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Statement: Uniting in Defence of Democracy

Statement by the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition

23 February 2024

 

The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (The Coalition) is releasing the following statement based on the resolutions discussed during the board meeting held on 23 February 2024.

 

The Current Situation in Zimbabwe

The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition is deeply concerned about the decline of democratic space in Zimbabwe, which requires urgent action to unite grassroots communities and strengthen regional solidarity in the face of rising authoritarianism. We note the desperate and illegal attempts by the ruling ZANU PF government to amend the constitution to pave way for a third term for the current President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

 

The aftermath of the 2023 elections has led to controversy and a wave of persecution against opposition figures, which has further deepened the legitimacy crisis and exacerbated existing political and socio-economic problems. This is all just a cocktail of the drift towards a one-party state.

 

It is evident that the government's actions are a step backwards for democracy. They appear to be intended to undo the progress made in 2013 when Zimbabweans voted overwhelmingly to adopt a new Constitution that granted more freedoms to citizens.

 

However, since the adoption of the new constitution, the government of Zimbabwe has been on an overdrive to manipulate it through illegal amendments and harsh laws. These actions seem to be aimed at establishing a One-party state. We believe that this is a deliberate attempt to undermine the values, spirit and ethics of the liberation struggle, and our hard-won independence, for which many Zimbabweans lost their lives fighting.

 

We also take great concern over the ongoing drought crisis in Zimbabwe, which poses an additional threat, potentially exacerbating poverty and vulnerability among the Zimbabwean population.

 

The current drought is so acute that, according to international humanitarian institutions, an estimated 2.6 million people, including 1.7 million children, are projected to require urgent humanitarian assistance and the country is already experiencing a food and nutrition crisis, and a cholera outbreak.  Nearly a million people, including half a million children require safe water for drinking and domestic purposes.

 

This not only puts the government on the spotlight regarding its obligation to provide social support to save lives, but it also gives civil society organisations a huge responsibility to monitor and keep the balance and check on the government’s commitment to alleviating the effects of the drought.

 

Resolutions of the 23 February 2024 Board Meeting and the Call to Action


Uniting in defending the Constitution:

The 2013 Constitution came out of persistent efforts of the pro-democracy movement. It sought to address a myriad of problems that Zimbabweans faced at the hands of a government that was not adequately restrained by progressive constitutional principles. Despite its flaws and inadequacies, it still remains a victory for the people and a good step forward towards democracy, freedom and justice.

However, the previous amendments to the constitution and disregard of constitutional provisions have shown that without collective awareness and resistance the constitution is under threat. Another amendment to the constitution is clearly on the horizon if recent developments in the ruling party are to be considered. The potential for amending the constitution in pursuance of a third term for the current or future President remains a possibility.


The Coalition believes that any such self-serving constitutional amendments are retrogressive and creates a society that is beholden to individual political interests. We therefore call on all citizens to unite in defence of the constitution. Instead of more constitutional amendments we should unite in calling for full implementation of the constitutional provisions.

In order to defend our constitution and democracy from the dangerous agenda of a one-party state, where citizens' rights are limited, we call on all progressive Zimbabweans, including farmers, students, youths, women, workers, and the progressives in both the opposition and Zanu PF, to come together and stand up for our constitution, mobilize for democracy, and resist the One-Party state agenda. It is crucial that every sector of our society plays their part in safeguarding the democratic principles that underpin our collective future.

 

 

Uniting in Defence of Democracy: 

The constitution of Zimbabwe regards the country as a constitutional democracy. We do not have room for a one-party state. The constitution promotes and protects various freedoms including expression, assembly, association, political participation and political choices amongst other rights. Multiparty democracy is the anchor of our constitutional democracy, and it must be defended by all.


Recent events have demonstrated that our democracy is in danger. The use of state institutions and quasi-state power to annihilate the popular opposition has serious implications on our democracy. The failure by the Judiciary, Parliament and other independent branches of government to protect democracy show that the problem has deepened.


