Zimbabwe and the democracy delusion

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IN my first instalment I wrote a lengthy piece on the Great Zimbabwe Empire, small parts of which were plagiarized from other writers on this site, with the remaining information compiled from my own research. I’ve added a couple of links at the end of this article for further reading on Great Zimbabwe Empire to those who may be interested. My main objective from the previous article on the Great Zimbabwe Empire was to show Zimbabweans where we came from and most importantly what we are capable of. I also wanted to draw Zimbabweans’ attention to our common history, with the lesson to be taken being that we can be Great Zimbabwe again, but ONLY if we have a unity of purpose and a clear goal of national inclusive development.
First and foremost, we need to realize that any of our personal success, is all of our successes, that any of our personnel failures, is all of our failures? For if I gain, and you do not, then I have gained nothing, for gain is nothing if not shared. To isolate one self, no matter how seemingly enriched, is to lose the greatest treasure of all, the ability to share and grow as a Zimbabwean nation. Only when we realize this altruism will we truly be ready, as Zimbabweans, to move to the next level.
Our main problem is that as Zimbabweans in general, we have become the victims and casualties of our straightjacket politics, this politics of exclusion that continues to arrest our development in every sense. It’s fair to say I do not believe in multi-party democracy. This is nothing more than an extension of the old colonial system, and continues to only serve the political elite. If I had my way, I would do away with multi-party politics, and I’m not exactly a dictator in waiting.
I’m not proposing a one-party state; on the contrary, I would prefer to do away with political parties altogether. You see, whether Zanu PF or MDCs are in power is irrelevant. Our system of government is democratically structurally deficient. We have been sold the “Democracy Delusion” for too long. In the same way that Rhodesia was “democratic” for a minority white class, they have been replaced by our black colonialists who are now the minority political ruling class in Zimbabwe, as it is only them who are enjoying the benefits of their exclusive democracy, economically and socially. The rest of the general population of Zimbabwe, about 13.5 million, does not fit into the equation.Advertisement

We have seen for ourselves how this multi-party democracy can be manipulated and engineered to suit the interests of the powerful elite. By the way, this is exactly the same problem in the USA, whereby the country is now considered an oligarchy, i.e. dominated by a few rich elite. For obvious reasons, we cannot compare ourselves with the US, as even they do not have 95% of the population living below the poverty datum line as we do.
Whilst we undoubtedly have plenty of political entrepreneurs and religious entrepreneurs, what we need and lack the most are moral entrepreneurs. We should not be fooled into believing that the current government is seized with the economy and wellbeing of each Zimbabwean, and that they want all Zimbabweans to prosper and be empowered. Those who still genuinely believe this fallacy need to take their meds. Our current government has deliberately cultivated a dependency syndrome and has no intention of weaning us from this dependency anytime soon.
The ruling “revolutionary” party’s very survival and hold on power is based on an ignorant, misinformed populace that is easily manipulated and dependent on free handouts, free inputs, free stands and free anything else. They don’t see the obvious contradiction in that nothing is for free. The only way we can change this system is through a process of peaceful evolution. I am advocating for political abstentionism, a reversal of the concentration of power in the hands of the ruling elite. There should be devolution of democracy to the masses, us the people of Zimbabwe. There should be an equal distribution of political, economic and social power to us, the downtrodden masses.
The problem that we have as Zimbabweans is that any discussion of political, economic or social ideology always ends up as an exclusive discussion between the supposed intelligentsia and politicians, it is never broad-based and inclusive of all Zimbabweans. How can ideologies be communicated to a villager in Mpandamatenga who is more concerned about eking out a daily existence than waffling about democracy when he doesn’t eat democracy? What is the level of democratic consciousness amongst the general populace?
The responsibility of cultivating this democratic consciousness is not simply about the education of the individual as citizen. Democracy can only be grounded on the conscious choice of each citizen for individual and collective autonomy. It cannot be the outcome of any social, economic or natural “laws” or tendencies dialectically leading to it, let alone any divine or mystical dogmas and preconceptions. In laymen’s terms, we need a country of informed citizens to make informed decisions for the collective good. Democracy by its very definition, is supposed to be a form of government in which all eligible citizens participate equally – either directly or indirectly through elected representatives – in the proposal, development, and creation of laws.
