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  Zimbabwe's new president implicated in 1980s massacres

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By Dr Ralph Mguni
In the aftermath of the 'most peaceful' elections
Ralph Mguni
The repeated calls by President Mnangagwa for unity and understanding, together with the condemnation of all violence must bring much hope to all Zimbabweans. This is a stance of a true statesman. If the results of the recent harmonised elections confirm that he is who the people of Zimbabwe have chosen to lead them, then these words indicate real magnanimity on his part. To an observer outside the corridors of power however, the messages from the President raise more questions than answers. In the Zimbabwe that we know, control of the armed forces resides with the "nearly" all powerful President.

When soldiers are deployed on the streets of the nation's capital purportedly to quell civil strife and then proceed to mow down innocent civilians, a condemnation of violence from the Commander of all Armed Forces rings somewhat hollow. Is it credible that such impunity could be possible without the President giving his nod? If so, are there parallel command structures running independent shows in Zimbabwe? If that be the case, what credence can be given to all the promises that indeed the country has transformed into a haven of peace which is truly open for business?

The people of Zimbabwe need to navigate the coming days of the coming days with vigilance and caution. At the very least the nation should expect swift retribution against the malefactors with culprits apprehended and the faults in the command chain exposed. Cynics will doubt that anyone will be held accountable for the tragic loss of innocent lives, all of whom leave distraught families who will find consolation hard to come by. Hopefully this will not be another case of disdainful passing the buck, a phenomenon previously very much associated with the President and his party. After all, is it not just the recently deposed Robert Mugabe who bears responsibility for all the past evil deeds of Zanu?

Call it tolerance, uncaring attitude or inability to empathise with the suffering but the preparedness of many Zimbabweans to look the other way when injustice is committed is disconcerting. The sychomphatic press covered the story of the gross human as merely some civilians being caught in the crossfire. Really? Caught in crossfire is a term which refers to a situation where hapless innocents are harmed when belligerents are shooting at each other. But was this the case here? Could the demonstrators, however cantankerous and bullish be regarded as an army shooting against the well trained and well-armed members of the ZDF?

Even so, at these important crossroads Zimbabweans have to reach out to each other for the nation to progress. A peace pipe has to be found and shared. The poisoned atmosphere of mutual hate and mistrust that prevails in our country is only serving to sink and mire our nation deeper in the doldrums. Even those who got us into this mess are losers. The ill-gotten opulence they possess is proving a millstone round their necks. Those who killed and pillaged for the sake of power have since become aware of their own mortality; that their own days on planet are also numbered.

Another GNU?
There is talk in some quarters about another GNU as way out. This is quite understandable. Was this not the way out of the mess that the governing party had created in 2008? And worked out very well for Zanu? The allure of this route to the two main parties is obvious. Zanu would retain power and MDC participants would again adorn the prestigious titles of Honourable Minister or titles higher. The latter mentioned would get their snouts into the trough again. However, the country and perhaps the MDC too know the snares of such simplistic solutions. For one reason, such arrangements serve only the participating parties with the country's interests relegated to the back burner. Instead of the parties focusing on moving the country forward priority becomes to strategize and maximize electability in future plebiscites. As happened in the 2008 to 2013 GNU the dominant party holds the greater advantage; thus Zanu prepared well for the near clean sweep of July 2013. MDC members of government were relegated to mere proxies, simply contenting themselves with the rich pickings which came from being near the centre of power.

What Zimbabwe needs most at this moment is a break from the cycle of one-party power-dominance. We need a real transfer to the people. Such a break will not be easy but it is the bitter pill to swallow and the political landscape could not be more opportune than at this time.

Transitional Authority.
Transition, as the term states would offer space to break with the past and change the failed trajectory that our country has been for so long and which has spawned the hardship and misery palpable in almost every sphere of life in Zimbabwe. As I see it the beneficiary would be the Zimbabwe nation, with more genuine openness, trust obtaining, a nation at peace with itself. Yes, the all-powerful and privileged would see their hold on power eased somewhat but such loss would only be transient; indeed future rewards might even more than dwarf the temporary loss. A seed planted to increase the yield many times over! Perhaps hose who would feel the gain most are the current have-nots, which are by far the nation's majority.

The key to success would very much lie in the composition of the supervisory Transition Authority. One thing Zimbabwe can pride itself of is the plethora of strategic thinkers which it possesses. A possible model could be of a Transition Authority comprising of representatives drawn from stakeholders ranging from political parties, religious and civic groups as well as identified special interests.
Another approach could be to recruit "neutrals" from anywhere; their qualification being that they would derive no benefit in whatever shape or form from elections that would follow the period of transition, thus, they would have no party political motives in levelling the plane for future elections. Their sole motivation would have to be the removal of the toxicity that almost always accompanies elections thus allowing Zimbabweans to see themselves as one people first and party affiliates second.

The power and political systems currently could see a Zanu government in perpetuity. Its stranglehold on all instruments of power, the army, the judiciary and the executive, enables it to carefully craft elections to maximze its electability. Who would blame them? Zanu, perhaps more than any other liberation movement in Africa, has many reasons for maintain a grip on power. Nowhere else has a ruling group exhibited such dereliction of responsibility and rampant abuse of power and remain in charge. Elsewhere such have elicited violent reactions in civil strife and violent coups. The fear of having to account for past misdeeds runs deep in the minds and actions of Zanu leaders.

Our governing party must however, take the plunge safe in the knowledge that Zimbabweans are not a vengeful people. Earlier I alluded to passivity of Zimbabweans in the face of abuse. Like many attributes has appositive side to it. The people's live and let die attitude shields them from harbouring lasting bitterness. Zimbabweans' ability to move on perhaps takes a leaf from the words of Mandela, an icon with no parallel yet. A quote from his book: "As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison."  This, after twenty seven years of incarceration in most appalling and inhospitable conditions!

Zanu would be well advised to ride this forgiving spirit of Zimbabweans whilst it lasts. If President Mnangagwa indeed lived up to his call for national peace and togetherness, one reward would be to recover some dignity out of his sorely tarnished image, which I am sure he is well aware of. Who knows, history might even rank him among the visionaries who truly transformed the course of his coutry!

For the gallant MDC Alliance, a successful appeal against the ZEC verdict which would land victory with President Chamisa, might turn out to be pyrrhic. To end up President of such a divided and polarised nation would be akin to reaching out to a poisoned chalice. Greater value would ensue from allowing Zimbabweans find each other first, and the nation, its soul.
Zapu Information Desk
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