TODAY, opposition political parties under the National Electoral Reform Agenda banner will stage a mass protest to pressure President Robert Mugabe to implement electoral reforms. This comes as demonstrations which have become the order of the day in Zimbabwe over the last two months continue to gather pace.
Candid Comment,Owen Gagare
The country has witnessed a series of demonstrations since the July 1 riots which rocked Beitbridge, after government banned the importation of some basic commodities through Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016, as part of desperate measures to rescue dying local industries.
People have taken to the streets to vent their anger over rising corruption; the deteriorating socio-economic conditions which have resulted in a tight liquidity crunch and cash shortages; company closures, high levels of unemployment as well as increased poverty, among other things.
The social discontent and riots have resulted in a series of high level security meetings culminating in the army being put on high alert and the police being ordered to ruthlessly crush any demonstrations.
Through brute force, the police have so far managed to contain the social unrest.
However, the situation is becoming unsustainable as protests gain momentum, an indication that the baton stick cannot work forever. Time is thus ripe for the government to consult organised groups such as political parties, churches, informal traders, trade unions, and civil society to discuss the reform agenda.
Surely the people who are demonstrating have reasons why they are taking to the streets. They have genuine complaints which need to be addressed. They also have ideas and solutions to some of the problems bedevilling the country.
After all, one of the major reasons why protests are taking place is the government’s failure to adequately consult. For example, when government introduced SI64/2016, ordinary Zimbabweans and cross-border traders whose livelihoods were affected by the decision were not consulted.
The government only set up a committee comprising representatives from the private sector, retailers and Buy Zimbabwe to look at the measures after the Beitbridge riots.
Similarly, the government announced the introduction of bond notes without adequate consultations. The decision was thus slammed by business, potential investors and ordinary Zimbabweans who viewed the move as an attempt to bring back the Zimbabwean dollar through the back door.
The move heightened anxiety and panic in the market, resulting in large-scale withdrawals of cash from banks.
Externalisation of the US dollar also increased, worsening the liquidity crunch.
A wise government would have consulted in the knowledge that dialogue allows one to appreciate the interests and views of other interested parties. Like ex-Midlands governor and former Zanu PF politburo member Cephas Msipa warned on Wednesday; “you can only ignore people at your own peril”.
Failure to address the root cause of the crisis will only result in the protests gathering speed like a rolling snowball. This may ultimately lead to the collapse of the Mugabe regime.