Response: “Will an election in 2018 solve our problems?”

SIR – Eddie Cross’s desperately sad history of elections in Zimbabwe (his article “Will an election in 2018 solve our problems?” in your edition of 27th June) makes a powerful argument that opponents of Mugabe must not rely on next year’s elections. He is right because Mugabe has already shown that, if election results go against him, he just ignores them and carries on regardless.

Eddie Cross

The fact he is able to do that proves authoritarianism, not democracy, is now the embedded political system in Zimbabwe, as Eddie Cross explains. When that happens, elections become meaningless and, if the citizens want freedom, they must learn to fight “not a political Party but the entire State in all its forms and power”, as Eddie says. Look at Russia which is supposed to be a democracy but in effect is clearly a totalitarian state, just as Zimbabwe is in practical terms now. Or South Africa, where sticking even a majority of Black Africans in important positions has scarcely changed an embedded balance of power in which a tiny White minority effectively controls a huge Black majority, with, 26 years after the end of Apartheid, the great majority of them still living in extreme poverty.

Eddie Cross asks “how else can we secure the changes we desperately need to bring sanity back to our politics, stability to our society and economic growth to restore living standards and give all Zimbabweans hope of a better future?” The way not to do it, as he points out, is to rely on international help. In fact, both the West and China are helping to keep Mugabe in power with the aid and money they give him. And NGOs have a pathetic history of fighting poverty, the very thing they are supposed to do. Under these circumstances, history tells us that changes of government can only be effected in two ways.

First, armed insurrection. Apart from the fact the few Zimbabweans have the stomach for that, it hardly ever works anyway. It almost always merely replaces one repressive government with another, and sometimes the new regime is even worse than the one it replaced – as happened in Zimbabwe.

The second and only other way to remove an oppressive ruler is for a critical mass of the nation’s own citizens to weld itself into a united front that even the ruling elite cannot stand against. In almost all of what are now the developed nations, this was the route that their citizens took to get from poverty to affluence – it was never the government itself. There are only few exceptions to this, but only in circumstances that do not apply to any African government, and certainly not to Zimbabwe.

Given this, all people opposed to Mugabe and ZANU-PF should not be concentrating their efforts on next year’s election. Instead, they should be putting all their efforts into creating this critical mass of citizens all with one, and only one, objective in mind: the removal of Mugabe and ZANU-PF. And with the full understanding that, if they don’t do that, Mugabe will probably stay in power.

But to do that successfully, it means they all need to put their personal agendas to one side in the cause of the Greater Good, and that they have so far been unable to do.

It is not only the opposition political parties that are guilty of this. Far more important, and just as guilty, are the trade unions, activists, campaign and special interest groups, the business community (which will gain massively under free government), all the NGOs working in Zimbabwe (including the big global ones), and all the Christian Churches which alone make up almost 90% of all Zimbabweans.

The fact is, the potential opposition was big enough years ago to remove Mugabe. But they have never gone about it in the right way.

All these disparate opposition groups see Mugabe and ZANU-PF as the problem, and as result they are facing in the wrong direction. Because what they don’t understand is that the real problem is not Mugabe at all, it is the inability of all opposition to unify into a whole, and to recognise that Mugabe is only still in power because of that. What all opposition groups should be doing is looking internally, at themselves, and seeking ways to combine into a single united movement all speaking with one voice. Frankly, nothing else matters right now.

At the moment, all these potential opposition groups work in their own little bubbles on their own petty agendas. When I say “petty”, I mean that no matter how important they think their work is, it is petty when compared with the huge mission of freeing all Zimbabwean citizens from oppression and poverty. They need to get out of their little bubbles and join the opposition political parties as a single, solid movement of opposition. Do that, and Mugabe and ZANU-PF will quickly be swept aside. And you won’t need to wait until next year’s elections, you can do it far sooner than that.

However, this inability to join together in a common cause is not just a Zimbabwean problem. Poverty should have been eradicated and all African citizens freed from repression years ago. The only reason – the ONLY reason – why it hasn’t been is because African citizens and citizen groups have not so far been able to work together on either a national or pan-African stage to carry out effective, concerted action to improve the standards of living of ‘the common people’.

And the reasons why Africans have never been able to do this are always the same. First, each individual citizen not taking personal responsibility for joining and fully supporting the movement, but leaving it to other people to fight for them. And even when they do take personal responsibility, not putting their differences or personal agendas above the common good. Hopefully, Zimbabwe can create the first successful template of citizen-power for all other African nations to follow.

However, even when the voting box has worked (as is increasingly happening elsewhere in Africa), it is still not solving the problem. Because the result has always been the same: even in the best African democracies, one corrupt, often repressive government is simply being replaced with another.

There is a simple way to stop this cycle of poor governance, and it lies in the AU’s Agenda 2063 and the accompanying First Ten-Year Implementation Plan 2014-2023. This lays out exactly what governments must do to take their citizens from poverty to affluence in the fastest possible way, its objective being that Africans “will be amongst the best performers in global quality of life measures” – i.e., fully up to Western standards of living.

The very important point about Agenda 2063 is that all African governments, including Zimbabwe, have already signed up to it. However, the AU knows that none of them will implement it because another objective of Agenda 2063 is to give citizens full power over their own governments, and that is definitely not what any African government wants! So the AU is exhorting, indeed crying out for African citizens to use citizen-power in making their governments implement it because it knows that, unless they do, their governments won’t.

The AU is saying that unless a politician or political party makes Agenda 2063 the basis for its manifesto, don’t vote for it.

This is the most powerful ammunition that has ever been handed to African activists and oppositions to fight oppression and poverty. They can use it to insist that a new government, when it takes over, will actually work for the good of its citizens, and not purely for its self-interest, as it would now.

So what I cannot understand is this: why has no Zimbabwean member of the opposition, why has no Zimbabwean activist or campaign group, why has none of the Zimbabwean media picked it up, realised the huge power Agenda 2063 gives to citizens, and heavily promoted it?

“If we don’t stand up for ourselves, other people will stand on us”. This is exactly what has happened to all African citizens ever since the end of colonialism.

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