Where does sovereignty lie?

Perhaps one of the best known contributions of Jonathan Moyo to the Zimbabwe’s political scene was popularizing the phrase “the People have spoken” during his time as chairman of the Constitutional Commission in 2000. What he meant was that the “NO” vote that had carried the day was an expression of the people’s will and that had to be respected, a clear demonstration that sovereignty lies with the people. I believe the same could be said of the historic elections in 1980 that propelled ZANU PF under Prime Minister Robert Mugabe to form the first post independent majority rule government. The people had spoken, giving the new government the mandate to act on their behalf, thus representing their best interests for the common good.

However, politicians have mastered the art of portraying that they call the shots and that they are the chefs who determine course of events in any country. Of course, they do call the shots because the masses have surrendered and allowed them to.  One looks for instance at elected leaders who expect to benefit from been elected at the expense of the electorate. They even have the audacity to demand benefits such as fancy SUV cars, houses, and hefty allowances. When you call them for meetings they don’t even turn up and demand the electorate to make appointments to see them. Such is the calibre of leaders we have in the country.

However, the fact of the matter is that “power” is a myth, a creation of the mind, and the art to sustain that power is to manipulate all the resources at one’s disposal to sustain that myth. Leaders are only as powerful as we allow them to be, and, once we withdraw that support, we leave them bare. Politicians certainly make it appear as if society cannot do without them, yet, in a very real sense, the masses are always more powerful. Leaders are as strong as the masses want them to be. They ride on the mandate and willingness of the people to subject themselves to be ruled by them. It is the masses that can say enough is enough and may decide to recall politicians. The masses are the chefs and every citizen has that power in him/herself to assert that right to be governed. Leaders ride on the popularity of the support they enjoy from the people and that support can shrink if they are not in touch with reality. Never mind the heavy security they have around them armed with state-of-the-art military artillery. It is an attempt to create a false sense of power and control. The masses, and their consent to be ruled, will always outlive the leaders, which is why sovereignty lies with the people.

The sad thing is that people seem to have resigned from politics (and not only in Zimbabwe), and have left it for the politicians to do as they please. Yet politicians need the masses more than we need them. That is why they come back after five years of looting and amassing wealth, to seek a fresh mandate from the people to govern. That is why they will do everything in their power to ensure that the electoral results are in their favour, even rigging to make it appear they have a legitimate mandate from the people. Without a support base from the masses, a once powerful politician is a nobody. I don’t know how many leaders in Zimbabwe today can openly claim that they have masses following behind them. If they have none, they are illegitimate.

Responsible citizens put their leaders to task, and have the right to make demands because they have the power to do so. If a leader thinks otherwise, “power” has gotten into his/her head, and that can be resolved easily by withdrawing that support. They will be like fish out of the water. It is the reason why it is irresponsible to abstain from the voting processes and protest by staying away. The fact is that leaders have to account, and, by abstaining from voting, we are allowing a minority to determine who represents us.

Photo accredited to http://www.zimsituation.com

The Coming Elections in Zimbabwe.

Please take time to follow this link and read an article by Andrew Iliff, a Zimbabwean studying at Yale University in the United States:


New UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict.

On the 22nd June 2012 the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Zainab Hawa Bangura, currently the Minister of Health and Sanitation of Sierra Leone, as his new Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict.

Zainab Hawa Bangura

She will replace Margot Wallström, who had served in the position since it was created two years ago.

According to a statement from Mr. Ban’s spokesperson, Ms. Bangura brings to the position over 20 years of policy, diplomatic and practical experience in the field of governance, conflict resolution and reconciliation in Africa. She has been instrumental in developing national programmes on affordable health as well as advocating for the elimination of genital mutilation.

She is also experienced in meeting with interlocutors in diverse situations, including rebel groups, and familiar in dealing with State and non-State actors relevant to issues of sexual violence while fighting corruption and impunity.

“She is an experienced results-driven civil society, human and women’s right campaigner and democracy activist,” the statement added.

Creating Schools as Zones of Peace.

One of the best celebrated statistics in Zimbabwe over the years since Independence in 1980 has been the high literacy rate largely as a result of the policy of providing basic education to every child up to Ordinary level (Form 4). The policy also ensured the construction of schools throughout the country and deliberate efforts were made to encourage adult learning. These gains are under threat, unfortunately, and it all has to do with the politics of contestation. RAU recently published a report documenting teachers’ experiences with election violence since 2000, with teachers reporting that they were subjected to targeted violence because they were perceived as sympathisers of opposition political parties.

The report revealed that schools were setup as militia bases, leading up to and during election periods, where teachers were summoned for various acts including assaults, being taught the liberation history of Zimbabwe, among others. Some of the military activities took place in front of children during working hours, where teachers were violated, humiliated and, in some cases, female teachers sexually abused. The message was clear for all children to warn their parents how “sell-outs” would be dealt with. And interestingly, some students became informants, keeping an eye on their teachers, who had to find survival strategies by way of fleeing the communities resulting in more than 94% of schools in the rural areas being closed at one point.

Rural Schoolchildren in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is not in a state of war but the periods around elections, since 2000, frequently resembled a state of war, reminiscent of the liberation war, where villagers and communities would flee and schools would close. The United Nations Security Council in July 2011 unanimously adopted Resolution 1998 which affirmed other earlier resolutions on the protection of children in situations of armed conflict, declaring “schools and hospitals off limits for both armed groups and military activities, asking the Secretary-General for such crimes to be placed on a list of those committing “grave violations against children.” The text of Resolution 1998 expressed concern about attacks and the threat of attacks on schools and/or hospitals, including attacks on personnel in relation to them and the closure of the institutions in times of conflict and threat of attack.

