Fellow Citizens, as Zimbabwe marks its 40th Independence anniversary on the 18th of April 2020, its time to reflect on the journey we have travelled together. Zimbabwe is a product of a protracted war of liberation of which two fundamentals where in contention. The one man one vote principle and the land question. If these two grievances had been properly addressed, Zimbabwe’s prosperity would have been guaranteed. All the problems Zimbabwe experiences today emanate directly or indirectly from our failure to adequately address these grievances.
Looking back and reading the fascinating Book of Exodus in the Bible I always wonder why it took the children of Israel 40 years to walk an 11 day journey from Goshen to Mt Sinai to possess the promised land , Canaan dubbed the ” land of milk and honey ” I can’t help as we mark our own 40 years of Independence but draw parallels to our own elusive “Canaan” – a symbol of economic prosperity or the economic jewel that Julius Nyerere at independence counselled Mugabe to jealously safeguard. Although free from white Colonial rule since 1980 and as much as we are told the Israelites were now free of the Egyptians , Zimbabwe now a Military State has become an enterprising slavery nation where 90% of our people fend for themselves in the informal sector presided over by a new master, our Black Government!
Even more paradoxical is how people, hardly three years down the line find conditions under Mugabe much better than they are now under his successor who has run the country under a laughable and largely dismissed brand payoff line of a “New Dispensation” which ironically turned out to be a “New Deception”! What passed for Independence in 1980 has been a mirage of deferred dreams and aspirations by our people who were the rear guard of material, logistical, moral and reconnaissance support to the guerrillas during our war of liberation fought from the early 1960s to the end of 1979.
The liberation war was not an individual war, it was a collective war. It was a people’s war. It was about addressing a people’s grievance. The fight for one man, one vote was about restoring the peoples authority and respect. It was not about empowering a handful of citizens. It was never about a few individuals holding the peoples revolution to ransom on the basis of having fought in that war. The one man one vote was about giving the people the power to determine who governs them. The power to vote out individuals when they fail to deliver on the people’s aspirations. The war was never about creating entitlement or class privilege. Our people lost life and limb, a total of 20 000 casualties.
The war was not about a selected group of people appropriating power to themselves in order to choose who governs over and above what the people want. Never again did we imagine they will be bloodshed post 1980 to the extent that Gukurahundi tolling its own casualties similar to the war of liberation. Never under a black a government did we anticipate that electoral conduct would be a bloody and violent affair which has been a feature of all our elections since independence to date. Neither did we contemplate our armed forces as guardians of our sovereignty and territorial integrity to turn the very same guns that liberated us on our own people.
What started as a glorious revolution has lost its way, and we have ticked all the boxes of a failed state, starting with serious disunity and lack of unity of purpose and national convergence .Not even under universal threats like the COVID -19 pandemic, have we united to confront it more effectively like what other countries are doing. Zimbabwe pretends to be in a lockdown copying and pasting responses from other countries but continues to breach international best practice and this is evident from Statehouse right down to the village: we simply do not have the humility as a people anymore to submit to expert knowledge let alone to each other!
Added to this is a lockdown that ignored safety nets for the vulnerable who have now surpassed 50% of our population. For them it’s a choice between dying of Hunger or Covid – 19. A national forage for basics like MEALIE MEAL has disrupted all we have been taught about social distancing! Fortunately God has been merciful and our infection rates have been minimal.
Our Second Chimurenga presented as already alluded Land and Universal franchise as the two grievances of its struggle. Unfortunately mottos or slogans like “Mwana Wevhu “and” One man one Vote “have not delivered the promise of majority rule and an egalitarian and prosperous society. Approximately 300 000 ZANU PF beneficiaries of the Land Reform program have turned the once envied bread basket of SADC into a charity case, with a begging bowl currently extended to the globe to help feed 8 million households. Why should this be the case? Granted, Sub-Saharan Africa is drought prone, but why are we impacted the most with 10000 dams and an endowment of 4 million hectares of arable & irrigable land? The answer lies in policy failure and rampant corruption. Is it not enough that we lost $3.5 billion to Command Agriculture in 2018/9 but even with this bitter lesson we still want to sink another $2.7 billion into Winter Wheat under the same Command model? What is the motivation of repeating failure?
Turning to the disenfranchisement of our diaspora believed to be in excess of 6 million scattered all over the world, can a future election pass the legitimacy test if it doesn’t facilitate the participation of this group to make their electoral choices known. We clearly know where our people are judging by elaborate returns on their remittances. Going forward their inability to vote will be recast into the basket of national grievances together with a Land Reform program that has been weaponised against minority races and black opponents of the regime who have dared oppose the status quo.
A well-meaning Land Reform Program has unfortunately created a new black bourgeois class of multiple farm owners who for the past twenty years have hardly paid any meaningful taxes nor lease rentals for their 99 year leases. They have also been so unproductive they have failed to stock the strategic grain reserve which repeatedly is being serviced by some of the most extortionate regional cereal grain procurement prices from countries in the region and abroad.
Where are we 40 years down the line as a country? Politically we have been bankrupted by the November 2017 coup which contrary to expectations reversed our democratic gains, upset constitutionalism and statecraft and firmly established a Military State.
