Communique from the 2nd National Citizens’ Convention: “A Call to Put Citizens, Country and Constitution First in Zimbabwe”

We the people, on the 24th-25th of September 2019, as progressive citizens, civil society organizations, residents’ associations, informal workers, students, unions, activists, academics, women’s groups, faith groups, youth formations, artists and business leaders from across Zimbabwe and the Diaspora converged for the 2nd National Citizens’ Convention (NCC) in, Harare, under the banner of Citizens’ Manifesto in collaboration with at least 23 organizations and many local community collectives, to reiterate our shared vision of a better Zimbabwe for all. This year’s gathering builds on the 1st NCC held in July 2018 that allowed more than 2000 citizens to consult on – the society we want; the economy we want; the governance we want; the environment we want; and the service delivery we want.

CONCERNED by the urgent need to address the deep fragmentation facing our country as a result of a protracted political crisis, an exclusive economy run by cartels and deep historical wounds which have left many fearful and traumatized – we seek a new path forward which is inclusive and aspires to put the three Cs at the center of our development process: Citizens, Country and Constitutionalism.

CONVINCED that we can no longer afford to wait, and AWARE that the responsibility to find solutions to the complex crisis besieging the nation lies primarily in our hands as Zimbabweans; And ENCOURAGED by the stories of resilience in communities reclaiming their agency and power and modeling the future we want; this year’s Convention was held under the theme #ItsUsAndItsNow

COMPELLED, by the urgency of creating and defending a democratic, socially just and equitable Zimbabwe we deliberated on how to unlock the national impasse and stagnation in Zimbabwe by responding to the following key questions: How will we build an inclusive and sustainable economy? How we will put citizens at the center of governance and political processes? How will we build a social contract that enables our communities to heal from fear and historical trauma and foster social-cohesion, national healing and enduring peace in our country.

The State of Our Nation: Citizens’ Perspective

Conversations in each of these tracks underlined key failings of our government and institutions, namely; the exclusion and lack of respect of citizens – in a command and extractive approach to the economy, which impoverishes the most vulnerable and serves cartels; fear based and repressive governance and political systems which are self-serving and in the interest of political elites; and a lack of commitment to genuine approaches to address fragmentation and redress historical conflicts and hurts.

In the discussions on the economy we were concerned by the dire state of economic collapse in the country and the resultant poverty and lack of employment and livelihood opportunities; lack of ethical leadership as evidenced by the endemic corruption in an economy captured by cartels; the violence of the austerity measures which have been imposed with insensitivity to the people’s suffering; lack of accountability on government borrowing and the unsustainable debt overhang; the mortgaging of our natural resources and future economic production in non-transparent deals; lack of real production; the lack of inclusiveness and consistency in policy formulation; unconscionable devaluation of salaries and pensions and the resultant attack on labor justice and social protection; persistent chaos in the financial sector and runaway price increases resulting from the actions of self- serving cartels who continue to run rampant with impunity; closure of space for collective bargaining; the criminalization of informal economic activities; the detrimental effects of the political instability on the economy; the failure to unlock external financial support; and above all, the apparent indifference to people’s excruciating pain and suffering.

In the discussions on governance and politics we noted: that whereas democracy is supposed to be “rule by the people for the people”, citizens have been marginalized to the periphery with no meaningful consultation and participation in processes that impact their lives; lack of coherence and weakness of institutions; lack of trust by citizens in public institutions; the lack of political will to genuinely reform the State; an unhealthy authoritarian and militarized culture which restricts civic space; alarming levels of corruption and lack of accountability by urban and rural councils; fragmented communities and a paralyzed citizenry which is fearful and weary of engaging in public life; and the desperate need for alternative participatory models of politics and governance based on direct democracy.

In our discussions on developing a new social contract we deliberated on: the lack of political will for an authentic, inclusive national dialogue process, which covers all issues that are holding the country back and produces a new agreement on how we relate with each other as a nation; the historical and intergenerational impact of unresolved trauma; the lack of intergenerational dialogue; the deep lack of trust in society; the lack of truth-telling and acknowledgement of wrongdoing; the failure to use established instruments and institutions such as the Transitional justice Policy of the AU and Zimbabwe’s Constitution which provides for the relevant Chapter 12 institutions.

What We Want and Our Commitment to Action

Having, for each of these questions looked at key principles for people-centered solutions, we therefore make this Declaration of What We Want and Our Commitment to Action:

An inclusive and sustainable economy – which is underpinned by equity and respect for labor and socio-economic rights; and promotes environmental sustainability; upholds the rights of the informal economy; prioritizes social safety nets; is anchored on disciplined and ethical economic leadership and responsible stewardship of public resources; accountable management of public debt; justice in land ownership and distribution; community benefits from natural resources; country first in investment and trade; and promotes structural transformation of the economy.

Our Commitment to action – As Citizens we commit to – Champion a new economic vision based on citizens reclaiming their autonomy through the development of local economies premised on cooperative enterprises and environmental sustainability; Campaign for the restitution of lost value of salaries and pensions and the dismantling of corruption and command economy cartels; Campaign for a public debt audit and accountability for economic crimes; Advocate for the institution of an inclusive and sustained Platform for Economic Dialogue, broader than the TNF.

A governance and politics that places citizens at the center – which ensures democratic participation and bases all major decisions on meaningful consultation and the consent of citizens; upholds the supremacy of the Constitution – including the freedoms to access information, peaceful assembly, expression and association; respects the UN-mandated responsibility of the State to protect citizens and guarantee human security even in the face of divergent views and beliefs; thrives on a culture of political tolerance; and is secured by strong public institutions.

Our commitment to action – As Citizens we commit to – Champion a new vision of democracy based on direct democracy at local level; Develop a Citizens’ Charter on Direct Democracy that will among other things (mandate the convening of Community Assemblies to consult and democratically vote on all major decisions, Empower citizens to call for a referendum on important issues, and Grant citizens the right to recall ineffective elected officials); Campaign to ensure that in future elections, communities elect representatives on the basis of record not promises.

A new social contract – which creates a solid foundation for social cohesion, national healing, reconciliation, and enduring peace; and is founded on acknowledgement and truth-telling in relation to historical wounds, contemporary hurts and generational trauma; and helps to reweave the social fabric of Zimbabwean society.

Our commitment to action – As Citizens we commit to – intensively advocate for an inclusive national dialogue process based on an agreed framework by all stakeholders; Deepen our own consultations at the local level; Champion a collective citizens’ voice to contribute to the national dialogue process; Engage all relevant stakeholders on the outcomes of the 2nd NCC (including government, parliament, NPRC and other Chapter 12 institutions; political parties, civil society, business, faith organizations and the regional and international community).

In all the above, we reiterate our call to place Citizens, Country and the Constitution at the center of our national discourse.

#ItsUsAndItsNow

Source: Citizens’ Manifesto