Articles

Zimbabwe Needs Strong, Democratic Institutions

The struggle to establish and nurture multi-party democracy in Zimbabwe has at its core focus on building strong, democratic institutions with capacity to meet the needs of the people of Zimbabwe.

The need for democratic institutions is dire given the total failure of the political system that has been in place over the last thirty years which have has led to genuinely democratic institutions becoming almost extinct in Zimbabwe.

 

Instead of running the country through democratic institutions, governance was based on partisan and compromised individuals elevated above the institutions that are supposed to serve the interests of the people. Where there should be a competent, professional and non-partisan judiciary over the years, particularly since the year 2000, we saw a compromised or cowed judiciary unable to stand up to the executive that trampled on the basic rights of Zimbabwe during elections, during the chaotic land grab process and during the destruction of shelters and sources of livelihoods under the operation Murambatsvina.

Instead of establishing a genuine public media that defends the interests of Zimbabweans, government inherited a partisan and pro- ruling party media from the Rhodesian Front and used it to serve the partisan Zanu PF interests. Today, state-owned media behaves like a Zanu PF mouth piece while denying other political parties equal access to it. ZBC TV and radios frequently play Zanu PF jingles that border on hate speech and other propaganda while refusing to receive and air paid-for adverts from other political parties like the MDC or ZAPU. Our struggle is for equality in a multi-party environment, not to pursue a rejected and discredited one-party-state ideology.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, despite having new commissioners agreed to by the political parties in the coalition government, is still staffed at the administrative level by individuals whose independence and non-partisanship has been brought into question. It is not enough to have professional commissioners with a compromised staff implementing their policy decisions. Unless the staff serving ZEC becomes professional and non-partisan, then the Electoral Commission cannot be viewed as an independent and non-partisan commission.

For an extended period of time Zimbabwe has experienced a multiplicity of challenges that have received intense attention and analysis to levels where the phrase 'Zimbabwe crisis' has virtually been reduced to a cliché. Through the overuse of the phrase the anatomy, meaning and true nature of the Zimbabwe crisis has been lost. I will attempt here to reveal by separation of parts and constituent elements, what lies at the heart of the Zimbabwe crisis.

Partisan national institutions are responsible for the miscarriage of justice and the break-down of the rule of law or the subversion of it in the country. I say subversion of national institutions is at the heart of the Zimbabwe crisis because it is not a failure to uphold the rule of law that is the problem in our country, but a clear unwillingness, on political grounds, to do so. If the Zimbabwe Republic Police political leadership was willing and committed, they have the capacity and resources to investigate and apprehend perpetrators of political violence and bring justice to victims. Unfortunately respect for the rule of law is one of the victims of subverting national institutions.

Article 13 of the Global Political Agreement stated notes that: "State organs and institutions do not belong to any political party and should be impartial in their duties. € If the political leadership is able to translate this article into practice then Zimbabwe's democratic transition will be successful.

Without the full restoration of the impartiality and independence of national institutions, any attempts to find common ground and forge a national identity will be futile. Focus should now be on forging a national vision and identity that transcends ZANU-PF or other political party affiliation. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was right to challenge senior military officials not to engage in partisan politics while in uniform and in telling them to take off the uniforms before getting into the politics arena. Vice President Joyce Mujuru was also correct to call for the de-politicization of all national institutions.

Whether one belongs to this party or that party should not matter at all and should not, above all, be a cause for conflict. I belong the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe, for instance, but I do not go about asking what church colleagues belong to before engaging them. It matters not whether it is Family of God, ZAOGA, Makandiwa's flock or Guta Ra Jehovah; many churches, but one faith. We should learn to celebrate our diversity and to leave in peace and harmony with our different political parties and churches.

Dewa Mavhinga, Regional Coordinator, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition

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