Democratic elections have been constant features of our body politic. In this file photo, President Mugabe casts his vote at Mhofu Primary School in Highfield, his traditional polling station

Democratic elections have been constant features of our body politic. In this file photo, President Mugabe casts his vote at Mhofu Primary School in Highfield, his traditional polling station

Feature Writers
As we celebrate 35 years of democracy, peace and development, we must remember that the democracy we fought for and won, and which we jealously put to the test after every five years, is responsible for the peace and political stability we enjoy.

Peaceful Zimbabwe is what it is because democracy has been allowed to flourish and people make their choices without resort to violence and, empowered to separate political night and day, are able to reject people and parties that are bent on reversing the gains of the liberation struggle. So far so good for Zimbabwe.”

There are two words that have become clichés in modern discourse, “love” and “democracy”.

They also happen to be among the most abused and misunderstood syllables.

Democracy is a composite word which comes from the Greek words demos, meaning “the people” and kratein, meaning “to rule”. Hence democracy literary means rule by the people. While almost everyone is agreed that democracy is the best form of government, only a few understand what this entails.

There are basically two schools of thought where democracy is concerned; the expansive (popular) and minimalist (elite) schools.

Elite democracy is basically a method of making decisions, which reduces democracy to electoral parameters. Democracy is deemed to have prevailed if decisions are made along the criterion of majority rule entailing open nominations for political office, with citizens freely choosing their representatives. The most important characteristic here is free and fair elections.

Opponents of elite democracy agitate for a popular/expansive understanding in which democracy is not simply equated to a political system with free and fair elections; but to an economy and society that reflects a democratic desire for equality and respect for political differences.

This is achieved through the empowerment of the majority to enable them to own their resources and to participate in all facets of production. Whichever school one subscribes to and whichever parameter one uses, Zimbabwe is not found wanting.

In fact, after the long night of colonialism and repression of indigenous peoples by the British settlers, 35 years into independence and democracy gives Zimbabweans ample reason to celebrate, not least because the same independence and democracy came through protracted struggles and bloodshed.

Today, Zimbabwe’s democracy is alive and well and the political landscape is saturated by various players and organisations while elections have been conducted regularly since 1980. There is the ruling Zanu-PF party that has dominated the political scene for the past 35 years owing to its pro-people policies that have included to date provision of basic services such as education and health to the people who would not dream about that in the colonial era.

Added to this are policies and programmes such as land reform and indigenisation and economic empowerment, both of which seek — and have managed — to provide indigenous people with the means of production. Zanu-PF has faced challenge from MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai, who has been hand held and funded by foreign capitals — ironically the very ones that supported colonialism.

Since 1999 the MDC has given electoral politics competition, although it has gone on to split into numerous factions since 2005. This is largely because it has no policies that resonate with the people and has thus failed to beat Zanu-PF.

Various other formations that have come from Zanu-PF such as Zanu-Ndonga, Zimbabwe Unity Movement, Zapu (led by Dumiso Dabengwa) and Simba Makoni’s Mavambo Kusile Dawn have fallen by the wayside because of their own lack of vibrancy.

Outside the major parties, various other outfits and individuals give meaning to the democracy that Independence brought. New parties are formed everyday. Zimbabwe held her first multi-party democratic elections from February 28 to March 1, 1980. Since then our hard- won democracy has been regularly put to the test.

The last elections were held on July 31, 2013 and Zanu-PF won them resoundingly with more than two-thirds majority.

Democratic elections have been constant features of our body politic.

This democracy, however, was not handed to us on a silver platter as we had to fight for it and continue defending it against those who want to subvert it for their selfish, neo-colonial ends.

The subversion began at the Lancaster House Constitutional Conference where British and Rhodesian interests made sure that, for a whole decade, 20 seats were reserved for white MPs and white voters per se in the post-independence binary voters roll. This provision ensured that the likes of Ian Douglas Smith, the last Rhodesian Prime Minister, continued to defile the august House with their supercilious diatribes under the aegis of the Conservative Alliance of Zimbabwe (CAZ), formerly the Rhodesian Front. Smith and his white supremacist cronies were, however, tolerated in line with the new policy of reconciliation espoused by Prime Minister Mugabe who proclaimed in his address to the nation on the night of Thursday April 17, 1980 that;

“If yesterday I fought you as an enemy, today you have become a friend and ally with the same national interest, loyalty, rights and duties as myself. If yesterday you hated me, today you cannot avoid the love that binds you to me and me to you.”

This spirit of tolerance exists to this day for the Rhodesians have regrouped under the western-funded MDC, which continues the futile quest of subversion.

The hideous intentions are always couched in the neo-liberal regimen of minimalist democracy; rule of law and something called “good governance”.

But MDC’s efforts have come to grief on the basis that the people of Zimbabwe have rejected them and their sell out politics. Some believe that the MDC would have had people’s goodwill had they been a home-grown outfit rather than be an agent of yesteryear enemy.

The MDC and those who follow it forget that the liberation struggle itself was a quest for good governance.

Good governance, being the empowerment of the people through people-centred programmes such as agrarian reforms. Good governance is measured by the socio-economic transformation of the lives of the previously marginalised indigenous populace (expansive democracy).

As we celebrate 35 years of democracy, peace and development, we must remember that the democracy we fought for and won, and which we jealously put to the test after every five years, is responsible for the peace and political stability we enjoy.

Other African countries have always been in the throes of western-sponsored wars of destabilisation, which has seen Africa experiencing over 100 violent regime changes in the manner of coups and assassinations of national leaders.

Peaceful Zimbabwe is what it is because democracy has been allowed to flourish and people make their choices without resort to violence and, empowered to separate political night and day, are able to reject people and parties that are bent on reversing the gains of the liberation struggle.

So far so good for Zimbabwe.