By Farai Sibanda
Bulawayo, November 28, 2013 – Zimbabwe’s civic groups and the academia recently placed the President Robert Mugabe’s administration under the spotlight when they assessed the country’s development trajectory under a Zanu PF government.
Several civic groups and influential scholars drawn from different universities on Wednesday ended a three-day conference in Bulawayo which discussed present realities and future prospects for Zimbabweans under the Zanu PF government.
The conference which was being sponsored by the Open Society Initiative of Southern African (OSISA) and Trust Africa facilitated inclusive and broad participation of government, private sector, civic society and academia in the framing of Zimbabwe’s development trajectory.
Opening the conference former National University of Science and Technology (NUST) Vice- Chancellor Professor Phineas Makhurane said corruption in the private and public sector is one of the diseases that has brought the country’s economy down on its knees.
“Our universities are producing brilliant economists, lawyers and experts in different fields, but the problem is corruption in both private and public sectors. It is obvious 1+1 =2, but our experts in different sectors are turning it to 1+1=11, this is corruption at its best and has brought our country on its knees. Lack of funding has also affected the smooth operation of the country’s universities,” said Makhurane
Speaking at the same conference senior government Minister Simon Khaya-Moyo encouraged civic society to work closely with Zanu PF administration adding that the reality on ground is that his party is running government of the day. “Whether you like it or not Zanu PF is running this country, and civic society seems to be side-lining us, we are good as passengers on a train whose destiny we are not aware off. I wonder how academics from these three influential State-run universities are busy discussing how to improve the country’s economy and not mentioning anything to do with our party’s economic blue print Zim Asset. It’s hard to believe this,” Moyo said.
ZimAsset (Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socioeconomic Transformation) is Zanu PF government economic blueprint launched after the elections.
But Senator Sekai Holland of the opposition MDC-T told the conference that civic society should think twice before engaging Zanu PF as the government is being run by a military dictator.
“Civic society organisations should be careful when dealing with Zanu PF because this is a military dictatorship in place. The infrastructure of violence is still in place in this country and civic groups should focus on how to deal with this disease before engaging Zanu PF. Don’t just talk about engaging them without dealing with disease of violence as this will strengthen the military regime,” said Holland.
Another MDC-T legislator Jessie Majome echoed same sentiments with Holland saying civic society groups should know that every government institutions has been militarised and engaging them will strengthen the dictatorship.
“The number of soldiers and police who are now in parliament is so amazing. Even the prisons are now led by a military chief. This alone shows we are under military government,” said Majome.
Sydney Chisi of the Youth Initiative for Democracy Trust (YIDEZ) said “civic society should remain independent from political parties and be a watchdog on how the state handles social and economic issues”.
In the past decade Zanu PF government has been accusing civic society groups and Non–Governmental Organisations (NGOs) of being used by the West in the regime change agenda.
Trevor Maisiri of the International Crisis Group said civic society activists should never sell their soul to the state but should make sure citizens’ rights are respected by the state.
“When we are seeking to engage the state it doesn’t mean we should sell our souls, we should fight for the rights of the citizens. We should seek space of dialogue as we represent the poor. And it also doesn’t mean we will agree with the state as civic society,” said Maisiri.
The conference was also attended by students movements such as ZINASU and several community development organisations like the Tsoro-o-Tso San Community Development Associations.
NUST lecturer Dr Mandla Nyathi who was the facilitator of the three-day conference said since the victory of Zanu PF in the July harmonised elections, civil society organisations have been viewed as agents of the West who wanted to effect regime change.
“As a result, organisations are fighting for their space so that they could represent the masses for the amelioration of every Zimbabwean,” said Nyathi
Nyathi said they took down all inputs from the conference and will put them together and come up with a position paper which they will forward to government, business and civic society and other relevant economic and political stakeholders.