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on positive GNU moments
July 02, 2013
Over the past
three years Zimbabwe has been experiencing a transition. Although
transitions are difficult, they are not impossible. Any government
that wants to change the course of history needs to make difficult
political choices and work hard at implementing them.
have written about the Government
of National Unity’s (GNU) shortcomings and disappointments,
especially with regards to outstanding issues in the Global
Political Agreement (GPA) that have not been implemented. Zimbabwean
politicians also sometimes talk about the GNU as if it is a “marriage
of inconvenience” or more scornfully, an “unholy trinity”.
However, failure to reflect on some of the processes and important
moments since the formation of the GNU in 2009 would mean failing
to recognise that Zimbabweans have shaped important values and institutions
that can be built upon.
has stabilised partly as a result of dollarization, but also because
of the formation of the GNU. It signalled to businesses and investors
that there is the potential for a more stable economic environment.
After years of economic stagnation, the Zimbabwean economy grew
by more than 9% per year in 2010 to 2011 before it slowed down to
5% in 2012.
At a political
level, the GNU has exposed the main political parties to several
intense processes of negotiation. Importantly, the GNU gave birth
to several new mechanisms and institutions, including the Joint
Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC) and the new Constitution.
Working on developing these institutions helped former enemies to
become one another’s opposition. As political parties are
moving ever closer towards the upcoming elections, one hopes that
they will continue to respect and treat one another as opposition
making process, especially over the past two years, was characterised
by several moments that are worth mentioning. The Second All Stakeholders
Conference (ASC) in 2012 was a merry event. At the opening, President
Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Tsvangirai danced to Tuku. When
Minister Eric Matinenga opened the ASC, he stated that he felt “a
sense of political tolerance” and argued that the Constitution
Parliamentary Committee (COPAC) draft was “a product of a
collective effort”. Deputy Prime Minister, Arthur Mutambara,
emphasised that the new Constitution will be a matter of “posterity”.
addresses at the ASC, Mugabe and Tsvangirai both called for “peace”.
Near the end of his speech, Mugabe stated, “violence is primitive
and here I would like to speak to Zanu-PF; Tsvangirai is your neighbour
and to the MDC; Mugabe is your neighbour ... Let us shame our detractors
who think Zimbabweans cannot resolve their differences without resorting
When the Constitution
was introduced in Parliament, COPAC co-chairs Douglas Mwonzora and
Paul Mangwana cracked jokes across the floor with one another. They
called each other “twins” and one of them remarked that
the Constitution making process was a form of “national healing”.
The fact is that COPAC forced political parties, as well as Zimbabweans,
into an intense conversation about the country’s past, present
and future. One would like to believe that this has not been in
vain and that many of these negotiation processes have fostered
a culture of compromise and dialogue.
The above moments
throughout the COPAC process stand out because it is in stark contrast
to the image of the violence that characterised Zimbabwe in 2008.
Referendum in which people overwhelmingly voted in favour of the
new Constitution, Zimbabweans now have new lenses to judge one another’s
conduct. The new Constitution redefined the relationship between
the state and the individual. After Mugabe signed the Constitutional
Bill into law, Minister Welshman Ncube remarked, “We finally
have a Constitution that we can truly call our own.... As we move
forward to rebuild our Zimbabwe, let the challenge be of ensuring
that our political and governance practices measure up to the letter
and spirit of this Supreme Law.”
In the Preamble
of the new Constitution, it is written, “We the people of
Zimbabwe are united in our diversity by our common desire for freedom,
justice and equality, and our heroic resistance to colonialism,
racism and all forms of domination and oppression.” These
values embedded in the new Constitution were created, not by one
man or one party, but by many Zimbabweans for the benefit of all
Chapter 4 of
the New Constitution consists of the Declaration of Rights. Many
of these rights are well crafted but they will not bloom by themselves.
Constitutionalism goes beyond having a new legal framework; it is
about its implementation. Albie Sachs, an ANC liberation hero and
former South African Constitution Court judge, argues, “It
is easy to have beautiful principles when they aren’t being
tested, but isn’t it when they are tested that they really
moves forward politically, so have relations with the Western world
improved since 2008. In fact, many of the multi-party processes,
including the Constitution making process and JOMIC, have been supported
by the Western world. In recognition of the GNU’s commitments
and implementation of the GPA, the European Union removed and suspended
a host of measures against a number of top Zimbabwean officials
and the regional bloc said it would work with any government formed
as a result of a free and fair election. The United States also
recently sent a long-time friend of Zimbabwe, American civil rights
activist Andrew Young to deliver a strong message from Secretary
of State John Kerry: the United States is ready to normalise relations
with Zimbabwe following free, fair and credible elections.
fight with one another, it is people who suffer. Today Zimbabwe
has an opportune moment to capitalise on the momentum of the work
that it has done since 2009. Many Zimbabweans from across the political
divide simply want liberty, peace, and economic prosperity. The
power is within this government and the next to deliver this to
the people by focusing on implementation of the new Constitution
as well as by hosting free, fair and credible elections.
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