My question is why do we have to vote for a representative to represent us? Why can we not represent ourselves and directly partake in all decision making, on a local and national scale? Regrettably, with our constitution making process we missed the opportunity to create a government designed to serve us, the people. Thanks to political interference we ended up focusing on irrelevant sectors of the constitution and concentrating power in the hands of a few, when our attention should have been on overhauling the whole government structure in itself.
Admittedly, I’ve been scratching my head for quite a while now, trying to conceptualize an ideal democracy which would represent the people. I remembered a previous article penned on this site which seemed to lean towards this idea of what I would call Inclusive Democracy (ID). Inclusive Democracy is multi-dimensional and includes direct political democracy, economic democracy and social democracy. Under this Inclusive Democracy, Zimbabwe would have a government of the people, controlled by the people, for the people. This highest form of Inclusive Democracy should have “the People as President”. If I had it my way, the traditional institutions of government would be disbanded and abolished, and power would belong to the people directly through various Local Committees and Conventions (congresses).
Under Inclusive Democracy our nation would be divided into several small communities (district based) that are essentially “mini-autonomous states” within a state. These mini-autonomous states would have control over their districts and would be able to make a range of decisions including how to allocate revenue from their natural resources and local industries, and how to use their budgetary funds. Every citizen in Zimbabwe would be involved in every decision which affects the nation. What happened during our constitution making process shows that people are willing to participate, have their voices heard and make their contributions.
The only way for this type of direct political democracy to work is for everyone to participate in Local Committee meetings to discuss issues and vote on everything from building schools or hospitals, roads, bridges, community development projects, national issues or foreign treaties. The purpose of these Local Committee meetings would essentially be to build a broad-based national consensus. All Zimbabweans would be allowed to take part in Local Committee meetings. Based on the current system in Zimbabwe whereby we have 59 districts (1200 wards); this would translate to 59 Local Committees in total.
One step up from the Local Committees would be the People’s Convention (Congress). This should NOT be confused with the Zanu PF or MDC congresses held once every 5 years. In an Inclusive Democracy the 59 representatives from all Local Committees around the country would meet several times a year (twice a month minimum) at the People’s Convention (Congress), to pass laws based on what the people said in their Local Committee meetings. These People’s Conventions (Congresses) would have legislative power to write new laws, formulate economic and public policy as well as ratify treaties and agreements i.e. the People’s Convention (Congress) would be the equivalent legislative arm of government.
Instead of having an executive President, we would have an Executive Council (“Dare”) of leaders, where a representative from each of Zimbabwe’s 10 provinces sits on this Executive Council (“Dare”). The “leadership or presidency” would then be rotated on a yearly basis between the 10 representatives of the main provinces. This Executive Council (“Dare”) would be in charge of implementing policies put forward by the people through the People’s Convention (Congress). Why does our current system of government involve a national and local government, an over bloated parliament with ministers, deputy ministers, permanent secretaries, a senate, national assembly, provincial governors and so on? What purpose do so many tiers, layers and bureaucracy serve except to alienate the masses from their inalienable right of self-governance and self-determination?
In an Inclusive Democracy, the post of ministers would be retained. However, these ministers would be CEO’s selected by an independent board and not the president. Each minister would be selected on competence and merit alone, and would be a proven expert or specialist in his/her respective field to which he/she would be hired as minister. The number of ministries would also be stream ined to a maximum of 10 ministries namely Economic; Education; Health; Energy and Infrastructure; Agriculture, Land and Environment; Defence; Home and Foreign Affairs; Health; Justice; and lastly State Enterprises. There would be no deputy ministers or permanent secretaries.
The Executive Council and ministers would form the executive arm of government, so to speak. The ministers hired specifically for their expertise in the relevant ministry, would be the technocratic part of the government, and the leaders from the 10 provinces would form the “political” part of the Executive Council (“Dare”). It may also help if there was a board of advisors, or think-tanks to assist the Executive Council (“Dare”) in their decision making and policy implementation. The chiefs, if so agreed by the people, could also form part of the board of advisors for the Executive Council (“Dare”). With this set up, the Executive Council would be held accountable by the ordinary citizens, and most importantly could be recalled at any time by the Local Committees or People’s Convention (Congress). Consequently, decisions taken by the People’s Convention (Congress) and implemented by the Executive Council (“Dare”) would reflect the sovereign will of the whole people, and not merely that of any particular class, faction, tribe or individual.
In this type of inclusive, yet direct, political democracy system one would be ‘elevated’ instead of ‘elected’, in this way we would avoid the political campaigning that is a feature of traditional political parties and benefits only the bourgeoisie’s well-heeled and well-to-do. Instead of voting once every five years for a president and local parliamentarian, who would then make all our decisions for us, ordinary Zimbabweans would make decisions (through local committee meetings and frequent referendums) regarding foreign, domestic and economic policy. This would allow for a diversity of ideas and input from a larger pool of thought and opinions. How can a handful of people be expected to come up with all the ideas and solutions to national problems? Obviously we do not have any polymaths amongst our current rulers, the reality is infinitely far from this, which is why an Inclusive Democracy would be beneficial not only to the individual Zimbabwean citizen, but to the country as a whole.
Of course the Inclusive Democracy as proposed above would still have the judiciary as the other independent arm of the government. Since no system is perfect, inevitably there are certain drawbacks with this Inclusive Democracy system, inter alia, regarding attendance, initiative to speak up, and sufficient supervision. Nevertheless, these are undoubtedly out-weighed by the benefits and it’s self-evident that this would conceptualise sovereignty and democracy in a different and progressive way.
Inclusive Democracy is not merely about holding elections simply to choose which particular representatives of the elite class should rule over the masses. It is an ideal democracy as self-governing people are more inclined to protect their own basic human rights, i.e. “legal protection” for citizens, making human rights their “priority,” improving women’s rights, educational opportunities and providing themselves with access to housing. Inclusive Democracy is also about equal opportunity through education and the right to life through access to health care. For young people the world over, education is a passport to freedom. Any nation that makes one pay for such a passport is only free for the rich but not the poor.
Inclusive Democracy is also about democratising the economy and giving economic power to the majority. The fact is, the west has shown that unfettered free markets and genuinely free elections simply cannot co-exist. Organized greed always defeats disorganized democracy. How can capitalism and democracy co-exist if one concentrates wealth and power in the hands of few, and the other seeks to spread power and wealth among many? The Inclusive Democracy proposed above seeks to spread economic power amongst the downtrodden many, rather than just the privileged few.
A good example of Inclusive Democracy was Libya under Gaddafi, who despite his many short-comings, had direct democracy in practice where money from oil proceeds was deposited directly into every Libyan citizen’s bank account. With our current rulers, would this type of thing ever happen in Zimbabwe whereby the diamond and platinum proceeds are directly deposited into our bank accounts? The fact that some of the readers are rolling over, legs in the air with laughter at such an unthinkable thought just goes to highlight the mountain that we have to move to achieve Inclusive Democracy.
The fundamental difference between western democratic systems and this type of Inclusive Democracy is that citizens are given the chance to contribute directly to the decision-making process, not merely through elected representatives. Hence, all citizens are allowed to voice their views directly – not in one parliament of only a few hundred elite politicians – but in hundreds of committees attended by tens of thousands of ordinary citizens.
We have seen various articles with regards to how the economy can be turned around, so the problem does not lie in a lack of ideas on how to achieve this. It would not be a question of political will if political power was in the hands of the people, and not the small clique of the rich elite, our new black colonialists. I have planted the seed, the ideology of Inclusive Democracy, it is up to the reader to make an informed decision on what I have proposed, provide constructive criticism or propose an alternative solution. I think is was Einstein who defined madness as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. We cannot continue with this madness, we need to change our thinking. If Zanu PF and the MDCs are truly for the people as they claim, then they would no problem at all in promoting the Inclusive Democracy that I have proposed above.
*Note – To those who want to read more on Great Zimbabwe Empire as per my previous article, I’ve attached a few links below which are different from the majority of literature found out there on the web:
The last link is an interesting dissertation, which posits that Great Zimbabwe was an ancient stellar observatory. It is well researched and has a wealth of archaeological information on the Great Zimbabwe Empire, but the final conclusions should be left to the reader’s discretion.
It is a tragedy that to date no scientific documentary has been made on how Great Zimbabwe was built. Our wealth and worth as a nation is based on this history, which should be researched and written by Zimbabweans from our own perspective.