Whither the Manifesto in the face of recalls

Source: Whither the Manifesto in the face of recalls

In April 2023, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights)  launched the Peoples Human Rights Manifesto that captured the views of 250 000 ZimRights members and Zimbabwean citizens from the mining, farming, rural, urban and peri-urban communities.

The Manifesto was presented to all the political parties who signed the commitment card in agreement to the 10 key asks presented by the citizens. Since then,  the ZimRights has successfully built a critical mass of knowledgeable and action oriented  citizens who are geared to engage in dialogue processes for the transformation of their lives. The Manifesto is a dialogue tool that has been used to prepare citizens for stakeholder engagement.

Following the August 2023 elections, announcement of results, and swearing in of elected duty bearers, we thought the ship was ready to sail and start implementation of the Manifesto. Alas, on 10 October 2023,   the first  day of the National Assembly business,  the speaker announced  that he had received a letter from Mr Tshabangu who claimed to be the interim Secretary- General of the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) party  notifying him that 14 named Members of the House of Assembly  had ceased to be members of the opposition party. On the same day in Senate the President made a similar announcement  regarding 9 CCC senators. These recalls  resulted  in the vacancy of numerous seats in parliament and council , leaving youth and women politicians affected. Does it mean political parties are irrelevant  at this point because the people of Zimbabwe who elected the individuals have no legal relationship with a political party  but with ZEC and Parliament.

If Zimbabwe is a democratic State, how then do we have political parties  with powers to undo the will of  the people by simply writing  a letter to that effect without any strong justification.  And what does this mean to the People’s Human Rights Manifesto that was signed by representatives of the political parties? Is the commitment made by different political parties before the elections in April 2023 to  uphold the 10 key asks outlined in the People Human Rights Manifesto still  valid?  Were they sincere in the first place or they just signed commitments to get people to vote for them? Does it really matter to have elections in Zimbabwe?

“The recalls did not just  undermine the rights of people to choose leaders of their choice but it made people  have leaders imposed on them  which is grossly unfair, some of those in parliament where never chosen by the people so it has become a failed state were those in power are law to themselves”, said Rashweat Mukundu- Human Rights Activist and Africa Advisor at International Media Support.

Recalls places a wedge between political actors and the electorate, hence further perpetuating the deep polarisation and divisions that has characterised our nation pre  and after the 2023 elections. They strongly send signals  that political actors are power-focused, they do not consider the will of Zimbabweans who voted, thus undermining the significance of elections as a social contract negotiation process. Are recalls are a deliberate move to silence the voice of Zimbabweans?

Lazurus Sauti- Political Analyst and Media & Communications Expert said, leaders are elected by the public, “the issues of recalls have affected democracy and undermine the right to fair representation, it has also discouraged people to participate in the electoral processes”.

This is the time for the Zimbabwean government to reimagine governance. With crisis comes opportunity to change for good and tackle problems. It does not make sense anymore to choose one of us to go in a big room  far away and create laws and policies  in our name. It is time for collective action, the electorate and the duty bearers should come together, deliberate on the status quo and jointly come up with solutions which they can all monitor the implementation. The People Human Rights Manifesto presents the elected leaders and the electorate an opportunity for dialogue. The Manifesto is more than relevant now given the enduring political polarisation and utter disregard of the will of the people by way of contentious and undemocratic recalls that subdue the voice of the masses in the process of governance.  ZimRights is ready to join forces with all progressive minds in pursuit of the democratic ideal.

Take the first step now.

Gillian Chinzete is the Community Engagement Specialist for the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights). Comments on this article can be send to info@zimrights.org.zw

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