As Zimbabweans and foreign dignitaries thronged the National Sports Stadium for the inauguration of new State President Emmerson Mnangagwa, civil society gathered for what they called a “national envisioning platform.”
The meeting which comes in the euphoria of former President Robert Mugabe’s departure revived discussion about “the Zimbabwe we want” started under the resigned strongman’s tenure characterised by serious and chronic lack of focus on democracy, economic reforms and human rights.
The National People’s Convention held at the Harare International Conference Centre (HICC) on Friday, November 24, 2017, struck a cautionary tone after the military assisted transition.
Civil society reiterated its call for full democratisation, free and fair elections in 2018, limited role for the military in civilian affairs, constitutionalism, national healing and social justice.
Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) secretary general, Rev. Kenneth Mutata, said: “Zimbabwe has entered a new era filled with expectation and restraint.
“While the former President has gone the system remains. The personnel has changed, but the software remains intact.
“We know that the military took an active role in the process of change, but you and I were not there at the table when power was being renegotiated.”
Much of the uncertainty is the new leader’s role as the former president’s confidant for half a century, the militarised manner of the transition and his perceived bent to state security apparatus than popular politics.
Political analyst and academic, McDonald Lewanika, said if Zimbabwe is to progress we need to understand that what happened is a coup although many people appreciate the result of leadership change.
“People are still convinced about what has happened in the country, whether it was a coup or not,” he said.
“We need to agree that a coup has happened in Zimbabwe. The fact that you like what has happened or not is does not change this fact.
“We don’t have to rebuild on lies; the fact that you like the results today, does not mean you will like the results tomorrow.”
Fr. Fidelis Chiromba of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ZCBC) said many things in the Zimbabwe We Want document crafted through an inclusive process led by the Heads of Christian Denomination and presented to former President Robert Mugabe still remain to be implemented.
“We have not realised the Zimbabwe we want,” Fr. Chiromba said.
Glanis Changachirere recounted the journey that Zimbabweans have walked for transformation which culminated in the new Constitution, emphasising on building on its tenets in the new order.
“As we move ahead in a new Zimbabwe, we need to understand that the struggle we are fighting for is not for a particular generation but for all people of Zimbabwe now and in the future,” said Changachirere.
A representative of the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ) said women have waited long to have their dreams for equality fulfilled.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) spokesperson Dumisani Nkomo said people in Matabeleland needed healing, urging civil society to take the opportunity of change in the country to be “proactive rather than reactive” and make clear demands to the new establishment.
Socioeconomic groups such as the Vendors Initiative for Socioeconomic Transformation (VISET) appealed to the new leadership to end the victimisation of informal traders, which had become regular under the former president.
Activist Marvellous Khumalo said as advocates of democracy and good governance, activists should ensure that “the will of the people through free and fair elections” should guide what happens to the country in the long term.
The Convention is expected to culminate in a civil society position paper and in consolidated demands to the new leadership.