Democracy and the Rule of Law

Democracy and the Rule of Law

When we attained our Independence in 1980, we did so in style. Changing the
guard democratically, creating new democratic structures for the State and
local government and at the same time we preserved a well developed system
of law supported by an independent Judiciary of surprising quality and
experience. These achievements after a long drawn out civil war and decades
of abuse by successive governments that were determined to prot

Since then it has been downhill all the way. First Gukurahundi and the
smashing of Zapu as a political entity. In a savage, secret campaign over 7
years, the Zimbabwe regime under Mr. Mugabe sought to achieve total hegemony
over the political structures of the country. The rules of both democracy
and law were flaunted; the rights of millions denied, the media controlled
and manipulated and both the Judges and the international community were

Once Zapu had been silenced, the State continued its attempts to control and
silence centers of dissidence. One by one the key social institutions were
infiltrated and subdued until the number of truly independent social
institutions in the economic system or in open society at large could be
counted on the fingers of one hand. There were flashes of resistance –
Margaret Dongo, Enoch Dumbutshena, but they were soon snuffed out.

By the mid nineties only the Trade Unions and some Churches remained
independent of the State and able to express themselves in the interests of
their members and society at large. The State was arrogant and took the view
that at last it was totally in control, the one Party State had been
achieved in all but name, at the expense of both democracy and the rule of
law – the two great achievements of the liberation struggle over a 80 year

Then the MDC took shape and suddenly the world molded by Mr. Mugabe looked
threatened and fragile. The struggle against the rule of law and democratic
forces took on a new meaning and intensity. In the ensuing battle hundreds
have been murdered, millions displaced and hundreds of thousands subjected
to beatings and worse at the hands of the so-called “forces of law and
 order”. All the basic tenets of real democracy have been abused and
distorted as the regime sought to defend its hold on power with increasing
ruthlessness and desperation.

At first these abuses received little attention from the world community.
African leaders went one step further and tried to defend the indefensible
and the unjust activities of what had become a rogue regime in every sense
of the word. One by one the independent Jurists were dealt with to be
replaced with pliant and complacent men and women who were willing to
compromise their training and ethics for a mess of porridge.

But at last the international community came out and said; enough is enough!
Recognition was withdrawn and the regime in Harare formally defined as a
rogue regime. We are also now classified as a “failed State”. But it took
the African States much longer to step up to the line and agree with their
international counterparts. Mugabe was one of their own they argued, he was
a hero of the liberation process and could not be touched. But even they
have now accepted that the Mugabe regime has gone a step too far. At the
SADC summit on the 29th March this year, that was in fact the main message
given to Mr. Mugabe behind closed doors.

At that crucial meeting the regional leaders agreed that the crisis in
Zimbabwe was home grown, had gone on long enough and had to be brought to an
end. They agreed hat the regime in Harare had to open discussions with the
much-maligned MDC and put in place arrangements for the next elections that
were scheduled for March 2008. They put South Africa in charge of the
process and gave President Mbeki their total support.

And so, in a country that still claims it is a “democracy”, we have spent
the past 8 months negotiating the conditions that will allow our people the
simple right they fought for over a period of 80 years – the right to vote
under free and fair conditions for the leadership of their choice. 8 months
of tough, unrelenting, behind closed doors, negotiations to restore the very
conditions that were ours in 1980.

Even as we have been negotiating the very basic conditions that should be
the norm in any sane society, the regime has continued to pound the official
opposition to death. Our leadership has been hounded, meetings banned,
unreasonable conditions imposed on other meetings, billions of dollars of
destabilization money has been poured into the CIO for the purpose of making
our lives a living nightmare. They decided the urban worker was the enemy
and they have set about smashing what remains of the economy and driving
millions of voters out of the country. This action has been similar to a
long-range artillery barrage in advance of an infantry assault over the

Many doubt we will even get to an election – let alone have a free and fair
contest. I just want us to be able to vote in secret and without any fear of
recrimination. The people will do the rest.

As for the rule of law! You must be joking! We have a Chief Justice who
occupies a farm stolen from its rightful owners and who last week gave his
assent to the wholesale theft of private assets from farms. A Chief Justice
who pays scant regard for the welfare of his colleagues and the lower ranks
in the Judiciary. We live in a society where even if you can clearly
identify the killers and link them to an incident of political murder, no
dockets are opened and no prosecutions are mounted. Not a single political
murder since 2000 has been investigated and prosecuted – not a bad record
for a so-called system of Justice.

In fact we live in a society where the whole system of Justice has been
subverted and citizens have absolutely no recourse when it comes to the
protection of either their person or their property. In 1980 I would never
have imagined that we would be in this state of affairs some 27 short years
down the line. – Eddie Cross

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