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Where are we going? What are we doing? What is this going to cost us all?

This morning I woke up after a lousy night’s sleep mostly spent stewing on the implications of Zanu PF’s demands for changes to the negotiated proposed constitution. Last month I thought the constitution situation was depressing enough: no one can pretend that ‘the people’ had anything to do with this final draft constitution, just as ‘the people’ had very little to do with the formation of the GPA after the 2008 elections. In fact, I wonder when ‘the people’ will ever have a say in the country because they seem to be becoming increasingly sidelined as the political process cranks painfully on.

Last month it was the words of Senator Coltart in an open letter he wrote to Ben Freeth that got my head spinning. Acknowledging the weaknesses of the proposed draft, Senator Coltart replied to him

“let me say as publicly and directly as I can that I share your concerns regarding the land provisions and that I have many other deep rooted concerns. I think the land provisions are going to stifle investment in this all important area of our economy. I think they are racially discriminatory and some of these provisions should never be in any modern democratic constitution. One would expect to find them in an apartheid era constitution because they are so blatantly based on race.”

He couldn’t be clearer, and yet he concluded the letter saying

“Whilst I understand your distress and share your objection to a variety of clauses in the constitution I believe that we have no choice but to take this step. [...] I do not think that the constitution is the only means to cross the river, but it is certainly a very important element in getting us to the other side.”

These words drove home to me what a twisted and extraordinary country Zimbabwe has evolved into and I started to view the future in a way I haven’t ever before. Senator Coltart’s human rights credentials are impressive, and it is these credentials that have presumably propelled him, combined with his desire for change, into politics. For someone like him to reach a point where they feel they have no choice but to encourage a minority group of people to accept and support a law that without any prevarication undermines their human rights seems to me to be an unthinkable and very sad point for us all to reach.

Senator Coltart’s use of the word ‘apartheid’ is especially resonant in our part of the world. Imagine exactly that: imagine this same document being presented to a South African population in an apartheid South Africa; imagine asking black people to please accept a law that formally defines them as ‘less equal’ on the basis of their skin colour and argue this is the only way to move forward; imagine this request being made of them in the face of a very uncertain future that has so far been premised on a horrendous political track record that has yielded no real meaningful political change to date.

The difference for many reading this may be that it is unacceptable to ask a majority group to tolerate oppression, but perhaps less serious in their minds to request this of a minority group. But I genuinely believe that the mark of a civilised nation is registered in how they treat the marginalised, the minorities and the people the majority think don’t deserve rights. The easy moral principles don’t count: it’s the tough choices, the ones that really challenge us that matter. ‘Love thy neighbour’ – the Bible should add, ‘even if you hate him’.

I worry about precedent: if we accept this, where does it end?

I have heard the former opposition politicians repeatedly tell Zimbabweans on countless occasions to look to history and take note that dictators all eventually fall on their face and come to an end. I have no doubt at all that the demise of Gadaffi last year will be being presented as another example of this, the inference being that change in Zimbabwe is close, that our dictatorship is also nearing the end of its days. But I’ve yet to see the public will for change manifest itself as publically and thoroughly and as hungrily as it did by those in the Arab Spring. Given that, and given what’s happening now, I have started to wonder if maybe we are actually miles from the end, and instead only just at the very beginning. We’ve had lots of horrendous laws passed before by Zanu PF, but how often have democrats and human rights activists been asked by the former opposition parties to support them?

So where are we now?

I asked my husband, ‘When the Nazis started to pass laws isolating and justifying the seizure of Jewish property, was that not a warning sign that the future to come would be bleak?’ Is this endorsement of discrimination similarly not a warning sign for us all? When the former opposition parties wave the proposed constitution high above their heads and assure us all that this is what is needed to get to the other side, is this not reminiscent of Chamberlain naively holding the Munich Agreement above his head and saying it was evidence of ‘peace in our time’.

It seems to me that by accepting these provisions in this document, white people would be acknowledging a legal position that says that they, their children, their descendents – regardless of whether they are Zimbabwean citizens or not – are less equal to other Zimbabwe citizens based on nothing more than the colour of their skin. How can anyone plan a future for their children in Zimbabwe under these conditions?

The last few weeks have had my head spinning enough, but Zanu PF’s proposed amendments have underscored all my fears with a thick red magic marker. Professor Welshman Ncube is outraged by Zanu PF’s proposed changes, and he summarised the most offensive clauses. These two points jumped out at me:

14. They have made all state institutions subject to the obligation to promote and defend the values of the liberation struggle.

