'Inclusive national dialogue way to go after protests'

HARARE - Our News Editor Gift Phiri sits down for a wide-ranging interview with Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition spokesperson and director Tabani Moyo about last week’s shutdown. Find below excerpts of the interview. 

Q:  What is your assessment of the Shutdown in terms of its impact?

A: The shutdown, in my own assessment, was a tipping point of a citizen’s boiling tempers. It expressed a clear pointer that Zimbabwe can and or should do with a process of opening up for dialogue and debate around issues that affect itself structurally, at the economic levels and those things which define her very existence at political levels. 

In the absence of a people holding regular in-depth debates and national dialogue, when given a chance, as they did in the three days under review, chances are that tempers and emotions will explode beyond expected proportions. If the government is responsive, it should take this as an opportunity to attend to the very reasons that have frustrated and angered the peoples of Zimbabwe, especially the current system of governance which has seen them poorer.

Q: Do you think it was a success?

A: This is rather a problematic question, when it is directed to the Coalition, which was more of a solidarity partner to the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), which called for the shutdown. Our member, the ZCTU, probably set the objectives and are in a position to better quantify and qualify the success indicators of the action. 

However, from a solidarity point of view, and general point of view, the major towns were successfully shut down in the three-day period under review.

Our position regarding the action is a public manner in as far as we stand in solidarity with the organisers of peaceful and non-violent protest actions to the comatose economic situation in the country as defined by a run-away inflationary regime, failing capacity for industry and manufacturing industries, erosion of income of the citizens due to the multiple pricing regime, pegged to the United States dollar and a failing health education, service delivery and other social services nets for the bulk of the peoples of Zimbabwe. 

It was, however, deplorable that some elements then took the opportunity to vandalise property, loot products in retail shops among other “isms”.

The Coalition went on to issue a strong statement against the State’s heavy-handed response to the protests, including the use of live ammunition through the deployed soldiers and police details. 

This was coming hot on the  heels of the Motlanthe Commission report on the August 1, extra-judicial killings of six civilians by the army. Sadly, innocent souls were lost due to such heavy-handed approaches by the State and many left injured.

Q: Government buckled under pressure and awarded a cushioning allowance and refund of excise duty on fuel to registered firms. Can this be touted as a breakthrough?

A: That is a tokenism approach to the complex structural economic challenges affecting the country which requires a holistic approach rather than knee-jerk interventions. It does not make economic sense for example that the government effects a 100 percent increase in fuel, while on the same footing increase the salaries of doctors by 10 percent. This points to an economy experiencing multiple dislocations, which are slowly grinding the centre to a halt. 

Our economy is broken, there is need to invest in manufacturing and industry, modernise our agriculture, re-position our institution of higher learning into modern-day machinery of innovations and inventions among others.

Q: You have been accused of organising this shutdown through meetings you allegedly held at Wild Geese Lodge. It’s alleged you later convened another meeting in Belvedere. Is this correct?

A: The coalition has already pronounced itself on this matter with clarity. Crisis Coalition held a one-day meeting on December 3 to discuss the role of CSO (civil society organisations) in transitional justice and setting the framework for national dialogue. From the 4th to the 6th, the organisation was on a strategy reflection meeting which feeds towards its strategic plan document. 

This is done annually, around the same time since our formation as an organisation. The organisation did not hold any meeting in Belvedere, we only read it in the State-owned newspapers such as The Herald and the Chronicle and recently in statements by the government. I have been repeating this reality, but out of malice, the State media and the government are ignoring these clear facts.

Q: What did your meetings exactly discuss? May you go into detail?

A: As outlined above, the first day it was about transitional justice and taking steps towards defining the framework for national dialogue. The last three days were strategic planning reflections, which we traditionally engage in outside elective general meetings. 

There is nothing criminal for organisations, registered in the country, to regularly hold internal meetings, as this is provided by the Constitution of the Republic. One of the resolutions of the meeting was that we should proceed to hold a National People’s Convention (NPC) which draws from the women’s movement, students, churches, media, business, farmers and people living with disabilities so that they make their key demands on the issues that form the agenda for a national dialogue process.

