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  • An election? Not yet.
    Psychology Maziwisa
    May 10, 2010

    There is a perception both in Zimbabwe and elsewhere that the only way out of our misery is through a fresh election. Nothing could be more misguided.

    If we learned anything from the bloody 2008 election it is that Zimbabwe still has a long way to go before any free, fair and credible election can be held. To suggest that such an election is possible in 2011 is at best out of touch and at worst downright misleading.

    The blunt truth is that the culture of violence within ZANU PF has become so entrenched in the way that politics is done in Zimbabwe that it will require more than just a good constitution and superficial political reforms for it to disappear.

    ZANU PF-s culture presently has neither political nor moral inhibitions about intimidating, torturing and murdering vulnerable, innocent Zimbabweans.

    Every election this country has held since 2002 attests to this fact. The very existence of that culture now enjoins all of us to do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, to bring about a sustainable end to the politics of violence and murder.

    If today we believe that a new constitution (whose crafting is already 10 months behind schedule), the swearing in of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, the Human Rights Commission and all the other so-called independent commissions can and will guarantee our democracy, then we are not just fooling ourselves, we are also fooling our children and maybe a few more generations yet to come.

    Mugabe has yet to be convinced of the efficacy of a free, fair and credible election- so much so that in contemporary Zimbabwe not even the world-s most perfect constitution would guarantee a free poll.

    If we are going to cut corners, as if a new constitution was all that we need, we run the terrible risk of missing a great opportunity, perhaps the only one since 1980, to fully democratise our beautiful nation.

    The Global Political Agreement (GPA) was signed amid understandable reservations and widespread condemnation. In hindsight, however, it has turned out to be a blessing in disguise - a blessing we could do well to embrace a little while longer.

    Whereas previously our condemnation of Mugabe-s excesses was confined to distant, impotent opposition, today Tsvangirai and the MDC, as partners in the unity government, can closely monitor and influence what is happening.

    Whereas previously our supermarket shelves were empty, today they are fully stocked with a variety of basics from which to choose.

    Whereas previously our economy looked to be irretrievably in decline, today it is growing again, albeit painstakingly slowly.

    And whereas violence, abductions and extra-judicial killings were rampant across our nation, today there is hope because there are fewer of them.

    Notwithstanding these improvements, however, a hell of a lot more needs to be done if this nation is to enjoy sustainable democracy, peace and economic prosperity.

    First and foremost, Mugabe must honour his commitments in terms of the GPA. Make no mistake about it, there are a whole host of ways to ensure his compliance but 'threatening- him with an election that he will feel obliged to 'win- at any cost is not one of them. To be fair to him, he has honoured the bulk and, arguably, the most fundamental of them.

    The horror of June 27, 2008, compels us all to change the way we do politics in Zimbabwe. Frankly it is now a question of looking for a transformative solution to the problem of violence and intimidation.

    While it is all well and good to have a Ministry for National Healing and Reconciliation, actual reconciliation will be achieved only if the GNU prioritises action and effects it by embarking on a comprehensive, nationwide tour during which both Mugabe and Tsvangirai personally discourage violence and promote mutual respect and tolerance.

    If Mugabe is young enough to rule this country at age 86, surely he is young enough to engage in this kind of extended tour.

    As a sign of seriousness and commitment to the protection and promotion of peace and human rights, the unity government must quickly move to declare June 27, Human Rights Day.

    The time has come to entrench widespread, tangible reforms before we can start to entertain the idea of holding fresh elections.

    The office of the Registrar General needs an absolute overhaul. It is, in my respectful view, one office that should have been included on the infinitely growing list of 'outstanding issues-.

    Because of his sickening propensity to act in common purpose with the usual suspects, it is ridiculous to have the manipulative Tobaiwa Mudede still responsible for the registration and compilation of the voters- roll. It makes a mockery of the entire electoral process.

    If ever we are to have the Registrar-s function exercised in the true spirit of democracy, the parties to the unity government must first satisfy themselves that the incumbent is an honest, honourable, open-minded individual who is free from any association with either ZANU PF or the MDC. The fact of the matter is that Mudede fits no such criteria.

    Before we can start to entertain the idea of holding fresh elections we need to ensure that civil society can function free from persecution and intimidation.

    Before we can start to entertain the idea of holding fresh elections we need to embrace and effect the principles of transparency, accountability and selflessness.

    Accordingly, the Government of National Unity must see to it that the proceeds from Chiadzwa are used for the sole purpose of benefiting this country and its people. Experts estimate that the country could generate US$2 billion per year from Chiadzwa-s mining activities alone, an encouraging revelation that goes to show that with an accountable and transparent government Zimbabwe can be self-sufficient again.

    We are the basket case that we are today largely because of mismanagement and a failure to account. That must change but that change will not necessarily coincide with the ushering in of a new constitution. It will coincide, however, with the change in the way that we do politics in Zimbabwe.

    If we have endured decades of repression under a blatantly indifferent regime, we certainly can wait a little longer than 48 months to see the democratisation process through to fruition.

    For goodness sake, it took Taiwan and Mexico decades to become democracies. It took decades too for the United States of America, the world-s leading democracy, to become the flourishing democracy that it is today. Hell, it took the United Kingdom close to 600 years to become a democracy.

    The truism that patience is a virtue applies to every aspect of life, including politics.

    It would be foolhardy in the extreme if we pursued democracy too quickly in the spirit of 'get it done yesterday-.

    Democracy in the Zimbabwean context should be about much more than just making sure Mugabe is replaced by Tsvangirai.

    It should encompass a strong civil society, independent media, rule of law, accountability, good governance, tolerance and mutual respect.

    Never should we sacrifice these crucial considerations in our haste to get elections underway.

    The only good Zimbabwe is a democratically sustainable Zimbabwe and the unity government is a perfect platform to achieve it.

    Psychology Maziwisa is Interim President of the Union for Sustainable Democracy (USD) and can be contacted at

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