Zim @ 33: Little cheer as hunger, instability wreak havoc

HARARE - Zimbabwe marks 33 years of independence today with the future of the country still in limbo despite the successful completion of a contentious constitution-making exercise in which citizens endorsed a new governance charter.

The drums of war are already sounding as parties gird themselves for what promises to be the country’s fiercest electoral battle since majority rule three decades ago.

Political protagonists President Robert Mugabe and his arch-nemesis Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai continue to haggle over the implementation of political reforms that should set the stage for credible elections.

Mugabe, in power for an unbroken 33 years, wants elections on June 29 — five years to the day when he swore himself after a sham presidential election runoff held after a military backed campaign which forced Tsvangirai to pull off citing gross violence.

On the other hand, Tsvangirai wants elections in September while the smaller faction of the MDC led by Industry minister Welshman Ncube wants polls in August.

The shaky coalition government is still haggling over security sector, media and other reforms that remain “parked”.

Analysts say with an increasingly partisan, frightened and belligerent military hierarchy that insists it will not salute anyone without liberation war credentials — comments viewed as a direct attack on Tsvangirai — the country remains on the edge.

Tsvangirai has repeatedly called on regional body Sadc to exert pressure and order the military back to the barracks.

While the parties continue to quarrel, poverty, hunger, unemployment, high food prices, and political violence threaten to wipe the gains of independence.

Analysts say although the country has made relative strides in stabilising the economy following years of stagnation and decline, citizens are still to realise the better life they were promised in 1980.

South African-based International Crisis Group’s Trevor Maisiri said Mugabe has lost control of most issues affecting Zimbabweans.

“There is an obvious loss of traction by the president since independence. Firstly, Zanu PF is faced with a lot of internal factionalism and in-fighting which seems to be going viral. The country’s economy is depressed and political stability is not at its utmost,” Maisiri said.

“These factors indicate that though Mugabe may still be in the leadership of the nation he does not seem to be in control of these runaway issues. This further speaks of a weakened influence on driving a developmental State,” Maisiri said.

Maisiri however, said Mugabe should be given some credit despite his obvious shortcomings.

“It would be a miscarriage of historical justice to dismiss Mugabe as a failure through and through. It has rather been a combination of lack a developmental focus in some of his leadership approaches but that has also been combined by other external factors such as depressed global economic outlook, global political developments and resource depletion.

“One glaring factor has however, been Mugabe’s failure to renew leadership, including his own. In contemporary leadership theory, leadership renewal is one of the tenets of any institutional progression including a nation-state. Mugabe has also failed to stem out corruption, which has now grown as a cancer across the nation and risks depleting our Zimbabwean culture of responsibility and accountability.

“State institutions have become partisan extensions and this has affected their productivity, efficiency, effectiveness as well as their service to the citizens in a non-partisan manner,” said Maisiri.

The National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), still sulking after losing its campaign for the rejection of the draft constitution, says Zimbabweans deserve better than the current leaders.

“After a protracted war, the nation will finally adopt a new constitution, a constitution which the leaders of the land imposed on the people. This new constitution will never guarantee our freedom,” the group said in a statement.

“The only way for the people of Zimbabwe, our families and our communities to win real and total freedom is for us to get organised in strong, fighting trade unions, a strong alliances and civil society formations and fight for a genuine people-driven constitution and the realisation of the Peoples Charter,” the NCA said in a statement.

The constitution pressure group, while exalting the virtues of the 1970s liberation war, said inequalities abound in the country mean Zimbabweans have not truly enjoyed the fruits of freedom.

Zimbabwe hopes to go to elections in a few months, with some saying this could be Mugabe’s last poll. But analysts such as Maisiri warned that the upcoming elections will not solve the country’s problems overnight.

“Despite whoever wins the next elections, if Zimbabweans are not given the opportunity to hold State institutions to account then we will continue with the current cycle of political manipulation and denigration of the role of the citizens,” he said.

“Elections must deliver a new political environment in which State institutions are restored, they become viable again, they become independent of political parties, they represent citizens who are their main stakeholders and are run by policy guidelines that are not caught up by in the tension-filled political contestation between political parties,” he said.

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