Thursday, 22 April 2010

“Dare to shape the future?”

Marit Flinder Johannessen, africapractice London

Ahead of the 30th anniversary of Zimbabwean Independence on 18th of April, the Royal African Society, in collaboration with ACTSA arranged a debate called “What next for Zimbabwe?”

The panel of discussion, as seen from the left:

Gabriel Shumba - Executive Director, Zimbabwe Exiles Forum, South Africa

John Mawbey - South African Municipal Workers Union

Richard Dowden - Director, Royal African Society and Chairman of the debate

Lovemore Matombo - President, Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions

Margaret Ling - Treasurer, Britain Zimbabwe Society and Trustee, Zimbabwe Association

The participants all emphasised the critical situation of Zimbabwe in 2010, but also the need to think positively about the future steps the country needs to take. The main discussions revolved around the role of the Zimbabwe diaspora, sanctions and upcoming Constitutional elections of 2011.

The whole panel seemed to agree that the diaspora, currently around 4 million people, in South Africa, United Kingdom and other places must continue to be engaged and involved in the land tenure situation. This is not just to influence and contribute to a possible change in Zimbabwe, but so that their ties to the country stay strong.

Sanctions have been a hot potato when it comes to trying to influence Zimbabwean politics. Mrs. Margaret Ling pointed out that some of the problems with sanctions were that countries like the UK have failed to explain how the sanctions actually work. Additionally, President Mugabe uses the current sanctions as a scapegoat for the country’s financial crisis. Mr. Lovemore Matombo followed by making a reference to how the sanctions worked in the period of Ian Smith’s Rhodesia. Whilst international sanctions were applied to Rhodesia, the government at the time applied import subsidies making Rhodesia one of the wealthiest countries in Africa in the 1970s. Mr. Matombo clearly stated that sanctions are not what are making the economic crisis of Zimbabwe today, it is the governmental policies that are making the Zimbabwean people suffer.

Mr. Gabriel Shumba commented,“You can only spread good news if there is good news to spread”

On the question of an election next year there was some disagreement between the audience and the panel. The lack of institutional change in the last two years within the transitional government was one of the main arguments why an election next year was highly premature. But Mr. Gabriel Shumba said he would rather prefer elections next year, with mechanisms to ensure free and fair elections than having the MDC and Zanu FP going down a long road of partnership.

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