Another GNU won't solve Zim problems

HARARE - Dewa Mavhinga, the chairperson for Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, says civil society should now focus more on empowering citizens to directly demand accountability from government instead of purporting to speak on behalf of the people and rules out another Government of National Unity (GNU) as the answer to Zimbabwe’s current problems.

He speaks to senior assistant editor Guthrie Munyuki and below are the excerpts of the interview.

Q: A new Constitution has been passed but has not been fully implemented. What are you doing about this as civil society especially with the demise of the NCA as a lobby group?

A: Civil society has identified key opportunities for broader democratic reforms through the full and comprehensive implementation of the new Constitution including the activation and operationationalisation of institutions for the restoration of the rule of law and advancement of basic rights like the Zimbabwe

Human Rights Commission and the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission.

The important work to entrench values of constitutionalism and good governance that the NCA lobby group initiated will not go to waste.

Groups like the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, the democracy and good governance civil society coalition, are working deliberately to engage and mobilise citizens to demand their rights and to hold government accountable.

Q: How influential are you in pushing for adherence and full implementation of the new Constitution?

A: The degree of influence that civil society has in pushing for the adherence and full implementation of the new Constitution is proportional to its capacity to mobilise citizens to apply pressure on government to deliver. The immediate task at hand for civil society post the July 2013 flawed elections is to rally its constituency on the basis of clarity of message that the struggle for democracy is far from over and cannot be aborted.

At the same time, civil society has the challenge to demonstrate the clear connections and causal relationship between disregard for the rule of law, justice, basic rights and the festering economic governance crisis that today manifests itself in endemic corruption in both State and private institutions in the face of pontification and a glaring failure by authorities to decisively act against corruption.

To achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness in pushing for the full implementation of the Constitution, it is necessary and urgent that there be increased cohesion, coordination within civil society together with strategic engagement with progressive State institutions.

Q: The country is fast slipping into an economic paralysis. What role can you play in arresting this slide?

A: In the face of national economic paralysis, civil society has the singular duty to provide thought leadership in proffering clear economic policy alternatives and to push for their adoption and implementation by the government of the day.

Those groups with the relevant expertise within civil society, including academics and economic researchers, should lead in the gathering of accurate data and the development of alternatives while other groups will be tasked with simplifying the messages for advocacy and mobilisation of citizens to demand economic change.

Civil society should now focus more on empowering citizens to directly demand accountability from government instead of purporting to speak on behalf of the people. To this end, civil society is playing more the role of facilitator and enabler for communities rather than acting as a representative of the communities.

Q: The civil society has been accused of taking sides in the MDC dispute. Is this true and if not what has been your role?

A: Ignorance and vested self-interest has in a few case manifested as civil society taking sides in the MDC internal issues. However, the prevailing position within civil society is that of non-involvement, non-interference and non-partisanship.

Civil Society remains autonomous and independent for the sake of integrity and credibility. It is wrong for individuals speaking for themselves to attempt to drag the entire civil society into partisan politics. Civil society is not interested in a divided and weak MDC, but rather, in a broad and robust pro-democracy movement.

Q: Are you embedded in MDC politics?

A: NO. While historically the MDC was born out of civil society and a number of values are shared in common between civil society and the MDC, the correct position is that civil society is independent of the MDC and is actively asserting this independence. The MDC will be held to account on issues of democratic values, good governance, tolerance and non-violence in the same way that government and other political formations are held to account.

Q: Morgan Tsvangirai has called for another GNU. Do you think it is feasible in the current climate?

A: Focus should not be on the formation of another GNU as it is unlikely that Zanu PF will respond positively to such an invitation. The pro-democracy movement should instead focus on empowering citizens and building a critical mass of citizens that will stand up and be the drivers of change.

Autocratic governments only respond to significant political pressure for them to negotiate democratisation and political change. While the call for another GNU might be interesting, it can only materialise when backed up by significant political pressure from within Zimbabwe.

Q: Why does Tsvangirai see another GNU as a panacea to our political and economic woes?

A:  A quick evaluation of the first GNU shows that the experiment was largely a failure and a painful experience for the parties involved. It failed to deliver anticipated democratic and electoral reforms ahead of elections leading to flawed elections.

Another GNU cannot, therefore, be a panacea to Zimbabwe’s political and economic woes. Focus should be on strategies on how to hold Zanu PF to account and to push for the necessary democratic reforms, including security sector reforms, to level the political and electoral playing field ahead of the next elections.

Q: What is the best way of responding to the current economic problems?

A: The best way to respond to the current economic problems facing Zimbabwe is not merely to say NO to Zanu PF economic policies but to think critically and come up with viable economic policy alternatives and then push for their implementation. It is not enough to oppose by word of mouth what is happening; it is necessary to take decisive steps to present and popularise workable alternatives that the people can rally behind.

If ZimAsset, the government’s economic policy blueprint is inadequate, while exposing its shortcomings, the pro-democracy movement must also proffer alternatives which they believe are better.

Q: As civic society how far have you gone in engaging Zanu PF to having a good working relationship?

A: Civil Society is engaging the Zanu PF government in power to push for democratisation, good governance and human rights respect at various levels. However, the nature of the engagement is not one of capitulation or co-option; it is one of demanding accountability and acknowledging that several State institutions can be vehicles of positive change, including Parliament and its portfolio committees, government ministries, State media, among others.

Q: What are the top priorities in your work plan in the current context?

A: The following are the top priorities within the democracy and good governance civil society coalition:

- Ensuring that within civil society the categoric guiding principle is non-partisanship which shall in all cases be guarded jealously.

- Convening and coordinating membership and communities around issues of common interest as well as providing timely thought leadership on critical national questions while building a vibrant democracy and good governance movement. Within civil society, those groups with expertise in particular fields will provide leadership, for example, Misa (Media Institute of Southern Africa) on media and information issues, ZLHR (Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights) on legal representation and litigation issues, and so on. Civil society is working to enhance collaboration and networking among various coalitions for a more effective, cohesive, and coherent civil society.

- Given the evolving nature of the national crisis, there is need for a broad-based approach to issues that also place emphasis on economic governance issues including corruption, social services delivery and the enjoyment of all human rights, that is, civil, political, social, and economic.

- Civil society is currently considering adopting multiple strategies to pro-actively bring about positive change, including strategic engagement with State institutions where necessary and the identification of opportunities presented by Zimbabwe’s new Constitution, its bill of rights including socio-economic rights, Parliament (and its portfolio committees), and relevant constitutional commissions, among other institutions.

- Civil society is currently focusing on promoting democratic values and good corporate governance within itself and among its members with a view to nurture positive values and principles.

 

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