These are the partial remedies to issues confronting and knocking our socio-political and economic order at the moment, which if supported by the government, will be a step towards lasting solutions. Sadly, such actions and undertakings are demonised and branded subversion. The government should never forget that the vision of the Coalition is to see a democratic country.

Q: Did you co-ordinate with ZCTU and #ThisFlag in these protests?

A: You are actually identifying the organisers in your questioning! In our entire deliberations in early December, we never planned of organising or co-ordinating protests. The so-called January meeting, was definitely not a meeting of the Coalition. 

The only way to know who the actual conveners of the so-called Belvedere meeting is the government, reverting back to its notes and making a public clarification on how it erroneously attributed another organisation’s meeting to the Coalition.

The State might just as well apportion blame to the Coalition for the clumsy way they handled the doctors’ strike. The teachers were also on strike recently, but rather the government has opted for the easy route of blame-shifting rather than attending to the demands of the citizens.

 Furthermore, evidence before the courts shows that actually members of the ruling party were also implicated in the burning and destruction of State property such as a Zupco bus and (former Information minister Webster) Shamu’s service station. These are stubborn facts at hand which could easily be verified before going on a propaganda overdrive, which can be an embarrassment to the government that wants to be taken seriously.

In essence, the statement produced by the ruling party, through its spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo, was more rational and firmer compared to the one produced by the State, which attributes the source of the protects as the Crisis Coalition meeting in December. In his response to the shutdown, SK Moyo attributed the protests to the failing economy and outlined that the citizens were justified to protest, in as far as they were doing it in a peaceful manner. 

Q: Do you have any association with so-called Democratic Resistance Committee and The Vanguard, both alleged MDC outfits?

A: The Crisis Coalition is a conglomeration of 82 civic organisations which are working in the areas of governance and democracy. We are not affiliated to any political party. Again, the government is mixing up its intelligence. We are not in any way working or have any knowledge on the workings of the MDC structures. 

Q: What’s your comment on the high-handedness with which the State put down the protests, five said to have been killed, scores shot, and many netted in a dragnet arrest after door-to-door raids?

A: We condemn in the strongest of terms the heavy-handed approach by government in dealing with the demonstrators. The move by the government to deploy armed police and soldiers against citizens exercising their democratic right to protests should be condemned in the strongest of terms. 

It has become predictable that the government has a reflex of being disproportionate in their response to citizens expressing their views. 

The use of live ammunition is dangerously gaining traction in this country against regional and international norms of handling riotous situations. The Coalition expresses its heartfelt condolences to those who lost their loved ones out of this rather deplorable approach in handling crowds.

Q: Do you think the grievances are genuine, given that this was all sparked by an over 100 percent hike in the price of fuel? 

A: As I noted in my introductory remarks, Zimbabwe has been bottling up for a long time, without finding the venting point. The fuel increases are just but a trigger moment. Remember, we are heavily taxed; cost of living is sky-rocketing with the three-tier pricing mechanism wreaking havoc in the economy; failing health system; challenges with accessing clean water and poor service delivery among other key factors that led to the citizens to shut down the country.

Q: Zanu PF has characterised all this as “economic sabotage.” Do you share that opinion?

A: That’s an unfortunate pronouncement, which entails that the party is not a listening party which does not have mechanisms to absorb feedback from its citizens. If the citizens are no-longer affording basic commodities and services they have the right to petition their government.

Q: How do you think this unrest can be resolved given that talks under the tripartite negotiating forum have dismally failed?

A: As the Coalition, we held our December 3, 2018 meeting with the hope that we stimulate debate on a framework for national dialogues. You saw the results for such proactive thinking! That we are saboteurs, for daring to think ahead. An inclusive national dialogue process among all key stakeholders is the panacea to this crisis at hand, rather than scapegoating and stocking temperature on narrow interest positions.

Q: And labour is pushing for US dollar salaries. Is this doable?

A: The economy is now an elite economy, which is “rated” at the going USD value for every transaction. This entails that we are valuing our goods and services at USD value. The major shift to avoid an elite USD rated economy, is to stock up gold reserves and introduce a gold-backed currency and the discipline to maintain the gold reserves. 

Q: It seems this is a currency problem. What do you suggest on the currency front, dollarisation, Rand Monetary Union, demonetising bond notes?

