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  • Driven by the desire for freedom - Interview with Rejoice Ngwenya
    Upenyu Makoni-Muchemwa,
    March 02, 2010

    Read Inside / Out with Rejoice Ngwenya

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    Rejoice NgwenyaWriter 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.

    Can 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.

    In a 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.

    What 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.

    What is your opinion of the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act and Regulations?
    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 are suspicious. Listen

    Whenever an 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. Listen

    What should the Government be doing to foster entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity?
    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. Listen

    What 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.

    Given 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. Listen

    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. Listen

    What 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.

    What 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.

    Do you think coaltion governments are now a stage in Africa-s political evolution?
    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 about it. Listen

    Do 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. Listen

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