3 March, 2023
The President of the Republic of Zimbabwe
His Excellency Mr. E. D. Mnangagwa
Corner Samora Machel Avenue/Second Street
RE: LETTER OF CONCERN OVER THE EROSION OF THE GAINS OF 18 APRIL 1980
1. Mr. President, we write this letter jointly as patriotic citizens of Zimbabwe, united by our common desire for freedom, justice and happiness for all, to share our views and plead with you as the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, on a number of issues prevailing in our country Zimbabwe.
2. Mr. President, as patriotic citizens, we are driven by our collective and legitimate concerns over the seeming entrenchment of a culture and model of governance, which has increasingly come to be viewed by many citizens as running contrary to the liberation promise ushered in with great relief, pomp and hope on 18 April 1980.
2.1 To be sure, the joy of 1980 carried with it a desire and hope for the long-lost liberties, fundamental rights and freedoms of Zimbabwe’s black majority under the yoke of racial and colonial subjugation; the hope of 1980 carried with it a yearning for a just economic governance framework, based on equal access to economic opportunities and decent livelihoods for the majority; open and inclusive processes of national wealth creation and its distribution; access to basic social services for all; and the right to self-determination, itself anchored on the sanctity of ‘one wo/man, one vote’ and the legitimate assumption and transfer of the authority to govern.
2.2 Mr. President, we are also guided by the spirit of the preamble of our sacrosanct Constitution of the Republic of Zimbabwe, in particular, “our unity in diversity and common desire for freedom, justice, equality and our heroic resistance to colonialism [including neo-colonialism], racism and all forms of domination and oppression.”
2.3 Indeed, we were also encouraged by the sentiments you shared on November 24 2017 during your inauguration, where you shared your desire to “give our Nation a different, positive direction, while serving our country as the President of all citizens regardless of colour, creed, religion, tribe, totem or political affiliation”; and your declaration “that NEVER AGAIN should the circumstances that have put Zimbabwe in an unfavourable position be allowed to recur or overshadow its prospects… (that) we must work together… all of us who make up this Nation.”
3. Notwithstanding the above background, which from November 2017, had given hope to the masses of Zimbabwe, choked by a debilitating crisis for over two decades now, we remain hopeful and determined as a people, that the gains and promise of 18 April 1980 must never be lost during our lifetime. It is on this premise Mr. President, that we seek through this letter, to bring to your esteemed attention, five pertinent issues which are of serious concern to us, the citizens you lead. These, in no particular order of importance, include the following:
Deepening poverty in the midst of plenty - a growing ‘resource curse’
The erosion of the sanctity of the vote
The continued closure of civic and democratic space
The undermining of the independence of state institutions
The failure to entrench a culture of peaceful and democratic transitions
Our concerns are detailed below.
3.1 Deepening poverty in the midst of plenty - a growing ‘resource curse’
3.1.1 Mr President, there is an ever widening gap emerging between ordinary citizens and a few wealthy and politically connected individuals. The methods through which national wealth is being created and distributed, continue contrary to your avowed aspirations, to exclude and leave many behind. Thus, as a few citizens enjoy booming business, have access to life-changing economic opportunities and are contributing to the macro-economic figures which paint a picture of positive macro-economic gains, the majority of the citizens you lead are not a part of this ‘faceless’ growth.
3.1.2 We do acknowledge the fact that Zimbabwe is endowed with vast resources, including natural and human, sufficient to drive a sustainable development trajectory that is capable of ensuring that the country is able to meet its development objectives, including as set out in both National Development Strategy 1 and 2, all encapsulated in Vision 2030, and indeed the African union’s Agenda 2063. Indeed, as you have consistently stressed through your mantra - that Zimbabweans must be responsible for building their country – it is the duty of all Zimbabweans, in their various ways no matter how small, to contribute towards turning around the economic fortunes of the country, notwithstanding the various external pressures we face in an evolving and ever volatile geopolitical world order. In our small and humble way, we are bringing to your attention these realities:
3.1.3 It is of great concern Mr. President, that in the midst of vast natural resources which anchor our mining and agricultural sectors, there is not much in the form of material dividends accruing to the ordinary citizens. For example, the corporates and syndicates extracting mineral resources from Zimbabwe, including rare metals are not banking their proceeds in Zimbabwe, yet the opportunity cost lost through offshore banking is clear; chiefly that while Zimbabwe remains ‘dry’ and with little foreign currency to fund internal development, foreign capitals overflow with liquidity generated from Zimbabwe's wealth. Is there not a case to support that receipts for Zimbabwean wealth are banked and protected in Zimbabwe to provide relatively cheaper fiscal space for more wealth creation by both Government and the private sector? It seems that the framework of national wealth creation and distribution currently existing, runs contrary to the aspirations of Section 13 of our Constitution on National Development and the character it ought to take to ensure inclusivity, including of socially marginalised groups such as women, youth, people with disability and ethnic minorities.
