Creating a new democracy

The Germans have learnt from their past and it is refreshing to meet a society of individuals who know what is wrong and are forever aware that the selfish nature of man can only be restrained or constrained by building strong, inclusive social and political institutions.

City of Harare mayor, Bernard Munyenyeni

City of Harare mayor, Bernard Munyenyeni

I have been meeting German political, local government and private organisations in an attempt to appreciate the depth of their democracy and how we in Zimbabwe can learn from their approach to inclusivity and delivery – especially at local government level.
It is obvious that we have a lot to do in order to transform our society from a psychology of victimhood and the tendency of our political leaders to continually blame the past and the West as the sources of our problems. That is not true!
What strikes me first is how the Germans have built historical monuments for them to remember their terrible past. These certainly help in always reminding citizens of where they are coming from. They do not try to hide their past of Hitler’s tyranny, nor do they ignore it as if it never happened like we have done here in Zimbabwe.

Mistakes of the past
If we are to progress as a society, the mistakes of the past must be acknowledged and remembered so that they are never repeated again. We must acknowledge the crimes against Zimbabweans that have been committed from colonialism to independence in order for us to build new values in our society.
The biggest mistake we have made is abdicating ours responsibility as a society to reject abuse and non-accountability and draw a line in the sand on what Zanu(PF) can do to us. A good example is how national healing has been politicised by giving the responsibility to deal with this very sensitive issue to a political office of Zanu (PF), the very organisation that perpetrated those crimes. That is really dumb.
We as citizens must own the national healing process if it is meant to be meaningful and sustainable. The agenda for what has to be done to heal Zimbabwe must be driven by the victims and not the perpetrators.

How stupid
Secondly, our local government structures are useless and have failed to deliver -yet we still rely on them. For example, we cannot continue to have a minister of local government giving directives, reversing decisions and basically running city councils like his own backyard. What is the point of electing local government officials who have no say? I have always argued against this. Why do we bother to elect council officials who can be fired by a partisan politician at the stroke of a pen? How stupid can we get?
In my opinion cities must run their own affairs and the mayor must be the CEO with final responsibility for running the city. He or she need not be a politician, but must be an individual who has a proven track record and competence in making things happen. Germany has some very effective local government structures that are inclusive and deliver and we ought to learn from them.
Our issues of non-delivery, non-accountability and conflicts in almost all our city councils are an indication that we have the wrong structures rewarding the wrong things. For example, it must be really frustrating for City of Harare mayor, Bernard Munyenyeni, who is clearly stuck with an incompetent buffoon as town clerk but can do nothing about it. In addition, he must report to a minister who really has no interest in what the communities need but must keep his job through loyalty to his political party first. I don’t envy the mayor’s job at all.

Looting machine
We have to change our local government structures to be more inclusive, more accountable to residents – there is no question about that. Right now they are mere cogs in the Zanu (PF) looting machine as we have seen from the many city council contracts. That is unacceptable!
We also need a strong partnership between business and local government if we are to create local development. Business has a large role to play as they are direct beneficiaries of a functioning public infrastructure.
I have had a look at the MDC-T’s local governance policy and it looks good. The question is how we as free citizens can help implement it when it is clear that there is no political will for change in the President’s Office.
Most Zimbabweans know what they want. We have the skills and know-how to create an inclusive democracy – but unfortunately it appears that it is not in the interest of Zanu (PF) to take that direction. That is the truth. Our challenge is to come together, unite and change that. There is no other option.
– Vince Musewe is an economist and author based in Harare. You can contact him at [email protected]

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