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by the desire for freedom - Interview with Rejoice Ngwenya
March 02, 2010
Inside / Out with Rejoice Ngwenya
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and activist Rejoice Ngwenya runs his own policy dialogue think
tank, The Coalition for Liberal and Market Studies (COMALISO). As
an activist he is said to have carried out defensible attacks on
Robert Mugabe. Recently he launched the Zimbabwe 2010% Free Campaign.
you explain what exactly your brand of activism is?
It-s spontaneous activism. I-m driven by the passion
to expose scenarios where individual liberties are violated. Wherever
I feel that a certain right has been violated, I feel I must say
something about it.
recent press release you are described as leading a defensible attack
against Robert Mugabe. What is a defensible attack?
Whenever I say or write something about Mugabe, it-s something
that I can defend in a court of law or in any public scenario. When
I argue with people from ZANU PF, I make sure that I use a dependable
and reliable line of argument.
is COMALISO and what does it do?
As a liberal I decided to create a platform for debate about issues
linked to the free market. We liberals are driven by the desire
for freedom. I thought writing about it wasn-t enough. I got
together with a couple of friends in Ghana and Washington for this
project. The issues we debate are pertinent for Zimbabwe since we
are emerging out of a decade of Marxist-Leninist Social Ideology.
I think that a free market and its principles should be part of
our industrial revolution.
is your opinion of the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act
Whenever ZANU PF talks about these things I feel nervous. This political
party does not do things for the common good. They do it for their
own benefit. Indigenisation as a principle is a good thing. But
when you look at the way the regulation and the law has been packaged
for this country, it leaves a lot of room for debate. You have to
ask yourself, whom is this meant to benefit? If you wind back the
tape to Land Reform, you-ll understand why liberals like myself
economic policy infringes on certain rights our red lights start
flashing, and the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act openly
and blatantly violates entrepreneurial and property rights. Walking
into a persons company and saying I want 51% is not the best way
of expressing a democratic right.
should the Government be doing to foster entrepreneurship, innovation
I believe that Zimbabweans have a culture of entrepreneurship. The
only way to encourage entrepreneurship is to put together a policy
framework that encourages foreign and direct investment. If you
look at our economic paralysis, we have not been able to attract
enough funding to support business ideas. I don-t think that
putting together a law like the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment
Act can suddenly create entrepreneurs out of people who have no
interest in business. If banks are well capitalised, and we have
access to offshore funding and we are part of the international
finance family, Zimbabweans can create our own business, we can
create our own markets, we can create our own products.
is the Zimbabwe 2010% Free Campaign?
2010 has a special significance to me. I-m turning 50 this
year. I felt that as a birthday present to myself I want to put
another angle to my activism. I feel that Zimbabweans are clamouring
for 100% freedom, and I thought 2010% freedom. Using this as a basis
for my activism, I think it-s a good way of getting people
to ask them what 2010% freedom means. To me it-s the beginning
of a process of trying to persuade Robert Mugabe to retire.
the impasse faced by MDC-T in the GNU, why do you think Mr. Tsvangirai
has not pulled out of government?
This is a coalition government that resulted from a compromise.
It was a compromise because Thabo Mbeki persuaded SADC that Mugabe
had not lost an election. We all know lost that he lost the election
and Justice Chiweshe held us to ransom, for five weeks and changing
the dynamics. If there is anybody who should pull out of the government
it-s Mugabe. Mugabe was invited. Mugabe is a guest of SADC
in the coalition government.
I have a very
simple answer to that; MDC-T does not have a Plan B. If Tsvangirai
pulls out of government what can he do? Can he convince civil society
and the rest of the world that he can galvanise Zimbabweans into
a massive resistance against ZANU PF that will result in a kind
of Orange Revolution. My strong feeling is that the MDC members
of government are already enjoying the fringe benefits of big cars,
big homes, allowances, overseas trips etc. They're on the gravy
train. These guys are not in a hurry to leave the coalition government.
do you think would happen if Mr. Tsvangirai did pull out and we
went into an election?
My strong belief is that he is not going to make the mistake of
going into an election where the field is uneven. First they need
to ensure that all independent institutions of governance, like
media and the military are solid and free. If this is not done,
we cannot talk about elections.
is your opinion of the trend towards the formation of coalition
governments across the world?
This is a very bad trend for Africa. There have been a number of
such negotiations such as in Madagascar, Kenya and so forth. Bodies
like the African Union, SADC and ECOWAS are quick to reward losers,
because in the past few years the nationalist governments, the so
called revolutionary governments, are the ones who have been losing
power giving way to a new brand of democracy. These individuals
control the AU, and they are very worried that the Kwame Nkrumah
generation are now losing power. Instead of concentrating on rewarding
losers, we should devise electoral systems that produce clear winners,
so that those who have a mandate from the people run our governments.
think coaltion governments are now a stage in Africa-s political
It-s a very good stage. Remember the stage that Africa was
at when Africans were beginning to assume their own political destiny?
It was ushered in by Ghana and Kwame Nkrumah in 1957; and Mr. Wilson
from England called it 'the winds of change-. These
are new winds of change. This is a stage where the old Nationalist
Guard, the old revolutionary governments are being replaced by a
new brand of universal and international democracy. We-re
at a time where Africa is part of the Global Village. Being part
of it means we cannot run parallel political frameworks, we are
running universally accepted democracies, which are universally
brand-able. So we are looking at an Africa that is adopting a new
form of governance. And this form of governance is what one can
call a 'Free Market Democracy-. Where citizens are free,
and it-s no longer possible to hide information and it-s
no longer possible to oppress somebody without the world knowing
you think that it possible that Africans will lose themselves in
the global village?
There is a penalty to being part of the global village; if your
culture and tradition is weak, it is going to be swamped and it
is going to be dominated. It is the responsibility of us Africans
and Zimbabweans, to ensure that those strands of our core identity
that are important in creating generational continuity are maintained
and nurtured. If we don-t do that, we cannot sit on the wave
of global transformation and moan that our lifestyles have been
swamped by Hollywood.
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