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Declaration by Zimbabwean Civil Society regarding a Transition to Democracy in Zimbabwe

Briefly. . .

15 July 2008 Broad Zimbabwean Civil Society adopted Declaration calling for establishment of transitional authority, drafting of a new peopled-driven constitution and subsequent democratic elections

DECLARATION BY  ZIMBABWEAN CIVIL SOCIETY
REGARDING A TRANSITION TO DEMOCRACY IN ZIMBABWE

following the “Whither Zimbabwe: National Civil Society Consultative Conference”

We, civil society organizations acting on behalf of the people of Zimbabwe, today reassert our commitment to the struggle for a transition to democracy.  In doing so, we stand firmly by the principles of democratic constitutionalism that are embodied in the People’s Charter and which represent the birthright of every Zimbabwean.  Given the present environment of fear and oppression, we declare that democratic reform must be preceded by the cessation of violence, restoration of law and order, and facilitation of humanitarian relief.  If such conditions are met, we are prepared to support the installation of a transitional government created after consultation with all stakeholders.

We believe that a transitional government would provide an appropriate vehicle for ushering democratic reform.  The transitional authority would have a specific, limited mandate to oversee the drafting of a new, democratic and people-driven constitution and the installation of a legitimate government.  We wholeheartedly reject the suggestion of a power-sharing agreement that fails to immediately address the inadequacy of the current constitutional regime.

The transitional government must be established in line with the following:

1. Leadership by a neutral body.  The transitional government should be headed by an individual who is not a member of ZANU-PF or MDC.

2. Broad representation.  Individuals from a broad sector of Zimbabwean society should be incorporated into the transitional government.  This should include representatives from labor organizations, women’s and children’s rights groups, churches, and various other interest groups.

3. Specific, limited mandate.  The transitional government should be tasked with facilitating the drafting and adoption of a new constitution and then holding elections under the new constitutional framework.  It should only govern the country until such time as the government elected under the new constitution is installed.  The negotiating parties should provide a very clear timeframe for this process, with no more than 18 months of rule by the transitional government.

4. People-driven constitutional development.  The process of drafting a new constitution must include broad-based consultation with the public.  Interest groups such as women, labor, churches, and media should be given special opportunities to provide input.  The draft constitution should not be enacted until it has been ratified by the public in a national referendum.

5. Restoration of good governance.  State institutions such as the judiciary, police, security services, and state welfare agencies should be depoliticized and reformed.  Steps should be taken to fight corruption and promote accountability for public officials.  Restrictions on press freedom should be lifted and access to state media outlets should be opened.

6. Transitional justice initiatives.  The transitional government should design and implement a system to bring to justice the perpetrators of gross human rights violations.  This framework for transitional justice should be embedded in the new constitution.

In the event of the above conditions not being met, civil society commits itself to continue in actions that increase pressure on whosoever will be holding state power to embrace people-centered democratic process.

Issued on 15 July, 2008


 

Morgan Tsvangirai insists he must head any transitional administration, but opposition-aligned pressure groups say they want a more neutral figure.

The announcement by several influential non-government groups in Zimbabwe that they wanted a transitional administration headed by a neutral figure has dealt a severe blow to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who has been seeking support to take on the job himself.

In a surprise move, a group of civil society organisations said on July 15 they would reject a transitional government led by either Tsvangirai or President Robert Mugabe.  They included the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions — which gave birth to Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, in 1999, the Zimbabwe National Students’ Union, Women of Zimbabwe Arise, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, and Christian groups.

As preliminary discussions take place in Pretoria to lay the groundwork for talks on a power-sharing arrangement, the MDC has made it a precondition that Tsvangirai should head any “government of national unity”.

South African president Thabo Mbeki, appointed by the Southern African Development Community, SADC, as negotiator in the Zimbabwe crisis, is thought to be putting the final touches to a negotiated settlement between ZANU-PF and the MDC.  Those privy to the Pretoria talks say the deal would see the establishment of a presidency with scaled-down powers and an executive prime minister, and both factions of the MDC, of which Tsvangirai’s is the larger, would be awarded senior posts.

Following consultative meeting on July 15, Lovemore Madhuku said the non-government organisations, NGOs, had agreed that a transitional government would provide an appropriate vehicle for ushering in democratic reform, but that “such an arrangement must not be headed by a person from ZANU-PF or the MDC”.

