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Zimbabwe at 40, a nation desperate to escape

18 April 2020

By Obert Masaraure

The failures of the post-independence Zimbabwean government/s have been perfectly described by all those who had the courage to reflect and write. The majority of us who never bothered to put our experiences to paper, have equally endured the hell hole which was once deceitfully sold as the dawn of paradise. Suffice to say the failures of the ZANU Pf government are now a cliché. The nation is now desperate to escape from the trap of want in which we find ourselves trapped. As we commemorate independence from white minority rule, it is judicious for us to attempt to define exit routes from this trap of want.

Prior to defining an exit route it is important to note that we all want to escape for one reason or the other. The President himself and his entourage are haunted by fear of being ousted or being assassinated. If you look at the Presidential motorcade you see a man desperate to escape. A man whose life is engulfed in fear. The way state machinery respond when a handful of teachers take to the streets demanding better pay betrays deeply entrenched fear in the corridors of power. The oppressors are also trapped in fear and are desperate to escape.

I had an opportunity to chat with some in the ZANU PF government, they are disillusioned by the policies they co-authored and are mandated to implement. They want to see a change in the way the nation is run, but like all of us they are trapped. They do not know how to escape. Some of them have tried to define personal exit routes premised on wanton looting of national wealth. The rampant corruption we are witnessing is inspired by fear of the imminent collapse of the incumbent regime whose leadership has failed to inspire even those who craft its policies.

Our business community, small as it is buckling under the pressure of bad governance we are trapped in as a nation. The same troubled community is summoned from time to time to fund some of the most ridiculous ideas of the paranoid ruling class. Business is desperate to spurt out of the current crisis snare, exit route remains elusive.

The want of the common people is common knowledge and needs no elaboration. In these desperate times, horizontal blame games are now common place, the common people turning against each other in an embarrassing dog eat dog situation. Each and every one of us is now desperate to find a selfish exit route out of the crisis. Collective actions have been futile. The ruling elites have used excessive force and all possible chicanery to keep us trapped in want. Trade Unions are fragmenting, opposition political parties are disintegrating and Civil Society has become a joke.

There is no collective voice to demand food, shelter, education, healthcare and other basics for the majority of us the common people. Even if the collective voice was there, who would listen to us at a time when our leaders are also desperate to escape?

In the history of Zimbabwe the majority of our people have resoundingly united twice. The struggle for majority rule rallied our people together so did the struggle for a new constitution which intensified in the late 90s. Unfortunately both historic struggles remain incomplete.

The hopes and aspirations of our gallant fighters who fought for independence from colonial were betrayed. The new constitution which was envisaged for by the advocates for a new constitution never came to fruition.

As we attempt to craft a route out of the current mess, it is only logical for us to revisit these historical episodes and marry our new ideas to these two. How do we complete the liberation struggle that was fought for by our gallant warriors? How do we conclude the constitutional reform process?

Of all the grievances tabled by our freedom fighters only one was addressed, we got some guy with some black skin occupying state house. The wish list from our fighters was shredded by the black skinned leaders as soon as they assumed office. One thing to note is that the bulk of the demands fronted by our freedom fighters resonate with the bill of rights which was being advocated for by the protagonists of a new constitution.

It is important to note that the 2013 constitution was some step in the right direction. Unfortunately the constitution never delivered absolute rights in the bill of rights. The wording makes it easy for the government of the day to deny the people their fundamental rights and freedoms with impunity. The limitations of enjoyment of rights in freedoms provided for in section 86 of the constitution have been used to bar citizens from enjoying the rights enshrined in the bill of rights.

The Executive arm of the Republic of Zimbabwe still wield excessive powers over other arms of government.

The constitution is also porous to amendments and the current paranoid government is in the process of amending the constitution to expand the executive powers of the President. The temporary setback on amendment number 1 is set to be rectified by reconvening Senate. Amendment number 2 is also on the cards and more amendments are likely going to be sponsored.

The completion of the constitutional reform process may go a long way in attempting to complete the liberation struggle.

The National Constitutional Assembly, NCA which used to be the vehicle for constitutional reform has since evolved into a political party. It is high time we reconvene under another platform and revive the constitutional reform advocacy.

Some sections of our society have resorted to reactionary measures to defend the constitution from attack. Those attacking our constitution will not relent, because they live in fear and are hoping to escape through amendments. Let’s push for wholesale constitutional reform and produce a more secure constitution with less executive powers and an absolute bill of rights.

It is not too early to reform the constitution. We have to go through the route of progressive realization. We have to build on the good of the 2013 constitution to produce a much better constitution. If we do not do it now the executive will amend it and all gains from 2013 will be eroded.

A new constitution in itself is not a whole exit route out of the current mess, it is a first step which has potential of building national consensus. If we do not lose the momentum we will build on it to develop a more inclusive and secure society.

Zimbabwe at 40 years is perfect time to revive the campaign for a new constitution. Whether you voted yes or no in 2013 it’s now time to unite and build on from the 2013 constitution. A new constitution gives an exit route for all of us.

Obert Masaraure
National President
Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe, ARTUZ

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