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This article participates on the following special index pages:

  • Constitutional Amendment 18 of 2007 - Index of articles, opinion and anaylsis

  • Betrayal?
    Nokuthula Moyo
    September 24, 2007

    Visit the special index of articles, analysis and opinion on Constitutional Amendment 18

    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 in Zimbabwe.

    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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