Friday, 23 October 2015

Samora Machel 2015 Memorial Lecture Presentations

Generational Perspectives on Samora’s Legacy – Embracing a Revolutionary Future 

Contributors: Paidamoyo Muzulu, Terence Chimhavi, Koliwe Nyoni-Majama

By Terence Chimhavi

Today, 19 October, 2015, marks exactly 29 years to the day President Samora Machel of Mozambique was killed in yet unclear circumstances, though of course the greatest suspicion has been placed on apartheid South Africa. He was 53 years and had been in power for 11 years.

As a Zimbabwean, and from my born-free perspective, I never had an opportunity to see or meet Cde Machel; when he passed on I was only a few years old. But growing up, I came to know more about this foreigner just through the sheer recognition and appreciation, albeit posthumously, that was so apparent within the broader Zimbabwean society. 

My understanding of the legacy that Samora Machel left has become deeper over the years, as I have sought to really understand why a person, a foreigner for that matter, can be such a celebrated figure in a foreign country. It is this interaction with history as told by others that has expanded my appreciation of this legacy that we celebrate today.

Today, as we commemorate this life well lived, there are a number of things that stand out about this great African revolutionary. I associate Cde Machel with organizational excellence particularly for his role firstly in the independence struggle of his country Mozambique and also his role in the bloc known as the frontline states. Indeed, he led from the front in defeating the Portuguese colonial hegemony in Mozambique, which victory became a strategic turnaround and precursor to the eventual demise of the Rhodesians.

This is coupled with orchestrating the revolutionary self-sacrifice that was shown by the people of Mozambique, who having got their independence earlier were able to understand that you can never enjoy your independence to the full when your neighbour is still in bondage. It takes great organizational and persuasive guile to convince a people to sacrifice for another, moreso given the poor state of their country at that particular time. We all know and acknowledge today how Mozambique became a strategic base for liberation fighters fighting the regime of Ian Smith in Rhodesia.

Though today Chimoio and Nyadzonia stand out as key low moments in the struggle when the settler regime, sought to inflict collateral damage on its direct opponents and those offering them support by launching an attack on foreign territory; the truth of the matter is that the people of Mozambique suffered a lot more through incursions into their territory by both Rhodesian and South African forces.

There is a lot to learn and much more to say from the relationship that existed then and still exists to this day between Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Even Dr Thomas Mapfumo acknowledges in his song ‘Zimbabwe-Mozambique’ these strong brotherly and sisterly ties.

The challenge I find today and I have also seen for many of my own contemporaries – the youth of today – is what lessons we can take in building our future from the story of Zimbabwe-Mozambique and as told from the Machel perspective.

From Zimbabwe’s current context, with its challenges, and told from various angles, there are a number of lessons to be drawn from the Machel legacy.

1. African brotherhood – as defined then by Machel and his contemporaries in the frontline states, which definition I content still remains relevant today – still stands as a critical pillar in addressing the various challenges that Africans across the continent face. Though these may differ according to local national contexts and conditions, the story of the frontline states still stands as an inspiration to how working together as Africans is the greatest panacea to Africa’s common problems.

2. No African country can claim developmental success when other African countries have not attained the same – at least a basic level of development. Today the continent boasts of extremes in terms of poverty and opulence. Even here in Zimbabwe, this is true. And the xenophobia that has become an occasional problem in South Africa and other countries is testimony to how the inequality scourge re-invents itself as a problem in perpetuity.

3. Genuine collective development will only be driven and delivered by the younger generation. This is not to say the elders have no role to play. But a cursory look at how the liberation struggle played out in Zimbabwe and other frontline states, Zimbabwe and Mozambique included, is testimony to the power in the youth. Unfortunately today, we have that unfortunate situation where the youth are a disjointed lot and cannot identify what the common challenge(s) is/are and how they can over-ride their differences to address their common challenges.

Let me end by thanking the organizers of this event, the Committee of the Peoples Charter, for creating the space to honour one of Africa’s finest revolutionaries. It is an honour as a young person, to be able to share valuable lessons we all get from this foreigner who sacrificed a lot for other ‘foreigners’. And as was his great catch-phrase, ‘áluta continua – the struggle indeed continues’.

I thank you.

Nationalism and feminism: a time to define our role in our ‘new’ African struggle

By Koliwe Majama

My presentation will focus on the socialist connections between national ‘liberation’ and women’s emancipation. This presentation, I hope, will ignite a flame in Zimbabwe’s feminist movement, and particular in the younger section of that community of Zimbabwean women especially. This is obviously the recognition that as young women we are obliged to have an active definitive role within our national socio, economic and political struggles.

