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voice of the people must be heard
I've made several
undercover visits to Zimbabwe since the crisis began. As chairperson
of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Zimbabwe in the United Kingdom
Parliament, it's important for me to see conditions inside the country
for myself even though Mugabe's regime bans such visits.
It has been
tragic to experience first hand the accelerating downward spiral
of the economy, healthcare, education and every aspect of civic
Matabeleland, Mashonaland and Midlands, the prices of daily essentials
rose daily. The economic decline became an everyday reality, not
just statistics on a page. Women bear the brunt of the crisis, yet
what amazed me is the way they manage to eke out resources and provide
for their families.
massive unemployment and the destruction of the economic infrastructure
easily lead to a sense of fatalistic resignation and undermine the
foundations on which a democratic system can be built.
has to be of the people, by the people and for the people. All these
elements have been lacking under the sad, dark days of Robert Mugabe's
All the people
of Zimbabwe, not just the new political leaders, need to take control
of their own destiny. Minority groups, women, those in rural areas
and urban dwellers must all have confidence that they can influence
the decisions that affect their lives.
the under-secretary general of the United Nations, visited Zimbabwe
as the UN secretary general's special envoy to assess the effects
Murambatsvina, the cruel demolition campaign that left a million
people homeless. She believes that lack of an effective civil society
is holding back development across Africa. She doesn't mean highly
paid professionals working for NGOs. Women at grassroots level must
be able to make their voices heard. They must be involved in the
decisions that affect their daily lives.
I agree. I was
in the country during Operation Murambatsvina and physically helped
to load on to trucks the possessions of those fleeing before the
army came to chase them out and burn their houses to the ground.
One Sunday morning
in Makokoba, I saw residents complying with orders to demolish their
own buildings. There was no community network capable of coordinating
resistance to the illegal diktats of the regime.
of Zimbabwe Arise (Woza) has done great work helping women to
make their voices heard. It has shown that there are intelligent
and articulate women across the country eager to help shape a new
of Woza took me to meet a group of widows dying of Aids. They pledged
to look after each other during their remaining days and care for
each other's orphans for as long as they could manage. Those women
were determined to preserve all they could of their dignity as individuals,
as a group and as women. Through their solidarity they had also
found a collective voice. Woza has nurtured a determination among
women in many such groups to make their voices heard.
must listen to those voices. MPs should make themselves accessible
to their electorate. In the UK, nearly all MPs hold regular weekly
"surgeries" in their constituencies where anyone, regardless of
political affiliation, can meet them and raise issues of concern.
Rent increases, problems with housing, education or employment --
these are all issues MPs need to hear about so they can keep their
fingers on the pulse of what is happening in their constituencies
and reflect voters' interests in Parliament or make representations
will lay the foundation for accountable democracy in Zimbabwe. Too
often international experts are flown in and hand out prescriptions
dealing only with symptoms, not causes.
The people of
Zimbabwe are well-educated and highly trained; they have the necessary
skills to rebuild the infrastructure and institutions of their own
country. They will need massive international assistance, but the
process must be led and implemented by Zimbabweans. Above all, it
must be commissioned by local people and be accountable to them.
Only at local
level can respect for the rule of law be re-established -- and that
will be one of the major challenges to face the nation where breaking
the law has been a daily necessity simply in order to survive. Returning
sons and daughters bringing skills and resources home must be welcomed
by their local communities and reintegrated even though this won't
always be easy for those who have stayed and fought on the frontline
throughout the struggle.
to visit the friends and comrades with whom I have fought for change
to celebrate the new Zimbabwe rebuilt by Zimbabweans for Zimbabweans.
is a Labour politician in the UK Parliament. She is an MP and chairs
the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Zimbabwe
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