Long bridge to nowhere

While it seems obvious that Zimbabwe is not yet ready for another round of election next year, the insinuation to the same regard by Mutambanengwe the Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) Chairperson was refreshing and calming. Elections cannot be considered a priority in Zimbabwe now.

In fact if held next year all political parties in Zimbabwe especially the partners in the GNU will have demonstrated a high level of egocentrism and a total disregard of the people of Zimbabwe. As MacDonald Lewanika the head of the Crisis Coalition in Zimbabwe had rightly pointed out, Zimbabweans are still recovering from the shock and trauma of the previous plebiscite in 2008.

To set the record straight, the formation of the GNU was not a popular demand by the civil society neither was it a demand from the general masses of Zimbabwe. It was a boardroom solution for a political decay and polarisation in the country forced on the people of Zimbabwe. Because the people of Zimbabwe always put their country first and had a great culture of showing respect to their leaders, the GNU was accepted for progress and recoverys sake. It is ironic that these good qualities in the Zimbabwean population had proved to be their greatest undoing in the past decade.

The only tangible reason to force an early election next year is derived from the frustration between the GNU partners mainly ZANU-PF and MDC-T. The insatiable appetite for power with the partners in GNU had made these political leaders to misplace these priorities for the country. Zimbabwe as a country had been taken down the drain by ZANU-PF and somehow Tsvangirai found himself in a unity government he knew was not going to hold for unknown reasons. In a way, the involvement of Tsvangirai in the government for this short stint had made him part of the problem and not the solution to the Zimbabwean crisis. Tsvangirais political star might still be rising but only thanks to the culture of personal cults in Zimbabwean politics. For Tsvangirai sticking in there for the moment and pushes his agenda is better than preparing for elections while he knows that he has not done so much to prove his reforming agenda. Elections next year in Zimbabwe will give ZANU-PF a talking point although it is not feasible that the revolutionary party can pull a surprise against Tsvangirai.

The question that lingers many peoples minds is the political clout of Tsvangirai in the GNU and his ability to pull the strings to ensure that the elections will be relatively free and fair. I dont doubt Tsvangirais ability as a politician but what I do doubt are his strategies to upstage ZANU-PF sometimes, he had been too close to miss on a couple of occasion. The pendulum is still swinging in his favour but this will be put to test by the ZANU-PF political machine, depending on how well they have regrouped after the 2008 shock. The succession debate in ZANU-PF in recent times had always been a stumbling block for their regrouping. However, ZANU-PF had been using this GNU period to push and sell their agenda. To ZANU-PF the GNU had been a lifeline and a breath of fresh air it had give them time to reorganise and re-strategise- to what extent one wonders. Lack of progress in the outstanding issues in the GNU and Mugabes flagrant disrespect to his Prime Minister had all point to the fact that GNU had been a ZANU-PF agenda and Tsvangirai engaged blindly. In 2009 Nkululeko Sibanda the former Zinasu leader in his article to the New Zimbabwe rightly claimed that Mugabe and Tsvangirayi are our two long bridges to nowhere

Since the formation of the GNU, the general life or let me say food had resurfaced in the shops, our trillion currency had been discarded for a multi-currency system. How then can you dare to criticise the GNU given this glimpse of hope in the recovery of the country. The major question besides these promises in the early days of the GNU was always going to be its fate. This fate has not yet been decided but the sign on the wall is discernible now. This article is not an obituary of the GNU but one wonders how long is it going to take before someone wrote it, at least I dont want to be responsible for that.

The Zimbabwean agenda is bigger than an election especially a hastily organised one. The constitutional making process had been lagging far behind than expected. We wonder the motives for this dragging, the constitution, I mean a new constitution for the country one which is not the Kariba Draft is a better step in the democratisation of the country. It is far better for a constitution to be made a priority in this transitional phase with the GNU. I believe such a constitution will accommodate far-reaching issues of our time as the political parties agendas are on the opposite side of the axis. Diversity is health for democracy and certainly it is for a countrys constitution. This is not to be interpreted as an advocate for too many compromises but Zimbabwe belongs to us all. No matter how big our divide in ideologies the love for our country supersedes.

Besides basic democratic tenets like the presidential terms, we also want to know the fate of our land. The land issue is better addressed at the moment for good when the country is still teething in the democratic process and undergoing recovery. Obviously I will not trust a ZANU-PF government to deal with this ghost as we had seen the consequences of the ZANU-PF agrarian reform; likewise I have reservations for the MDC-T to deal alone with this agenda. The ownership of resources or lack of ownership touches on far-reaching aspects of our life, dignity and identity- is it not? We dont necessarily have to agree on all issues as a country; in fact agreeing on everything is a recipe for disaster. A pure democratic country is one that tolerates the divide, accepts diversity but forges ahead with the delivery of promises.

We always have hope and this make human beings amazing creatures. The Mugabe generation is gone but does not want to go- although the end is in sight even by the laws of nature, in comes the Tsvangirai, Mutambara-Ncube generation. Mugabe had made us deaf by reminding us that their generation took the country out of colonialism, a tangible gain. Of course he does not want to tell us who took it to the woods after independence. Besides introducing multi-party democracy in Zimbabwe I believe the Tsvangirai generation can still do more for the country. I am saying this also conscious that my generation will be asked the same thing by our children, so beside student and human rights activism, our children will expect more from us. If we take these responsibilities as duties and not as burdens or opportunities we can make a generation proud.

Victor Chimhutu is a Human Rights Activist attached to the Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI), Bergen, Norway. He can be contacted on [email protected], [email protected] .

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