The significance of our participation, as women, in todays struggle should be linked to the acknowledgement of the symbolism of the role that young Zimbabwean women played during our liberation struggle. There is need to pick from where they left and carry forward what will be generation continuity of equality for men and women.

In my presentation, I will make reference to, Samora Machels, socialist perspectives on the significance of women within, at the time, liberation movements- making the linkages within our context today – our current status, challenges and making proposals on a way forward in this path of redefinition and action. I will however, in making the linkages, also make reference to other African experiences and writings to put into perspective why it is important that we are having this conversation today.

Samoras’ legacy is evidently and undoubtedly relevant to us a Zimbabwean people, particularly when you revisit the chronicles of The Chimurenga; His role as an individual – and the overall sacrifices made by the people of Mozambique in contributing to the Zimbabwe that we are today.  Let me hasten to say that as a social democratic movement, the CPC, we have commemorated today consistently since our formation as recognition of not only that role in the context of the liberation, but the relevance of his words and action in an entirely different time and place.

So what is significant about women’s participation in the liberation war in Zimbabwe? It is important to note that during the liberation war, Zimbabwean women rose above the traditionally subordinated gender positions in order to fight equally with men in the struggle for national independence. And for this they were heralded internationally. 

At independence Robert Mugabe acknowledged this when he acknowledged that Zimbabwe had learnt through the liberation that the country learnt through the liberation struggle that success and power are possible when men and women are unites.

The attainment of Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980, ironically, coincided with the United Nations decade for women, and subsequently the mid-term Women’s conference in Copenhagen, which in actual fact made the socialist connections between national liberation and women’s emancipation. It focused on women in South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

Much earlier in Guinea Bissau, Amilar Cabral had argued that a that a revolution would not be complete without the social transformation of both men and women, and that women had to fight for and earn their right to equality with men.

So the big question now is - With all that recognition and socialist feminist hope for women in Southern Africa is this reflective of the equality, confidence and determination today – years after the gaining of national independence?

Samora argued at the time that the liberation of women is a fundamental necessity for the revolution, the guarantee of its continuity and the precondition for its victory.

The answer is no!

Broadly speaking Zimbabwean women today are probably more subordinated in todays struggle for a democratic Zimbabwe than they were fighting for a liberated one. The women that we celebrate today as liberation sheroes – were young at the time Zimbabwe was at war. 

The question is, and in reference to Samoras words, was that participation guaranteed to continue? To what extent does their participation as young women influence our participation today as young Zimbabwean women?

1.       Tokenism vs. Award (Amilcar speaks to earned rights to equality) – The case of capacity in parliament

2.       Interaction and mentorship by female comrades – The case of Freedom Nyamubaya and Margret Dongo/ Wrings of Takura Zhangazha on the power that is yielded by Grace Mugabe/Joice Mujuru (Samora speaks to continuity)

3.       Youth movements – juvenile  (in political parties) The case of Hon. Annastacia Ndlovu and young womens’ participation  (in social movements)

4.       Opinions on socio, economic and political issues vs. utilization of more readily available spaces. (The internet) – Her Zimbabwe experience on women and inboxing.

Like it or not, patriarchy is going to take longer to deal with. Women no matter how empowered are, without breaking the barriers we will still feel subjugated and not publicly have an opinion on potentially controversial issues – and this is despite the many opportunities that we have been offered – which include Education/ employment opportunities/voting rights/participation in ‘most spheres’.

But the socialist feminist perspectives which were key in defining the women’s liberation and equality within their the context of a war – that is in liberation movements should take a shift today so that we are able to extend/ move forward what they began – for generational continuity.

Monday, 20 July 2015

CPC On the Structural Challenges of Zimbabwe’s National Economy: Position Paper Number 4.

Think. Act. Lead

Issue Date: Friday 17 July 2015

1. The Zimbabwean national economy, in it structural framework  (the state, private sector, social services and informal sector) has come to be both a political and ideological issue.  We immediately raise the structural dimension of debating our national economy because goods, services, and wealth are created within established frameworks by dint of either global best examples  or historically arrived at values and principles. In  both cases these two aspects have also historically been ideological (liberalism, neo-liberalism, socialism, communism, state-capitalism, nationalism).  

