Students Position on the Deteriorating Crisis in Zimbabwe

The paper is a strategic response to the worsening economic and political crisis in Zimbabwe by the students under the leadership of Zimbabwe National Students Union.

The paper is inspired to offer solutions after noticing the reluctant by the current regime to address the economic crisis that has seen prices of basic commodities skyrocket and the local surrogate currency losing its value because the ruling elite is benefiting from ordinary citizens suffering. The country is thriving from a soft coup electoral illegitimacy facing the current regime. The document is premised into finding a comprehensive sustainable solution to the legal, political, economic, religion and social crisis besetting our country.

It is our firm belief that Zimbabwe was born from a protracted struggle that fought for the dignity of its people, economic opportunities, political and social liberties that bring dignity to its people. Mindful of the crisis, the African regional institutions such as SADC, AU has a serious and strategic role to play of re-democratising Zimbabwe. Looking at our shared history in the Zimbabwean liberation struggle, Frelimo struggle, apartheid struggle, Tanzanian struggle it is prerogative for this nation to consciously step in and assist their sister country. It’s also key for International solidarity and support to step forward and assist in addressing the political legitimacy challenges which have dragged the country for the last two decades. We are inspired to this initiative by Kofi Annan who said “Blame for inaction in the face of serious human rights violation can be shared among those who value abstract notions of sovereignty more than lives of real families, those whose reflex of solidarity put them on the sides of governments not of peoples, and those who fear that action to stop the violation will jeopardise their commercial interest.

What is ZINASU

The Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) is an umbrella body of the students unions in Zimbabwe, composed of 46 institutions of higher learning found in all the 10 political provinces of Zimbabwe. ZINASU exists to defend academic rights and freedoms in Zimbabwe and works towards the democratic realization of all fundamental freedoms and liberties including, political, social, economic and cultural rights of the students and youths in Zimbabwe. ZINASU believes in the democratic principles of openness and inclusion and works to see academic freedoms and rights becoming a part of everyday culture in Zimbabwe. The union was formalized in 1989 when the students mobilized the nation against corruption, the one party state and against police brutality. Since then the union has created many national leaders through its value system that thrive on people centred initiatives that are pro poor and pro women in shape. As part of its mandate, the union has adopted a holistic approach to issues including scrutinizing government policies, intellectually analysis and proffer ideas to the nation.

The union is an active member of AASU, SASU and ISU thus the All African Students Union, Southern African Students Union and International Students Union respectively. It has a wide network of partners including traditionally SAIH and ISFIT among other strategic players.

The situation of Zimbabwean Students

The lack of a social contract between the governed and those governing has created animosity in our body politic that has led to uncertainty, economic and political decline. This has seriously affected our higher tertiary education and in particular the students community. The country is on the brink of collapse despite boasting of a learned human capital base, rich natural resources that are misused and abused by the ruling elite. The inflation is rising daily since after the entrance of the new Minister with his temporary measure solution to the economic crisis. Political illegitimacy characterizes the nature of the not so new dispensation of President Mnangagwa. The cholera epidemic has killed many of our people including young children symbolizing the dilapidating health system. The soldiers have gunned down mercilessly 8 people in Harare after serious unrest over the disputed elections, more are considered dead although not accounted for whilst others sustained serious permanent damages.

The government has controversially implemented a draconian two per cent tax on the electronic transaction which is hard hitting the poor and bringing uncertainty to business. The citizens are challenging the 2% tax which has been gazetted without an amendment through the act of parliament which has the power to alter the current law on tax. The country is now facing serious basic commodities and fuel shortages affecting the whole economy of our country. The ruling establishment is struggling to overcome the national economic destruction wreaked on Zimbabwe over two decades under Mugabe. This includes profligate spending, immense debt pile up, colossal corruption and ravaging of the country’s once productive agriculture sector.

The symptoms to the Zimbabwe economy shows that the economic challenges are as a result of expenditure overrun, galloping appetite on the part of the government and hyperinflationary tendencies. There are confidence challenges to government, policy inconsistencies and a strong need for legitimacy that needs clear-cut reforms in our politics and decisive act to curb corruption. Zimbabwe is already in arrears to international financial institutions and has very few helpful friends. Whilst the administration is running a hefty overdraft. And it has a limited revenue base where they implemented a 2 per cent tax is showing its desperation. The government has also reimposed import and exchange controls that have the potential to breed corruption.