Cognizant of the above I outline below the People’s grievances which if unresolved will galvanise our nation into rolling mass action sure to shake the establishment well before 2023. Our People are deeply saddened and appalled by:
1)Failure by the President and his government to UNITE the country. Forty years on, Zimbabwe is more polarised than ever before. Governing without the peoples legitimate consent translates to raping the peoples will. Elections have become a mere routine characterised by patronage and command voting. The governing political actors use state institutions to deny the people their choice of leaders. The conflation of party and State makes it impossible for political parties to compete fairly for the people’s mandate. The use of the police and the military to create an environment of fear, weaponising food and poverty to impose unpopular leaders on the people has created disharmony in the nation.
2) A growing sense and culture of ENTITLEMENT by a liberation class turned rogue. No one eats, works, acquires land or mineral rights, business leases or votes ahead of this class which has started preparing its children and grandchildren to succeed it. The liberators have become the new oppressors, the question in the people’s minds is ‘who will liberate us from the liberators’
3) The morphing of Zimbabwe into a Military State and shredding of our Constitution. Post independence politics has always led the gun, the November 2017 coup turned this model on its head and entrenched a military dictatorship over civilian life and functionalities.
4) Widening and Unequal Development and Access to our Natural Resources including land, water, mineral rights and empowerment opportunity.
5) Deliberate Disenfranchisement of the Diaspora and other voting groups in the country.
As the People’s Party President, I propose a reset of our situation embodied by the three (3) Rs: Reconciliation, Redemption & Renewal.
Reconciliation, because our Nation is deeply divided and cannot stand. Reconciliation prompts the President to lead the unification process himself taking responsibility attendant to anyone who claims to have “won “an election, exercising magnanimity and humility in victory. It will take Statesmanship to engage all, but most particularly aggrieved citizens without feeling any sense of loss of power and bravado. The quickest and most practical way to Reconciliation is to submit to the Reform Agenda as agreed in 2013 , principally a return of Zimbabwe to constitutionalism and enforcing clear separation of powers , reforming and strengthening of state institutions , and of course the contentious issue of security sector reforms. National Healing should lead to an authentic Truth and Reconciliation Commission framework of justice for the victim, forgiveness and national contrition.
The love deficit in our country is huge and hate speech particularly state driven hate speech on social media and State media should be outlawed. Citizens follow the behaviour of their leaders.
Redemption going by another name Restoration emphasises the restoration of civil liberties, human rights, property rights. Redemption, because we must create strong institutions not strong men. We must restore Zimbabwe to a productive state, to the bread basket of the Region with our Agriculture driving Manufacturing in an import substitution economy. We must restore orderly mining, with mineral products value added locally. Brand restoration involving work in many sectorial pillars, Governance, Investment and Immigration, Exports, Arts Culture and Heritage, Tourism and People is supercritical.
Renewal signposts a new economy with new values, and new ethos. Up until Black Friday November 14 1997 we were riding on a Rhodesian import substitution economy. This day triggered our immersion into a commandist (sic) reactionary policy response to crises whose madness has seen us process in excess of 300 Statutory Instruments in less than two years in what has become the hallmark of this administration – rule by decree. Most of our economic malaise arise out of largely the implementation of these ad- hoc Statutory Instruments.
The future belongs to the 4th Industrial Revolution underpinned by artificial intelligence and internet of things. We were 10-20 years away from transformation that has been brought forward by the COVID pandemic emergency, 1.3 billion pupils are out of school and a couple billion workers remotely working from home. Both need new skills and continuous knowledge transfer in an immersive and collaborative way and these are opportunities of a new economy. A new economy that creates employment and absorbs thousands of graduates churned out by our tertiary institutions year in year out.
Life begins at 40 so the old adage goes! , an assumption being that one gets there after accumulation of knowledge and experience that matures as we go along and looks after us going forward. We have a country that has nothing to show for our 40 years except a cemetery of lifetime disappointments.
Brand Zimbabwe is tainted by the Gukurahundi genocide , Murambatsvina shelter displacements , successive disputed elections, a return of medieval diseases such as cholera and dysentery , shooting of unarmed civilians , collapsed health sector, electricity blackouts , water shortages , decay of our education system and stalking hunger. A failed currency and rampant inflation is a perennial feature of our economy.
But even more damning using the metaphor of a resurrected Ian Smith, I submit that he would not get lost in any of the colonial towns except to notice the decay of infrastructure he built under sanctions and a global embargo now renamed after our second Chimurenga Heroes! Today we use the same sanctions as a perennial excuse for worker redundancy and an economy in the intensive care unit.
40 years after Independence, a sure journey in the wilderness, we should be bold enough to ask those failing to govern us to step down and allow a fresh start, they too should be mature and patriotic enough to accept failure and do the honourable thing , resign enmasse and give Zimbabweans a reset and a new beginning, otherwise Canaan remains a mirage. I re-enforce on behalf of the people, that Zimbabwe can not bear the burden of waiting until 2023 for the inevitable, another disputed election. The people want change NOW!
God bless Zimbabwe
Dr Walter Mzembi
President Peoples Party