3.1.4 The situation is more debilitating for host communities in resource-endowed areas, whose living conditions seem to worsen in the face of wealth-creating activities in their vicinity. Cases in point include:
The inconclusive relocation of the Chingwizi villagers who have been temporarily relocated on a piece of land that is under dispute of ownership after being displaced by the construction of the Tokwe-Mukosi Dam;
The Marange villagers displaced by diamond mining at Chiadzwa;
The villagers in Chisumbanje who continue to lose land without proper compensation and relocation frameworks;
The Mutoko villagers whose villages and cultural heritage are under threat from black granite mining;
The Lupane villagers who are at risk of being evicted upon the completion of the Gwayi-Shangani dam, and those threatened by the commercial production of Lucerne grass in Chilonga.
3.1.5 A common thread in all these wealth generating projects of national significance is that the locals have been left with dilapidated public infrastructure; their schools, clinics and roads are not reflective of the natural resource endowments in their localities. Yet, the protection and happiness of citizens is crucial as the late President Robert Mugabe attempted through the idea of community share ownership trusts. Ordinary citizens, and not just foreign investors must also benefit from local resources.
3.1.6 The current scourge of drug abuse among our youths is itself a symptom of a dejected people, left alone to face the consequences of the stripping of our national resources without any matching re-investment of the proceeds to benefit the local population. The young people are fast losing hope and patience, a recipe for disaster on so many fronts.
3.1.7 Again, it is also incumbent upon your government to guarantee the workers of Zimbabwe a living wage on which they can support their families and households. This is true for both those workers in public service and those in the private sector. Currently, the majority of the workforce in Zimbabwe earns below the minimum wage in real terms; concurrently their salaries fall below the poverty datum line and are not enough to match the monthly breadbasket.
3.2 The erosion of the sanctity of the vote
3.2.1 Mr President, Zimbabwe will head for harmonised elections this year, for which you are constitutionally mandated to proclaim a date. We would like to take this opportunity to emphasize the sacrosanctity of elections to our commonly held aspirations of a united Zimbabwe, founded on a common belief and subscription to the key liberation tenet of “one wo/man, one vote”. It is incumbent upon your government, Mr. President, to ensure that this right and key tenet is respected, adhered to and fulfilled within the confines of what our constitution and laws prescribe.
3.2.2 Many Zimbabweans, including war veterans, war collaborators, ordinary citizens/villagers, including those in our neighbours including Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania, Botswana, Angola and many others, supported our liberation struggle to ensure ordinary Zimbabweans freely vote for candidates and parties of their choice. Sadly, almost 43 years after independence, Zimbabweans still lose lives for supporting a party or candidate of their choice. In 2022, four innocent Zimbabweans lost their lives for exercising this right and freedom of choice, while many cases of human rights violations were also recorded. This trend continues and has already started to cast aspersion on the credibility of the 2023 elections, whenever they are going to be held. This is not good for our country.
3.2.3 We would want to humbly bring it to your attention that as we speak, the road to Elections 2023 has started on a very bad note, as defined by an obtaining environment which does not translate to a free exercise and enjoyment of the fundamental rights and freedoms underpinning the right to vote as espoused in Section 67 of our Constitution on Political Rights.
3.2.4 Many of the practices we see by state institutions meant to entrench our democracy and guarantee the sanctity of the vote, run afoul of the many provisions meant to guarantee this right, including our Constitution and the Electoral Act, as well as key regional statutes to which our country is a state party, notably the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance and the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections. To be sure, these include the following as very key and foundational:
The openly partisan and opaque conduct of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), which has continuously failed to genuinely consult all stakeholders in the handing of its matters as it is obligated to; to date, ZEC has failed to make public a copy of the voters roll, in direct contravention of the Constitution. It has also gone to conduct a delimitation process which is unconstitutional and likely to face many challenges in court. On the same note, the composition of the ZEC itself, especially its commissioners, does not inspire confidence given the direct correlation between the appointed commissioners and senior members of your Government. All this has a major bearing on the long-term verdict on our elections, and a potential source for censure by international stakeholders.
The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) continue to exercise its functions in ways that undermine our Constitution, using especially the auspices of the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act. The trend of selective application of the law is again another low point in our state-society relations, reminiscent of colonial times when the law was used as a weapon of oppression against the masses. Again, this continues to cast bad light on your government and likely to cast our democratic processes in bad light, which continues to soil our international image and standing. Again, this is not beneficial to our country.
