With the elections in Kenya over, all eyes are now on Zimbabwe. The two countries have the same recent history. They had uneasy coalition governments after disputed presidential elections. The difference today is, however, that Kenya was holding national elections to decide the new president while Zimbabwe will be holding a referendum to decide on the country’s new constitution.
The other major difference is that Zimbabwe did not have the money to hold the referendum and the United Nations Development Programme which funded the constitution making process refused to fund the referendum.
That on its, own, said something. The UNDP, or those who provided it with funds, were not happy with the document that came out. It was obvious. A task that should have taken 18 months took double the time. And even then, the principals to the Global Political Agreement had to step in to finalise the document.
The fact that the Zimbabwean people and the country’s political leaders agreed on a constitution, which might not have been acceptable to those who funded it, was in itself a significant first step. This was a clear lesson to the people of Zimbabwe that sometimes they should put national issues first, and then push their political ideas, policies and wishes afterwards. Being in opposition does not mean opposing everything.
It is therefore critical that the referendum goes ahead, in three days as agreed. It is crucial that the process should be peaceful. But what is more important is that people must turn out in their numbers to vote for or against the constitution. It is not really important whether people vote for or against the constitution, but that they express their voice.
The vote that will matter most is that of people against the constitution because the referendum will show the degree of acceptance of the new constitution. The new government would then have to look at issues that people were against and see if amendments are necessary.
Zimbabweans should take the lead in telling their political leadership that the country now needs a spirit of tolerance. We must agree to disagree when it is necessary but Zimbabwe comes first. No one. No one, even the President is, or should be, bigger than Zimbabwe, or its people. Leaders should be servants of the people. They should be answerable to the people. And more importantly they must respect the people.
It is only the people that can bring this about. Not the leaders. The leaders will tell them all the hogwash about being servants of the people and so on but clamp down on them. That should be a thing of the past. Zimbabweans must now stand up for their rights.
The people of Zimbabwe must now take up their rightful place as the deciders of their own destiny. The referendum and the coming elections should mark the beginning of a new era, where people shape the future of their own country, tell leaders what to do and if they don’t kick them out.
Zimbabwe is too rich for its people to live the way they are doing today. And the only reason why Zimbabweans are poor is that they have allowed their leaders to trample upon them. What is happening in Zimbabwe at the moment does not show that this is the country with the highest literacy rate in Africa.