A quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: “Women are like teabags. We don’t know how strong we are until we are in hot water.”
Freedom in a fortnight? A view from the trenches
This view represents a consulted way forward recommended by Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA/MOZA). We are an organisation owned by its 60,000 members who hold qualifications in daily survival and degrees in nonviolence despite the deeply polarised political environment in Zimbabwe since 2000. WOZA was born in the community and seeks to draw the attention of preoccupied politicians to people’s needs, namely bread and butter issues; or as WOZA likes to put it, bread and roses issues – bread representing food and roses representing the need for lasting dignity.
At the moment, the highway that is Zimbabwe has two ‘vehicles’ going in opposite directions, Zanu PF, the so-called ‘liberation war’ party and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). These parties speed along preoccupied with their own importance, hardly ever taking the off-ramp to consult with the suffering masses.
What do we want policy makers to focus on? The reality on the ground for Zimbabweans right now is tantamount to torture. For representatives of political parties to sit at the negotiating table cutting an elite power-sharing deal whilst ignoring the crashing economy and the undeclared civil war by Mugabe against ordinary people is a crime against our humanity. We suspect that they do not understand the day-to-day struggle of ordinary Zimbabweans. As a result WOZA is determined to hold our placards up high to get their attention and demand that they address our needs.
Our placards will be drawing attention to the following points:
1.Â Â Â Daily life is form of torture Â·Â Â Â We cannot get food without being forced to take sides with the ruling Zanu PF who currently controls access to all food in the country. As we have seen before during election periods, they have also banned distribution of food by international NGOs so that they can further control our fundamental need to eat. Many of our members try to get humanitarian assistance but because they speak out, are punished by Zanu PF and denied food or blackmailed into support in exchange for food. Hunger is the price for their courage. Â·Â Â Â As Zimbabweans go about their daily activities, youth militia, police, army and war veterans subject them to harassment and intimidation. Even a neighbour can no longer be trusted, as with the widespread hunger, one can be sold out in exchange for food. Lists of names of all those that oppose the regime exist at ward, district, province and national level. This highly sophisticated ‘reign of terror’ was re-established between March 29 and June 27. It is an open secret that Zanu PF did not campaign in their normal violent manner in the run up to March 29 and therefore lost the presidential race. They reverted to type and put in place their structures of evil after March 29, resulting in the farcical run-off and Mugabe inaugurating himself.
2.Â Â Â Undeclared civil war during Thabo Mbeki’s watch. It was during the SADC mediation process, led by Thabo Mbeki, that Mugabe has continued and intensified his campaign of murder, mutilation, abduction and rape. As a result our placards will also state that we no longer have confidence in Thabo Mbeki. During his watch, babies have been mutilated for their parents’ democratic beliefs – their blood is on his hands. The South African mediation team stressed that the aim of the mediation was to have ‘an election whose result cannot be contested’. Yet two elections have been held and the results of both are contested. A second SADC team was mandated to deal with the economic chaos but they seem to have disappeared or have become too baffled by too many zeros to do anything. We therefore demand that:
Â·Â Â Â The Africa Union and SADC have provided a reference group to the mediation team and it is our view that the political parties also need an on-the-ground reference group made up of civic society representatives who can provide input and receive feedback.
Â·Â Â Â The status of the second SADC team dealing with the economy is clarified and their recommendations be made public so Zimbabweans can know what is to be done about the crashing economy.
Â·Â Â Â The United Nations is allowed to come in to assess humanitarian needs and set up structures to address these urgently.
3.Â Â Â Zimbabweans have lost faith in politicians’ ability to return life to the living. We do not think power sharing or a government of national unity (GNU) can work in Zimbabwe. We need an independent and impartial transitional authority under African leadership. African leaders should not dictate that a GNU be the only solution to our crisis. Zimbabwe is not Kenya and their solutions cannot be imposed on us, especially with our historical experiences of 1987. We need a solution to address the specific of the Zimbabwe crisis.Â In Zimbabwe, the military elite runs the show not only on military might but also on political partisanship. For the ordinary soldier, police officer or prison officer to keep their job they have to follow political orders. This is the situation at any police station in the country. A transitional authority would be better placed to address this problem. A neutral person from Africa must be found who, supported by Zimbabwean technocrats, can form an interim authority that will neutralise the pillars of state, including the police. The violence can only be stopped when the victims can once again report abuses to an impartial body and trust that the perpetrators will be arrested and put on trial no matter who they are. For this to happen, magistrates and judges will also need to know that they will also be watched to ensure that there is justice through the courts for all equally.
We would want an engendered transitional authority to have the following mandate during their eighteen-month term of office:
a.Â Â Â Stop the political violence. Depoliticise the police, army and other defence forces. Any political violence must be reported, investigated and prosecuted through the courts without any form of favour or political influence.
b.Â Â Â Dialogue with the business and professional community to develop policy designed to bring about economic recovery.
c.Â Â Â Supervise the addressing of the humanitarian crisis together with the United Nations.
d.Â Â Â Even constitution making has become the sole preserve of politicians. It was the constitutional referendum in 2000 that intensified political violence with catastrophic results and therefore we need an independent person to oversee the consultative process. A transitional authority must neutralise this position and return constitution making back to the people of Zimbabwe.
e.Â Â Â Depoliticise the issue of land reform, conduct a land audit and consult on a fair and equitable land reform programme. If the economy is to be stabilised, we need our land to be made productive fast.
f.Â Â Â Form a body to consult and develop a transitional justice plan of action designed to bring healing and reconciliation and then deal with justice and restitution for victims in the new Zimbabwe.
g.Â Â Â Bring about a truly independent electoral commission to oversee first a referendum on the new constitution and then a truly free and fair election process and a peaceful transition to the winner.
Thousands of WOZA members have been arrested for exercising their freedoms of expression and assembly. Some were even denied bail and imprisoned for marching to the Zambian Embassy to deliver a petition to the SADC chair, Zambian president Levy Mwanawasa. They remain undaunted by this repression and fully intend to continue to peacefully march for bread and roses, placards held high until their messages are taken seriously at the negotiation table and in the corridors of power. Of course if they had civic representatives at the table, their voice would be better heard than from the streets.
Strike a woman and you strike a rock