ZANU PF won’t reform itself out of power”, so why are Zimbabweans not using their own powers to push for genuine reforms?

The recent thought-provoking comments by expelled ZANU PF member of parliament, Killer Zivhu, to the effect that elections in Zimbabwe were a sheer waste of time and the nation’s resources, as the outcomes will always be contested and disputed – rather, arguing for inclusive dialogue between all major political players, and the setting up of a unity government – have, understandably, set tongues wagging, and attracted vibrant debate amongst the population.

His assertions were understandable, considering the unfair, unfree, and grossly discredited electoral laws, playing field, and a questionable electoral body – on top of, the abuse of state institutions and resources (weaponization of the law, biased food aid, agricultural inputs, and poverty alleviation assistance distribution) by the ruling party, perennial state-sponsored politically-motivated violence (which has witnessed the killing of hundreds of opposition supporters, burning down of their homes, beatings up, torture, and forced disappearances, over the years), and the ruling elite’s unwillingness to align the country’s laws to the constitution.

In the midst of this debate, I could not help remembering a statement by then ZANU PF Politburo member, and cabinet minister, Jonathan Moyo, on 5 October 2016, that the government would “never reform itself out of power”, as he rubbished the push by opposition political parties, civil society, and ordinary Zimbabweans, for genuine electoral, political, media, and democratic reforms – in line with the supreme laws of the country – to be instituted.

His seemingly arrogant ridiculing of these reforms – by declaring that such a scenario “will never happen anywhere in a modern constitutional democracy, that a political party that has come into government on the back of a new negotiated constitution…comes up with reforms that will reform it out of power” – were not entirely outlandish, neither were they the rantings and ravings of some lunatic dictator.

This was a fact.

Before, readers charge at me with torches, pitchforks, and picks – as seriously perturbed at my apparent endorsement of a clearly autocratic statement – however, what I am merely agreeing with is that, no ruling political party on this planet has ever willingly promulgated any reforms that have threatened its grip on power. Never.

That is where history comes into play – and, that is why it was, and still is, my favorite subject.

Anyone can research to see, which country, say, in the past 500 years, has voluntarily amended its laws, or enacted new ones, that actually sought to strengthen democracy – unless, there had been mass citizen power overwhelmingly pushing for such changes – but, rather, have done everything in their authority to deepen their hold on power.

As a matter of fact, just over the past year, so-called democratic countries – such as France, and the United Kingdom (UK) – have been doing their utmost to curtail democratic space.

In France, the new security bill, will criminalize the publishing of pictures of police officers involved in brutality against civilians (most particularly, after widespread abuse of protesters at the hands of security forces) – whilst, in the United Kingdom (UK), there is a new policing, crime, sentencing, and courts bill, that has been described as ‘draconian’, which is widely regarded as an attempt to stifle demonstrations, especially under the pretext of COVID-19 regulations.

The question many will obviously ask is, “So, how did these countries – which, clearly, are light-years ahead of fascist regimes like Zimbabwe – get to their level of democracy (which, the ruling elite appear intent in undoing)”?

The answer is quite simple and straightforward – unlike Zimbabweans, the people of the Western world, earlier on in their histories, realized that genuine democratic reforms did not fall from the sky, but only the citizens themselves had the power to bring about that change.

The French Revolution of 1787 to 1799, and the English (or, Bloodless) Revolution of 1688 to 1689, were what brought about the democracy that these countries boast about today – as the citizens themselves stood bravely and unflinchingly against the tyrannical monarchies of that day, to demand real democratic reforms, that gradually ushered in the free, fair, credible, and peaceful elections, parliamentary system, media and free expression, and peaceful demonstration rights they enjoy today.

In spite of the expected attempts by the day’s ruling elite to subvert this democracy (by trying to push through undemocratic laws) the people of those countries have not accepted this, or merely watched, whilst grumbling – but, (as can currently be witnessed in both France and the UK) they are out in full force, fearlessly and firmly resisting any such retrogressive reforms.

This should be a vital lesson for Zimbabweans, that, firstly, there is absolutely no government on the face of Earth, that will voluntarily institute democratic reforms (and, possibly, “reform itself out of power) – not even those countries whose democratic systems are much better than ours – and, secondly the democracy they enjoy today, did not come through the goodwill of those in power at the time, but by the fearless and relentless resistance of the people (that, was met with barbaric and brutal repression), which eventually ushered in genuine reforms.

Credit:© Tendai Ruben Mbofana

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