THAT Zimbabwe’s socio-economic and political environment continues to worsen is undeniable. The question is how can Zimbabwe salvage herself from the abyss and forestall her implosion?
The standoff between the major political actors, President Emmerson Mnangagwa and opposition MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa, has culminated in economic and political stagnation, as the two protagonists continue to pull in different directions. It would be a political blooper for both leaders to fail to design a modus vivendi that neutralises the socio-economic-political toxicity obtaining in Zimbabwe.
For policy programmes to succeed, both political and economic, there should at least be the restoration of trust between the governed and the governing.
The antagonism that exists between the State and its people is unhealthy for national development.
Drawing lessons from what was done by the likes of Joshua Nkomo, Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai in line with bringing peace to Zimbabwe, I do not think it is impossible for Mnangagwa and Chamisa to sit down and discuss the sticking issues.
For Zimbabwe to be where it is today, many agreements were signed. These include the Lancaster House Agreement (1979), featuring the Patriotic Front (Zapu and Zanu), Zimbabwe Rhodesian government and the British government. The Unity Accord (1987) signed between Zanu PF and PF Zapu, Agreement on Amendment 18 and reforms on the Electoral Act (2007), signed between Zanu PF and two MDC formations.
The Global Political Agreement (2009), signed by Zanu PF and two MDC formations. This past must guide our thought processes concerning finding a common ground as Zimbabweans to solve the current problems.
The time has come to think about what we can do to work together as a family. Zimbabweans like other Africans are not by nature individualistic. We subscribe to communalism.
Let me briefly state my thesis on what are the three major challenges to governance in Zimbabwe:
- The creation of a social, political and economic order that is developmental in the sense that it mobilises and manages its material, financial and human resources to achieve high rates of growth and structural change;
- Ensuring that such a developmental order is democratic and respects human rights of all citizens; and
- Ensuring that such a developmental and political order is socially inclusive.
These three challenges must be pursued simultaneously. The challenges have come about by considering various sources: the reading of Zimbabwe’s history, the pronouncements by the political elite and social movements, and the current discourse on development.
If one were to extract something common from manifestos of Zanu PF and MDC Alliance, it would be the quest for a social order that addresses the serious problems of poverty, unemployment, low industrial capacity, democratic consolidation and a more equitable distribution of wealth. Why not working together to deliver what is contained in these manifestos? This will resultantly promote effective governance: developmental, democratic and socially inclusive social order. The question now is: do the agendas and practices of different political, economic and social actors in Zimbabwe today point to the possibility of such a state order?
Whether Zimbabwe succeeds or not depends on, to a large extent, the co-operation and the enthusiasm which the leaders generate among themselves and among fellow citizens. The current political party wrangles resulting in mutual hatred, disunity, confusion and despondency are not an asset to deliver the desired socio-economic transformation. Failing to work together is a high-risk game.
There is need for a broad national vision owned by every Zimbabwean. In the absence of clear national vision, there is a tendency to disagree and to do this in a hyper-acrimonious and highly personalised fashion: who paid what for whose funeral? This creates disillusionment and cynicism in ordinary people.
The general concern of the opposition parties appears to be getting into the shoes of Zanu PF so that they distribute political goods and services through patronage, corruption and favouritism. MDC Alliance should not concentrate only on discrediting the government, resulting in all kinds of indiscipline, immorality and even crime.
How can Mnangagwa lead a democratic government when this kind of ill-will, lies and misinformation are used to confuse ordinary Zimbabweans? Citizens should not take our pluralism for granted to the extent that they undermine national unity. Freedoms should not be manipulated to create divisions and hatred in our country.
Why working together?
- Domestic macro-economic framework is distorted, that is, it reduces the efficiency of resource use;
- International environment remains hostile, that is, it reduces the supply of earned foreign currency, shortage of concessional capital, FDI might flock in;
- International relations can be mended and genuine re-engagement might begin; and
- Current environment constraints resource mobilisation.
The attainment of economic and socio-political objectives cannot be a reality without sustained peace. We need to apply the principle: “charity begins at home”, to get our house in order and attract the foreign aid we need to get ourselves out of the woods.
The best solution to our problems is for us to sit down and talk on a more sincere basis. This will be a first step towards finding a solution. How do we address the issue of leadership for economic development, not only among our political leaders, but also among non-political leaders, those in all walks of life and at all levels of leadership? Whatever the policy, unless peace and harmony are entrenched and find their way to the policy-making processes, it will remain rhetoric.
MDC Alliance realities
MDC Alliance is failing to win majority support. It is not trusted as much as Zanu-PF. Thus, MDC Alliance is not seen as a viable alternative to the dominant ruling party. From 2008 right through 2018 elections, the trust in MDC sharply declined.
This reversal of fortune provides an important lesson for both MDC and the Zimbabweans that infighting and increasing fractionalisation weakens organisational capacity at party level and State capacity at national level. Thus, peace and togetherness are important in national development.
