Sovereignty resides in people

HARARE - On April 17, 1980, President Mugabe spoke on the eve of the birth of a new nation and his state of mind at the material time is important for any historian to capture as it gives a glimpse of the views held then and now on key and fundamental nation-State building values.

Mugabe understood then the imperative to protect the value of coexistence of citizens of different cultures, faiths, races, classes, and languages that ought to form the cornerstone of any successful and progressive secular society.

A conversation with Mugabe using the words that he voluntarily chose is useful in measuring the success or otherwise of the post-colonial dispensation.

What did Mugabe say about his vision for the new baby, Zimbabwe?

His opening words were as follows: “The final countdown before the launching of the new State of Zimbabwe has now begun. Only a few hours from now, Zimbabwe will have become a free, independent and sovereign State, free to choose its own flight path and chart its own course to its chosen destiny. Its people have made a democratic choice of those who as their legitimate government, they wish to govern them and take policy decisions as to their future.

“This, indeed, is the meaning of the mandate my party secured through a free and fair election, conducted in the full glare of the world’s spotlight. While my Government welcomes the mandate it has been freely given and is determined to honour it to the letter, it also accepts that the fulfilment of the tasks imposed by the mandate are only possible with the confidence, goodwill and co-operation of all of you, reinforced by the forthcoming support and encouragement of all our friends, allies, and well wishers in the international community.”

The last 33 years have exposed the vulnerability of an open and democratic Zimbabwe where peace, individual liberty and free Mugabe spoke of a free, independent and sovereign state and the question that has to be posed is whether under his watch freedom, independence and sovereignty have reigned and triumphed.

In 2013, is Zimbabwe more connected, united and can one safely say that the country is where the architects of independence wanted it to be?

The country that had its own currency at independence finds itself using other countries’ currencies.

Sanctions have been blamed for the flight path that has resulted in joblessness, poverty and unemployment.
The captain of the plane has not changed for 33 years.  When the captain said: “independence brought with it the right for the country to chart its own chosen destiny” he must have been alive to the challenges of nation building.

As we all look back, can we safely say that Zimbabwe is at the destination in point where its people would have wanted it to be?

If not, it is important that we understand the true reasons why the people entrusted to define the path and destination should not be held accountable and responsible.

The people of Zimbabwe had made a democratic choice of those they wished to govern them and it can be said that similar choices were made in the last 33 years.

It is important that we appreciate the choice by Mugabe of the term: “govern” in linking the results of the elections to what was expected of him by the electorate.

It is significant that there was no single reference to the term: empowerment” in his entire speech suggesting that he understood that the people of Zimbabwe expected him and the ruling party to make and administer the public policy and affairs of the State for good.

The majority of Zimbabweans had spoken and they did not expect a person in power to complain publicly about lack of empowerment when it was part of his duty to use the borrowed power to advance the democratic values that had brought him to power.

It is true that empowerment is relevant to the minority and more specifically to people who do not have the power to make a difference.

Mugabe knew that the true mandate that his party had secured through a free and fair election was to deliver on the promise of a better life for all.

The importance of a free and fair election cannot be understated for in 1980, Mugabe knew that he and his party were underdogs and without a free and fair election, the outcome could very well have been different.

Notwithstanding, in 2013, Mugabe and his party stand accused of limiting the democratic space and as I write this piece, the election date is not known principally because there is no agreement on what needs to happen to ensure a free and fair election.

Curtailment of liberties, stringent security processes and procedures, control of the media have all contributed to undermining the quality of life that independence promised.

The challenge that Zimbabwe still faces after 33 years of independence is to reconcile the known and well-established infringements of rights and freedom that has taken place in post-colonial Zimbabwe.

The balance between respect for the right of the individual and the security of the State has been difficult to maintain in Zimbabwe.  

As a result, anyone who advocates a change of the flight path is often labelled “traitor’ by state actors.

The legitimacy of any state and its actors must be founded on the free and voluntary expression of the will of the people through elections and yet many Zimbabweans are apprehensive about the elections based on experiences during the post-colonial period and not what happened in remote Rhodesia.

The forthcoming elections have been described as: “watershed elections” meaning that people generally want change from the experiences of the last 33 years and the adoption of a new constitution speaks volumes about the state of mind of the voters who have yet to enjoy the freedom that independence promised including the freedom to choose their new governors.

If the flight path chosen in 1980 had led people to arrive at a desired destination then surely there would have been no need to change the constitution let alone the path.

In 1980, Mugabe understood the importance of conducting the elections under the: “full glare of the world’s spotlight” and yet 33 years on, he does not trust the international community that did not trust him and his party in 1980 but could not prevent Zanu from winning the watershed elections.

Why would Mugabe and Zanu PF be afraid of the full glare of the world?  Surely, the State-controlled media and all rented spin-doctors openly express the view that Zanu PF is likely to win the elections.
Sovereignty does not reside in state offices and corridors but truly resides in the people.  

The same people made a choice to bring into life a new constitution and there can be no doubt that the presence or absence of international observers could have changed the outcome.

In 1980, Mugabe was confident of his people to allow him to state that: “While your government welcomes the mandate it has been freely given” but it would appear that he and his party have lost confidence in the ability of the people of Zimbabwe freely and openly expressing their will.

It has been reported that the international community is willing to support financially the elections on condition that observers are allowed to be part of the experience.  

The country needs the financial support but regrettably State actors would want to get the money and close the door to potential providers of money to see if in truth and fact their funds are going to be used in the manner that any democrat would ask for.

One should expect that after 33 years of independence, the people of Zimbabwe have matured politically not to allow themselves to be swayed by tourist election observers.  

The people of Zimbabwe have endured a lot and should know better what is good for them going forward.

An open society with free and open media and non-negotiable and embedded right to freedom of expression is what independence promised but the reality is different.  

It would appear that the human rights of State actors over-ride those of the citizens.

Mugabe correctly stated that his government was determined to honour the mandate given by the people.

History is always a good teacher and the question must be posed whether the post-colonial administration has honoured to the letter the mandate of the people.

It is also significant that President Mugabe said that his government accepted that the fulfilment of the task-imposed by the mandate was only possible with the confidence, goodwill and co-operation of all the people and not just Zanu PF supporters.

Zimbabwe at the defining hour needed: ”the support and encouragement of all its friends, allies and well wishers in the international community” but now finds itself not sure how to re-engage with the international community that has only demanded not the right to vote but the right to observe that the values of independence are respected in 2013 as they were in 1980.

Mugabe was the beneficiary of the fact that the 1980 elections were open and free and, therefore, must take leadership by trusting his own people.

The control of the State even under the GPA is still vested in Zanu PF to give Mugabe confidence that if any rigging has to take place it will require the assistance of his own party.

Mugabe fought for an open society fully knowing that a closed one is dangerous. - Mutumwa Mawere

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