Saturday April 19, 2008 [04:00]
The responsibility for Zimbabwe’s political and economic crisis lies primarily on the shoulders of the Zimbabwean people and all their leaders. And the responsibility for changing things, for a reversal of fortunes in that country also lies primarily on the shoulders of the Zimbabwean people and their leaders.
We say this because the undesirable conditions under which the Zimbabwean people are living today were primarily created by themselves and their leaders. It is a product of the policies and practices they adopted, supported or tolerated over the last 28 years.
Yes, their enemies can take secondary responsibility for what is happening in their country. Imperialism can be blamed for what is happening in Zimbabwe today but not in a primary way. The role of imperialism in Zimbabwe is secondary.
If imperialism has gained ground in Zimbabwe, who should be blamed? For many years the Zimbabwean people and their leaders allowed imperialism to take control of their country’s economy and to interfere in their politics.
They didn’t see much wrong with this probably because at that time it might have suited them; it might have given them some temporary benefits or advantages; the nature of interference was tolerable.
But nothing remains static in life. And imperialism, whatever its form and even when it appears to be benevolent, it will still and will always remain nothing but imperialism.
For 28 years, the Zimbabwean people and their leaders thought they had an economy of their own and prided themselves in it.
And those who are stupid even started to look down upon their neighbours in Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and even in Congo. But what they didn’t realise is that their country’s economy was not truly theirs, it belonged to other people.
And when political differences started to emerge over the land issue, the owners of the economy prevailed over the economy and in no time the ‘economy’ that the Zimbabwean people were so proud of disappeared.
Where it went we don’t know. All what we can see is that it has disappeared, it’s not there in the form we used to know it. But this was not the end of the story. Those who controlled the Zimbabwean economy were not just going to walk away like that. They started to defend their economic interests in that country the way they had done before.
Let us not forget that during the liberation struggle for Zimbabwe, those who controlled the economy of that territory defended it with everything they had when they felt it was threatened by the freedom fighters. They put in everything to back the white racist dictatorship in that country. Now again, when their economic interests have come increasingly under threat from those who govern that country today, they have defended their interests by putting in everything at their disposal in support of those who are opposed to the current regime in that country.
And they have gone back to seek the support of Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, albeit in a better way than the white racist regime of Ian Smith did. They have a very strong lobby in these countries that cannot be ignored.
And these countries form the backbone of the Commonwealth. For this reason, it’s not difficult to understand why the current Zimbabwean regime had serious difficulties in the Commonwealth and had to leave. And this explains why British prime ministers and other British politicians can’t keep quiet on the question of Zimbabwe, why they are more vocal on Zimbabwe now than they were during the liberation struggle.
Robert Mugabe is not the longest serving African president, even in Southern Africa. Zimbabwe is not less democratic than Egypt, Libya, Angola, Congo and so on and so forth.
They are not making much noise about these other countries. Why? The reasons are not difficult to discern; they lie in the reasons we have already stated. This is not to say that because there is no democracy in country A, then the same situation should be tolerated in country B or C.
But since the problem is primarily that of the Zimbabwean people, they have the primary responsibility in finding solutions to it. However, to do so, it will require a lot of tolerance, humility and moderation on their part. And all of them should be seen to be acting on their own behalf and not as proxies of other interests.
But like medical doctors, they may not be in a very good position to treat themselves – they may need the help of others.
Here, it will be important to recognise that not every country that is speaking on Zimbabwe is in a good position to help the people of that country resolve their differences and face the future as a united country. For instance, there is no way the British or American governments can today play a meaningful role in resolving the problems of that country.
They have disqualified themselves by the single position they have taken – that of being interested in nothing but a regime change in that country. However, there are some European countries like Portugal, the Scandinavian countries and others that have taken a much more sober and reasonable approach to the challenges facing that country.
These can play a much more important role in trying to help that country get over its problems.
The African countries, as demonstrated by the Kenyan crisis, will always have a better role to play in resolving African political problems. And for this reason, African leaders should not allow themselves to be pulled into the polarised positions taken by the United
Kingdom and America. And the parties to the Zimbabwean crisis should also not try to fragment this unity for the interests of their own particular groups. It will be disastrous to have a divided Southern Africa Development Community and African Union over Zimbabwe.
It was relatively easier for Africa and the international community to assist Kenya find a solution to its political crisis because there appeared to be reasonable levels of neutrality. Even those who had initially voiced support for President Mwai Kibaki, quickly withdrew into some neutral position when they realised the magnitude of the problem.
This helped in a very big way to put effective pressure on the Kenyan political players to resolve their differences. In Zimbabwe, the situation is different. Big players in the international community, led by the United Kingdom and America, have taken a polarised and uncompromising position to see Mugabe out. They are not interested in reconciling that country.
This has created a series of problems for that country which are being compounded everyday. This approach is even undermining the good efforts of SADC leaders. And if they are not careful, SADC leaders may soon find themselves very divided over this issue by the machinations of Britain and America and of the Zimbabwean political players themselves.
We sincerely believe a negotiated settlement can be found to the Zimbabwean crisis. As we have stated before, negotiated solutions can be found even to conflicts that have come to seem intractable and such solutions emerge when those that have been divided reach out to find common ground.
Conflicts will always be there but there has to be compromise and consensus. We say this because human beings possess a variety of sometimes contradictory desires. People want safety yet relish adventure; they aspire to individual freedom yet demand social equality.
Democracy is no different, and it is important to recognise that many of these tensions, even paradoxes, are present in every democratic society.
A central paradox exists between conflict and consensus. Democracy is in many ways nothing more than a set of rules for managing conflict. At the same time, this conflict must be managed within certain limits and should result in compromises, consensus or other agreements that all sides accept as legitimate.
An overemphasis on one side of the equation can threaten the entire undertaking. If those in power, those who control the state machinery exert excessive pressure to achieve consensus, stifling the voices of the people, the society can be crushed from above.
The answer is that there is no single or easy answer. Democracy is not a machine that runs by itself once the proper principles and procedures are inserted.
A democratic society needs the commitment of citizens who accept the inevitability of conflict as well as the necessity for tolerance. It is for this reason that the culture of democracy is so important to develop.
Individuals and groups must be willing, at a minimum, to tolerate each other’s differences, recognising that the other side has valid rights and a legitimate point of view. The various sides to a dispute can then meet in a spirit of compromise and seek a specific solution.
Coalition building is the essence of democratic action. It teaches interest groups to negotiate with others, to compromise and to work within the constitutional system. By working to establish coalition, groups with differences learn how to argue peaceably, how to pursue their goals in a democratic manner and ultimately how to live in a world of diversity.
Democracy is not a set of revealed, unchanging truths, but the mechanism by which, through the clash and compromise of ideas, individuals and institutions, the people can, however imperfectly, reach for truth. Democracy is pragmatic.
Ideas and solutions to problems are not tested against a rigid ideology but tried in the real world where they can be argued over and changed, accepted or discarded.
Until the spirit of tolerance and compromise is brought back to Zimbabwe, it will be very difficult to solve the political and other problems facing that country today . We therefore urge the international community, including Britain and America, to avoid measures that further divide the Zimbabwean people and deepen their differences and suspicions towards each other. Let us encourage them to compromise and reach consensus on the many issues that today divide them.