2. Historically our country’s economy has also been one that is largely characterized by a combination of mimicry of these same said economic models and ideas. On occasion with the best of intentions but in most cases out of sheer necessity but lack of thorough application to our national context.

3. Zimbabwe has now come full circle since our national independence, from being an economy that was initially supported by the remnants of a settler state capitalism while embarking on a socialist ideological economic intention to one that was to become liberal (free-market) in the 1990s decade of structural adjustment. 

This latter phase, while making pretensions at retaining the key role of the state in facilitating social welfare services (education, health, public transport subsidies) gave way to a stricter free market framework in which the state has all but withdrawn its role of ensuring that the basic needs of all citizens are met.  This is the neo-liberal version of our national economic policy that Zimbabwe is now experiencing.

4.  This is also despite the radical nationalism that informed what is now referred to as the Fast Track Land Reform Programme (FTLRP). While the latter was intended to be a means of redress for historical colonial injustice addressing, its occurrence has however been within the broader ambit of again, limited state support for new farmers and nascent manufacturers of agricultural end products.

4.1  Further expressions of radical nationalism within a neo-liberal economic context were to be found in the national indigenization policy that followed the FTLRP.  The targeting of foreign majority owned private corporations to cede at least 51% of their shares, while being a convenient carry over from the land reform programme was however not intended to be a wealth redistribution programme for all.  It has instead created a limited number of elites who with the passage of time and limited numbers of viable companies to indigenize also sought to acquire 51% ownership of banks, a tertiary service sector.

4.2 To this end, the neo-liberal framework that now informs our national economy has come to be exemplified by the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Social and Economic  Transformation (ZIMASSET).  Its primary pretext of utilizing central government mortgaging state assets to public private partnerships across its clusters identified as food security; value addition; social services and poverty reduction; infrastructure and utilities and finally  value addition and beneficiation.  All in order to arrive at an economy where the social democratic obligations of the state to provide basic needs for all of its citizens are diminished.

4.3  This is why, for all the praise singing, ZimAsset is being implemented within the context of high levels of unemployment, lack of affordable healthcare, poor public transport services, ongoing endemic levels of corruption, lack of affordable housing and lack of affordable basic education.

5. It is this lived economic reality that while being imbued with abstract statements of good intention from the government, remains neo-liberal and elite centered.

5.1  In light of this structural framework, it is therefore imperative that there be greater analysis of the depressing realities that are our lived national economic realities.  This would entail understanding our economy to be characterized by the following:
a) A continued application of  various economic models and blueprints without a thorough appreciation and consideration of our national context in order to arrive at people-centered economic solutions
b) The use of radical nationalist rhetoric to paper over an elitist and predatory state capitalism under the guise of public private partnerships
c)  The individualization of the Zimbabwean citizen by way of personal debt  and repressive political laws that serve to make it near impossible for different alternatives and frameworks to be placed in the public domain
d)The dis-empowerment of the youth and women  of Zimbabwe through unemployment, lack of access to affordable basic and tertiary education, lack of access to affordable healthcare, public transport and land.
e)  The negation of the elderly and pensioners to the vagaries of the unaffordable cost of living.

5.2 In order to mitigate these undemocratic economic circumstances, it is imperative that all Zimbabweans consider the following:

a) Challenging the ideological framework of government’s economic policies in order to effect a shift from the current neo-liberal one to a social democratic grounding that recognizes that the role of the state remains that of ensuring basic needs for all citizens.  
This being done while simultaneously promoting innovation, protecting our local markets and democratically contextualizing every proposed new economic blueprint suggested by global trends.
b) Prioritizing the economic plight of the youth and elderly by crafting alternative social democratic economic policy frameworks that outline organic solutions in the immediate as well as the long term.
c)  Making gender an integral aspect of any alternative economic frameworks
d) Harnessing the input of the Zimbabwean Diaspora in crafting social democratic economic frameworks.
e) Lobbying the government of the day on these frameworks and remaining true to principle.

Issued by the Subcommittee on the National Economy and Social Welfare.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

The Diaspora and Resuscitating Zimbabwe’s economy

Increasing the Diaspora contribution to the national economy is to increase their rights as well.

Position Paper Number 3

Issued 8 July 2015

1.0 The Committee of the Peoples Charter (CPC) notes that the development of any nation is chiefly driven by its citizens – both within and without the country. The latter constitutes a rich cross-section of the country’s human capital that is resident in other countries, constituted by both skilled and unskilled labour. This population is commonly referred to as the Diaspora.