Political violence continues to be a burden on our communities: known community members continue to perpetrate violence with impunity against fellow community members; we believe that it is no coincidence that the majority of the victims are members of the political opposition, while the majority of perpetrators are members of the ruling party which you also lead. When looked together with the banning of opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) rallies and meetings by the police, it is clear that the actions of your government are tantamount to proscribing the party, which is a clear and present danger to our multi-party polity, again enshrined in our national Constitution. Again only you can stop this and protect our standing in the ‘League of All Nations’.
3.2.5 The cumulative impact of all these malpractices on the legitimacy of the 2023 elections outcome cannot be over-emphasized. We raise this issue with you now, a few months before they are held, as the buck stops with you, in providing remedial leadership and ensuring that through the work of our different state institutions, these malpractices can be eradicated and give Zimbabweans a chance at a credible election.
3.2.6 We therefore plead with you, in your capacity as President of the Republic of Zimbabwe and as one of the leaders of the liberation struggle to protect what Zimbabweans fought for - freedom of choice as other African countries do. South Africa or Senegal, with much bigger populations often have highly contested elections but with no loss of lives. As per your inauguration statement of November 2017, we agree, and subsequently ask you to protect all Zimbabweans irrespective of political choice.
3.3 The continued closure of civic and democratic space
3.3.1 Mr President, the manner in which we manage our internal politics determines the development, or its converse, of our country; you aptly captured this in November 2017 when you hinted: “Fellow Zimbabweans, as we chart our way forward, we must accept that our challenges as a nation emanate in part from the manner in which we have managed our politics, both nationally and internationally, leading to circumstances in which our country has undeservedly been perceived or classified as a pariah State.”
3.3.2 The letter and spirit of the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Amendment Bill and the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Amendment Bill and The Patriot Bill are, in their current form, retrogressive threats to the gains, promises and hope of the dream of 18 April, 1980. Not only are the premises of fighting terrorism and money laundering by citizens as organised civilian and civic groups in their private capacity flimsy and ill-calculated, they also point to a blatant reversal of the gains of our liberation struggle.
3.3.3 We are sure we do not need to remind you of the solidarity rendered by the very same non-state actors in supporting you and fellow leaders of our liberation struggle in detention at Sikombela, Gonakudzingwa and other camps; their varied work and walking the development journey with villagers in the keeps, communal areas and refugee camps during our war of liberation. This is clear testimony to the developmental role of non-state actors in protecting and feeding the liberators in spite of the politics of Rhodesia which had declared you and your cohorts as “terrorists”. We beseech your office not to sign the PVO Amendment Bill in its current form as it takes Zimbabwe back to Rhodesia and the colonial moment. We do not, as a country, want to be counted among those countries reneging on what the Frontline States and their leaders sacrificed so much for, including the life and limb of fellow citizens.
3.3.4 Non-state actors, including the philanthropic work of private citizens, are a huge pillar of support to progress for any nation. These non-state actors are already well regulated under various national statutes; to date since independence, none has been convicted on any terrorism charges or money laundering. Yes, they must be regulated, but not proscribed. On the same note, we totally support a framework where NGOs have regulations and guidelines to ensure there is no mission creep. Another example, just to highlight one organisation, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) which now gets persecuted for being political, is the same organisation that used its non-partisan approach to represent Zimbabwe’s current Ambassador to Mozambique Ambassador Victor Matemadanda and war veterans leader Douglas Mahiya when they were targeted in the last years of President Mugabe’s reign. How partisan then does ZLHR become if it represents Citizen Coalition for Change leader Honourable Job Sikhala who has been in pre-trial detention for more than 270 days? The
fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens Mr. President, must never be politicised.
3.3.5 We humbly submit that as our constitution declares, “we the people” of Zimbabwe, as currently led by you, must create a system that works for all irrespective of ethnicity, politics, gender, race, sex or creed; to build a culture of patriotism and pan-Africanism in line with the spirit of Accra 1963. The risk of using law to promote patriotism is tantamount to creating a one party state, which runs contrary to not only our Constitution, but the 100 year milestone and ambition for Africa espoused in Agenda 2063.
3.4 The undermining of the independence of state institutions
Chapter 12 Institutions
3.4.1 Mr President, Chapter 12 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe lists five independent commissions which are crucial in protecting our independence and the liberties it brought, especially to the extent that they protect the sovereignty and interests of ordinary citizens. These are the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, the Zimbabwe Gender Commission, the Zimbabwe Media Commission and the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission.
