To sincerely (and fiercely) discuss Zimbabwe’s future, we must first recount what we know about Zimbabwe’s past. The past is the appropriate context within which we must frame our judgment of Zimbabwe’s progress.
We know that in the “Scramble for Africa” Zimbabwe became a British colony. That in 1930 land ownership was racialised by the Land Apportionment Act, which declared half of land “European land” not to be sold to non-Europeans — 95% of the population was forced to share the remaining half.
Between 1947 and 1954 white veterans returning from World War II forced native Zimbabweans off much of the already apportioned land. Native communities, suddenly deemed “squatters”, were displaced and forced into “tribal lands” under the guise of the Tribal Trust Land. White farmers were beneficiaries of the racialised land policy.
One such farmer was Ian Smith. Smith went on to rule (then) Rhodesia under the Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1965.
A 14-year liberation war ensued. At the dawn of liberation, the Rhodesian government decided to negotiate in order to secure tenure for European Zimbabweans. The negotiations culminated in the so-called “Lancaster House Agreement” (1979).
Land was a topical issue during the negotiations between the Patriotic Front (Zanu and Zapu) and the Rhodesian government. In resolve, the British at Lancaster House agreed to fund land reform on a “willing buyer, willing seller” basis. The British pledged more than £630 million in aid.
In 1985 the Land Acquisition Act was enacted to give effect to the “willing buyer, willing seller” style of land reform. However, due to pushback by farmers and lack of government funds, the Act proved ineffective.
In 1992 the “willing buyer, willing seller” principle was removed from the Land Acquisition Act. This caused some increase in the pace of land reform between 1992 and 1997. There is some dispute as to how much the British contributed up until 1997. London places the figure at £44 million while the Zimbabwean government places the figure at measly £17. In any event, the British withdrew financial support in 1997 arguing the Mugabe was giving land to cronies.
In 1998 liberation war veterans, frustrated by the slow pace of land reform, took dire action. In a process called jambanja — “force action in anger” (Shona) — veterans occupied farms overnight and threw out white farmers. Although the Zanu-PF regime was initially opposed to the jambanja, it eventually responded by adopting the Land Reform and Resettlement Programme Phase II (1998).
We know that, from then, the Zimbabwean story became murky, then bloody and then utterly untolerable. The international community responded by condemning the Zanu-PF regime and imposing sanctions on leaders. The regime took a “sovereignist” stance. The political situation deteriorated and the economy crumbled under the clasp of hyperinflation. In an attempt to regain control (and save face) the regime ran roughshod on human rights. Many Zimbabweans ran for safety in neighbouring countries and abroad.
After much discord and regrettable bloodshed, Zimbabweans, assisted by the international community, negotiated a “peace settlement” in the form of the Global Political Agreement. The agreement brought hope of a renewed Zimbabwe; a Zimbabwe “DETERMINED to build a society free of violence, fear, intimidation, hatred, patronage, corruption and founded on justice, fairness, openness, transparency, dignity and equality”.
The story does not end there. An air of incredulity and mistrust persists in Zimbabwe. Despite the commitment by Zimbabwean people to “work together to create a genuine, viable, permanent, sustainable and nationally acceptable solution to the Zimbabwe situation” — political violence looms.
What then is the hope for Zimbabwe?
I think hope for Zimbabwe lies in the Draft Constitution. This Constitution is the culmination of Zimbabwe’s commitment to a genuine, sustainable solution.
Section 2 provides that “This Constitution is the supreme law of Zimbabwe and any law, practice, custom or conduct inconsistent with it is invalid to the extent of the inconsistency.”
Section 3(1) provides that “Zimbabwe is founded on respect for the following values and principles: (a) supremacy of the Constitution; (b) the rule of law; (c) fundamental human rights and freedoms; … (e) recognition of the inherent dignity and worth of each human being; (f) recognition of the equality of all human beings; (g) gender equality; [and] (h) good governance…”
Section 3(2) commits the state and all institutions and agencies of government at every level to principles of good governance, which include “a multi-party democratic political system; and an electoral system based on (i) universal adult suffrage and equality of votes; (ii) free, fair and regular elections; and (ii) adequate representation of the electorate”.
Section 3(2)(c)-(d) of the Constitution binds the state and all institutions and agencies of government at every level to an “orderly transfer of power following elections” and to “respect for the rights of all political parties”.
The Draft Constitution boasts a Declaration of Rights which is modeled (if not completely based) on the South African internationally acclaimed Bill of Rights. Section 67 of the Declaration of Rights provides that “Every citizen of Zimbabwe has the right: (a) to free, fair and regular elections for any elective public office established in terms of this Constitution or any other law; and (b) to make political choices freely.”
Therefore, while Zimbabwe has vehemently objected to international hypocrisy and to double standards applied by western powers, it has created — of its own accord — a mantle for democracy and human rights.
The Constitution is a watershed and a yardstick that must be used by the international community to judge Zimbabwe’s political progress.
The Constitution must be used to test the fairness of the upcoming elections. Anything less will do grave injustice to Zimbabwe’s progress.