HomeEditorial CommentComment: Nothing Much to Shout About

Comment: Nothing Much to Shout About

THE inclusive government comprising Zanu PF and the two MDC formations has been in power for more than three months.


Yet we observe with disappointment that there is little to show by way of tangible deliverables to the ordinary people of Zimbabwe. Morgan Tsvangirai’s statement yesterday announcing agreement on the appointment of governors, ambassadors and Roy Bennett represents progress of a sort but these measures were agreed months ago.

For the main political protagonists, the benefits of the coalition government were almost instant and massive: they now drive luxury cars and enjoy as much physical protection as they require.

For ordinary Zimbabweans what cannot be denied as so far the “best outcome” of the coalition government is the reduction in political violence and general public anxiety. The tensions of the elections are behind us and ordinary people are able to go about their daily chores.

However, the same cannot be said of opposition political activists who have been constantly harassed since they were arrested on banditry and sabotage allegations around December last year. Since then, their lives have revolved around the courts and detention cells as they fight to secure their freedom in the teeth of trumped up charges.

A High Court judge warned last week that the state’s case in prosecuting three activists was weak and misdirected.

We don’t want politicians to interfere with the law. That is against the concept of the rule of law. But we do think the law should be applied and be seen to be applied evenly and fairly without appearing to target members of opposition parties.

Similarly, there is cause for grave concern when senior government officials are accused of interfering with the operations of the media as was reported last week. A minister disclosed in parliament that Attorney-General Johannes Tomana had ordered the arrest of this newspaper’s editor Vincent Kahiya and news editor Constantine Chimakure because he was not happy with what the paper published about the alleged abductions of MDC activists.

The co-Minister of Home Affairs Giles Mutsekwa denied ordering the arrest of the two journalists. Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri also denied giving any such order. Mutsekwa then disclosed Tomana had issued the order.

This raises a fundamental question about how Tomana was able to breach the chain of command in the police to issue an order for the arrest of the journalists. Tomana is the government’s legal advisor. Does the law give him power to issue arresting orders directly to police officers or is the public being denied the truth about what actually happened?

When ministers seek the help of friendly governments in raising funds for recovery they are invariably told to first adhere to the terms of the GPA in upholding the rule of law. No government wants to assist a regime where powerful individuals abuse power to arrest and detain those they see as a threat to their party.

One of the most damaging episodes recently has been the arrest and detention of lawyers performing their duties. This is lawlessness writ large and understandably it is how the world sees Zimbabwe.

Therefore the conclusion we draw on the inclusive government in its first 100 days is a sad one. It is that political activists, MPs, journalists and lawyers are still being arrested at the state’s whim. It is that media reforms which are promised in the GPA are being ignored, as Webster Shamu’s remarks this week reveal.

No democracy can function effectively without a free press.

The new brains in the coalition government have yet to make an impact on the Zanu PF mandarins from the old establishment for whom it appears to be business as usual.

Despite assurances by politicians that the situation is improving, there are still shortages of drugs and personnel at most government hospitals while private clinics and practitioners levy exorbitant charges for their services. In a country where formal unemployment is reportedly around 90% it means millions of Zimbabwe cannot afford medical care.

Meanwhile, there are still unresolved issues in the eduction sector over salaries and fees. Universities remain closed while students roam the streets.

Donors and investors won’t come on board so long as Mugabe is perceived as throwing up roadblocks to recovery.

We can understand the need of parties to the GPA to propitiate a prickly president. But that shouldn’t prevent them from speaking out on the obstacles they are encountering in putting the country back on the path to recovery.

 

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