimbabwe should avoid this path. The real test lies ahead.


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