By Blessing Vava
Zimbabwe turns 34 month with its President, Robert Mugabe making history as the Africa’s oldest Head of State at 90 years of age. The generation of Mugabe, Chitepo, Tongogara, Nkomo and all those who participated in the struggle for independence must be honoured and saluted for the selfless sacrifices they made to liberate Zimbabwe.
The coming of independence was a joyous moment for all the citizens, who for a long time had been subjected to a racist colonial regime that denied the black people political and economic freedom. With the struggle of liberation have been long and protracted, the pulling down of the Union Jack at Rufaro Stadium in April 1980 marked the beginning of a new stage to the revolution to full freedom for the people of Zimbabwe.
The reasons why Zimbabwe went to war are quite important for us to understand the concept of national liberation. The national liberation of the people entailed the destruction of political and economic domination of the racist supremacists Rhodesians. The questions we ask today are- was our liberation struggle about removing the white man? Or it was about addressing the political and economic system for the benefit of the majority.
Our revolutionary task after independence was for us to strive to achieve those goals for the benefit of the citizens of this country. For years after independence Zimbabwe adopted a transitional constitution negotiated in Lancaster England. It is that constitution that guided Zimbabwe’s political and economic trajectory until 2013, with the first amendments in 1987 together with 19 other amendments that followed.
The Lancaster House document guided Zimbabwe to its first democratic elections which were won by President Mugabe’s ZANU PF and he became the country’s premier, with the late Reverend Canaan Banana, assuming a ceremonial presidency. The Zvobgo amendments abolished the post of Prime Minister and created an executive presidency with Mugabe assuming office as the ultimate leader of the Southern African country. Already this step in itself was a clear negation of the values and principles of the liberation struggle. This marked the first step in reversing those gains. The constitution in itself should protect its citizens from absolute rulers
Ironically, the late Edison Zvogbo, the then Minister of Legal Affairs master-minded the amendment to Executive Presidency. However the shortcomings of our national constitution was its hollowness in addressing the term limits for a president of the country, and it is this gap that Mugabe later abused to stay in power. It also failed to adequately address social, economic rights. With unlimited term limits and excessive power at his disposal, Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980. And I argue that Zimbabwe’s problems emanated from the constitutional order that allowed one man rule and not majority rule. Suffice to say, aided by the executive powers, the state security apparatus have been Mugabe’s trump card for the past thirty four years.
As we reflect 34 years down the line, Zimbabwe now boasts itself for having finally authoring its own constitution, which however was controversially sponsored by the inclusive government. The liberation struggle was about freedom, it was about democracy, it was about land, the national economy. The struggles for a people driven constitution of by the constitutional movement in the late 90s were a fulfilment of the goals of the liberation struggle and total independence, not of a few black elites by the majority of Zimbabweans.
Despite Mugabe’s attempts to cheat us into accepting a flawed constitution in 2000, the pro-democratic forces armed with the National Working Peoples Convention resolutions mobilised Zimbabweans into rejecting that constitution in the referendum. However the rejection of the Chidyausiku document meant that we were back to square one and again the constitutional debate escalated to the extent that ZANU PF could not ignore anymore. Even during the negotiations that led to the crafting of the GPA, the issue of the constitution was topical and a whole section of that agreement was crafted as a result.
Alternatively, the civil society had gathered earlier that year in February 2008 just a month before the harmonised elections to come up with Zimbabwe Peoples Charter which outlined a framework writing a new constitution in its Section 3.
To address the challenges affecting our country I pose to the young generation to embrace the people’s charter. The historic programme which has evolved to express the common immediate aspirations of all the classes of the oppressed people is the Peoples Charter. This document is in itself, a programme for social democracy as it can provide a basis for uninterrupted advance to a social democratic future.
Moving forward, we must accept the mistakes of the past generations and put it to ourselves to address that. The GNU promised us about the so-called incremental gains have actually turned out to be a decrement. The thirty four years of independence should be equated on the basis of the state of progression of the laws that govern us, the political will and the success of our economy. The framework is brilliantly captured in the Zimbabwe Peoples Charter. The fulfilment of the charter will be the completion of the revolution towards a social democratic state. It is no longer a doubt that the Zimbabwe Peoples Charter aspires to fulfil and safeguard the values, principles and gains of the liberation struggle and our national independence. To achieve that we need not just political statements, neither do we need cult leaders to safeguard the values of the liberation struggle and our national independence. It now requires fortitude, selflessness and discipline, a clear programme of mass mobilisation action in the fight for total freedom from the ZANU PF regime.
Our generation should lead a guided struggle which like the Freedom Charter in South Africa and adhere to those guiding principles so that we do not end up personalising the peoples struggle like what happened with ZANU PF and what is currently happening in the MDC. Internal democracies or peoples struggles should be challenged based on a set of principles which have to be agreed upon by the people. Our generation should move towards fulfilling the Peoples Charter and the National Working Peoples Convention. Going forward there is need to regroup and merge the Peoples convention and peoples charter to come up with a framework to guide our generational struggle- create a social democratic movement of young energetic people to fulfil its provisions and principles.
NB-the article was first published on independence day as part of the CPC's Notes on 34 Years of Zimbabwe's Independence. http://peoplescharter.blogspot.com/2014/04/notes-on-34-years-of-zimbabwes.html