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Zanu PF-MDC talks, solution to the social and economic crisis in Zimbabwe or a mere waste of time?
Yellow paper extract from Public Discussion Series on Dialogue and Transition in Mutare, Masvingo and Harare
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
December 11, 2003

Background:
Due to the socio-political and economic degradation in Zimbabwe since the February 2000 constitutional referendum, the people of Zimbabwe have been and continue to be subjected to provoking situations by the ZANU PF government on a daily basis. This crisis originates from the rigging of elections-especially the presidential election of march 2002 and has been exacerbated by continued state sponsored terror, a massive assault on the peoples freedoms of association and expression, the freewill suspension of the rule of law and the corruption-driven economic meltdown.

This led to polarisation among the people of Zimbabwe. People identify themselves either as the victims of the present political system or the beneficiaries of that declare themselves patriotic and above the law.

The potential danger of this extend of provocation was a civil disobedience that could degenerate into a bloody war. In their efforts to solve this impasse of the government versus the people, major international multilateral organisations like the Commonwealth, the European Union and the African Union intervened with various strategies to help solve the Zimbabwean impasse. The troika of presidents Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and Prime Minister John Howard of Australia initiated the process of dialogue chiefly between the opposition MDC and ZANU PF. It is on this platform that the multi-layered crisis in Zimbabwe would be discussed and the road map of returning to democracy signed. The world’s hopes for a lasting and sustainable solution were raised. Most significant was the hope of the people of Zimbabwe on the dialogue and transition process that would address the contested issues of governance and legitimacy and of course boost economic confidence leading to the revival of the sick Zimbabwean economy.

Despite having been unfaithful to SADC minimum conditions for free and fair elections and declared the March 2002 presidential election as free and fair, some countries in the SADC region became clearer on the Zimbabwean crisis. With South Africa leading, they advocated for a Government of National unity (GNU). The assumption here being that the sticking issues of governance and legitimacy will be neutralised and consensus achieved on broad issues relevant to the country. It also believes that the countries major political thinking will be represented in major political, social and economic debate for the country.

Learning from experience of other coalition governments that were formed in Zimbabwe in 1978, the 1980 independence government and the 1987 ZANU PF –PF ZAPU unity accord, the civil society in Zimbabwe through Crisis Coalition began to engage the public in contributing to the process with clarity on the choices of the road map that the country would follow in its transition.

On the 5th of July 2003, the coalition held a conference on dialogue and transition at which the civil society in its broad form was represented. Debate centred on the "yellow paper", which is a document which analyses the possible form of transition and provide options from which the Zimbabwean road to democracy will be pegged.

Part of the conference resolutions were that the civil society were to involve the people of Zimbabwe in this dialogue and transition process as the crisis in Zimbabwe could not be reduced to a fight between two party political elites.

As a follow up to the dialogue and transition conference and consistent with the Coalitions objectives of seeking to ensure a participatory democracy in Zimbabwe and to encourage the input of Zimbabweans into policy formulation and governance generally, a series of public meetings were arranged for Mutare, Masvingo and Harare.

The topic under discussion sought to interrogate and initiate debate and get pointers on public opinion.

Summary:
The people displayed a passion for democracy. The topic for discussion was querying and led to a cognitive imbalance in the people. Despite being denied alternative information packages other than the government’s print and electronic media, the public displayed a consensus on the necessity of dialogue, the way they want the dialogue to follow and were also clear on the desired product of the process, sustainable democracy.

The Masvingo and Mutare discussions raised strong sentiments that:

  • to have dialogue, however necessary it is, in the face of poverty, POSA, a dictatorship and state sponsored terror is a mere puff. Some immediate demands were made after whose address will dialogue proceed smoothly with the trust and participation of the public.
  • The issue of legitimacy, obnoxious legislation, poverty and violence blocs dialogue and these have to be urgently addressed. Harare, which has had the privilege to host a number of public discussions, despite having adopted a non-engagement gear, also came out clearly demanding the addressing of the anti-democracy issues like the selective application of the law, state terror, poverty and draconian pieces of legislation. Therefore, of the options presented to the public in the yellow paper, there was agreement that there has to be an opening up of democratic space, repealing of all unjust laws such as POSA and the making of a new constitution leading to the holding of free and fair elections.

Public Sentiments:

"the talks are noise to us. The two parties cannot speak for the entire population. However, if they want short term benefits, let them go ahead"

"talks amid terror and repression by one party to the other are a waste of time. POSA should be uprooted and its seeds burnt"

"talks are a starting point. Peace and Tolerance are all necessary for talks to prosper. The choice is ours, especially ZANU pf to make war or peace"

"there is no legal mechanism that forces the parties to adopt an agenda. There is no legal mechanism that enforces the results of the negotiations. These talks must not be mere power compromises between the two parties. Therefore, the panacea is in a new constitution that gives an obligation to these parties to commit to the agenda and results of these negotiations"

"we do not discount the usefulness of talks if they are approached in a mature way, by mature people, with no other motive but the good of Zimbabwe at heart"

"those that are engaged in mediation between the two political parties in attempting to bring them to the table for talks should be applauded and envied. They should be encouraged in their efforts and be complemented in their endeavours"

Brief Observations:

  • some members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police present in the Masvingo meeting made exciting contributory comments/remarks during the discourse especially where the issue of the rising costs of food and the general degradation in the peoples standard of living was being discussed
  • the business community was clear on the need for the rule of law, peace and the resumption of talks.

Challenges:

  • The challenges faced in Masvingo and Mutare, despite the discussions having been lively and well attended, is to focus the people on the necessity of concentrating on issues and perspectives rather than political party or personal patronage. In other words, to, without being bound by the political obligation of patronage, clarify issues on the basis of truth, justice and in peace.
  • The massive enthusiasm and passion of the people to engage and discuss these national issues presents the Coalition with a challenge of capacity, if the plan of localised public discussions is to be successful.
  • For Harare, the challenge is of rejuvenating the idea of the necessity of public discussions as they have been categorised as mere talk shows, thus not worthy the time. The challenge is to reverse this thinking amid progress through the introduction of localised suburban meetings. Suburban meetings are small, focused, less expensive and rather inviting to the public both in terms of time and cost.


Recommendations:
It was recommended that:

  • Public discussion speakers/presenters per meeting be reduced to one or two at most to give the public time to debate and discuss issues, rather the lecture method of meetings
  • Crisis Coalition, notwithstanding the restrictions of POSA, mount a series of public discussions nationwide to discuss possible options of tackling this national crisis.
  • Capacitate provincial Crisis Coalition sub-committees to drive the process of these public discussion series.
  • Concentrate on small suburban meetings for discussions and focus on dialogue and immediate packaged components of this crisis such as hunger, poverty, public health and education, prices of basic commodities and shortages of food.
  • Engage the international community and the local political parties to note the Civil Society as a partner in the resolution of the crisis

List of presenters:

Mutare:
Trust Maanda -Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights
S.Marewangepo -Womens Coalition
Clr. I.Takana -Councillor Mutare City Council
W.Mupfumwa -Zimrights-Facilitator
B.Mangodza -Advocacy Commiittee Vice Chairperson

Masvingo:
J.Mudzumwe -Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions-Facilitator
E.Samundombe -Zimbabwe National Students Union
F.Chinobva -Masvingo Residents Association
S.M Zvarebwanashe -N.C.A

Harare:
I..Matambanadzo -ZWRCN
D.Mavhinga -ZIMCODD
Crisis Coalition secretariat

Visit the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition fact sheet

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