The Zimbabwe National Students Union has been essential in advocating for pro-poor policies, against corruption and bad governance. Hence today students still remain as the voice of reasoning and the voiceless. This paper seeks to be inquisitive to the current challenges the country is going, assertive to the cause of the students and the marginalized poor and sensitive to contemporary national issues. Despite the true call and patriotism to see development for all its citizens, instead, the state has escalated its victimization on innocent citizens. The period from July 2018 hitherto we have witnessed 20 cases of students human rights abuses that are political in nature not mentioning the 1st of August killings by the army. Students when they question authority are considered rowdy, terrorist or regime change proponents. The Patriot soon after the soldier crackdown on citizens after electoral demonstrations against ZEC and the 1ST OF August killings wrote a full article implicating ZINASU as a terrorist organization fronting opposition, as malcontents and marauding hooligans each time there is scrutiny in the governance of the state. The state is responsible to the questioning of their policies, the human rights situation has been heavy-handed and ruthless to student activist and the generality of students, working for hand in gloves with college authorities, recorded cases are the ZEGU demonstration in Bindura where 50 students were suspended without a disciplinary hearing which the union challenged through the courts of law and was reversed, the NUST demonstration where 7 students were detained only for questioning the administration. Teargas and water cannons were sometimes used to crush the voices of disgruntled students. Expulsion and suspensions have reached alarming levels as the government working in cahoots with college authorities are targeting activist and elected student leadership.

The students of Zimbabwe operate in fear against their freedom of belonging, information and assembly due to colonial draconian legislations redefined by the current regime such as college ordinances that seek to give unprecedented power to college authorities to expel and suspend students. Many UZ students are still serving their suspensions after the college executed the ordinance 31 to suspend them. The fees structure is unbearable to many students who come from struggling backgrounds and many of our guardians having been retrenched after companies started closing and the government closed recruiting as it starts to implement austerity measures. The quality of education has become compromised as students are failing to get timely transport to go to their campuses as commuters are failing to get fuel, also the shortages of fuel have seen prices of transport shooting up. These challenges have a strong bearing in the education of our students. If the economic situation continues three-quarters of our students will be forced to continue their studies due to unavailability of fees, accommodation fees and unpalatable living conditions.

The RBZ loan scheme in conjunction with banks adopted by the government is not student friendly as most of the students don’t own bank accounts and they are not employed anywhere, which are some of the impediments of accessing these loans. There is also trimmed information of the loans despite government boasting on such initiative, information of the percentage of the beneficiary to the loan scheme is not transparent. This shows little desire by the regime to offer education and to ensure the country develop its youth through education and good standard of living. According to the universal declaration of human rights article 25 education is a basic right which has to be accessible to everyone despite the economic condition or geographical position of a person. The union is looking closely to the monetary budget by the treasurer to priorities education as the government seem to be strengthening budgets on defence and security rather than on service delivery and social security.

Corruption has become rampant and the corruption scandal with a borrowed South African “state capture” has also affected our country. The corruption involves key government official and the Executive. Hence corruption has become endemic and according to Transparency International Zimbabwe is ranked 154 out of 178 in the world. Section of the opposition believes the current President and his Vice President are the chief architects of corruption in the country as they have been implicated in the cartel that funded their rise to power such as Sakunda and Trafigura.

Recommendations

The student union urges SADC to urgently put pressure on the Zimbabwean government to resolve the Zimbabwean crisis that emanates from the coup crisis and the 2018 disputed elections.

  1. Zimbabwe must undergo a national transitional authority that is guided by the two major political parties so as to resolve the economic, political and economic crisis be delving the country.
  2. SADC must have an inclusive engagement with the current government, CSO, MDC Alliance and academics
  3. In conjunction with ZANU PF and MDC Alliance, SADC must be the guarantor of the transitional authority that mustn’t exceed more than three years.

The second recommendation to the government

  1. The GoZ must openly release information on government deals with international companies and cooperates and seize to continuously borrow without cthe onsent of parliament and scrutiny of the citizens.
  2. The GoZ must forthwith stop the harassment of human rights defenders, media, opposition leaders and CSO through immediately disbanding the military intelligence unit harassment of the ordinary citizens.
  3. Give SADC the leeway to do an inquiry in corruption and ensure those implicated are brought to justice considering our chapter 4 institution such as the anti-corruption commission and judiciary are captured and are toothless to effect justice.
  4. To acknowledge the political and economic crisis and give a condition for a techno transitional mechanism that will restore order and revive the economy.

The third recommendation to the opposition in particular to the MDC Alliance

  1. The MDC A must foster a room through their parliamentarians to build a platform for the Transitional government.
  2. The opposition must assist the government on modalities of coming with a transitional authority government
  3. Commit to assist in building lasting legitimacy and accept a government born out of this process

The fourth recommendation to the International community and CSOs

  1. The international community should act in good faith to protect the greater majority of Zimbabweans by pressuring the GoZ to respect the rule of law and restoring the dignity of its people.
  2. The international community should assist in earnest in facilitating a long-lasting solution to the economic and political impasse in Zimbabwe by mobilizing resources and technical support for the transitional authority and its processes.
  3. The CSO actors must be involved in all processes and put modalities for the functioning of the transitional government. They must spread and educate the masses on the need for this transitional authority and the processes.

The student of Zimbabwe stands ready to defend the autonomy and sovereignty of the country both from external and internal threats of its people. We are fully in support for a legitimate government that comes from a transparent and undisputed electoral process.

Source: Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU)