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Zimbabwe’s 33 years: Reflections on progress and development
Blessing Vava
April 12, 2013

On the 18th of April 2013, Zimbabwe marks 33 years of independence from white rule, after decades of a protracted liberation struggle. It is the selfless sacrifice by the sons and daughters of the soil that brought about independence. I do honour, such sacrifice. As we reflect the 33 years of ‘self-rule’ we do so fully conscious and proud of the contributions made by the working class people, students and the marginalised sectors of our nation for creating and adopting the Peoples Charter on the 8th of February 2008. In my notes on 33 years of Zimbabwe’s independence, I seek to highlight the historical importance of the Zimbabwe’s people’s charter and its significance in the present and future of our country in the fight for and socio-economic and politically just Zimbabwe. The People’s Charter is the only document in post-colonial Zimbabwe which is an outcome of popular organisation and consensus which lays bare a roadmap to a democratic developmental Zimbabwe setting important milestones for civic and social movements as well as the nation at large. The document reaffirms the foundational principles of our struggle for economic, social and political emancipation and autarchy.

The adoption of this historic document, five years ago inspired the struggle against dictatorship and today are the basis for our demands for labour rights, economic justice, and an open and democratic public service. Every significant political statement from the progressive forces since then has referred back to that momentous declaration. Over the past five years, we have made great strides forward in achieving some of the Charter’s demands. Since 2008, we have been able to challenge the administration of the country, as demanded in the Charter. Of much significance was how the pro-democratic forces like the NCA challenged Article 6 of the GPA which called for an undemocratic framework on constitutional reform. It is section 3 of the Charter which unequivocally calls for a people driven process that is led by an independent commission. An extract of Section 3 says:

j) The People shall have a constitutional reform process, which is characterised by the following:

k) Comprehensive consultation with the people of Zimbabwe wherein they are guaranteed freedom of expression and information, association and assembly.

l) The collection of the views of the people and their compilation into a draft constitution that shall be undertaken by an All-Stakeholders’ Commission composed of representatives of government, parliament, political parties, civil society, labour, business and the church with a gender and minority balance.

m) A transparent process of the appointment of the All-Stakeholders’ Commission members as well as their terms of reference.

We did continue challenging the government on some of its weird, self-enrichment policies by government at the expense of the poor, the charter is against such. Indeed, the Charter has guided generations of activists and democrats in the struggle for a more just society.

But the Peoples Charter should not be honoured only as an inspiring visionary text. Equally significant was the manner in which the Peoples Charter demands emerged. The Charter was the product of many months of grass-roots campaigning in townships, rural villages, squatter camps and factory canteens, which culminated into a Peoples Convention in February 2008. It emerged organically out of the struggle and aspirations of our people. Volunteers fanned out across our country and asked ordinary Zimbabweans a simple but profound question: “If you were the government, what would you do?”

As a country, we have to admit however that we are yet to implement the section 4 of the charter, which declared that the people shall share in the country's wealth. The national wealth of our country, the heritage of Zimbabweans, has not yet been restored to the people. The mineral wealth beneath the soil, the banks and monopoly industry have not been transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole, as the Charter required. A small number of giant, mainly the ruling class companies, and their Asian friends hold sway over our economy.

Workers in particular have a long struggle ahead to achieve these parts of the Peoples Charter. While we have been more vocal and relatively forging ahead on the political and human rights front, we are stagnant or rather lagging far behind in the battle for economic equity and development.

Five years, Zimbabwean patriots and revolutionaries have fought under the banner of the Peoples Charter. Today, we must take this tradition forward. The Charter’s far-reaching demands are as relevant today as in the last few years. It will help us to remain focused on those important parts of our struggle which we have not yet achieved but which are vital if we are serious about liberating our people and transforming their lives. The Charter should be treated as the basis for challenging an emerging self-enriching landed ruling oligarchy which has become the key class force for the perpetuation of unequal class relations. As the most politically conscious and advanced social force in our revolution, we must remain committed to national cohesion.

Conversely, colonial domination in our country has, throughout its history, employed political and administrative devices to facilitate its policy of 'divide and rule' by impeding the process of nation formation. The pre-colonial strategies failed to stem the tendencies towards the emergence and continued growth of an African national consciousness. In a similar tone the growing demand for democracy and genuine majority rule in a united Zimbabwe continues to be met by the diabolically simple answer that Zimbabwe is democracy and that there is majority rule which is far from reality. The reality is that there is no majority rule. There are only minorities, who have presided over and run down the state in the past 33 years.

In particular we must not allow the regime to get away with its claims to be the main champion of empowerment for the natives. It is our duty not only to proclaim, but also to ensure that in a truly democratic Zimbabwe national resources benefit all as we celebrate the 33 years of independence, as clearly articulated by the Peoples Charter. The Charter upholds a vision of social and economic inclusiveness. The wealth and resources of our country, it says, belong to all Zimbabweans. Living, as we do, in one of the most unequal societies in the world, the Charter’s vision of a shared economy, of common-wealth, remains a deeply pertinent aspiration.

We stand for one united, democratic Zimbabwe based on universal adult suffrage. This strategic approach is inviolable. We cannot, at this stage, allow ourselves to be diverted by speculation about the future engaging in compromises at the expense of the revolutionary advance. It is clearly in this struggle that we will succeed in forging emancipation, development and democracy in our one, Zimbabwean, nation.

Forging one sovereign Zimbabwean nation is an integral part of the objectives of Peoples Charter. It is in these 33 years, that I hope those who are committed, must consolidate the peoples movement to push for the realisation of the peoples charter. Independence will not mean anything until the goals of the Peoples Charter are realised.

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