1.1 Various reasons, to varying degrees, and over different time periods have led to many Zimbabweans leaving the country; the post 2000 political and economic instability being the most recent to have forced citizens to leave the country.

1.2 It is currently estimated that 3 or 4 million Zimbabweans are living abroad, the greater majority being resident in Southern Africa. A United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) paper on ‘The Potential Contribution of the Zimbabwe Diaspora to Economic Recovery’ produced in 2010 suggests that South Africa alone is estimated to have in excess of 2 million Zimbabweans, and close to half a million in the UK.

1.3 The general trend has seen Zimbabweans migrating to countries with more developed democratic cultures such as South Africa, the UK, USA, Botswana, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. This postulates the absence or lack of democracy or a democratic culture in Zimbabwe as a major push factor influencing this outward migration.

1.4 This departure of the skilled labour component has immensely contributed to the phenomenon of ‘brain drain’ which consequently has had a negative impact on economic growth and overall development. This flight of skilled personnel has had the most negative impact on the health and education systems.

2.0 For a long time now, and especially in the wake of a deteriorating economy, Zimbabwe has been receiving substantial support from her Diaspora. This support has been mostly in the form of remittances to family and friends, as well as transfers between people and organizations.

2.1 Official figures from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe show that in 2013 alone, Zimbabwe received US$1, 8 billion through money transfer agencies and the formal banking sector, though this represents a slight decline from the 2012 figures of around US$2, 1 billion.

2.2 The government of Zimbabwe has as a result moved to capitalize on this reality with manoeuvres being made to tap from this huge inflow of funds so that the local economy benefits from Diaspora savings.

2.3 Recently the Minister of Finance has proposed for the government to formalize platforms for engagement with the Diaspora through the Zimbabwe Diaspora Home Interface Programme (ZDHIP).

2.4 This is emanating from the reality that the vast majority of remittances to Zimbabwe by her Diaspora are not coming through official government channels, from which the government can tap into and be able to drive the Diaspora savings’ contribution to the national economy.

2.5 Many cite distrust of the government by its citizens as the main reason, especially in its (government’s) handling of the banking sector in particular, and the economy in general.

3.0 However, these enthusiastic manoeuvres to tap into the contribution of the Diaspora have not been matched by equal enthusiasm to accord the Diaspora their rights as legitimate, well-serving and patriotic citizens of Zimbabwe.

3.1 Of particular concern is the constant denial, despite spirited albeit false claims by the drafters of our constitution of the inclusion of the provision for a Diaspora vote, which does not exist in the current national constitution.

3.2 This contempt for the Diaspora by the regime is also noted in the silence of key blueprints such as Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZimAsset) which fails to capture the contribution of the Zimbabwean Diaspora to the establishment of a genuinely sustainable socio-economic transformation.

3.3 Indeed, and to the contrary, we have had to listen time and again as Zanu PF and at times government representatives pour scorn on the Diaspora for having exercised their right to search for greener pastures outside Zimbabwe as the economy continues to deteriorate.

3.4 While a significant majority has left the country for chiefly economic reasons, an almost equal proportion cite bad governance and politics as the reason compelling their departure to other countries. Some have genuinely fled persecution of all kind from the ruling elite as it has used every possible trick in the book to hold on to power.

4.0 It is the humble submission of the Committee of the Peoples Charter (CPC) that any engagement with the Zimbabwean Diaspora especially where it pertains to their contribution to the development of the nation should be hinged on the genuine recognition of Zimbabweans abroad, as full and legitimate citizens of this country, with equal rights and opportunities as citizens resident in the country.

4.1 The government should genuinely recognize the Diaspora as part of our country’s demography and therefore ensure that the same rights as enjoyed by citizens resident in the country are also accorded to and enjoyed by the Diaspora.

4.2 Chief among these rights is the right to be involved in the governance of their country; this by being accorded the constitutionally prescribed right to ‘vote in all elections and referendums’.

4.3 There is no judicious reason for the Zimbabwean Diaspora to be denied this fundamental right to participate in elections from which-ever country they are resident, through the same means by which other citizens resident, such as state employees at foreign embassies in the Diaspora are accorded an opportunity to vote.

4.4 The inherent right of the Diaspora to contribute to the national economy and to the general development of the country should be matched by the enjoyment of the Diaspora of all fundamental rights and freedoms that are accorded to all citizens of Zimbabwe by the national constitution.

