In its hour of greatest need the country yearns for “a real mensch” to guide it to the proverbial Promised Land.
Last week I coined the phrase “a return to democracy” which I said was slightly different from “democratic change”. The latter is now a pejorative for “regime change”. The former may necessitate a “regime change” but is not entirely dependent on it. This is not as complicated as it may sound.
I referred to the uprisings taking place in North Africa and averred that they could be averted in Zimbabwe if an effort is made for “a return to democracy”.
Interestingly my point was buttressed by a very unlikely development — Morocco’s King Mohammed VI announced last week that a “comprehensive constitutional reform” aimed at improving democracy and the rule of law would soon be implemented in his country.
He said in a televised address to the nation: “We have decided to undertake a comprehensive constitutional reform.” He said a committee had already been set up to work on constitutional revisions.
He said the reform programme includes plans to expand “individual and collective” liberties, establish an independent judiciary, giving a stronger role to political parties and providing more powers to local officials.
Morocco is a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament. The king holds vast executive powers, including dissolving parliament at will.
Executive power is exercised by the government but more importantly by the king himself. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of parliament, the Assembly of Representatives and Assembly of Councillors. The king can also issue decrees called dahirs which have the force of law. Parliamentary elections were held in Morocco on September 7 2007, and were considered by some neutral observers to be mostly free and fair, although voter turnout was estimated to be 37%, the lowest in decades. (Wikipedia)
Zimbabwe is a pseudo-monarchy; the president wields the same imperial powers that the Moroccan king holds. He can dissolve parliament and exercise executive powers even in the so-called government of national unity in which these powers should be shared with the Prime Minister. He also issues decrees through the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measure) Act similar to the Moroccan king’s dahirs. Like Morocco, Zimbabwe also has a bicameral parliamertary system but unlike in Morocco, elections are never “generally considered free and fair”. In the past decade Zimbabwe has gone through a number of elections, all of which have been characterised by political violence and electoral fraud.
The point is the king of Morocco has made a rapprochement towards his people in anticipation of the popular uprising sweeping across the Islamic Maghreb. Whether it will work or not is an entirely different subject. In Zimbabwe the approach has been different. To preempt possible uprisings the government has used a show of force instead of attempting to remove the obstacles that litter the road to democracy. Morocco has chosen “a return to democracy” rather than an entrenchment of the status quo. It takes “a real mensch” to be able to do so.
But what is “a real mensch”? By definition, “the key to being ‘a real mensch’ is nothing less than character, rectitude, dignity, a sense of what is right, responsible, decorous” — precisely what the Zimbabwean leadership lacks!
In the place of good leadership Zimbabwe is run by a coterie of Machiavellian mobsters with vested interests in the chaos the country finds itself in. Without the prevailing chaos they cannot thrive; this Paradise Lost is the theatre of their dreams hence their unprofessional fingers are continually pulling at the tapestry that constitutes our nation.
The rule of law is anathema to them; the police force now forms the backbone of the Zanu PF militia selectively applying the law against perceived opponents. Instead of being apolitical, the force has been molded into an unashamedly partisan outfit. This has not only turned the concept of the rule of law topsy-turvy but has bred the most pernicious corruption in the force.
According to a Mass Public Opinion Institute our police force is viewed by the general public as the most corrupt government institution.
The arrest last week of the Minister of Energy and Power Development Elton Mangoma is a case in point. Without attempting in any way to preempt the legal process, how many other ministers have been fingered in allegations of abuse of office?
How many have had their cases reported to the police but the police have not raised as much as a finger to apprehend them? No names need be mentioned because it is all a matter of public record that they have not been investigated simply because they belong to a certain political party.
The Attorney General’s Office has sought to prosecute a myriad of cases which the courts have proven to be nothing but politically motivated monkey tricks by an arm of government that must serve the general interest instead of the parochial interests of a particular grouping. The professionalism of the AG’s Office has poignantly been brought into question by all these cases. The Roy Bennett case, which no less a person than the AG himself sought to prosecute, has revealed the depth to which this esteemed office has sunk in order to intimidate variant opinion.
A return to democracy will begin — as in Morocco — with a leadership that recognises the vainglory of its ways. It’s too early in the day to evaluate the depth the Moroccan king’s attempts at of reform; it might as well just be a gesture to postpone an uprising. We have seen this gesture happen in other countries to the north of us such as Yemen, Bahrain and even Libya where the embattled Muammar Gaddafi offered handsome payouts to his rebellious people but it all came to nought.
Zimbabwe is in the middle of coming up with a new constitution. The process has been riddled with problems, so much so the document that may emerge may not be an expression of the people’s wish. The referendum that must follow the process should not endorse a flawed process because the new constitution must be the bedrock of our return to democracy. Everything else, like regime change, would become a natural and welcome tenet in our country’s statecraft.