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Bi-partisan reforms in Zimbabwe – A middle ground solution without a GNU or NTA

A middle ground solution to resolve Zimbabwe’s problems without a GNU or NTA using bi-partisan reforms to create the conditions required to begin the long road to recovery.

Faced with a failing RTGS currency, 100% inflation in May and demands for USD salaries from civil servants the government decided to revive the Zimbabwe dollar as a solution.

In this article, we argue that bi-partisan reforms are the best way to resolve Zimbabwe’s deep-seated structural problems.

We further argue that at the heart of Zimbabwe’s economic crisis are unresolved political problems that have not been resolved by the political settlements of 1980, 1987 and 2009 but further perpetuated by the system of governance.

The cornerstone of the Ian Smith government was to use the black majority as cheap labour using a brutal system of governance that enabled the white minority to live in comfort.

The unresolved national question: A look at Zimbabwe’s first GNU

After waging a war of independence demanding equality, land, economic and political freedom the black majority and white minority held talks that culminated in the Lancaster House agreement.

A new government was formed with Robert Mugabe as prime minister, Canaan Banana as president and 20 seats reserved for the white minority in parliament.

The means of production remained in the hands of the white minority although blacks now had political freedom and access to government services and educational opportunities.

A tragic mistake by the new government was that the system of government that oppressed blacks during the colonial days was not removed, it just changed colour and remained dormant to be activated whenever necessary.

Zimbabwe’s stage machinery (the system) allowed the ruling elite to not only enrich themselves by corruptly extracting the meagre resources of the state and economy but to also use the system to brutalise critics.

The unresolved national question: A look at Zimbabwe’s second GNU

The Zanu PF government under Mugabe always saw ZAPU as a threat to its existence since the two founding liberation parties fought the war separately and had ideological differences.

Mugabe turned to his then National Security Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa who was in charge of the colonial era CIO spy agency and Gukurahundi was unleashed killing thousands of ZAPU supporters.

Nkomo being the pragmatist he was, chose to allow his party ZAPU to be merged with ZANU to save his people from certain extinction and Zimbabwe’s second GNU was formed under the Zanu PF government.

The unresolved national question: A look at Zimbabwe’s third GNU

Fast forward to the 2008 election an ageing Mugabe was facing certain defeat from the now late founding president of the MDC, Morgan Tsvangirai.

To save himself Mugabe turned to the same state machinery used by Zimbabwe’s former colonisers to brutalise the main opposition into submission resulting in Zimbabwe’s third GNU.

During the GNU the main opposition forced Mugabe into agreeing to reforms that were roundly approved by the majority of Zimbabwean’s through a referendum on the new constitution in 2013.

Tragically Mugabe sensing the opposition had relaxed during the GNU and not being keen on aligning the country’s laws to the new constitution forced through an early election and won.

Mnangagwa vs Chamisa: History repeating itself

A coup in November 2017 deposed Mugabe and Mnangagwa took over until the 2018 election that he narrowly won at the expense of Nelson Chamisa who received over 2 million votes but claims the election was rigged.

Post election protests on August 1 last year were brutally dealt with as the army (the system) was deployed by Mnangagwa resulting in the death of at least 6 people who were shot in the back.

As the economy continued to falter Mnangagwa doubled the price of fuel in January resulting in mass protests. Like clockwork state security agents (the system) were deployed and over 20 people were killed.

Although Mnangagwa campaigned on the basis of a “New Dispensation” that would usher in a corrupt free government and prosperity for all it was not long before the wheels came off.

A new elite of Mnangagwa’s close business associates soon emerged who continue to milk the state, break the law and enrich themselves without consequence.

Nelson Chamisa is pushing for a National Transitional Authority (NTA) as the only way to fix what he calls the legitimacy deficit that Mnangagwa faces.

But prospects for a GNU or NTA are slim since Mnangagwa is using the veneer of dialogue with 18 presidential candidates who got less than 4% of the vote as his preferred route to engagement and fixing the politics.

The middle ground: Bi-partisan reforms

A middle ground solution is possible that will fix Zimbabwe’s politic system and consequently the economy without a GNU or NTA and it is called bi-partisan political reforms.