21. They have inserted provisions which require independent commissions and the judiciary as well to promote and to be guided by the ideals and values of the liberation struggle.

I know the MDC parties are objecting to these, so we can assume – for now – that they won’t be written into the constitution. But Zanu PF has already made significant headway by getting the parties to accept discrimination on the land issue. We know what they want to achieve next. Is this a taste of the compromises to come? If not now, but when the MDCs next bang heads with Zanu PF in a few years time and trade rights in fear of more violence?

I am not a lawyer, so can someone please tell me, what does this mean in practice? Is there a document we can refer to that specifically defines what “the ideals and values of the liberation struggle” are to guide the judiciary, state institutions and independent commissions, or is this going to be left up to subjective interpretation?

What happens if it is a white person up against a black person in a court of law, and the judge is a fool given free licence to exercise racism under ‘liberation values’ and not justice? Or what happens if it is an ordinary black person opposing a war veteran, how is ‘justice’ administered then in terms of ‘liberation values’? Or given that the Ndebele citizens were cast as enemies of the state in the 1980s, what happens if it is someone from Matabeleland confronting someone from Mashonaland? Or if it is a ZIPRA war vet in a court of law facing a ZANLA war vet – how does justice in terms of ‘liberation values’ play out then? I suspect I know the answers to all of these questions by virtue of the fact that most of the ‘heroes’ in heroes’ acres are Zanu PF supporters. I read it that ‘liberation values’ means that the demands are designed to ensure that Zimbabwe belongs to Zanu PF and its supporters, not ‘the people’.

Zanu PF’s changes also extend their glut fest of robbery and thievery too. Professor Ncube points out one of their proposed changes:

8. They have redefined agricultural land to include any land used for poultry so that they would be able to take any building used to rear chickens.

I find Zanu PF’s rampant greed revolting, and this inclusion shows how the ‘liberation values’ argument is easily manipulated to suit any personal unjust agenda. They can’t argue that colonialists stole poultry buildings from their ancestors to justify taking them back without compensation, but you can bet this property theft will initially be dressed up as economic empowerment. That’s the line they’re taking now with handing out hunting permits and hunting concessions to 25 senior Zanu PF stalwarts in the Save Valley Conservancy. Zanu PF politicians are presumably being awarded these rights, not because they are black, not because they are poor, but solely because they are Zanu PF, and because this conforms with how we are expected to uphold ‘liberation values’ in Zimbabwe.

I don’t know what’s going to happen next. I suspect Schadenfreude has had a lot to do with how we got to where we are now. I suspect many Zimbabweans and perhaps many Africans have derived a degree of pleasure from the misfortune of white people. It has been good for many to witness whites getting slapped around the face for years. It has been satisfying to witness a form of vengeance on the descendents of those who oppressed their ancestors. I suspect many black people know this is unjust and wrong, but don’t feel any real distress that it has happened: Schadenfreude. Untangling this secret satisfaction from the reality that actually, the most affected by Zimbabwe’s misfortune are the poorest of the poor, seems difficult to achieve.

I get this and I even understand it. But be careful. I believe in my heart and my mind that if we as a nation start to tolerate and accept that there are conditions where some people can be defined as less equal than others, then it’s a slippery slope that can only head one way: downwards into an abyss. If you allow some people to have their rights written away, then you set a precedent to potentially kiss your own goodbye too. We either believe in human rights, or we embark on an endless journey of debate over who is more or less deserving of rights than others.

Zanu PF is extending the narrative further and it’s not just about skin colour anymore, it’s about the murky water of ‘liberation ideals’ and ‘values’. Where do YOU stand in that? Are you sure you’re on the ‘right’ side of ‘liberation values’? Do your ‘ideals’ toe the official line Zanu PF wants written into the constitution?

It is possible that Schadenfreude has cost Zimbabweans and Africans dearly already. Passively watching the slap fest from the sidelines, maybe enjoying it a bit, has resulted in devastating impacts on our economy, the exodus of skilled people to other countries, the disintegration of our education and health, and more. Everyone is a loser (except Zanu PF). And to some degree Schadenfreude has probably cost people in the SADC region their SADC Tribunal: unwilling to take issue with Zanu PF over their policies ruled as racist by the Tribunal has meant that millions of black people have also lost their right to take their human rights cases to this court as well.

I am white. I may not be seen as ‘equal’ to black people in Zimbabwe, but trust me, I am already not alone. When I stand next to an MDC supporter, I stand next to someone who is considered inferior to those who support Zanu PF. Zanu PF would like this written into law. The white-bashing fun has to come to an end at some point – if not simply because there will be no whites left! – and I’d suggest that the next constitution is a critical time to start thinking hard. The question we all need to start asking ourselves is, how much of this is still about ‘land’ and the ‘land issue’ and ‘historical injustices’, and how much is just blatant racism and greed and hatred for those – black or white – who do not think or behave in a Zanu PF conformist fashion.

Comments

Proud Zimbabwean says:

First they came for the socialists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.

- Martin Niemöller (1892–1984)

Submitted by Proud Zimbabwean on 29 August 2012 - 8:52am
True Zimbabwean says:

This is sad man. It eats my heart inside. How can we Zimbabweans stand and watch while this is happening? Zimbabwe has become so blatantly racist and yet the world watches and remains tight lipped. This is a country that says it wants to develop. It wants investment It wants sanctions removed so that they can travel freely to Europe and do business as free people. What I find most disturbing is the silence some of my black brothers have when this is happening. Not all of us feel the same though.We cry when Zanupf abuse our human rights and freedom. Yet we are quiet when he denies rights and fair treatment to white Zimbabweans. Imagine living in a country where you are blantantly told you are a second class citizen with no rights at all. Human beings must have empathy for their fellow human beings. I feel very sad that in Zimbabwe people are being robbed of their dignity and treated like trash. My neghbours are white in borrowdale. Every body gets water to drink from their brehole anytime of the day. Yet these are people we are robbing of everything they have, their dignity and desire to live normal and happy lives like all of us Zimbabweans. This is sickening my brothers. If we stand aside quietly we are endorsing it speak up and condemn it. Next time they will attch you. What will you say. Will you cry foul. Once they have finished with whites they turn on their own colour. There is always someone to turn against. That is what they thrive on. They are destroying Zimbabwe on the pretext that they are punishing whites. They are stripping the country of everything from trees to wild animals.For what? If a white person is protecting a conservation area it becomes the very reason to invade and kill all the wild animals.Reason – we are empowering blacks. Look at their track record of plunder. What is left for them to destroy. Look at the sorry state of the country. It breaks my heart. They call it black empowerment. This is perverse. What is Mugabe doing.Does he see it and go to bed and sleep peacefully. I wonder. Does he see it as a justifiable means to stay a few more years in power. Is he suffering from mental illness. I cannot discount that. Dictators have been their since time memorial but this one has something perculiar about him. He sits there and watches when even trees and wild animals are suffering. What have they done to him. This is a sick dictator I tell you. There is no need for him to allow the wanton destruction that is going on. Nobody wants to kill him. This is not a revolution. Maybe he is deluded to think it is some form of revolution. It is self destruction.

Submitted by True Zimbabwean on 29 August 2012 - 10:18am
gudo i gudo says:

This psychopath will stop at nothing to satisfy his appetite for evil. At his old age of 90 you would have thought it’s time to show empathy for fellow human beings so that one day you may go in peace but this animal doesn’t Protected boodthirsy cios and henchman who will kill even an ant he is here to complete his mission. Destroy Zimbabwe and leave a legacy of hate, racism and reckless behaviour. Is this not dracular reincanate?

It beggars belief when mai nhongo said he is such a blessing for zimbabwe. It’s shocking. Some people’s minds are twisted. How can you praise such a scum of a president.

Submitted by gudo i gudo on 29 August 2012 - 10:36am
Noma says:

Many whites thought the Ndebeles where the most evil people when Mugabe murdered them, No one cried but they all supported him. One day its goner be Shona against Shona. That always happens when u let your son steal from your neighbour, one day he is going to steal from you.

Submitted by Noma on 29 August 2012 - 10:42am
Chinja says:

COPAC, like the GPA, has been a farce from the beginning and is a great sleight of hand trick by ZPF. It sucked in people of good faith (like Coltart) who benevolently but mistakenly believe that others share their own desires for Zimbabwe.

While Coltart and many others have expended a huge amount of time and energy on trying to get a favourable outcome through negotiations, ZPF has been busy re-establishing itself at the grassroots to ensure the debacle of 2008 does not happen again, that it will be able to claim a victory in the next elections that it can sell to its supporters in SADC.