Public dissatisfaction with Zanu PF’s policy performance does not necessarily translate into perceptions that MDC Alliance could do a better job. This is particularly so not only in Zimbabwe, but also in South Africa. By simply constantly criticising the ruling party rather than contributing to the country’s development, MDC Alliance is putting off its supporters. The MDC Alliance can do better if it highlights its policy platforms and gain citizen confidence in its plans and capabilities. MDC Alliance must accept its weaknesses, inter alia: personality politics, lack of internal democracy, intra-party conflicts, bad organisation and weak connection with the popular constituencies particularly the rural areas.
As a result, the country has suffered an international blackout with United States instituting an economic and political embargo in the name of the Zimbabwe Democratic Economic Recovery Act (Zidera). The Europeans also imposed sanctions on the Zimbabwean government.
As a matter of political logic, the MDC Alliance had no interest in seeing Mnangagwa engender an economic recovery. It hopes that a continued decline would drive voters into its arms and compel Mnangagwa to bring the MDC Alliance into government.
Tendai Biti is in record saying that the MDC Alliance had ways of ensuring that Mnangagwa “would not get a cent” towards economic recovery from the West. The “kudira jecha musadza” strategy (throwing spanners in the works) — meant making things hard economically by lobbying the sanctions and make citizens suffer. A hungry man is an angry man. This attitude is unhelpful to both MDC Alliance and Zimbabweans. The role of opposition political parties is not to destroy any Zanu PF socio-economic transformation strategy.
Sanctions have increased the economic distress on Zimbabwe hampering the potential to unlock development and economic growth. The massive poverty, unemployment, biting economic crisis, and failing industry are as a result of sanctions and political instability. Zimbabwe should rise beyond the petty polity of personalities and work together.
Chamisa should have accepted the gesture and invitation by President Mnangagwa to become the Leader of Opposition in Parliament. I think he declined the gesture due to misunderstanding. Most people construed it as a co-optation and accommodation strategy by Mnangagwa. In my view, it was an opportunity for MDC Alliance to promote deepened public accountability to parliament of the president and the Zanu-PF government. This is so because this new opposition role would have expected to respond, rebuff and provide an alternative argument to the President. Ill-advisedly, Chamisa and MDC Alliance focussed on one strategy — deposing Zanu PF in contrast to creating systems that promote efficient, effective and accountable governance. This was an opportunity for MDC Alliance to influence and change issues currently contested.
There is need for responsible and objective media in order to diminish the rapid fires of fake news that blast their way on digital platforms, particularly WhatsApp and Twitter. Fair, factual, trustworthy, unbiased, impartial and accurate reportage allow readers to retain their trust in media institutions.
The local media should be a tool in reducing political temperatures and creating an enabling environment for unity and peace. This is an era where #FakeNews is thriving. Fake news militates against peace building and social cohesion. There is need for media to stop dissemination of information that is inaccurate, one-sided, seditious and untrustworthy.
Zimbabweans still rely on mainstream media for factual and balanced stories, when credible media fails to give correct narratives, social media operatives with fake news step in and fill the gap. And fake news only serves to fuel negativity which in turn feeds disharmony and conflict. The government must be proactive on this not to be all the time reactive.
What lies ahead?
Mnangagwa must add substance to his inaugural slogan of “moving forward as one nation.”
There is no need to shut out the MDC Alliance from government, but equally there is no need to wish for Zanu PF’s complete failure. It is not a secret that Zimbabwe is divided along political lines. Zimbabwe is divided along personality not national issues.
Chamisa needs to tone down rhetoric and acknowledge the practical reality that the 2018 election is over and that he fell short in his hunt for the presidency.
He has to put his divided house in order preparing for future elections. Concomitantly, MDC Alliance leveraging its marginal position in parliament by continuing to push for meaningful reforms, including the strengthening of electoral laws.
Civil society must contribute to nation-building efforts rising above partisanship.
Churches must impart the message of tolerance that people can differ without being foes and there is virtue in unity with diversity. The church is a pillar of hope, harmony and unity. The government should not respond to statements issued by churches with a high dosage of hate speech and anger. I do not think it is appropriate in finding a common ground because it creates a feeling of fear and discourages people from participating in national and expressing their opinions.
Hate speech is a menace to democratic values, social stability, cohesion, integration and peace. Hate speech and anger signal bigotry and intolerance. Emotions and feelings must not overwhelm government officials. Citizens constitute a strong and potentially powerful constituency for social and political inclusion.
They want rival parties to work together, even to share power. Election losers can better serve by formulating alternative policy positions and acting as loyal opposition.
The goal to be achieved by all leaders is uniting people. Unity brings with it progress, peace, development, trust and ends violence as outcomes. Unity will build trust among Zimbabweans themselves. Currently, there is no trust between the two largest political parties Zanu PF and MDC Alliance. Zanu PF believes MDC Alliance is up to sabotage government policies to effect regime change. Additionally, MDC Alliance is accused by Zanu PF of going to Western countries begging for economic sanctions. MDC Alliance, on the other hand, blames Zanu-PF for rigging elections and capturing the state institutions.
This reciprocated mistrust is unhealthy for Zimbabwe. But it’s getting clearer and clearer by day that both the MDC Alliance and Zanu PF need each other to survive. Regarding the legitimacy issue, Chamisa must acknowledge that there will be no reversal on the Constitutional Court decision on the elections and that his leadership is also needed to get Zimbabwe moving.
– Tawanda Zinyama is a Public Administration lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe.