Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome and thank you so much for taking the time to come to this press conference.
A lot has been happening in our country since the start of the year; we are however worried about the recent developments in our country which seem not to be going in the positive direction we all wish to see. A number of developments have also been at play; some have attracted the attention of our members, who have responded in various ways, individually and collectively. These have spanned the political, social and economic realm.
As the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, we have noted with dismay that the national state of affairs continues to deteriorate, amid worsening authoritarian tendencies by ZANU PF as the ruling government. Our concerns are four-fold.
1. ‘Faceless’ economic development and diminished livelihoods
Contrary to the propaganda we are fed by the ZANU PF aligned media daily that the economy is rebounding, we have continued to witness serious shortcomings in terms of our economic governance, the dilapidation of our infrastructure with corruption being a key impediment to economic recovery.
Crony capitalism has indeed taken root, as a few politically connected and exposed persons clinch the majority of state tenders through the Zimbabwe Investment Development Act (ZIDA); this has been most notable in the mining, agricultural and road construction sectors. It is worth highlighting that with the state of our economy, the government has become the biggest employer and source of such tenders.
We all remember the Drax scandal of 2020 which to date has not seen any prosecutions, despite evidence of impropriety from known persons. Many other cases of misappropriation of state resources have been reported including by high-ranking officials; some by the Office of the Auditor-General; others have been reported to the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC). But as has become the norm, it is only ‘catch and release’ as perpetrators of financial impropriety continue to walk scot-free.
The current 'faceless economic growth' model being pursued by the current government does not serve the citizens but a few cronies connected to the ruling party. The mega-deals in mining which are projected to grow the economy, are not benefitting the country and the host communities. The black granite of the country continues to be shipped off to other countries for a pittance, with host communities facing the brunt of an arrogant extracting expatriate force with little regard for their rights as locals – this is to the extent of even desecrating graves in the rural hinterlands.
The sweat of our hard-working farmers is not being rewarded equitably as they continue to lose out in badly designed support schemes notably the contract farming scheme. Farmers are being fleeced through the Command Agriculture Scheme (now the Agro Yield Facility) – imagine having to repay a bag of fertilizer for US$47 under the stop order facility when they repay their input loans.
Our cotton farmers have endured three seasons now of being paid their dues in over-priced groceries. Yes, a farmer who has forked out their hard-earned cash to purchase inputs is being paid in groceries after delivering cotton to Cottco. Our tobacco farmers are in a similar quandary as they are being reaped off in similar contract farming arrangements.
With a largely informal economy, the country's citizens have been forced to eke a living on the margins of the economy, where they face the brunt of marauding law enforcement that corruptly feeds of their sweat. Running battles between municipal police, the ZRP and vendors of various wares are the order of the day in most urban centres.
2. Crisis of social services
We are also gravely concerned by the continued under-funding of basic social services by the government, which continues to treat its employees with utter contempt and disdain. The current crisis in the education sector epitomizes the government's failures in this regard. The opening of the new school term on February 7 was marked by industrial action by a large cross-section of teachers, who have cited incapacitation as their salaries have become grossly inadequate – currently, teachers are earning about ZWL$23,000 against a monthly food basket of over ZWL$70,000 according to latest statistics from the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ).
The crisis of meagre wages in the civil service is not only affecting teachers. Nurses have also long decried this issue. Even security sector personnel have not been spared if the spike in cases of armed robberies by uniformed ‘men’ is anything to go by.
It is rather surprising that instead of engaging with its workers to hear their grievances, the government has sought to intimidate teachers; the announcement of a blanket suspension of all teachers who absented themselves from work during the first week of schools opening is evidence of an intransigent government, which does not listen to its workers. How ironic, given the avowed statements from the head of state himself that he is a listening president, who leads a government that listens.
3. Impending by-elections and political violence
The Coalition has also noted with great concern, the increase in cases of politically motivated violence including intimidation as Zimbabwe heads towards the March 26 by-elections.
It is regrettable to note that senior ZANU PF leaders like its Second Secretary, Retired General Constantino Chiwenga, continue to fan and fuel violence against opposition supporters. During rallies held in Marondera and Kwekwe recently, the ZANU PF vice president Chiwenga equated opposition supporters to lice that must be crashed, statements reminiscent of the Gukurahundi massacres in the early 1980s.
As a result of these and other such utterances, we witnessed during this past weekend alone, disturbing incidences where machete-wielding youth aligned to ZANU PF brewed an orgy of violence targeting Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) activists and other civilians attending a campaign rally in Kwekwe. Regrettably, many sustained injuries and some were hospitalized. Life was also lost as a result of this violence. May their soul rest in peace.
These events currently obtaining on the ground, point to a bloody election; and this is not only the impending March 26 by-elections but the 2023 national elections as well.
What is also disturbing is how these elections are being held in an environment that is far from yielding a credible election. It looks like ZANU PF does not want an electoral contest at all.
The partisan and opaque conduct of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) continues to cast aspersions on the integrity of our electoral processes as a country. The independence of ZEC is critical for credible polls and we reiterate that ZEC’s incapacity to hold act impartially during these by-elections could be a pointer to yet another costly charade with pre-determined outcomes in 2023.
We remain convinced that credible elections and respect for human rights are critical for Zimbabwe’s re-engagement with the international community and ultimately, economic growth.
It has to be noted that disputed elections have almost always resulted in a legitimacy crisis and ultimately, Zimbabwe continues to be alienated from the international community which has resulted in negative implications on the country’s economic growth.
