Zimbabwe’s full recovery requires more than economic aid

OPINION: I, like many progressive minded Zimbabweans at home and in the diaspora, was very excited following the grand decision by then opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party leader Morgan Tsvangirai to join a unity government with President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU PF party.

For once, l thought the opportunity had come for Zimbabwe to sort out its mess and move forward from the double axis of evil and poverty.

It is true that many people received the news of this “arranged marriage” with a degree of scepticism and a sense of betrayal. However, the most important thing was that a new chapter in Zimbabwe’s politics had been opened and the country was never going to be the same again.

It must be stated in very categorical terms that Zimbabwe’s transition to full democracy and eventual economic recovery does not lie in the realm of foreign aid alone.

Yes, foreign aid is urgent and very necessary but other aspects of democratic transition deserve equal importance.

It is heartening that Prime Minister (PM) Tsvangirai, who now leads the biggest coalition in government, agreed to join government in a fairly junior but not necessarily inferior position, as people look up to him with more reverence and hope than Mugabe.

The truth about this marriage of convenience is that there are many hurdles ahead and overcoming them will be such a Herculean task; difficult but not insurmountable.

Tsvangirai himself mentioned during his inauguration speech in February that the road he had chosen to walk was not an easy one and he appealed for patience from the people.

This was an exemplary statement which promotes reconciliation not reprisals as is the case with ZANU PF, which continues to cause pain and mayhem in the country even when they are expected to show a spirit of openness and cooperation.

The pockets of resistance to the inclusive government that Tsvangirai has recently mentioned are real and threaten the nature and pace of transition in Zimbabwe.

What ZANU PF is doing is nothing new in situations similar to ours. ZANU PF has never really experienced democracy within itself and let alone co-exist with a democratic force. It will always try to use each and every tactic in the book to frustrate those who believe in democracy.

But its success will depend on how far the MDC resists as the de facto ruling party and how much confidence and support they receive from the democracy-starved people.

Democracy will be elusive to Zimbabwe if there is no commitment to create and strengthen institutions that support its existence. This is the major challenge facing the unity government in Zimbabwe. The earlier these institutions are strengthened or created the better.

Democracy is essentially not a simple action by any measure. It is a process not an event. It is a state of mind that takes years to develop and mature.

Presuming that through a simple act of marking an X on a ballot sheet people have arrived at a democracy is only a foolish assumption.

Democracy is measured by more than simply the right to vote, and not all electoral democracies extend full democratic rights to their citizens. Full democracies are defined as granting a range of rights and institutions, such as elections, competitive political parties, the rule of law, independent media, limits on the power of government officials, and an independent judiciary.

These mechanisms allow citizens to communicate and organise among themselves, choose their leaders freely, and participate in government decisions’.

According to the Freedom House (2003); “The transition from autocracy to democracy is often marked by political instability, rapid internal change, and even civil conflict. In many cases, political crises cause newly established democratic regimes to fail. In fact, during the second half of the twentieth century, about one quarter of all newly established democracies lasted for less than five years.”

It is the above and other issues facing our fragile democracy that constitute the greatest challenge to the Zimbabwe’s unity government.

Some analysts have already said that the two MDC formations should not contemplate resigning from the unity government because that would give Mugabe and ZANU PF the mandate they so desperately need. If anything, those rogue elements within ZANU PF who constitute pockets of resistance and dictatorship should be frustrated themselves to leave government sooner rather than later with their tails down.

The opposition party was not invited into a ZANU PF government but the inclusive government is a result of a tortuously negotiated settlement that created a new coalition government altogether, comprising three parties as “equals”.

It is important for the new government to prioritise overcoming the deteriorating humanitarian situation, democratisation, economic recovery and initiating a national healing process.

The humanitarian situation will require colossal financial resources and revival of an effective logistical network to enable the smooth distribution of aid to the needy and this hinges on effective communication with donors, honesty, respect for others and sense of responsibility on the part of both Mugabe and Tsvangirai.

The democratisation agenda is an inevitable process, which should be completed as soon as possible to ensure that Zimbabwe becomes a democracy again. This will not be an easy feat and may require further conflicts and fighting between the main parties.

However, there is no going back on democratisation and those who seek to complete this agenda should not be allowed to fail. The success of this process requires the effective use and fair management of state media and information, as well as unity of purpose from all democratic forces in the face of adversity from rogue elements in ZANU PF.

Lastly, the healing process requires the creation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission where all crimes of brutality committed since 1980 are publicly heard (including the release of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace’s full report on the Matabeleland civil unrest of the 1980s) followed by a general amnesty where necessary.

Once again, l wish to remind Zimbabweans that financial aid alone, crucial as it may be, is not enough to repair the damage that Zimbabweans suffered under decades of ZANU PF misrule. In this vein, it is important for the unity government to confront the other challenges with the same tenacity and eagerness as that of reviving the economy. – ZimOnline