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"Zimbabwe: Mired in Transition': a thought provoking collection about hope for a better Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe's 2008 Harmonised elections and the June 2008 Presidential Run Off, will for a long time be viewed as watershed elections and a worthy subject of intense analysis, controversy and comparative interest. Elections, which should be an expression of the people's will and choice, are also considered as a formal expression of democratic sovereignty. Unfortunately, the 2008 elections, especially the presidential run-off, failed to live up to the standards of   and the test of allowing a credible expression of the people's will, setting the country on a collision course that ultimately led to a settlement and powersharing by the 3 political parties represented in Parliament.

More than Three years after the formation of Zimbabwe's Inclusive Government, the country still awaits for an election that can pass the credibility test and be a breakthrough to legitimate and democratic government.   There have been numerous articles on the progress made thus far by the Inclusive Government, which have varried in depth and strength of analysis, but all adding to body of knowledge and understanding of what has come to be understood as Zimbabwe's transition. A new collection of essays edited by Zimbabwean scholars Jabusile Shumba and Eldred Masunungure, entitled, Zimbabwe: Mired in Transition, has proved to be a welcome addition to this body of knowledge.

Launched on the 30th of July 2012, the Book is said to be about the possibilities and challenges of Zimbabwe's transformation. In the view of the editors, transitions by their nature imply uncertainty of both process and outcome and the Zimbabwean case is an illustration of the uncertainty of transition in both senses.

The Crisis Report team (CRT) managed to have an interview with one of the editors of the book, Jabusile Shumba (J.S) and below is an extract of the interview.

CRT:         What motivated the writing of the book and what is its central theme?

 

J.S:                   The books compilation was motivated by the reality that Zimbabwe is currently undergoing a political transition, and we felt that it was imperative to add value towards understanding the challenges the country is facing which include the collapse of the economy, the course of recent elections and the demise of the Zimbabwean public service. The book is a bid to forge a way forward towards delivering a democratic outcome for Zimbabwe.

CRT:         What do the authors identify as the key stumbling block to change in Zimbabwe?

J.S:                   In our opinion, which is reflected in the book, there are several stumbling blocks.   Although the economy has stabilised to some extent with the adoption of a multi-currency regime, industrial and agricultural production are depressed, and investment inflows are limited. Secondly, the slow pace of reform in the last three years remains a cause for concern. In as much the nation anticipates elections, reforms are needed first especially electoral and security sector reforms. If these are dealt with, they will account for the bulk of stumbling bloscks to a successful transition.

CRT:         The book raises concerns about young people, there is a chapter Youth in Zimbabwe - A Lost Generation?   What is the motivation behind this chapter?

JS:                     The chapter is informed by our view that, our country is currently experiencing a delayed democratic transition and that youths being the majority of the population are the most affected. Youths have been invariably used as executors of violence, targeting other youths and are also victims of it. They are being used by political entrepreneurs as instruments of violence, yet at the same time they are not being given opportunities in the economy and opportunities for employment. At the end of it all they do not have a choice of their own in the process. Lastly, there are thousands of young people who went through the education system since independence in 1980, and up till now very few are absorbed into the economy even before it started falling apart after the structural adjustment programme in the 1990s and then during its collapse in later years.

CRT:         In your view are the people who suffered from the violence experienced during the 2008 harmonised elections ready for a new election in light of the recent statements by army generals that the army can be involved in politics and civilian affairs?

 

JS:                     The first chapter of the book, which is based on results from opinion surveys and focus group discussions, reveals that over half the adult population in Zimbabwe want elections, but are afraid of them given the violence witnessed in recent editions. However, there is a hope expressed that the Government of National Unity will ensure reforms take place before elections are held.

 

CRT: What are the prospects for change in light of the "mired in transition" title?

 

JS:                     The situation in Zimbabwe is not totally lost; prospects remain there but inherent in the transition lies a politically tense situation. It is like facing a dark cloud but remembering that there is a silver lining behind it. Opportunities and hope are still there, but a lot of how the situation pens out will also be informed by the outcomes of the constitution making process, which is an intergral part of the current transition process.

 

 

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