IT could be in a classroom, at social events or at the mere mention of Zimbabwe, people start looking at me with apprehension.
Each time I have to defend myself and dissociate myself from the Mugabe regime.
My answer is; “I am a proud Zimbabwean but share nothing in common with the elements running the affairs of my country except that we are all Zimbabweans, Africans and human beings.”
I go further to say unlike them, “I do not celebrate electoral theft, murder, arson, rape, abductions, kidnappings, lawlessness and forced disappearances in order to stay in power in perpetuity at the expense of the national interest.”
In discussions on topics such as the rule of law, international human rights law among others, Zimbabwe has become a subject on how not to administer the affairs of a nation.
Each time an example on human rights abuses is given, most of the time the answer begins this way; Like in Zimbabwe . . .
This brings me to the critical malfunctions that Zimbabwe finds itself in. Firstly those who founded the Republic in 1980 did not seek to constrain power but allowed human beings under the leadership of Mugabe to transform themselves into institutions.
So in my view in 1980, the country had a false promise because it gave its faith to mortal individuals and forgot to invest in institutional and moral sectors. As a result, Zimbabwe as it stands today has very weak institutions but powerful and abusive leaders.
It has a leadership that lacks political morality and politics without morals will not redeem Zimbabwe but has led it into the political and economic quagmire that it finds itself in today.
In any democratic regime, all power surrendered by the people through a democratic electoral process and outcome should be submitted to the government but should be guarded by the division of that government into separate institutions sharing power for the good of the country.
The most unfortunate situation in Zimbabwe is that the power surrendered by the people through elections although it should be protected by a division of the government into distinct and separate institutions such as the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary, the one branch of this government has become an imperial one.
The executive has become the source of the country’s misfortunes because it has unregulated power and the other branches have been appendages to the executive.
The head of this branch despite fighting together with others to liberate the country has now become a native imperialist, oppressing fellow citizens in similar manner and fashion like the former colonialists.
Because these three branches of the government cannot control each other, the rights of citizens cannot be guaranteed.
The founders of our country also failed to realise that it is very important in an emerging country not only to safeguard the citizenry against the oppression by its rulers but to guard one section of the society especially the powerful one against injustices on less powerful sections.
This in my view is the essence of a democracy, to make sure that minority groups are secure and that the majority be they at a tribal or party levels don’t abuse others.
This can be stopped by fragmenting society into different social and political interest groups whose combined interest is to promote the national good and to pay little attention to party or tribal issues but critical matters such as the protection of everyone’s civil and political liberties as well as social, economic and cultural rights.
I am of this view because the belief that the majority should do what they want has led the country to the chaos that we are in. In this respect majority power should be limited and constrained in the same manner that governmental power should be regulated and limited.
When a political party thinks it has the majority to rule and there are no constitutional safeguards to restrain and constrain that power for the national interest, we end up with situations like the Matabeleland and Midlands disturbances, where crimes against humanity are committed in the misguided view of majority rule.
It is my contention that in the new Zimbabwe that reasonable citizens are struggling to establish, society should be broken into so many parts and interest as well as classes so that the rights of minorities including those of Mugabe and his ruling elites when they are finally defeated will be in little danger from the interested combinations of the majority.
In my view, the basis of any free nation is the security of the citizenry’s civil and political liberties that Zanu PF has failed to promote and uphold fundamentally because the country has been hostage to the executive prime minister at Independence and thereafter to the imperial presidency all occupied by one person, Mugabe.
The time to change and redefine the national agenda is now. The country cannot afford another Mugabe after all he has done to destroy the dreams of millions of Zimbabweans for the sake of political power.
Zimbabwe needs to return to democratic legitimacy premised on the rule of law and this cannot happen under the leadership of Mugabe. Not even under the leadership of any other Zimbabwean without creating and putting in place a constitutional framework that constrains power and distribute equally among the branches of government.
The crisis we face as a country while authored by Mugabe and his ruling party will not vanish because Mugabe leaves offices but because we create institutions and structures that promote the national interest than individuals and their political parties no matter how powerful and popular they maybe.
Zimbabwe requires a limited government and this structure should be created through a people driven constitutional process in order to safeguard another fall promise as happened in 1980.
I know that my colleagues will accuse me of being a little Lovemore Madhuku of the National Constitutional Assembly when it comes to the need for a democratic constitutional order. But for me it’s an association that I cherish because changing the government without changing the institutional framework may not be the panacea to the country’s ills.
I contend that in order to create a democratic Zimbabwe and a civilised political culture free of violence, the country needs a change of governance than a change of government. If we change the government alone, we have the potential of creating another Mugabe.
I insist on change of governance because it looks at broader issues of governance such as constitutional reform leading to the creation of institutions that advance the national interest not parochial party interests as the military and some sections of the judiciary are doing. These things are happening because of the constitutional order currently prevailing punctuated by a political culture that celebrates violence and corruption as ingredients to political ascendency.
By Pedzisai Ruhanya (University of Minnesota Law School, USA)