HomeOpinionThinking beyond transition, Mugabe

Thinking beyond transition, Mugabe

ZIMBABWE is currently in a process of political transition, epitomised by a power-sharing government comprising the country’s three major political parties. This shaky but necessary political pact may be terminated by elections which may or may not be held next year.

Zimbabweans should look beyond the current situation and attempt to paint a picture of the future. We should not allow our present frustrations and sense of crisis to eclipse the vision of a better Zimbabwe epitomised by social, economic and political transformation.

Political transformation necessarily entails the totality of the values, systems, structures, culture, behaviour, laws and policies that engender good governance, respect for the rule of law and upholding of fundamental human rights.

Political transformation in the African context and specifically in the Zimbabwean context would be useless if it does not give birth to socio-economic transformation which culminates in economic growth, availability and access to basic services and goods, employment as well as improved standard of living.

Zimbabwe is in the mess that it is in because we have failed to run our country, economy and manage our people properly. In order for Zimbabwe to move towards good governance we need a broad shopping basket of measures, actions, attitudes and institutions to be in place.

First and foremost we need a good constitution that will clearly and properly define the relationship of the state with its citizens thus providing an enabling framework for citizens to exercise their rights and participate in decision making. It should define the powers of the state at various levels, state obligations, responsibilities, duties and prerogatives.

The current constitution-making process is thus an important step towards transformation but we should not fool ourselves into thinking that once we have a good constitution everything will fall into place and we will live happily ever after in democratic tranquility — Cinderella fashion.

We also need a new political culture which respects democratic practice including citizen participation in decision making, a culture of transparency and the respect of individual and collective rights as well as ingrained democratic values. It is interesting that the British have no written constitution but they are still able to respect fundamental liberties.

In order to move from transition to transformation we need a government that has the capacity to govern and to deliver. The past 15 years have seen the gradual collapse of state institutions culminating in lack of proper policy formulation and implementation, deterioration of service delivery and the creation of a prohibitive environment for business to take place.

We would need a government with the necessary human, technical and financial capital to competently manage the country and move it to new heights. Up to 2008, the Zanu PF led government was unable and seemingly unwilling to move the country forward as evidenced by lack of a coherent shared national vision and consistent policy making.

Government has also not been able to deliver because of massive skills flight to other sectors and other countries resulting in technical deficiencies at all levels of state governance. Under capitalisation of government departments and utilities has also resulted in an underperforming and in fact non performing government. It would thus be necessary to address lack of capacity to deliver in government by:


  • Enhancing government’s ability to formulate and implement policy.
  • Building the government’s capacity to revive and evaluate policy formulation.
  • Strengthening its technical and human resource base.
  • Sufficiently capitalising government to carry out the functions of government. This would entail broadening its revenue collection base, leveraging investor/donor funding and unlocking the commercial value of Zimbabwe’s vast mineral wealth, eg Chiadzwa diamonds which are not currently sufficiently contributing to the national fiscus. The country has huge potential in the tourism sector which could provide impetus for economic growth. This is entirely dependent however on a conducive political and economic climate.

In order for democracy to thrive it needs the support of strong pillars of governance in the form of strong democratic institutions. These democratic institutions include independent commissions accountable to parliament, ie media, human rights, anti-corruption and Justice and Truth Commissions. Beyond statutory institutions, Zimbabwe needs a strong civil society movement that will enable citizens to participate meaningfully in decision making in an organized and informed manner.

Civil society should not be an appendage of opposition parties but should provide space for citizens to critically and constructively engage their government through organised advocacy processes.

Zimbabwe is in need of a brand of leaders that will have an appreciation of democratic values and the imperatives of good governance at a personal level. Transfer of power from Zanu PF to MDC or any other party for that matter may be pointless if the MDC, for instance, embraces the same political culture that has culminated in the current state of affairs. We need to move away from a culture of impunity, exclusivity, corruption, self-aggrandisement, top-down “serve me” chef leadership and the use of violence as a political tool.

The march towards transformation also demands leaders of substance, vision and integrity. Zimbabwe is currently suffering from a deficit of credible leaders not because those leaders are not there but principally because these leaders are wrongly positioned and deployed. We have many politicians but few statesman, many managers but few corporate leaders, many wealth accumulators but few wealth creators, many activist but few thinkers, many dealers but few proper business people, many clerics with titles but few true shepherds and pastors. The country is blessed with many intellectuals but many of them are functionally illiterate.

Zimbabwe desperately needs pro-active leaders who will not be caught in victim mode blaming all our failures on sanctions, Zanu PF, MDC, the West or the weather. We need leaders who will take responsibility and chart the way forward.

There are too many political parties, government departments, parastatals, businesses, civil society organisations and local authorities that are led or rather misled by mediocre leaders who do not have an agenda for change and transformation. There is a great clarion call for capable leaders from all sectors of Zimbabwean society to emerge or to be allowed to emerge.


The advent of this new breed of leaders should not threaten the old leaders who may feel they are being challenged as these are the people who will help bridge the gap between the past, the present and the future. The older generation of leaders will assist in the transition as we drink from their rich wells of wisdom. After all age comes with wisdom, but at times age comes alone. Some now reject the emergence of capable emerging leaders because they did no “die for the country”. We do not only want to die for our country but to live for it and to make it live.

The advent of the inclusive government has by design or default culminated in the availability of basic goods in the country’s supermarkets. Whilst this is a most welcome development it is not sustainable in the long run.

There is need to revive the productive sectors of the economy as a consumer economy will not serve the best interests of the nation. H

owever for this to happen we need a conducive environment for business to operate and for production to take place.

Foreign direct investment is needed to capitalise industry, tourism, mining and agricultural sectors. This investment will not come as long as we have an unstable political environment which poses a threat to property rights and proper conduct of business.

The first step in boosting investor confidence will be formulating investor friendly policies as investors are not Father Christmas institutions that give out gifts to deserving countries during the festive season.

In the next five years we need a programme that will revive the capacity of central and local government to deliver services. This should begin with concerted efforts to devolve power from central government to provincial and local authorities.

The second stage would be that of building the capacity of these authorities to deliver basic services such as clean water, electricity, health and education to residents. There are sufficient resources at local level to fund service provision in partnership with development agencies and Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs).

The NGO sector has done a great job in providing relief to hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans and this should be commended.

There is need however to move away from the paradigm of giving people hand outs so that they can survive to a model that promotes secure and sustainable livelihoods. Relief is synonymous with emergency situations not sustainable development and it is time we started moving towards empowering communities to utilise the resources and potential which they have instead of reducing them to perpetual passive recipients. It is a fact that Africa needs more trade than aid.

In addition to strong leaders, Zimbabwe needs active citizens who will be able to participate in all levels of decision making and policy formulation. This is imperative in any participatory democracy. This will result in accountable governance and an improvement in the quality of service delivery by local authorities and statutory service providers.

This, in my opinion, will assist in the cause of transformation.

Dumisani Nkomo is an activist, spokesperson of the Matabeleland Civil Society Consortium and the Chief Executive officer of Habakkuk Trust, a leading Christian advocacy organization. He writes here in his personal capacity.

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