5.0 It should be inherent upon government to ensure that it engages with all its citizens, both within and outside the country, so that it is primarily the needs, wishes and aspirations of these citizens that informs national progress and development.

5.1 This should ideally begin with the inclusive drafting of a holistic Diaspora Policy Paper that takes into consideration the needs of all citizens; taking into consideration the existence of both push and pull factors influencing outward migration from Zimbabwe.

5.2 Serious thought should be made by all stakeholders, including government, business and civil society actors towards the formulation of an inclusive ‘Framework for Re-engaging the Diaspora’. This should take into consideration the diversity that exists within the Diaspora and how they also feed into various spheres of the well-functioning of the nation state.

5.3 Government must also take it as its chief responsibility, to creating an environment that will encourage its citizens to stay in the country and also more importantly encourage those outside to return, and champion the development and progress of the nation.

5.4 Consideration should also be put on building the confidence and collective trust of citizens in the governance and overall macro-economic management of the country, as basics, in retaining as well as attracting skilled labour in both the private and public sectors.

5.5 It should be noted that while Diaspora remittances may be critical in supporting households and alleviating poverty in the short-term, the return of skilled labour in both the public and private sectors can be a sure cog in the long term economic stability and development of the country.

5.6 It is and should be one of the government’s key priorities to ensure that the environment in the country is sufficient to accord all citizens, without discrimination on whatever grounds, equal opportunities and right to self-actualization; this in pursuit of a socially just, democratic and open society, based on the fundamental ideal of a social democratic state, where citizens own and drive national processes, progress and development.

Issued by the Diaspora and International Solidarity Committee of the Committee of the Peoples Charter

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

The Elitist Character of Zimbabwe’s New Constitution and Understanding Our Undemocratic Contemporary Political Order

Committee of the Peoples Charter 

Think. Act. Lead.

Position Paper Number 2

Issue Date: 15 June 2015

1.1 The legal reality that is Zimbabwe’s new constitution, in the two years that is has existed, was never intended as the ushering in of a new democratic era for the country.  This is despite the controversial constitutional outreach and eventual referendum that saw 3 million people voting in favour and 178 489 voting against the supreme legal document of the country.

1.2 Since its promulgation into law following presidential assent on 22 May 2013 and its established framework for the holding of harmonised elections on 31 July of the same year, the new constitution has taken on its true character of being an incremental, elitist and political power seeking document.

1.3 This is evidenced not only by its transitional clauses in relation to executive authority, but also the fact that it has not resulted in any significant democratic shift in the way in which the people of Zimbabwe are governed. 

1.4 What it has unfortunately led to is a continuation of the concentration of power in the hands of executive, an expansion of the institutional reach of the same through guided devolution and decentralization of the state, a default bill of rights that depends on state benevolence for it to be justiciable and a parliament that serves more as a distribution of state largess than it does democratic oversight of the executive. 

1.5 But perhaps the most critically disparaging aspect of the new constitution is less its incrementalist content and more its elite functionalism without any indications of it being structured to deliver a new people driven democratic culture. 

1.6 The signs of the latter are to be found in the already announced intention to amend it by the ruling Zanu PF Party.  Not that constitutions cannot be amended but to change them so soon after a national referendum betrays the actual character of the document as one of political expediency as opposed to organic entrenchment of democratic values and principles.

1.7 It is within this context that the new constitution cannot be viewed as people driven, democratic or a final document that will best serve posterity. This is argued because of the following key reasons:

a) The new constitution was a political party compromise document that was negotiated during the tenure of the inclusive government.  This fact is perhaps what most cripples the new constitution. Being devoid of the key political element of being established for posterity and undermined by the political expediency that was the inclusive government, it becomes a document that remains relevant largely to those that at any one given point yield state power, over and above any organic social democratic meaning to the citizens of the country.

b) The national referendum that preceded its promulgation, was politicized to the extent of being a dress rehearsal for the subsequent June 2013 harmonised elections.  It was therefore not just a referendum in the broadest possible understanding of the term but a cajoling of the Zimbabwean people to accept that which the political elite had deemed to be correct. To this extent a great number of Zimbabweans still do not know let alone the comprehend the full import of the new constitution.  This is a reality that underpins the fact of the elitist nature of the constitution, despite claims by the then inclusive government that it was derived from a people driven process.

c) The aftermath of both the referendum and the enactment of the new constitution have been characterized by general government nonchalance as to the establishment of subsidiary enabling legislation. This is largely due to not only an evident lack of political will but the general disdain and disregard that the government has toward its own elite document.  A disdain that stems from the fact that the new constitution is viewed as utilitarian only where and when and concerns power and the distribution of state largess as opposed to the advancement of ingrained democratic values into our political system and culture.  That this can occur so soon after the supreme law came into effect demonstrates its clear disjuncture from the lived realities of the people.

