Eleven months since the 2018 harmonised elections, Zimbabwe's performance in addressing reforms has been nothing short of dismal. Efforts towards real reforms given the country's historical electoral and political challenges could have been bearing fruits by now had sincere efforts been made towards reviewing policies through the legal framework and practices looking at how state institutions engage and provide a service to citizens. While on paper, some steps appear to be under consideration in a bid to reform, their pursuit is exclusionary in nature and will most likely suffer rejection from excluded stakeholders who must have a say, not only in the end product of reforms, but their planning and implementation as well.
With numerous opportunities to present a strategy reflecting a new beginning having been lost, it is increasingly becoming difficult to trust the repeated narratives suggesting a departure from the past. Recommendations from observer missions invited and accredited to observe the 2018 elections presented a clear opportunity to collectively reflect on that which is broken and must be fixed. The Mothlante Commission shared recommendations identified to address causes of repeated cycles of violence in the country. The legislative agenda for the 9thParliament could have been a platform to exhibit government's prioritization of electoral and political reforms. All these opportunities have gone begging for a government eager to present a narrative suggesting a departure from the past.
Progress towards substantiated reforms needs to be reflected in concrete steps towards an inclusive and honest engagement on what needs to be reformed, agreeing on a pathway to be followed with clear timeframes, deliverables and accountability mechanisms.
The establishment of an Inter-Ministerial Taskforce on Political Reforms is a positive indication of political will to consider recommendations to support reforms. However, the absence of clearly defined terms of reference, an outline of the taskforce's deliverables and established mechanisms for stakeholder consultations make an otherwise positive initiative very exclusionary.
Government, on its own, cannot reflect on what needs to be reformed, decide among all the recommendations, which ones should be accepted and which one should be rejected and then proceed to implement the same reforms without the participation of other stakeholders. Reforms adopted in this manner are likely to be rejected as people own that which they are a part of.
Finally, the context in which reforms are considered is also an important variable to consider. An atmosphere of evident clampdown on civic spaces punctuating calls for dialogue to move the country forward does not augur well for the establishment of effective and sustainable reforms. Genuine calls for dialogue must be accompanied by sincerity on the part of the state to uphold the constitution and protect human rights. The behavior of the state in dealing with civic activists in violation of the constitution and in breach of human rights has a negative impression on sincere efforts to collectively see the country move forward.
Reforms in Zimbabwe must not be allowed to wait until the 2023 elections. They are due now and their pursuit has to be immediate, inclusive, measurable, time bound and tested before they can be established as effective.
Source: Election Resource Centre (ERC)