As a member state of the United Nations, Zimbabwe must take positive steps to refrain from attacks on education and advance the rights of Children. The positive steps would be to take action and stop violence and the exposure of children to violence during times of elections. That commitment could also be demonstrated by putting in place legislation that prevents the use of schools for political purposes, because this practice exposes children to violence. The commitment would unite communities in defending the rights of children, especially girls. It would   ensure that schools were safe zones for learning, especially in rural areas where the highest incidences of violence was recorded, and also that traditional leaders were not ZANU PF bootlickers who terrorise teachers because they are perceived to be opposition members.

Promoting the right to education is a sure sign that a country is investing in human capital. The concept of “Safe Schools” is incomplete without also ensuring that the personnel associated with education is safe. Through the Education Transitional Fund (ETF) the child text book ratio has improved but the political hindrances have also to be addressed, and this is the challenge Minister Coltart must address. We cannot afford to continuously have schools attain a zero percentage “pass rate” because schools were closed for the better part of the year and also because politicians use school facilities for electioneering.

If you would like to read our 2 reports written as a result of our teachers’ survey go to: http://www.researchandadvocacyunit.org

Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference – Pastoral Letter – Zimbabweans in the Diaspora

Please follow this link to read the letter: http://mdctsa.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/zimbabwe-catholic-bishops-conference-pastoral-letter-addressed-to-zimbabweans-in-the-diaspora.pdf

In this letter the Bishops are wanting to give recognition and hope to those Zimbabweans living in the diaspora who may feel abandoned by their country, Zimbabwe.

Many of these people are economic migrants and don’t qualify for refugee status in their adopted countries.Most of them left in times of elections when violence rates increased considerably and people thought to support the opposition parties were targeted. Especially in South Africa, many of these people live in dire circumstances and are targeted for xenophobic attacks.

Do women really matter?

Over the past two years, Margot Wallström, a Swedish politician with a long history of defending women’s rights, has served as the United Nations Secretary-General’s first Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict. During her tenure, in December 2010, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1960, which put in place the tools for more systematic monitoring and reporting of sexual violence, and for the identification of perpetrators.

Margot Wallstrom

Ms Wallström was interviewed by the UN News Centre on the eve of her departure early this month (June) from her post; she was asked what affected or impressed her the most during her term. In response she said “All these amazing women. They pick up their lives, they go on. They’re very often discriminated against. They live with violence and rapes. At the same time, they contribute so much and they have to be given a voice and influence. Without that, there cannot be a true democracy and there cannot be peace without giving women peace. They are also my biggest inspiration and hope.”

RAU has just released a report entitled “Do we really matter? Women’s voices on politics, participation, and violence”, based on focus group discussions held over several weeks. The purpose of the discussions was to talk about political violence against women in light of the imminent elections in Zimbabwe. Although Margot Wallström never came to Zimbabwe during her term as the Special Representative, nor met the women in these focus groups (nor the many women we have worked with over the years), her words resonated with me, and I felt she was talking about the Zimbabwean women. We do not recognise or acknowledge the roles that women play in our society, living with extreme violence and discrimination, yet they pick themselves up continue with their lives.  If we do not address political violence against women, particularly sexual violence we cannot say we live in a peaceful democratic society.

This report is a contribution to ensure that the women of Zimbabwe are given a voice; my hope is the long arm of the law will catch up with the perpetrators and that people will think twice before planning, organising, inciting or perpetrating violence against women during the referendum and any future elections.

Read the full report at http://www.researchandadvocacyunit.org

Samba or Sanitation?

What exactly is it that Zimbabwe is contributing at the Earth Summit in Brazil when it is a serious offender on environmental issues? Let me name a few:

-An outdated water system, with rusted pipes which regularly spring leaks which are left unattended for days, and sometimes weeks or months, resulting in the loss of thousands of litres of precious treated drinking water.

-Drilling of numerous boreholes due to the shortage of municipal water which will lead to huge reductions in groundwater levels.

-Widespread pollution because of littering and burning of garbage, including plastics releasing toxic fumes into the atmosphere.

-Failure to educate the population on environmental matters resulting in the dumping of garbage in open spaces.

-Unreliability of the municipal garbage collection system resulting in massive litter dumps in residential areas and the clogging of roadside drains in cities.

-Widespread land clearing resulting in the chopping down of precious trees by newly resettled farmers on commercial farming land.

-The chopping down of trees for firewood as a consequence of regular power outages by ZESA. (Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority)

– The pollution of rivers with effluent because of the inadequate sewage systems in High Density suburbs.

Garbage clogging a stream in Zimbabwe

These are only a few of the smaller activities which result in the degradation of the environment.

Some of the larger ones include:

-Development and building of residential areas and hotels on precious wetlands.

-Attempts to develop hotels and prospecting for minerals in precious national parks such as Mana Pools which is a World Heritage Site.

One wonders why such a huge delegation of 92 has travelled to the Rio Earth Summit which has cost Zimbabweans US$7 million.  What will that delegation achieve besides increasing the country’s carbon footprint by a significant amount due to the fossil fuels burnt in the planes transporting them? Imagine how the money would have been better spent had it been invested in improving our environment by cleaning up our filthy cities. Also, how much more so would our environment be improved had the money been put into policing industries that are dumping toxic waste into lakes and rivers? And how much more so would the state of our environment have been improved   had that same amount of money been invested into developing environment friendly systems of transportation?

Why has this delegation been allowed to travel? Is it because they are passionate about the environment, or is it just so they can sample the wonderful shops in Rio de Janeiro!