The ruling party Zanu PF despite its majority in Zimbabwe’s parliament should engage the MDC (main opposition) and come up with a mutually agreed reform agenda to move the country forward.

In less than 6 months both Zanu PF and the MDC can craft legislation to align all of Zimbabwe’s laws to the 2013 constitution itself a product of bi-partisan engagement.

The local and international confidence gained from bi-partisan reforms can be the basis of creating the conditions required to introduce a local currency.

Understanding the systemic nature of Zimbabwe’s problems

A common thread in Zimbabwe’s 39-year-old history is that the ruling party regularly uses state resources to deal with opponents, enrich itself and create a patronage system.

This becomes glaringly obvious when there is a fallout in the ruling party and suddenly people are arrested for crimes committed years ago or millions in ZESA debts are revealed by the state media.

The successive governments of Smith, Mugabe and Mnangagwa are known for arresting and torturing opposition and civil society leaders who are critical of the government of the day.

This explains why it is difficult for ruling party leaders to leave power, they fear that the same system they used to extract from and demonise their rivals with will visit them too.

A classical example is the reporting of state media when Mnangagwa was fired as VP by Mugabe, during and after the coup that placed him in power.

They went from singing Mugabe praises while demonising Mnangagwa to doing the exact opposite when the levers of power shifted between the two.

What happens when the power to corruptly use state resources for gain, patronage and brutalising opponents is taken away? The result is a prosperous, just and democratic Zimbabwe!

To reach this lofty goal Zimbabweans must distrust the politician but morose put in place systems of accountability and promote meritocracy.

Below we provide the 7 fundamental reforms that are necessary to resolve Zimbabwe’s problems;

1. Align all laws to the constitution

Zimbabwe’s 2013 constitution is the biggest success of the Zanu-PF/MDC GNU but it is also its biggest failure, a good document on paper that after 6 years has not been implemented.

It is critical that all Zimbabwe’s laws are aligned to the 2013 constitution as this will result in the removal of all draconian laws.

2. Public asset declaration and wealth audits for all elected officials

Mandatory public asset declaration and wealth audits for all elected officials will ensure that politicians don’t use their access to power to corruptly enrich themselves.

This is especially critical for the president, his cabinet, members of parliament, local government councillors and critical public institutions such as ZAAC, Auditor General, the judiciary, National Prosecuting Authority, and Police Commissioner.

3. Appointment of board members of state institutions & regulatory bodies by parliament

Zimbabwe’s parliament should appoint via public interviews the board members of all state institutions with a specific focus on the

  • Head of the judiciary (Chief Justice & his deputy)
  • Chapter 13 institutions (Auditor General and the head of the NPA)
  • Board members of state-owned companies, agencies and regulatory institutions
  • ZEC board and chair
  • Police Commissioner
  • ZAAC board members

It also follows that the budgets of these critical institutions should be approved by parliament which will also provide the oversight over their operations.

4. No public servant (civil or elected) must do business with the state

5. Equality of all before the law and independence of crime fighting institutions

Critical to this is that the head of the police, judiciary, national prosecutor, auditor general and ZAAC board members must be appointed by parliament via public interviews.

Their budgets must come directly from parliament and it must ensure they are well resourced enough to perform their constitutionally mandated duties.

6. Formal engagement & or debate between the president and main opposition in parliament

A government is made up of three spheres the executive, judiciary and legislature. When people

The President and the main opposition leader must be constitutionally mandated to regularly debate issues in parliament as the most senior members of the government.

This will go a long way in removing the polarisation in Zimbabwe between the ruling Zanu PF and MDC were every public debate is framed for or against one or the other.

More importantly, it will ensure that the president is accountable to the people throughout their term in office by having the performance critiqued and the public hearing rebuttal.

7. ZEC appointed by & accountable to parliament

The adage goes “It’s not the people who vote that count. It’s the people who count the votes.” 

It is vital that Zimbabwe’s Electoral Commission (ZEC) maintains its independence from the executive and administers a free, fair, transparent and credible election.

This means that the ZEC Chairperson and the board must be appointed by parliament after rigorous public interviews.

The ZEC budget must under the purview of parliament (approval & oversight), to ensure the financial independence of this critical institution.

Additionally, the election infrastructure must be secure and traceable so that every vote is a true reflection of the will of the people.

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