Democratic change expensive

HARARE - Since 2009, Zimbabwe has been making half-hearted attempts at democratisation following a disputed election the previous year.

The piecemeal reforms so far are attributable primarily to the dearth of political will and lack of financial resources.

Of the political parties involved, Zanu PF in particular has demonstrated an aversion to democratic reform; it is apparent that it wishes to sustain a status quo that has served it well for the past 32 years.

In fact, Zanu PF has often openly expressed a lack of appetite for change by suggesting that democracy does not bring food to the table.

One wonders which political order Zanu PF thinks does, when its type of rule has failed to “feed” the people.

Nonetheless, a correlation exists between democracy and investment.

Capital is attracted to the secure and stable environments that democracy often provides, resulting in job-creation and indeed food on the tables of many.

So it is imperative that we establish a democratic dispensation for the benefit of the nation.

Like in other African countries however, democratisation has been affected by the lack of financial resources.  

Democracy is expensive.

Transition to democracy involves, not only the establishment of institutions that serve it, but sustaining it.

While establishing the institutions that promote democratic transition is financially demanding, preserving democracy will be even more costly.

Therefore, real democratic reform requires sustained political will and financial commitment.

It seems Zimbabwe lacks both the will for positive change and the financial resources to fund it.

Zanu PF is inherently resistant to change, only participating in the reform exercise to appease the regional and international community.

On the other hand, the economy is in a parlous state and revenue from diamonds is reportedly not accounted for transparently.

Priority is given to other concerns, for example, purchasing military equipment even in peace time.

The lack of political will and funding for reforms has, therefore, made genuine democratic transition a tall order in Zimbabwe.

While it has spent about $45 million of mainly donor-funding, the constitutional reform exercise has so far failed to produce a document acceptable to all parties, almost four years on.

The constitutional reform process has illustrated on the one hand, the expensive nature of contested democratic transition, and on the other, the dearth of collective political will to effect change in the national interest.

Instead, the process has been afflicted by party political interests.

Without political will to effect change in the national interest and sufficient financial resources to fund change, it is inconceivable democratic reform will be realised.

The lack of funding and political will has stymied the operations of institutions key to democratic change processes, spelling doom to the reform agenda held as the precursor to the next elections.
In recent weeks, we have learnt that the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) do not have funds to run their operations.

Professor Reg Austin resigned as chairperson of the ZHRC recently for, among other reasons, lack of funding for the commission. No budget, staff, proper offices and equipment.

The commission has, therefore, been rendered virtually ineffectual.

Part of the work of Zec has also stalled.

Mobile voter registration that was scheduled to commence countrywide, for instance, has failed to kick off because Treasury did not provide money to Zec. - Conrad Nyamutata

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