Although democracy is imperfect, we believe there is currently no better alternative. It is lack of democracy that has caused deterioration in our health care, education, infrastructure, economy, livelihoods, living conditions, security of land tenure and other public services. Lack of democracy has sunk us deep in usurious taxation and deepening poverty.


Defending democracy is therefore defending our right to live decent and productive lives. We therefore call upon all citizens to unite in defence of constitutional democracy which includes right to free, fair and credible elections.

We call upon all citizens, regardless of background or affiliation, to join together in a spirit of unity and solidarity to safeguard the democratic principles enshrined in Zimbabwe's constitution, advocate for transparent and accountable governance and stand against attempts to erode democratic institutions and suppress voices of dissent.

Uniting in defence of livelihoods and equitable economic opportunities

The liberation struggle sought amongst other aims to grant every Zimbabwean equal opportunity. It sought to grant Zimbabweans opportunities to productive and meaningful livelihoods. Today many livelihoods are threatened by cartels controlling every facet of the economy. The economy has been shaped in such a way that it works for a few at the expense of the majority.

Those attempting to mitigate against high unemployment by venturing into the informal economy are harassed daily by authorities. They are at times dispossessed of their wares and capital. Many of our young men are perishing in artisanal mining for the benefit of a few cartels. Our natural resources are being pillaged daily without commensurate development to our nation. There is massive environmental damage that will be felt for ages to come due to exploitation of our natural resources without real gains to the people.

The majority are wallowing in poverty while a few enjoy opulence. With good intend and good governance we believe that the livelihoods of all citizens can be guaranteed

We therefore call upon all Zimbabweans to unite in defence of decent livelihoods and equal economic opportunities.


Uniting in defence to the right to housing and land ownership

The right to land ownership and use was the central and intersectional grievance of all Zimbabweans in the struggle for independence. Our people had been dispossessed of their land and subjected to poor and overpopulated land. The white minority owned the vast tracts of fertile lands while the majority Zimbabweans had no access to productive land. Independence therefore meant reclaiming back the land and equal access and ownership of land. That is why there was a huge call for land reform after independence. It was not a call to remove a minority white landowner with another batch of minority black or white landowners. We expected every Zimbabwean to have equal access to land ownership and use.

Today we are witnessing massive evictions even from rural areas. We are witnessing our traditional leaders being rendered powerless in decisions about use and occupation of lands within their jurisdictions.

Recently many families lost millions of dollars in investments through demolitions of their homes and forced evictions. This is a sad reminder of the subjugation and dispossession that our people suffered at the hands of the white colonizers. Sadly, some indigenous Zimbabweans are being removed from their lands to pave way for Whites and Asian investors. A sad reminder of how today’s neocolonialism is similar to yesteryear colonialism. Both exalts profits over wellbeing of people.

In cities over a million households are on the housing waiting list failing to obtain few square meters of land to build their single homes. However, those connected and who benefited from the land reform are subdividing many farms around the country and selling stands at exorbitant prices. Many are getting extremely rich at the expense of the majority being impoverished. Land has also become a political tool used by those in control to silence and control dissenting voices. We believe every Zimbabwean must have equal access to land and that our land must benefit all of us equitably.  We therefore call upon all Zimbabweans to unite and defend the right to housing and equitable land use. 

 

 



We must strengthen our solidarity efforts and actions with the masses of people across the SADC region and the continent at large. We recognize that democratic struggles are interconnected across borders. Recent events in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Eswatini serve as powerful examples of the need for cross-border people to people solidarity. By supporting our counterparts in these nations, we can strengthen the broader movement for democracy and rights protection in the region.

The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition calls upon all citizens to recognize the significance of SADC as a platform for regional cooperation, dialogue, and advocacy. By actively engaging with SADC mechanisms, lending our voices to the regional discourse, and advocating for democratic governance, we can contribute to the collective efforts aimed at advancing democratic principles and upholding human rights across Southern Africa.

Uniting in our Call for Dialogue

We repeat our call for an inclusive church-led dialogue process anchored by SADC to cure Zimbabwe’s multifaceted crisis.


 

Peter Mutasa

Chairperson

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition

 

 



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