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Zimbabwe Situation: Citizens Ponder Future

As Zimbabwe readies to take off following Robert Mugabe’s resignation from the presidency of the Republic of Zimbabwe, its citizenry has expressed mixed feelings on the route to economic recovery.

By Ruvimbo Muchenje and Admire Masuku

While most agree that the economy needs to be revived immediately, they are divided on how this should be achieved.

Some are in favour of a transitional government while others prefer that the country goes ahead with elections so that citizens have an opportunity to choose their preferred leader.

Thirty-six-year-old Bobby Spanera, who earns his living through vending, says  foreign investment is only possible if a government of national unity is established.

“Policies such as indigenisation which gave the foreign investor a maximum of 49% shareholding turned away investors and a coalition government can correct this problem,” he said.

Obert Gate, a resident of Harare says an inclusive government like the one of 2009-13 is the best arrangement for Zimbabwe now.

“There was change in 2009. Civil servants got paid and the adoption of the multi-currency system made our lives better. Elections can not be held soon because the nation is not yet stable politically,” he said.

Gate also said if the various parties build a coalition and work together to rebuild the country, they will also attract foreign direct investment.

Former Financial Gazette Editor Njabulo Ncube agrees with Gate that  Zimbabwe needs a transitional government to dilute the politics of entitlement that had dominated Zimbabwe.

“The post-Mugabe era should address the socio-political and economic crises and that can only be done by a coalition.”

He added that Zimbabwe’s current problems can only be solved by a transitional authority.

“A transitional government is needed. That government will prepare for the staging of free and fair elections whose outcome would not be disputed. This would entail that the government is a product of contributions from Zanu PF, the opposition in Parliament and input from the generality of the civil society.”

On the other hand, there some who argue that the country can not afford to hold an election as it is still grappling with a plethora of challenges.

University of Zimbabwe student Nqobizitha Mlambo says holding elections now will weigh heavily on the national purse, worse still Zimbabwe’s comatose economy.

“Elections take lives, elections destroy communities and they take money from the fiscus which is not sustainable under the prevailing  situation,” he said.

Liberty Chawaipira, a South Africa-based Zimbabwean, agreed with calls for the setting up of a transitional government. He said: “The political leadership in Zimbabwe should opt for a transitional government and postpone elections  reforming the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and push for electoral reforms to ensure smooth, free and fair elections”

Churchill Mabasa, a social commentator, shared the same sentiments, saying the situation obtaining in Zimbabwe is not conducive for the holding of a credible election.

“There is need for a transitional government for a year or two to allow for the alignment of the Constitution. Zimbabwe needs one before elections. Zanu PF did not take the Constitution seriously,”

He added: “The transitional government should court investors before any party can rule and needs to be composed of individuals who are selected on merit so that it becomes a think-tank for the nation.”

If the citizens’ wishes materialise, this will not be the first time Zimbabwe has entered into a government of national unity.

On September 15, 2008, after several weeks of negotiations overseen by former South African president Thabo Mbeki, Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change signed a power-sharing pact, the Global Political Agreement (GPA), resolving the political stand-off by establishing a unity government. However, the unity government had its own shortcomings.

Those who favour power-sharing arrangements argue that they guarantee the participation of representatives of significant groups in political decision-making and reduces the danger that one party will become dominant and threaten the security of others.

Liberia, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Nepal, Iraq and Afghanistan are examples of countries where power-sharing transitional governments were adopted.

However, in other countries such arrangements have had disastrous outcomes. In Cambodia, the shared government between Hun Sen and Prince Sihanouk, created in 1993, was paralysed by fighting between the two prime ministers and ultimately fell victim to a coup in 1997. Liberia’s power-sharing transitional government was marred by corruption scandals and lack of progress on key issues.

Despite the fact that governments of national unity have a history of being plagued by ideological differences, are fractious and fraught with disharmony and are characterised by prolonged decision-making process, Ncube says Zimbabwe has no option but to opt for a transitional authority.

“Let us give it a try. What this country urgently needs is a clear roadmap to the resolution of the economic crisis and it takes a  transitional authority to do just that,” he said.

While many are of the view that the ruling Zanu PF should get into a government of national unity with opposition parties to rebuild the country, others believe elections will help build a better Zimbabwe.

Mugove, a Harare resident, says Zanu PF is the “same car but with a different engine,” as such going for elections will be the most appropriate route.

“Mugabe and Mnangagwa are the same people and real change in Zimbabwe can only be brought about by elections,” he said.

Although Zimbabwe is labelled a country that has a chequered history of electoral violence and election rigging, some are of the view that next’s plebiscite will be different.

Political analyst Alexandra Rusero says the way forward should be informed by law which mandates Zanu PF to carry on with its current term till general elections scheduled for 2018.

He urged political parties to shy away from a coalition and push for electoral reforms to ensure that the people exercise their right to choose own leaders.

“There should be talk of an enabling electoral environment that will be violence-free, credible and reflective of the aspirations of the voters. The constitution gives Zanu PF mandate to finish its five-year term that ends next year in July.”

Sheilla Mutsvairo, a resident of Harare, is in agreement:

“I think we should go for election because we need to show the international community that we are a democracy and that we can hold our own elections. Also, we have already started on elections preparations”

This debate comes as Former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan has issued a statement urging Zimbabwe’s political leadership to go for elections so as to allow citizens to choose their preferred leaders.

“I believe, nevertheless, that this crisis offers a unique opening for democratic renewal based on the freely expressed will of the people of Zimbabwe. They must be a full partner in the resolution of this profound crisis. The enthusiastic crowds who marched in the streets of Zimbabwe’s major cities on the weekend were demanding freedom, not just a change of leadership.

He says democracy can only come if there is all political parties are given freedom to canvass for support.

“That vital goal will only be achieved by safeguarding the integrity of the electoral process. This requires that all political parties and candidates are allowed to campaign openly and freely without intimidation, that the media is permitted to provide impartial coverage of the elections and the Zimbabwean voters are empowered and encouraged to vote for whomever they wish without fear or favour.

“We have seen how other African countries have suffered grave disappointments and violent setbacks during periods of political transition. I, therefore, urge the leadership of Zimbabwe — political and military — to promote and facilitate a transition to genuine democracy.”

Over the years Zimbabwe has been rocked by high level corruption, poor service delivery, high unemployment rate leading to increased poverty, shutting down of industries and a diminishing formal sector.

These challenges are widely believed to have contributed to the downfall of Mugabe who had ruled the country for close to four decades.

As incoming president Mnangagwa awaits his installation, he is expected to answer to the citizens’ burden of expectations, among them creating jobs for the millions who have been condemned to destitution.

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