2011: Zimbabweans should take ownership of their future.

OPINION – Today is Tuesday, 28 December 2010. As I reflect on the events of this historic year, I could find no better story to share than my personal journey.

On 19 May 2010, an order was issued de-specifying Messrs. James Makamba, John Moxon and I. Future generations will no doubt look back at our generation as they seek to address their own challenges of their time and naturally will attempt to put some meaning to our choices, decisions and actions.

We will all not be there to answer the questions and hence it is important that we attempt to put our own words into our stories so that those who seek to better understand our era can be guided by our own words.

Although the use of specification orders is a new and strange phenomenon that started in 2004, there is no one in Zimbabwe who is proudly claiming credit for using the law to achieve illegal and unconstitutional ends.

What we do know is that when the country was confronted with severe foreign exchange challenges, an explanation was sought and the best answer that could be generated was that the source of the problem was externalisation.

It was argued that how could so rich an African country like Zimbabwe be so poor when some of its citizens appeared to be doing better at personal levels than others.

I was one of many targeted by certain state actors. It was natural that creative state actors would put their thinking caps to manufacture a new term in the Zimbabwean vocabulary to describe the strange phenomenon where possession of foreign currency without the consent and approval of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe would now constitute a crime.

We were all described as economic saboteurs of the worst order. The first high profile victim was Mr. Makamba followed by former Minister of Finance, Dr. Kuruneri.

The presumption of innocence forms the foundation of any justice system in a democratic constitutional order. However, it was argued that the rule of law was a luxury a nation like Zimbabwe could ill afford.

We were all presumed guilty without the state suffering from the burden to prove before an independent and impartial court that we were indeed guilty as charged.

Post-colonial Africa emerged from the womb of oppression and the wounds inflicted by an unjust order are still fresh with former victims of oppression now being custodians of the post colonial order.

To imagine that only 24 years after Zimbabwe’s independence, a day would visit Zimbabwe when individual liberty would be perishable at the whims of state actors is to suggest that the past has no memory.

The decision to specify as a public policy instrument was not informed by any jurisdictional facts but by the opinions of the few privileged to use the state to undermine the very sacred values enshrined in the constitution.

When I expire, people who will have the privilege to write my obituary can proudly claim that 6 years of my existence on earth was characterized by a specification whose sole purpose was to legally disable me while using state power to deprive me of any access to my assets while permitting the state to expropriate my assets.

When developed countries make the point that the existence of the rule of law, respect for human and property rights, and good governance are important the message is easily lost because the majority of Africans have been alienated from property and have no personal experiences that expose the toxicity of misguided use of state power.

We occupy a special position being victims of the post-colonial order and sharing the stage with the country’s founding fathers. We have, therefore, a special obligation to use our experiences to enrich not only our generation about what kind of society we should create but our collective obligation to be vigilant.

Now as we approach the end of the year, it is not strange that when I was specified I was credited with owning a number of assets and yet after more than 6 months of de-specification, I find myself still alienated from my assets.

It is normal to expect as the law provides that the purpose of specifying any person is to allow for investigations to take place and when completed the state should make its case in a court of law if the intention is to alienate a person from his assets.

I have no doubt that the name that will be blamed for the abuse of state power will be President Mugabe and yet the evidence is abundant that at our best we harbor the notions that state actors can do no wrong.

Why would the state like a parent find itself poor than its children? In life, it is not unusual that children can be richer than their parents. However, the existence of the rule of law would prohibit parents, for example, from claiming the wealth of their children as theirs in as much as it would be fatally wrong for any credible state to claim that the foreign currency in the possession of its people belongs to it.

What I have learned as a shareholder of many companies is that as a holder of rights to a company my rights in relation to a company that I may have helped to bring into existence are limited.

Equally, the rights of the state against its citizens and residents are and should be qualified. A good and caring state would always attract and retain good people.

What lessons should we draw from our own experiences. How should history judge us? We need to open a new conversation as we forge ahead about what kind of Africa do we need to create.

We have seen in our lifetime how the bundle of rights enshrined in the constitution can easily evaporate while we remain spectators.

Can a state be stronger than the sum of its parts? We have been exposed to strong men and women in the post-colonial order. Many African states are informed by a republican ideology and yet behave as if they are monarchs. How can we make our state actors more human and accountable? We have the responsibility to build our own future through our own actions.

I sincerely hope that 2011 will allow Zimbabweans to take ownership of their future. I feel have done my small part to help open new conversations about how the wheels of progress can be bolted out by a few evil powerful persons.

A secure and stable country needs less powerful people but right institutions and good and vigilant minds. Without the rule of law, there is nothing of value to work for.

When actions and choices that undermine the essence of human existence become the order of the day, we all must know what time it is. This is our time to write our own stories.

Who should take responsibility for the mess? It is easy to blame leaders. We should look at ourselves and see if we are doing what is expected of us by Zimbabwe the country we all claim to love.

Even those whose actions we despise we claim if the majority is silent to act in the interests of the nation and yet when the storm is over it will as it has done in my case that the truth is always the ultimate victim of our indifference.