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needs now is a broadening of dialogue on its future. In the unlikely
event that President Robert Mugabe loses the presidential election
in 2008, this should not be an opportunity for trading one dictatorship
with another. It should be a process that allows for meaningful
and inclusive participation by the people who for so long have been
denied a voice to determine their own destiny.
There has been
no hoped-for regional censure of Mugabe, and one thing is now certain:
he is staying on. There will be no immediate respite for the country
as many had hoped; no negotiated exit for the tyrant, no alliance
between Zanu-PF's presidential hopefuls and Morgan Tsvangirai's
Movement for Democratic Change faction, aimed at pushing him out.
will now remain in power for another year and have an opportunity
to contest the country's presidency again. As he has done in the
past, he will most likely manipulate the 2008 presidential election
in order to win.
Unlikely as the
prospect of defeating Mugabe in the election may be -- given his
tendency to manipulate polls -- it is not entirely impossible. Long-serving
presidents in Kenya, Zambia, Côte d'Ivoire, Ukraine, Serbia
and many other countries have lost elections before, in spite of
efforts to manipulate them.
the presidential election presents a much-needed opportunity for
Zimbabweans to choose a leader who is able, competent and willing
to address adequately and effectively the most important challenges
facing the country.
Of the myriad
challenges, three stand out: how to address the regime's atrocities,
how to restore complete and credible democracy and rule of law and
how to create a political environment that is conducive for economic
recovery, foreign investment and long-term development.
must demand that these issues are the centre of the election campaigns
of the presidential candidates. The elections will present ordinary
people with an opportunity to choose a leader who is willing to
address past atrocities and devise credible strategies to prevent
them from occurring again.
There is consensus
that Mugabe, with his brutal record, is not such a leader. He is
unlikely to bring himself and his regime to account. This, along
with his past refusal to acknowledge publicly and address the Matabeleland
massacres and other systematic violations, rules him out as a suitable
presidential candidate to genuinely address the country's past human
legacy has been the complete reversal of democracy. The co-optation
of PF-Zapu in 1987 created a one-party state, while the establishment
of the executive presidency in the same year ensured a rapid slide
from a credible democracy to an absolute autocracy.
Mugabe has engineered
and presided over the destruction of democratic values, principles,
processes and institutions. Rule of law, respect for fundamental
human rights, press and other freedoms have undergone serious incursion
as part of state policy and practice.
candidates should stand for everything Mugabe does not. Mugabe's
replacement should make an irreversible commitment to restore democracy.
Presidential hopefuls should articulate how they will, if elected,
ensure that everyone, including the government, will be governed
by and treated equally by the same law; how human rights and the
provisions of the Constitution will be respected and protected;
and how justice will be made accessible to all.
The economy has
also been a victim, and reviving it should be a priority for any
presidential hopeful. Just as Zimbabweans are unanimous that a ruined
economy is at the centre of their current predicament, they ought
to demand a credible and realistic strategy to fix the problem.
Reviving the economy
will require a peaceful and investor friendly environment, sound
macro-economic policies, combined with commitment to democracy,
rule of law and human rights.
Having been denied
a voice for so long, Zimbabweans should take the opportunity presented
by the presidential elections to demand that candidates address
those issues that are most critical to lift the country and move
forward. It may be a very long time before another opportunity is
availed to them.
is a pseudonym for a Zimbabwean development practitioner who works
for a leading international development agency
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