Saturday, March 21, 2009

Lesson from across the borders

Lesson from across the borders
Written by Editor

Today all the Zimbabwean leaders and political groupings are calling for the removal of the illegal economic sanctions imposed on their country by the European Union and the United States.

Delivering his maiden speech to the seventh Parliament of Zimbabwe three weeks ago, on March 4, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai joined President Robert Mugabe and Professor Arthur Mutambara in calling for the lifting of the embargo on their country.

Tsvangirai stressed the need to lift the restrictive measures in recognition of the national reconstruction process currently taking place and progress made towards improving political polarisation. “I therefore urge the international community to recognise our efforts, and to note the progress that we have made in this regard, and to march our progress by moving towards the removal of restrictive measures,” Tsvangirai told Zimbabwean parliamentarians and all applauded him.

Tsvangirai added that there was need to strengthen Zimbabwe’s relationship with the international community on the basis of respect for Zimbabwe’s sovereignty. “What we need is to fully re-establish relationships with the international donor community, which will respect our sovereignty, not a relationship essentially based on humanitarian assistance,” said Tsvangirai.

It is difficult to believe that these words were coming from the mouth of Tsvangirai. Not very long ago, Tsvangirai was moving around the world calling for sanctions against Zimbabwe. We are not trying to criticise him for doing so. We are merely trying to see or explore what lessons we should learn from the way the Zimbabweans handled their politics to the almost total destruction of their country.

It is good that all the key political players in Zimbabwe today realise the need for unity and political stability in their country. They are all in one government – a government of national unity. We do not want to question the merits of demerits of their government of national unity. Looking at the hardships the Zimbabwean people had to endure over the last 10 years, what we need to focus on is how quickly they should get their economy back on track and focus on how they should improve their lives, especially the lives of the weakest, poorest citizens of that country.

But we feel we have some legitimate questions to ask and some lessons to learn from our Zimbabwean brothers and sisters: would they have come to this situation, to a government of national unity, to this apparent peace and reconciliation without destroying their country to this extent? Is this government of national unity worth all the suffering and devastation the Zimbabwean people had to endure? Did things need to get to this extent for the political leaders of that country to come together?

Are there lessons our people can learn from all this?

Our view is that what we see in Zimbabwe is the result of intolerance, of not wanting to listen to each other. It is a product of a sweepstake-winner attitude that our political leaders have. When the feelings and grievances of others are ignored, they are allowed to grow and create a crisis. There is need to recognise the fact that every voice needs to be heard and taken into account. If it is ignored, it will multiply and come to haunt us and create a crisis for us.

We have created a culture of not wanting to listen to those who oppose us and to make them feel they don’t count, they are of no consequence to the way things should be done. We are seeing this being repeated in our own country. It is this same attitude that has brought Madagascar to its knees. Can’t we learn something from this and change our ways?

We wish to see Zimbabweans succeed in their new endeavours under a government of national unity. We wish to see Zimbabwe behaving honourably, being an influence for good in Africa and the world. We wish to see that country’s economy regain its strength.

The problem in Zimbabwe was not only with the intolerance of those in government but also with the attitude of those in the opposition and the methods they chose to achieve their objectives. Opposition leaders called for sanctions against their own country and their own people. They joined forces with colonialists and former colonialists and imperialists of all hues to destroy their country. Of course, they did all this in good faith, with the best of intentions to free their country of what they saw as tyranny in the way the country was governed. But today, it seems they did all this just to be included in government – in a government of national unity. Once they were included, everything was acceptable and the sanctions they advocated on their country could be lifted. It seems this was all that mattered. We are not trying to criticise anyone, we are simply trying to learn a lesson from them. We are just trying to understand what really matters in our politics.

When we look at Zimbabwe today, we wonder if it is really worth it for the opposition to defeat or remove those in power on the back of national failure. We think there will always be sufficient ground with that to argue for their removal.

Surely, there is need for a successful government of national unity in Zimbabwe because all those who are part of that government today share in the blame for the destruction of that country and its economy. They all need to participate in the sorting out of the confusion that arose while they were in government and in opposition respectively. They all need to take a fresh look in the new circumstances.

We have seen from the Zimbabwean experience that politics guided by the wish to destroy political opponents, and by the determination to be in power by whatever means, is dangerous. That is not a recipe for governing well. One cannot run an administration forever on such principles or motivations.

We hope those who were determined to see a total regime change in Zimbabwe will moderate their desires and accept the situation as it stands today in that country. It is clear that a total regime change is not possible and they need to work within the framework that the Zimbabwean people have accepted as a way forward. And to this end, all sanctions and restrictions on Zimbabwe should be immediately lifted.

Zimbabwe needs help – and a lot of it – to move forward, to overcome the devastation caused by the sanctions that were slapped on the country by the European Union and the United States.

We would like to see SADC and the African Union take a leading role in mobilising aid and other support for Zimbabwe. We also urge all those individuals and institutions that campaigned heavily for the isolation of Zimbabwe to channel similar energy and effort in mobilising financial support for Zimbabwe. However, we know that usually the forces of destruction are more enthusiastic than the forces of progress, those that try to build communities. It is easy to destroy but very difficult to build or rebuild.

The lesson we learn from all this is that we should continually, and without respite, struggle to create more democratic societies, more tolerant nations where dissent is respected and accommodated. We say this because where there is more tolerance, less destruction occurs even under the worst political differences.

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