HARARE – In 16 days, registered Zimbabwean voters will decide on what kind of future they wish to be part of.
The three-in-one elections will allow voters to decide who should be President among the five men who have been successfully nominated for the office as well as who should be in the national and local legislatures.
On Saturday, July 13, I had an opportunity to discuss a number of issues regarding the forthcoming elections with the group editor of the Daily News, Stanley Gama, where I discussed with him reasons why change is needed. He agreed to give me space to give 17 reasons why change is needed in Zimbabwe at this defining moment in its history.
I have agreed to add my voice to the chorus that seeks to lift Zimbabwe up.
Inevitably, a risk always exists that one may be misunderstood and, therefore, it is important that I add my views merely as a decision support tool to those who may at this late not know what is truly at stake and what matters in the creating of a Zimbabwe that works for all.
In 1980, it was obvious the Zimbabwean elections were about hope and change as it was in the case of South African elections in 1994.
The fact that President Robert Mugabe, and Zanu PF and former South African president Nelson Mandela and the ANC emerged as winners was not accidental but an inevitable outcome of a protracted process of conflict and change.
Presidential elections are typically about change and hope.
Mugabe believes he is a better protector of the rights of black persons in Zimbabwe and, therefore, this election is no different in terms of hope and change to the 1980 elections — forgetting that the last 33 years have largely undermined the human spirit and replaced it with an unfortunate entitlement mentality that believes government corridors hold the solutions to the myriad of challenges that confront ordinary citizens.
Even Mugabe is not restrained in promising the kind of change and policies that have never worked anywhere else in the world because of the confidence built over the years that what matters most to Zimbabweans is the rhetoric and not the progress, justice, inclusivity, cohesion and prosperity that independence promised.
In a recent interview with Dali Tambo, Mugabe said that Mandela was not hard enough on the transformation agenda suggesting that he has done better on this front.
He said that former colonial masters, Britain, “will praise you if only doing things that please them” implying that Mandela who is critically ill but revered not only by his country folk but by the world at large is praised for betraying the cause that made him famous.
It is significant that Mugabe had this to say about Mandela, the icon to millions, “Mandela has gone a bit far in doing good to the non-black communities, really in some case at the expense of blacks. That being too saintly, too good, too much of a saint.”
Mandela decided to retire after one term at the age of 76 whereas Mugabe, 89, is still compelled to run for yet another term presumably to protect his legacy.
By retiring after one term, Mandela has allowed South Africa to experience the leadership of Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma in the ANC government — all in 19 years.
Some may argue that Mugabe was duly elected at every point that Zimbabweans had to decide and, therefore, he is a true democrat because ultimately it is the people that govern and by refusing to vote him out of office, his legitimacy cannot be challenged.
Using this logic, it is tempting to regard former Mandela as a coward and a sell-out.
However, when properly analysed, there is no doubt that history will look favourably on Mandela’s decision to retire at the time he did for he must have known that the true purpose of government is not to allow a cult personality to entrench itself and alternatively to crowd out others in the mistaken belief that a leader must possess all the answers for all challenges.
Mandela’s life experiences have exposed that he is after all a man of flesh capable of making mistakes, but courageous enough to know when it is time to leave the peoples’ stage.
Usually when the emperor is naked, it is difficult and often risky to tell him.
One cannot fault Mugabe for believing that it is God’s purpose that he remains relevant even when solutions are elusive and hypothetical.
Three Zimbabwean Vice Presidents have died in office — suggesting that unless Mugabe is voted out of office, he will die a soldier in battle, hence his comments on Mandela.
Some may say this is not what independence was meant to be, but in reality there is nothing wrong in Mugabe consenting to be a candidate because the constitution allows him to expose himself to competitors.
However, if people decide not to participate in the political process and Mugabe gets the majority votes, it would be wrong to blame him for allowing the democratic process to take its course.
For people who do not know Mugabe well, it is easy to assume that he does not like political competition and, therefore, is prone to rigging elections.
I do not believe Mugabe is predisposed to rigging, but the real culprits are the talking heads who refuse to participate in elections — choosing to believe that outcomes are predetermined.
I contend that re-electing Mugabe will not produce the change and hope that many deserve for if he understood what Mandela did when he retired he would have known that there is nothing undemocratic about retiring to allow other faces in his party to shine.
It is common cause that within Zanu PF, he remains the undisputed leader of the party at the age of 89.
It follows, therefore, that none of the members of the party are unlikely to challenge him within the party and, therefore, if the party wins a majority in Parliament, there is no guarantee that amendment number 20 will remain unchanged.
In terms of Section 90(1) of the Constitution, the President is compelled to uphold, defend, obey and respect the Constitution as the supreme law of the nation and must ensure that the Constitution and all the laws are faithfully observed.
The President is compelled to promote unity and peace in terms Section 90(2) as well as ensure the protection of the fundamental human rights and the rule of law.
He is also compelled to respect the diversity of the people and communities of Zimbabwe.
Notwithstanding his constitutional duties, he finds fault with Mandela’s right and constitutional decision to respect the rights of non-black communities who after all are citizens in terms of the Constitution that Mandela was compelled to respect.
It would appear that Mugabe by choosing to criticise Mandela, is exposing his true views about the Constitution and the bill of rights entrenched in it.
It is important, therefore, to locate the quest for indigenisation after 33 years of post-colonial experience under his watch against the rights entrenched in the Constitution.
A 33-year-old white Zimbabwean, for example, would be confused about the utterances of Mugabe with respect to Mandela’s correct approach to respect the Constitution.
Indigenisation WHICH IS is the future driver of change as asserted by Zanu PF members, cannot be considered in a vacuum but in the context of the Constitution.
If Mugabe were to be re-elected, what is expected to happen? The answer is fairly obvious.
He has been accused for shredding the rule of law, unaccountable human and property rights violations and holding the view that Zimbabwe only belongs to people who look like him when the Constitution states otherwise.
Mugabe is a towering figure in Zanu PF and it is, therefore, unlikely that his world-view has any possibility of being bend or varied to suit the constitutional provisions.
Accordingly, anyone who believes that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land is compelled to vote for anyone other than Mugabe as president.
The fact that Mugabe campaigns rely on the past is well established.
However, present day and future challenges will not be addressed by listening to the ghosts of yesterday.
Mandela has been misunderstood even by Mugabe. When Mandela became president, he knew that the Constitution prescribed what he could or could not do.
He could not use the State unlawfully to empower the weak, but understood that freedom and justice required a different view from the one he held while in prison.
Mandela was flexible to allow him to embrace the rainbow nation.
The diversity of Zimbabwe informed the words in the Constitution, yet Mugabe operates as if he were oblivious to his constitutional obligations.
Any person who is contemptuous of the Constitution is not fit to be president.
Under his watch and silence, I could only establish my citizenship by using the courts yet the obligation to respect and uphold the Constitution rests with him.