HomeOpinion & AnalysisGovt must stop criminalising civic society

Govt must stop criminalising civic society

CRISIS in Zimbabwe Coalition notes with grave concern, misinformed and self-fulfilling sentiments from senior government officials over the work of the coalition.

The coalition’s co-ordinating committee, the coalition’s highest decision-making body outside the annual general meeting, held a meeting on May 7, 2021 and issued a communiqué.

The communiqué, among other things, encouraged Zimbabweans to remain vigilant in light of the erosion of democracy as characterised by the ongoing judicial capture, an imperial presidency and a de facto one-party State.

While the coalition expected a policy response from the State, the “criminalisation” of civic work by senior government officers elicits civic education.

Presidential spokesperson George Charamba declared war on the coalition, accusing it of pursuing a regime change agenda.

Using his @jamwanda2 Twitter handle, Charamba said, “Uhuuuu!!! It’s making sense now!!! Ida hondo yacho; taigamuchira!!!!! ICHO!!!!!

Loosely translated, Charamba implied that the State was prepared for a war with the coalition following resolutions by the coalition’s co-ordinating committee to defend democracy in Zimbabwe.

The director for media services in the Information ministry, Anywhere Mutambudzi weighed in, largely posing two questions: (i) Why the coalition engages former liberation movements within the Southern African Development Community (Sadc)? (ii) Who funds the crisis coalition?

For the record, the coalition’s objective is to see a just, democratic and inclusive Zimbabwe whose citizens live happily without political, gender, sex, class, ethnic and or racial prejudice.

The coalition maintains that there is a deep governance crisis in Zimbabwe, which, unfortunately, has taken a tail-spin towards a full-blown one-party State since the coup of November
2017.

The default status of the people of Zimbabwe is because of fear of the State as said by the late Vice-President Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo in 1984, that, “… the people of Zimbabwe live in fear, not of enemies, but their own government”.

The militarisation of key State institutions, party-State conflation, high levels corruption characterised by catch and release, politicisation of the Judiciary, contested electoral outcomes and the disregard of the spirit of constitutionalism, among other ills, are a common pattern in contemporary Zimbabwe.

The November 2017 military coup, besides plunging Zimbabwe into a constitutional crisis, led to a deeper legitimacy crisis that was worsened by the 2018 elections that failed the credibility test.

The Zanu PF leadership had a window of opportunity to reform the country, unite people across political divides and build a nation by healing and dealing with past injustices.

Rather, the coup administration declared an intention to exclude citizens from their second republic project and declared the post-Robert Mugabe transition as “chinhu chedu” — our thing.

And in August 2018, about nine people lost their lives when government unleashed the army against citizens protesting over electoral theft.

In January 2019, an estimated 12 people were shot in cold blood following protests over the continued economic decline in Zimbabwe.

Cases of rape and abduction were recorded as well.

The Kgalema Motlanthe Commission recommendations for nation building have been ignored. Government’s reluctance to respect and follow the Constitution and regional recommendations on resolving the Zimbabwean crisis is the reason behind the coalition’s engagement with former liberation movements within Sadc.

Secondly, the question on source of funding is insincere coming from a senior government official whose government’s work programmes like public health, education, road infrastructure, food security are funded directly or multilaterally through the United Nations Development Programme by the United States (US), United Kingdom (UK), the European Union and its member States, Canada, Australia, China and Japan.

The liberation struggle was funded by not just Russia and China, but the liberals in the US, UK, Netherlands, Sweden, Czech Republic and Frontline States such as Zambia, Mozambique, Tanzania and Angola, among others.

These are the same institutions supporting democratic processes in Zimbabwe.

As the coalition, we implore government to introspect and assess if its policies and actions are still in line with the promises of April 18, 1980: inclusion, happiness, peace, zero-corruption, pro-people development, among other values.

It is deceptive to claim that civic society and opposition activists are “inviting sanctions”.

Former Deputy Prime Minister professor Arthur Guseni Oliver Mutambara argues that the current “sanctions” are self-inflicted as a result of the conduct of the ruling party, Zanu PF, whose policies continue to alienate the country from the international community and scaring away potential investors.

It is regrettable that the sanctions mantra has been used by government officials to cover up for gross corruption and plunder of national resources, factors that have largely been behind the economic decline in the country.

Journalists, civic society and opposition activists have been victims of persecution by prosecution for exposing corruption and raising genuine concerns in light of the economic meltdown in the country, while top government officials involved in high level corruption continue to walk free.

As the coalition, we remain non-partisan and apolitical and we shall continue with our efforts to see a peaceful, democratic, prosperous and economically developed Zimbabwe.

We implore the State to desist from criminalising civic society work.

It is unfortunate that the statements that have the potential to incite the persecution of civic society activists, are coming from President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s office. For us, the continued shrinking of the democratic space in Zimbabwe is a huge cause for concern and a call to action.

We remain firm in our resolve to fight for a democratic Zimbabwe and we will continue engaging Sadc and regional solidarity partners as well as the African Union over the Zimbabwean crisis.

In light of the constitutional crisis in the country, the coalition will continue the efforts to mobilise citizens to resist draconian legislation, shredding of the Constitution and reversal of the gains of April 18, 1980.

In line with our May 7, 2021 resolution number four, we will ensure the revival of the Zimbabwe People’s Charter as well as the establishment of a constitutional watchdog, a movement to protect and raise awareness on the Constitution and constitutionalism.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition

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