4. Continued closure of civic and democratic space
Our analyses of the current conjuncture have pointed us to one clear conclusion – it is that the actions of the ZANU PF government seek to take the country back to their nostalgic quest to have a one-party state in Zimbabwe.
Our reasons are clear.
The continued closure of civic space through the enactment of various obnoxious laws, reminiscent of the colonial era is a calculated move to criminalize anyone seeking to hold the government to account. The Data Protection Act enacted in December 2021 is an ominous piece of legislation; in the same vein, the PVO Amendment Bill is certain to be used to shut down many private voluntary actors, including those providing humanitarian assistance across the country. This is a calculated move to ensure that citizens impoverished by years of economic mismanagement are vulnerable to the dictates of corrupt politicians.
The disruptions witnessed at the ongoing PVO Bill Public hearings in Highfield Harare and Vhengere Hall in Rusape are quite disturbing and points out to a polarized political environment instigated by political leaders.
The partisan use of the police to close out any other form of civic or political organizing outside the ruling party ZANU PF is a clear statement – no other form of organizing is permissible under this Second Republic. It is disturbing to note that in most cases, law enforcement agents have acted more as an appendage of the ruling party and this has seen perpetrators of political violence walking scot-free. The events in Gokwe Centre when the police unleashed water cannons and tear gas canisters to prevent a High Court sanctioned rally by the CCC party are appalling and disturbing. The police force must be to maintain law and order and not take political instructions from ZANU PF.
The use of violence perpetrated by machete and spear-wielding gangs from the Midlands town of Kwekwe is meant to instil fear and keep citizens away from any form of civic or political participation if they are not ZANU PF supporters or activists. We have seen the lawlessness of these machete gangs before and we all know who their master is.
The conduct of ZEC, which refuses to act transparently clearly betrays ZANU PF’s intent to win all upcoming elections by hook or crook.
The way forward
We believe that the events occurring in the country all point to regression rather than progression to the many promises made by the ZANU PF regime right from their early days.
In the immediate and regarding the deteriorating the human security situation in the face of political violence, we are urging the following:
We implore President Mnangagwa, the Government of Zimbabwe and ZANU PF as a party, to urgently and publicly denounce political violence that is being perpetrated by ZANU PF supporters.
We urge the Zimbabwe Republic Police to act professionally in the conduct of their duties, upholding this Constitution and enforcing the law without bias and desist from acting as a vigilante force for the ruling party.
With regards to the impending election in March 2022 as well as the upcoming 2023 elections,
We implore the government to seriously consider the issue of electoral reforms as an urgent matter; while the March 26 by-elections will most likely be held under the current skewed, unfree and unfair context, we hope that all stakeholders will consider the issue of electoral reforms as key to getting back our country on a positive development trajectory.
We implore ZEC to act impartially and independently and desist from acting as commissars of the ruling party. ZEC must be transparent and accountable to all contesting parties and the general citizenry.
Notwithstanding the difficult conditions presented by ZEC to facilitate voter registration, we call upon Zimbabweans to register to vote en masse and exercise their democratic right to choose leaders of their choice. In this regard, we would also like to implore the Registrar General’s Department to ensure that citizens have access to national identity documents to avoid disenfranchising eligible voters.
On the worsening socio-economic conditions as well as the pauperisation of civil servants in the country,
We reaffirm our unwavering solidarity with the suffering teachers of Zimbabwe and urge the Government to seriously consider the crisis in the education sector. Government must urgently engage with all teachers' unions and not just a select few, and their engagements must be based on genuine and frank conversations on having teachers receive a living wage, that is alive to the poverty datum line as well as the current food basket.
The plight of teachers symbolises and indeed mirrors the plight of all civil servants in Zimbabwe. Civil servants must therefore unite in engaging their employer to pay a living wage to all.
We also urge the citizens of Zimbabwe to stand in solidarity with civil servants, as their plight is not theirs alone, but impacts on us all, as civil servants are in employ to serve the nation, regardless of the field or sector they serve in. after all, these are our mothers, fathers, daughters and sons, aunts and uncles.
Let me hasten to emphasize that, as bona fide citizens of this country, we remain committed to its wholesome development, and will therefore not fold our hands as ZANU PF tries, by all means, to turn this country into a one-party state. As such, we shall continue to engage all stakeholders, both within and outside its borders, as we seek to chart a more sustainable and inclusive development.
The Coalition has endorsed a call by citizens across the country to forge a ‘broad alliance’ to tackle the numerous challenges facing the country under the auspices of the Restore Zimbabwe Campaign (REZICA).
The Restore Zimbabwe Campaign is a campaign of all citizens – women; youth; workers including civil servants, informal traders; farmers, war veterans, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities; the church, civil society, business, political parties – who are coming together in pursuit of a renewed social contract, where governance is premised on the wishes and aspirations of the citizens.
The Restore Zimbabwe Campaign views reforms of our governance architecture as key in tacking Zimbabwe forward. In particular, we are concerned with:
Governance in the realm of state-civil society relations
Governance in the realm of economic governance and equal opportunity for all
Governance in the realm of public service delivery.
It is our firm belief that far-reaching and genuine reforms in those three facets of governance are key in taking our country forward.
We will also continue to engage with our partners in the region and internationally in urging for a ‘scaffolding’ of the protracted transition in Zimbabwe. We firmly believe that conditions in the country cannot self-correct but indeed require the guidance and assistance of regional actors, especially SADC.