A: It is not the currency crisis alone, but failing production. We are not producing to earn the money. Hence the need to go all the way in investment on manufacturing and industrial capacity utilisation, value adding our products in agriculture and mining as the major foreign currency earners. When you have economic growth in real terms, it creates jobs and opportunities for the economy to sustain itself and leap into orbits of sustainable growth.

Q: How is your conglomeration of civil society groups helping in all this? 

A: We are a think-tank geared towards stimulating conversations around the national economy, unlocking the political gridlock through a national dialogue policy framework. In addition, we strongly believe that Zimbabwe has various capabilities at resource level, human capital and environmental factors for success, what is required is agile, innovative and competitive leadership to define a path that unites the country in re-building bottom up.

Q: Do you believe there is a political solution?

A: The politics of the country defines the economy and social bearings of the country. If the politics is responsive, through visionary leadership, everything else falls into its correct place.


Comments (7)

I now dont trust these ameriacan funded organisations..rubbish. Can a NGO organise a demonstration in a country? Is that not getting into politics .....This is the same group whose chairman dewa supports sunctions agaist our country.....nxa

chegumi - 20 January 2019

time for talking is over. In fact it'd be disappointing if they attempted to mediate as it'd be used to spread the blame over the current disastrous situation.

dr dre - 20 January 2019

Tabani Moyo must be thinking that the shutdown they organized was like a significant blow to the opponent, hence if he says lets talk, the opponent will accede. Would Tabani agree that there was unnecessary damage to infrastructure and unnecessary disruption of essential services to deserving people! We witnessed rowdy youths and goons barricading roads and stoning cars of people who were going about their personal businesses. So Tabani and Phiri, would you agree that people did not voluntarily stay at home, but were forced by these thugs. And you say the stayaway was a "success"!! Social unrest or Political unrest! Do you know which is which? Polititical activism ndo yakatipa nyika from the clutches of colonisers, kwete zvenyu izvi zve tuma student activism nana Chamisa!!

Will Blackman - 20 January 2019

With obvious signs all over for all to see that zanupf and its leadership has failed dismally national dialogue leading to an inclusive transitional authority is the only hope for Zimbabweans now. All efforts necessary to bring zanupf to the negotiating table are much welcome. The looting is rather unfortunate but any democratic regime will see that as telltale signs that the masses are hungry and angry ignore them to your own peril.

Sinyo - 21 January 2019

This is the most effective stay-away to date. There was no transport, fares were beyond the reach of the employees, govt does not provide commuters with transport, there were hooligans on the loose, soldiers and police were beating people up willy nilly - really what madness would motivate one to leave their home? love of work? love of zanu pf? Those who went to work on Monday faced a herculean task returning home they would have been classic idiots to attempt the same on the succeeding days. It's not over yet - until fares are reasonable and COL is within reach of the poor... Whilst zpf "won" with their rural vote, tax payers and productivity are in the urban areas where they lost.

Sagitarr - 21 January 2019

No sober mind thinking person can call a barbaric forced stay away to be a successful. People were forced to stay at home fearing for their lives from marauding mdca idot youths who dont even value their own lives as witnessed by their destruction of organisations like Choppies. What was their aim? Surely just to make sure that the Org will relocate to other countries where other peoples'properties are respected leaving all those who were employed by this business entity jobless at a time when the country is reeling under pressure from unemployment. Only psychiatric patients call this barbaric act a successful stay away. All those supporting these acts by mdca and its partners must know that time belongs to God. All the time you are wasting plotting suffering in order to discredit ED and ZANU PF will never be compensated. The fools like thabani moyo and mavhunga are earning their living through causing chaos in this country and some very stupid fools are following them while making their own lives miserable. You will die without enjoying anything out of your chanyiswa thinking of taking over power through violence which will never materialize.

shunguhadziurayi - 21 January 2019

very very unfortunate..... I am putting myself in the shoes of those who lost their property and ask myself if indeed they were not wishing if the security officers had come much earlier. What about police officers who lost their personal cars, and those ones injured and the one who lost life. Surely this was a bad move. Surely the security officers were heavy on the people not necessarily protesters just like the hooligans forced everyone to be away from work. Very Sorry........

Sama - 21 January 2019

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