I write this letter in response to your call for dialogue. For almost four decades, the CIO, Security Forces, Chipangano et al have terrorized a citizenry whose patience is legendary. I would even say that the commitment by the citizens to what you alluded to as “the Zimbabwean way” which you claim the citizens departed from during the recent protests has encouraged Zanu(PF) governments to believe they can get away with anything.
The question you must ask yourself Sir is why a people who, even during the November 2017 coup astonished the world by coming out onto the streets in their millions without a single act of violence being reported would now be so desperate as to act out of character. The idea that you could attempt to draw moral equivalency between the actions of a few desperate protestors and the murderous rampage of the security forces is totally unhelpful.
It’s telling that you preface your call to dialogue with the definitive judgment that the citizens were violent and to blame. When it comes to the security forces, you say “investigations” would be conducted and “if required, heads will roll.” In your version of justice, civilians, MPs, activists are assumed to be guilty before any open investigation, hence their brutal arrest and treatment. What makes it difficult to believe that you are sincere Sir is the fact that you can’t be unaware that in the history of our nation, the liberty, limbs and lives that have been lost and heads that have rolled have always been those of the citizens, and never the intelligence services and security forces. It’s not the people, but the state which has a long and documented history of violence.
You have been at pains yourself to shed the reputation of ruthlessness which you claim is undeserved, but which is not helped by the public statements of those closest to you like a former governor of Masvingo who last year claimed that you would shoot to retain power just as you had, in his words, shot your way to power in November 2017.
You are also aware Sir that many patriotic Zimbabweans have been calling for dialogue all along, and that it is Zanu(PF) under your leadership that has resisted those calls. Since November 2017 the actions of your government have been consistent with the “chinhu chedu” mantra adopted by your party.
Clear acts of statesmanship that would demonstrate your seriousness ahead of any dialogue would include acting on what you already know and is within your power.
1. You know soldiers killed protestors on August 1. It’s within your power to hold them and the people who deployed them responsible.
2. You know that the people who have been detained are being held in violation of their constitutional rights. Order their immediate release and avail them their right to due process.
3. You know from bitter and personal experience that past factional wars in Zanu(PF) have caused incalculable harm to our nation, including keeping the nation in a permanent constitutional crisis. Spare the nation a repeat of those tragic experiences by immediately asserting yourself as the President of your party so your word can be taken seriously when you reach out for dialogue. That and the immediate withdrawal of the military from the streets and roadblocks to the barracks will give the nation and international community much needed assurance that you, and not the military are running this country.
4. You know that laws such as POSA and AIPPA still remain on the books for use by ZanuPF as instruments of repression, and that no true and open dialogue not just with leaders but with the people of Zimbabwe can happen as long as these laws are in place. It’s within your power to expunge these laws, and to also make sure that the draconian cyberlaws currently being contemplated by your government would never see the light of day.
It’s critical Sir at this moment that you demonstrate above all things that you care about the loss of lives and injuries sustained by citizens beyond expressing sadness in a Tweet sent out when Twitter had been illegally shutdown in Zimbabwe. Actually visiting the bereaved and wounded in addition to ordering the immediate release of all who are being illegally detained will show the seriousness of your commitment to dialogue.
It should not have been surprising to your team that citizens expected to make sacrifices that the leaders themselves are not making would be angry and prepared to act on that anger. Your delegation travelling to Europe in one of the most expensive aircraft to charter could not have been more insensitive and obscene.
I dare say that even the fuel price increases would have been received differently if government’s motives were clear and the manner in which they were enacted less arrogant. The citizens are not unaware that fuel prices are not the only distortion in our economy, and that dealing with that distortion in isolation wont solve our problems. It is impossible for people to trust that this was part of any anti-corruption drive as you claimed when no action has been taken against well-known Godfathers of corruption, many of whom are supporters or senior members of Zanu(PF) and the government.
As I stated in my open letter to you on the 17th of January 2019, the worst enemies of your presidency are not the citizens of Zimbabwe or the external forces some of your paranoid advisers are always talking about. The worst enemies of your presidency are the men and women who surround you who encourage your instincts for outdated command politics.
They include the sycophantic official press, your Zanu(PF) colleagues, your presidium, business people, the security services, traditional and church leaders and some members of the diplomatic corp etc. who fail to advice you that the world outside Zanu(PF) operates very differently. They fail to counsel you that the decisions you are making are completely inconsistent with your claims to be a listening president, a reformer, a man of faith and a servant leader who believes that “the voice of the people is the voice of God.” Instead they only bolster your reputation for ruthlessness.
If the outcome of the dialogue you are calling for is to ensure that you are no longer surrounded by such people, and that instead you want to create a platform for the non-partisan, competent, reformist, inspiring and problem-solving collective leadership our country desperately needs, you will have my unqualified support.
Is There Not a Cause?
Dr. Noah Manyika
President: Build Zimbabwe Alliance.
Founder: War On Poverty Trust