1.8 It is therefore imperative that the new constitution be placed into its full political context so we come to an understanding as to its full import.

Such context would best be encapsulated in the following two points:

a) The new constitution, given the undemocratic and inorganic manner of its genesis cannot be viewed as a document that is indicative of national democratic arrival.  The search for a new democratic, people driven constitution for Zimbabwe is still a journey that must be embarked on in a manner that includes but is not limited to political parties in government as is the current case.

b) That while the new constitution is a legal reality that cannot be avoided, all Zimbabweans must remain cognizant of its fundamental democratic inadequacies.  Even if they were to get piecemeal changes via some of its clauses, these gains would remain a far off the mark with regard to the truly social democratic society that all Zimbabweans regardless of age, race, colour, gender and class deserve.

c) And lastly that in its legal reality, the new constitution, is not the panacea to our past, current and future problems with authoritarian rule or cosmetic and pretentious democratic governance.  All Zimbabweans need to continue their search and conscious struggle for a social democratic society despite claims by political party leaders to a false narrative of arrival. This must be done with full knowledge of our past mistakes as a country and for posterity.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Statement on the forcible removal of vendors

Government Not only Wrong But Hypocritical.

Issue Date: 2 June 2015

The Committee of the Peoples Charter condemns the recent announcement by local government minister Ignatius Chombo declaring a seven day ultimatum for all vendors to leave the central business districts of all cities and towns. The minister issued this statement with the endorsement and contribution of the Joint Operations Command (JOC), a development that is not only inappropriate but also unnecessary in order to pursue a democratic solution to a perceived problem. 

In their responses, and correctly so, the Zimbabwe Informal Sector Organisation (ZISO) and the National Vendors Union Zimbabwe (NAVUZ) have described this undemocratic intent on the part of government action as tantamount to treating a symptom and not a cause.  

They further asserted that however one views the issue of vending in central business districts, bringing in JOC and the spectre of forcible removal, is not going to solve the economic challenges such as unemployment and endemic poverty that are faced by many Zimbabweans.

The CPC wholly agrees with the views of ZISO and NAVUZ and in solidarity also wishes to highlight the following:

The issue of informal trade is now an intrinsic reality of Zimbabwe’s political economy.  Wishing it away by threatening to forcibly move vendors from our cities and  towns using both the police and army is tragically reminiscent of the repressive tendencies of the colonial state. The latter sought to keep city/town centers not only as racial but also economic exclusion zones from the majority poor. 

It is also intended action that reflects the repressive tendencies of our current post independence government. It has retained the economic apparatus and framework of the colonial state in limiting the right of citizens to earn a decent living through elitist and neo-liberal economic policies that favour the politically connected rich at the expense of the majority poor. From economic blueprints such as the Economic Structural Adjustment Programmes of the 1990s through to the present day ZimAsset, it is clear that government is directly responsible for the current and dire national economic state of affairs.

These policies have over the years led to massive private sector retrenchments, lack of social service delivery, unprecedented high costs of living, repression of trade unions and the introduction of an economic patronage system based on political affiliation.  Their end results have been the current situation in which thousands of our country’s citizens having no choice but to undertake informal economic activities while millions others resort to seeking greener pastures in the Diaspora.

For government, through JOC, to want to arbitrarily remove vendors from the  CBD is an exercise in not only political repression but crass hypocrisy.

The CPC is of the firm view that the City of Harare and other urban local authorities have not done enough to seek an amicable solution to the opportunities and challenges that come with the expansion of the informal sector within their cities.  Furthermore, central government, through the ministry of local government, by calling for forcible removal of vendors without a comprehensive  and people centered alternative plan  is demonstrating the extent to which it is not grounded in the realities confronting a majority of urban residents countrywide. 

It is for this reason that the CPC is convinced that government is absolutely wrong on seeking solutions in forcible removal of vendors. What is it that must be hidden about the lived realities of the people of Zimbabwe and from whom must it be hidden?