“We want a neutral person,” said Madhuku, who heads the National Constitutional Assembly, an influential body that presses for constitutional reform.

The NGOs, he said, envisaged a transitional authority with a specific, limited mandate to oversee the drafting of a new democratic constitution and the installation of a legitimate government, leading to a fair presidential election.

“We wholeheartedly reject the suggestion of a power-sharing agreement that fails to immediately address the inadequacy of the current constitutional regime,” he added.

Tsvangirai beat Mugabe in the first round of the presidential election on March 29, although election officials said he failed to win the required absolute majority.  He boycotted the June 27 run-off vote, citing violence against his supporters.

His demand to take charge of a caretaker government has been backed by the European Union, the United States, Britain and several members of the African Union and Southern African Development Community, SADC.

Outraged MDC officials said the civil society groups’ plan to ditch Tsvangirai, their ally of the past eight years, was tantamount to stabbing him in the back.

“The problem with civic society is that they are not being realistic,” said MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa. “Tsvangirai won the presidential elections, based on the [March 29 poll] results.  For all intents and purposes, he should lead any transitional arrangement or whatever government you choose to call it.

“Why would they need a neutral person, who was not voted for by the people, to be in charge, when facts are that the people of Zimbabwe made a choice on March 29 in a legitimate election?”

Useni Sibanda, coordinator of the Christian Alliance, a coalition of church groups, accepted that the NGOs’ announcement might be interpreted as meaning Tsvangirai’s allies had ditched him.

“Mugabe might use it for propaganda purposes to mean that Tsvangirai has been abandoned by his allies,” he explained.

At the same time, he said, “Tsvangirai must understand it’s time to put national interests first before personal interests”.

Eldred Masunungure, a politics lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, said the opposition leader should come to terms with his allies’ decision.

“Tsvangirai might see it as a political blow that his allies want him out of the transitional arrangement so that he concentrates on solving the political crisis. . . .  I think he must not feel ditched. It will give him time to re-strategise,” he said.

Masunungure noted that given the degree of political polarisation in Zimbabwe, it would be very difficult to identify a neutral figure.

According to Madhuku, Zimbabwean NGOs believe a transitional government should represent a wider segment of the population than just the political parties.

“Individuals from a broad sector of Zimbabwean society should be incorporated into the transitional government.  This should include representatives from labour organisations, women’s and children’s rights groups, churches and various interests groups,” he said.

He insisted that the NGOs’ support for a power-sharing deal was conditional on an end to political violence, the restoration of law and order, and the resumption of humanitarian relief operations.

Jabu Shoko is the pseudonym of a reporter in Harare.


The NGO statement, a vision of procedural democracy striking in its abstraction, was issued on 15 July 2008, available on NANGO Online: <www.nango.org.zw/campaigns/view.asp?id=837>   Jabu Shoko’s article appeared first in the Web site of the Institute of War & Peace Reporting.  Both are reproduced here for informational purposes. 

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono, in a recent interview with the state-run Herald, had this to say:

 

The economy and politics are inextricably intertwined such that it does not make sense for anyone to expect the RBZ to somehow fix the national economy and turn it around for the better while political players continue to play bickering games over the way forward.

Therefore, I cannot imagine let alone proffer any way forward in terms of reviving the economy given the current situation that is not based on and informed by a political economy of national unity.  As such, the only way forward for our country is for Zimbabweans to come together and to speak with one voice to foster a national consensus that puts the country’s interests first.  (“Interview: RBZ Governor Gono on Sanctions and Inflation,” NewZimbabwe.com, 16 July 2008)

 

It’s an extraordinarily candid admission that there’s nothing the ZANU-PF can do to fix the economy on its own.

The MDC for its part says that it will cure Zimbabwe’s economic problems with an independent central bank, tight monetary policy, fiscal austerity, privatization, etc.: <www.mdc.co.zw/downloads/POLICIES%202008.pdf>.  Now, that’s an orthodox neoliberal economic prescription, and some working people may be in favor of it considering that the official inflation rate is now 2.2 million %, but is it likely to motivate masses of them to defy death to put it in practice?

“The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.” — Antonio Gramsci

 



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