CiZC was formed in 2001.
Keynote speakers, Itai Zimunya, the first-ever Advocacy Officer of the Coalition, and renowned activist and thinker, Briggs Bomba, urged both the membership and the secretariat to reflect on the past 10 years, considering especially both the gains and losses encountered in the struggle for a democratic Zimbabwe.
Bomba, referring to one of the most important texts in post-colonial Africa, Frantz Fanon’s ‘The Damned of the Earth’ emphasised that each generation has to find its own mission and when it understands it, it must not then betray that particular mission. In this regard, Bomba said it was no use for activists seeking a lasting solution to the various crises in Zimbabwe to rely on old ideas and ideals for activism.
They should invent fresh, new ideas to inform and underscore generational transformation.
“Usually we talk of best practices. But if you are looking at the clock, you accept the proposition that this is a time of major transformation. The best practices are inadequate in providing solutions for a new era. What we need is the next practise which is another way of taking about the big idea,” Bomba said.
He was also quick to point out that this would not be an easy task as there existed, in crises-ridden countries like Zimbabwe, an enormous discourse on power that had its roots firmly steeped in the political economy. Hence, activists pursuing the agenda of generational transformation would certainly encounter resistance from existing centres of power, mostly located within the ruling class. Successful generational transformation, therefore, can only occur if activists ask “if this is our time, what is our mission?”.
Zimunya posed two critical questions to CiZC: What shape the body was going to take once the crisis was over and how it, and other civil society organisations, was engaging with the grassroots. He urged bodies like CiZC to take up more of the intellectual space, so as to strongly influence policy shifts that speak directly to the needs of the grassroots movement that it represents.
With the people largely expected to decide on whether to adopt a new constitution within the first quarter of 2012, that episode will be closely watched as it is likely to inform the state of preparedness of Zimbabwe to hold general elections as a logical conclusion to the government of national unity. The former ruling party, Zanu (PF), is agitating for a 2012 poll but CSOs, including CiZC, have stood firm in insisting that 2012 should not be an election year but rather a year of credible electoral reforms.
CiZC can confirm that drafting of a new constitution will begin mid-November this year and three non-political actors will undertake the task of writing it. Content issues expected to dominate the body of the constitution are expected to include term limits for the Executive and restrictions on the extent to which it can interfere with other arms of government; decentralisation; land (land audits, the Land Commission etc.), Bill of Rights; and the strengthening of Parliament and representation.
This constitution, if adopted, will be seen as one guiding Zimbabwe to becoming a post-conflict society that will go through a free and fair election that will result in a democratic transfer of power to the eventual winner, in stark contrast to the 2008 episode, recorded as one of the most chaotic and violent elections in our history.
Yet, it will take much more than a constitution to “dictate the pace of a [successful] transition to a democratic developmental state in Zimbabwe” as other speakers pointed out. Joy Mabhenge, from the Institute for Democratic Alternative-Zimbabwe (IDAZIM) noted that the time had arrived for Zimbabwe to have more than guarantors in the Southern African Development Community and the African Union.
She said Zimbabwe urgently needed new guarantees from these institutions so that successful polls could be held under satisfactory conditions.
Mabhenge applauded the work of CiZC and other CSOs and insisted that the momentum which had been gathered over the past years must not be lost.
“It has become necessary for the negotiator to go back to the GPA and get guarantees on free and fair transition. We must guard against what I’m calling international fatigue on Zimbabwe. We cannot complete the struggle on our own. The missing components on elections is that they are free and fair and produce a legitimate governing authority that can meet international standards,” Mabhenge said.
Picking up on the theme of guarding against an “aborted transition” Tawanda Chimhini, from the Elections Resource Centre, outlined how the vote could be protected if Zimbabwe were to go to elections minus security sector reform. The 2008 elections in Zimbabwe had the ominous presence of the security forces behind them and CSOs, including CiZC are calling for the eradication of partisanship amongst security forces in the run up to the next elections.
It has been observed, for example, that certain key members of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, which runs elections in Zimbabwe, are either ‘retired’ army personnel or active state security agents.
According to Chimhinhi, elections are not events but processes that require careful planning and strategy management if they are to occur as they should. Therefore, in seeking to protect the vote, there is need for spirited civic education of voters so that they can understand what exactly that whole process of electioneering means.
There is need to keep and up-date a comprehensive voters’ roll; set out clear guidelines and expectations in observation and monitoring among other logistics.
Speaking also to the issue of finding a strong grassroots connect between CSOs and the people they represent, Chimhinhi highlighted that it was of fundamental importance to empower local communities to protect the vote.
The conference also took note of the outstanding issue of national healing. Leading this discussion, Minister of State for National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration, Moses Mzila-Ndlovu (MP) gave a personal account of his involvement in the liberation struggle which have birth to Zimbabwe. He also stated his disappointment at the fact that the nation he had fought for soon became divided along ethnic lines and went on to use the colonial tools of repression to dehumanise its own citizens.
He spoke of the need to properly account for the atrocities suffered in the Matebeleland region in the early 1980s while also keeping a critical eye on the pains and losses that have been suffered since 2000. That challenge, he said, would be a most difficult one as Zimbabwe had “no institutions and has never had them” that could lead the process of transitional justice. “It is our duty to establish these institutions,” he said.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights’ Jeremiah Bamu noted that the lack of judicial checks and balances on the overall state governance is affecting the way the criminal justice system functions, resulting in human rights abuses being suffered by citizens.
Whilst transition remains an overly complex matter, it is inevitable but will have to be guided by critical understanding of the objective reality on the ground. As Charles Mangongera, observed, could it be that Zimbabwe is going through two transitions, where one is the national transition and the other is that of Zanu (PF) which has, since independence, led a sustained effort of merging the party and state into one organism.
“Our transition from the colonial state to post colonial state has been problematic. The number one governance and democracy problem we have is the militarisation of State institutions. This is the key determinant of our transition to a democratic state,” he said.
Levi Kabwato, Media & Communications Officer, Regional Office.Post published in: Politics