The GPA rescued ZPF from destruction. Instead of applying the killing blow in 2008 (by pressing home the advantage it got by ZPF’s blatant theft of the elections and its total illegitimacy within the region), the MDC saved ZPF and gave it breathing space to re-group and strengthen itself.

The futile years of COPAC have resulted in absolutely nothing that will usher in a democratic and free Zimbabwe. The current bullshit around revisions, drafts etc will end up with ZPF just throwing the whole process out the window and reverting to the old constitution or dropping the facade of parliamentary democracy altogether and ruling by dictat. After all, it has no interest in democracy, only in power.

The constitution is irrelevant when power resides in the hands of lawless and self-interested people. There can be no legalistic solution to our crisis, only a political one based upon the realities of power. The MDC has to neutralise the military, isolate the leadership of ZPF both internally and regionally, undercut its rural support and then ensure that any election is held under the auspices of a regional presence that is subject to pressure from the international community. This requires a firm resolution which sadly seems to be lacking in the leadership of the MDC who seem overly keen to accommodate ZPF. One hopes that the democratic elements in the party will resist those amongst them who seek to join ZPF at the high table and perpetuate the culture of patronage, greed, corruption and violence that curses our country.

And don’t you get upset when people claim that their way is “the only way forward” – this merely precludes any debate about alternative strategies and alienates a wide range of people who are resolutely opposed to ZPF and its political culture. We need to resuscitate a “Movement” that encompasses a wide range of views, united in the struggle to rid the country of its afflictions, not to seek power or personal status or reward.

Submitted by Chinja on 29 August 2012 - 12:10pm
watchman says:

Noma
Please don’t trivilise this issue. It seems you are now providing justification for his actions because he has done it before to Ndebeles. Are you one of those who just observe and wait for your predictions to come true. Or maybe you find solace in the fact that he is now doing it to another percieved group of people. You do sound like you are saying it’s payback time, you whites must suffer like we did. That is very shallow. How do you suggest that most whites felt that Ndebeles were the most evil people. That is a baseless statement with no facts in it.

The issue here is that racism or oppression is not right whether its done to a white person or black. At the moment he is doing no good to anyone black,white or even the animals that inhabit our forests.This is the sought of attitude and complacency that is fuelling oppression in Zimbabwe.’I belong to this group therefore what is happening is not my concern’.'Iam not a farmer, I don’t have a plot therefore It does not concern me’.

I read blatant racism in the Herald when people where being forced to leave their resettlemt plots in Zvimba. Some coments were suggesting that there are still whites on the farms therefore the land must be grabbed and given to the invader.Make a whiteperson homeless and give the plot to a black person. Is that what anyone in his right mind can call looking after your people.

If there is need to resettle people let it be done in a sensible way.Two wrongs don’t make a right.

Submitted by watchman on 29 August 2012 - 12:48pm
Stephen Drew says:

@Chinja – I agree it’s all about the retention of POWER. All other issues are nothing more than just tools for this purpose.
But an interesting point is did Morgan Tsvangirai sign the GPA with the people’s mandate and interest at heart or did he cement his own position for the trappings of power?

Submitted by Stephen Drew on 29 August 2012 - 8:09pm
Andrea says:

If Mthwakazi secedes – how will that affect the current draft for a constitution? And affect the attitude of the ‘upper layer’ to the various peoples it pretends to govern for the good of all?

Can a secession be done peaceably? Would it provide a refuge at need?

Is there a way to start a different economy to use the skills and imagination available? Or is this inherently dangerous because it could be seen as seditious?

There was a picture, a few postings back, of a man taking water from an open well. It has stayed with me. There is enough bush technology to change this situation. Enough ‘indigenous water lore and law’ to ensure the water is not overdrawn or wasted. How did people become so separated from basic skills?

If people are struggling by now, with no paid employment, then there is people power enough to gather together to work. To mend roads, start teaching anyone in need, grow food without a farm because those things are social goods, whether someone pays cash for them or not.

Submitted by Andrea on 9 November 2012 - 9:07am
Nhamodzenyika says:

thanks for sharing all your thoughts

Submitted by Nhamodzenyika on 2 October 2012 - 10:21pm

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Brilliantly sad article. 

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Thank-you for writing this beautiful heartfelt letter, for sharing what you have shared. It is so unbelievably wrong that your lives in your country are held 'hostage' by this farcical power-...

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