3.4.2 Mr. President, these institutions lack genuine independence and protection from over-reach of the Executive arm of government. They are also under-resourced and are in most instances unable to fulfil their full constitutional mandates. One key commission, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) displays an acute lack of independence through its errors of omission and commission. ZEC is supposed to engage the public, the people of Zimbabwe beyond political party lines in its business. The secretive manner in which it conducted the 2022 delimitation process is a serious cause for concern, not just to this generation, but the future of the country given that the right to vote was one of the key virtues of the liberation struggle.
Chapter 8 and Chapter 13 Institutions
3.4.3 The Constitution of Zimbabwe under Section 162 clearly states that judicial authority is derived from the people of Zimbabwe, and is vested in the courts. It also in Chapter 13 further provides for institutions to combat corruption and crime, including the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). However, the reality in Zimbabwe is very worrying, as judicial independence is under severe threat, notwithstanding the poor working conditions of the officers or the courts and the Chapter 13 institutions.
3.4.4 Justice at the courts has therefore been the biggest loser, as the class divide continues to rear its divisive head in the delivery of justice; in short Mr. President, ‘justice is now for sale’, the judiciary is suffering from the yoke of Executive interference and preferential treatment of citizens based on political affiliation. This, Your Excellency, was the domain and modus of the erstwhile colonial regime against the black majority. The breadth and pattern of the “catch and release” phenomenon, especially of politically connected cartels stripping Zimbabwe of her wealth, has become a national security concern. Public trust and confidence in the courts has also waned due to a pattern of selective application of justice along political party and ethnic lines.
3.5 The failure to entrench a culture of peaceful and democratic transitions
3.5.1 Mr President, you stand at a defining moment in history, as Zimbabwe’s second leader after independence. While we do acknowledge that the transition of 17 November 2017 was a wrong precedent for our young democracy, we remain conscious of how the nation and the world at large, was prepared to give your person and the Second Republic a benefit of doubt, with the expectation of you fulfilling the promises you made at your inauguration on 24 November 2017.
3.5.2 Mr. President, our humble submission is that our country has since as far back as the 1985 elections, failed to entrench a culture of peaceful and democratic transitions, as benchmarked by the conduct of free, fair and credible elections whose outcome is beyond national question, and marked by clear provisions of transfer of power.
3.5.3 As we conclude, we would want to remind you of a letter written to the then Zimbabwean Prime Minister, Robert Mugabe by then exiled ZAPU leader, Joshua M. N. Nkomo on June 7th 1983, from which we extract the paragraph 117 below:
“Remember, Mr President, it is only for the citizens of Zimbabwe and the people have to defend the country from these enemies [our erstwhile colonisers]. But today Zimbabwe is defenceless because the people live in fear, not of these enemies, but of their own government. What has happened to the brave and determined, confident and fearless people of Zimbabwe and their soldiers of liberation, who showed the world that no power on earth could prevent us from achieving our freedom? That was a time when even our enemies had to admire us for our courage and determination. Today our enemies laugh at us. What they see is a divided, confused and frightened people, led by a divided, confused and frightened government.”
3.5.4 We therefore implore you Mr. President, even within the various issues raised above, to consider setting in motion and guaranteeing the genuine independence of all state institutions; to guarantee and uphold all rights and freedoms of citizens as espoused in our national Constitution, so that Zimbabwe begins a journey of peaceful contestation for state power and its attendant transitions; our neighbours - including South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and Mozambique - have indeed shown us that this is possible, and the stability they enjoy, including the economic dividends, are testimony to its desirability. Conditions where state institutions are captured and where political party interests overtake national interests, as we learnt from various studies of coups in West Africa, breed violent transfers of power and are anti-development. This, as you are aware, was not part of the dream and hope of 1980.
3.5.5 Your government must earn the respect and confidence of the people, and must not be in the habit of using laws and weapons of colonial regimes to protect itself. The people themselves will protect their government if they have full trust in it. Fear is a weapon of despair, used by those who fear the people. This is the time and opportunity to rebuild trust, find the solution to our problems and defend the country as a united people.
3.5.6 We commit ourselves, in our small and varied ways, to contribute towards building a united, just and prosperous nation, cherishing its freedom, equality, peace, justice, tolerance, prosperity and patriotism.
3.5.7 Lastly, we wish Zimbabwe well. The same energy and vision of “power to the masses' must be protected and bequeathed to upcoming generations, who deserve a new page of happiness and development for our beloved nation.
It is our hope that you address these issues as failure to do so will leave Zimbabweans with the only option of mobilizing themselves to defend the constitution and the 1980 dream
A prosperous and free Zimbabwe is possible!
For and on behalf of concerned citizens of Zimbabwe