There are better solutions in engagement and dialogue, processes which the relevant associations of vendors and the informal sector have already agreed to. Businesses in the CBD must also agree that their lack of capacity to deliver and fill in the market gap that is now occupied by the informal sector are also reflective of larger economic challenges than mere occupation of street corners.

Above all else, local and central government are obliged not to act in a rash and arbitrary fashion. They must address economic challenges holistically and with an intention to address them as opposed to excluding the poor majority from their right to earn a living.  This includes democratic engagement in good faith with all residents, vendors unions, businesses and addressing key causes of the desperate poverty that has made it so necessary for citizens to hawk small goods on street pavements.

Information Department

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

By-Elections and Abuse of the Zimbabwean Constitution by Political Parties

Position Paper 1

Issued 27 May 2015

1.  The Committee of the Peoples Charter (CPC) has noted with great misgiving the development of a culture of abusing Section 129 (1k) of the new constitution as it relates to by-elections for Members of Parliament.  This section states that the seat of a Member of Parliament may become vacant if;

“ the Member has ceased to belong to the political party of which he or she was a member when elected to Parliament and the political party concerned, by written notice to the Speaker or the President of the Senate, as the case may be, has declared that the member has ceased to do so’

It is this section that has occasioned at least 19 constituency by-elections in Zimbabwe thus far into the tenure of this current Parliament. 

1.2 While the CPC holds no brief for political parties it is important that given the context of political party factionalism in both opposition and ruling parties be these unfortunate political developments be placed and analysed through social democratic lenses and national context.

In a constituency based and largely ‘first past the post’ system such as ours ‘by-elections’ are democratic processes that would usually occur in the event of the resignation or death of a sitting Member of Parliament.

1.3 In terms of the same Section 129 of the new constitution, by-elections can also occur where a sitting Member of Parliament: 

ü  ceases to be a registered voter,

ü  is absent without leave for 21 consecutive days from either house

ü  becomes president or vice president of the country;

ü  becomes a Speaker or President of the National Assembly and Senate respectively 

ü  is convicted of a criminal offence

ü  is declared insolvent

ü  takes up other public office roles (parastatals, provincial councils)

1.4 Some of these provisions have been used sparingly in the current tenure of the current Parliament.  Examples include the passing away of members of Parliament, the appointment of one Member of Parliament to the post of vice president and the removal of another from the same post after the 2013 harmonised general election.

They have however been utilized with at an alarmingly disproportionate rate to the above cited examples where and when it applies with subsection (k) in relation to political parties writing letters to the speaker or president of the senate. 

It is a development that has led to the holding of at least 19 by elections for constituency members of the National Assembly and the Senate.  It has also affected proportional representation members of both houses.

1.5 The CPC views these developments as cases of abuse of the constitution by political parties that are still represented in Parliament.  At an estimated cost of US$36 million as given by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), these by-elections are not only an unnecessary drain on meagre resources that the country does not have but are an inherent abuse of state resources to essentially settle internal and personal scores as they derive from leaders of political parties. 

1.6 These resources can and could have been used to refurbish dilapidated public infrastructure, provide desperately needed medicines or at the very least contributed to the payment of the Basic Education Assistance Model (BEAM) deficits that are affecting disadvantaged school children. 

1.7 Furthermore, the lack of absolute necessity of these elections caused by factionalism in political parties has essentially led to the country being in perpetual election mode for parliamentary seats that do not affect the nature or effect of executive authority in Zimbabwe.

This is to say, they have no direct bearing or cliff-hanger effect on the composition of Parliament or the structure of government.  They serve more to reconfigure internal party politics than the public democratic interest. 

1.8 For political parties to continue to subject voters to elections that are not based on democratic principles but a positivist reading of the law to serve their internal problems point to the sad reality that political party constitutions and internal processes are what really matter in Parliament.  This as opposed to the functions of the legislature as outlined in Chapter 6 (Part 6) of the constitution.

1.9  While all Zimbabweans have the right to associate and vote for leaders of their choice, it would be a sad day for the future of our continually struggling democracy  if political parties treated the people and the electorate as canon- fodder every time internal party disputes arise.

2.0 It is therefore the firm view of the CPC that while these by-elections may be permissible at law, they are however evidence of an undemocratic culture of entitlement by political parties, especially where this is done through attempting to solve internal party disputes via national institutions and processes at great economic and democratic cost to the country. 

Issued by the CPC Information Department