The Second National Citizens Convention, held in Harare in September 2019, brought together 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. Under the theme, “A Call To Put Citizens, Country And Constitution First In Zimbabwe”, the Convention called for an inclusive and sustainable economy, governance, and politics that places citizens at the center, and a new social contract.
A year later, in November 2020, it bluntly evident that the country has made no progress towards realising any of these aspirations. Irrespective of the predations of the Covid-19 pandemic, the economy is in its worst shape ever and citizens are struggling to meet even the most basic requirements for living; governance and politics are increasingly dismissive of constitutionalism, relying on presidential decree and coercion; and any idea of a new social contract is replaced by partisan consultation and pandering to the whims of a small elite.
Against this background, citizens came together at the Third National Citizens Convention in November 2020, under the theme, “#NoneButOurselves: Re-imagining The Future We Want Post- COVID 19“.
In a highly imaginative and inclusive process, the members of the Convention returned to the principles endorsed at the Second Convention. For three days, the delegates across the country, using social media, debated progress since the last convention and what needs to be done.
The importance of this sustained process cannot be underplayed. Communities, women and youth rarely sit at the high table when a country’s future is being decided: especially so in Zimbabwe where all crises are resolved by elite pacts. However, communities, women and the youth will always be left with the legacies of elite pacts, both and mostly bad, and, as the National Citizens Convention has repeatedly demonstrated, there is no good reason for the exclusion of the majority of the population in deciding the country’s future. Even under the restrictive conditions of Covid-19, the Citizens Manifesto has demonstrated that it is possible to consult widely and deeply across the country.
As Zimbabwe slides from fragility towards a failed state, the Convention call, #NoneButOurselves, is a challenge to take seriously the voices of communities, women and youth in resolving the crisis. The demand is for inclusion, consultation and national dialogue.
The 13th SAPES Policy Dialogue profiles the process, content, findings and resolutions of the third national Citizens Convention. It will demonstrate to all the advantages for the solution of the national crisis of wide and deep consultation, as well as showing clearly that the solutions are not in the hands of the elites alone.
Source: The SAPES Trust