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This article participates on the following special index pages:
Constitutional Amendment 18 of 2007 - Index of articles, opinion and anaylsis
September 24, 2007
the special index of articles, analysis and opinion on Constitutional
I have been
intrigued by allegations of betrayal that have been flying around
since last week's Constitutional
Amendment Number 18. Some members of civil society claim that
the MDC has betrayed them, by consenting to Amendment No. 18. Betrayal
presupposes a commitment that has been breached. It presupposes
that civil society and the MDC have been in bed together, and that
the MDC has betrayed its partner. The allegations lend credence
to ZANU PF claims, that civil society is an extension of the opposition
Some of us have said over the years, that civil society and the
MDC are not the same entity, and that we should be careful to maintain
the divide, because one day, a parting of the ways would necessarily
have to come. Unfortunately, there are those in civil society who
perceived themselves as the power behind the throne, who thought
the MDC would do nothing without their say so. We have also seen,
in the last 2 years, intolerance creeping into civil society. Certain
members of civil society want everybody to have one voice, and to
agree on all things. Anyone with a contrary view is labelled enemy.
It has become a crime in civil society to hold a view contrary to
the big boys in the civic movement. Civil society also became very
politicised. All major CSOs were branded as belonging in one of
the MDC factions, and those civil society members and activists
who did not conform were alienated and ostracised. Perhaps it is
because some civil society activists placed themselves so firmly
within that MDC faction, that they now believe they have been betrayed.
Political parties exist for the purpose of attaining political power.
Civil society should exist to uphold democratic principles. Those
two cannot always work together. Politicians are creatures of expediency.
They will make political deals that are designed to get them the
power they strive for, deals that civil society may not agree with.
It is normal and natural for politicians to do things this way.
The MDC is simply behaving like a political party, which is what
it is. If civil society knew its place, this would not come as a
shock or a betrayal, it should have been expected. What the political
parties are working on is a political solution, and that is just
what they should be doing. It is not the place of civil society
to be debating politics and political solutions. It is the place
of civil society to be monitoring ALL the political parties, and
giving due criticism, and speaking up for the observance of human
rights and Constitutional principles. If there was any betrayal
last week, it is not civil society that has been betrayed by the
MDC, but card-carrying members of the MDC. Those members can deal
with their political leaders within their party Constitutions. Civil
society has not been betrayed by anybody. The politicians have the
right to strike political deals, which may or may not work. Civil
society should examine those deals, and see whether or not they
stay within the ambit of human rights and Constitutional principles.
Civil society can even express its disappointment with the deal,
but civil society has no right to accuse a political party of betrayal.
Civil society needs to revisit its role in the scheme of things,
and play out its role to the full. If civil society activists want
to get into the political arena, let them be honest about it, and
join political parties or form political parties. Politics is for
politicians, and we discredit civil society when we play politics
from behind a thin screen.
Meantime, we all remain in the same boat as democratic forces striving
for change in Zimbabwe. The MDC wants political change, civil society
wants a change of governance, and the introduction of democratic
principles in the governance of the country. If we can remove intolerance
from the psyche of civil society, we should be able to continue
to work together to achieve that change. The challenge before us
is, recognising our different agendas and our different strategies
to achieve the change we all desire, how can we continue to engage
each other and to strive together for the good of the nation?
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