I take the fact that the MDC has not walked out of the talks in South Africa
as a very positive sign. They must be making progress and despite the
propaganda put out by both the SABC and the Zanu PF in recent days, I think
this progress is towards a transitional government that will be led by the
MDC. Another feature of this situation that people are not picking up on, is
that for the first time the AU and the SADC have guaranteed the
implementation of the agreements reached in the talks.
We will have to wait for the final outcome - no one is talking about what is
going on behind closed doors and that might be a good thing, providing the
final outcome is acceptable to the rest of us after all our sacrifice and
While focus is on the talks (and rightly so) we must not lose sight of what
is going on here at home. After 4 months the local government councils are
being sworn into office and as I write, the MDC has taken over the
administration of all urban councils in the country. Since 60 per cent of
the population lives in the urban areas, this means that the majority of the
people now live under an MDC controlled administration.
We still have to contend with Chombo who continues to pretend he is the
Minister and in charge. He was defeated in the elections on the 29th March
and holds his portfolio only because the Zanu PF leadership has tried to
hold onto power for as long as possible - illegally. At best he is a
caretaker administrator waiting for a new Minister to be appointed in the
talks. Most probably the new Minister will come from the MDC.
We also control a significant number of the Rural District Councils and in
all hold 700 of these posts throughout the country. Where Zanu PF controls
the councils in the rural areas they will soon discover that they are under
new management from a central government point of view.
This is a very significant shift in power and gives the MDC its first real
chance to start to make a difference in peoples lives. We are taking the
first steps to make that a reality and our Secretary for Local Government is
about to go full time with a small staff to start coordinating what the
councils will be doing. Local government in many ways, is almost more
important to peoples lives than central government. It is the local
authority that delivers water, effluent and waste management, housing,
electricity and roads. It is the local authority that manages primary health
care and educational and social amenities.
The MDC is a Party of the poor - I am sure I have often stated that. So many
urban areas find themselves with councilors who are drawn from street
vendors, blue-collar workers and even the unemployed. In my district I have
two councilors - one a retired lady with very sparse resources and no
transport and the other a vendor also with few resources. They are, however
both excellent individuals, with integrity and a real commitment to their
communities and I am looking forward to working with them.
We have huge challengers - many urban centers are short of water, roads are
in an appalling state, mass transit systems non-functional, effluent systems
broken down and a threat to public health. 40 per cent of the urban
population is not properly housed; we
have a backlog of a million housing units let alone any future growth in
demand. Staff are demoralized, financial systems have broken down, assets
looted and there are many political appointees who are not going to welcome
the new administration.
But at least we can now start to tackle these issues and do something about
them. Once the transitional government is in place (in August?) then we can
really start to do things - especially if the new arrangements reflect the
March elections and are accepted by the international community as having
In anticipation of a new day dawning, we are now working on how to mobilize
the collective energies of our much-diminished community to start to make
things happen. What I would like to say to every Zimbabwean - at home or
abroad, get involved.
This morning I went to a local picnic site - Hillside Dams. There a group of
local businessmen plus a motley collection of volunteers are cleaning them
up - they have been given a lease over 45 hectares and are building a
restaurant, picnic sites and cleaning up the gardens and the amenities such
as toilets. The roads and paths are being repaired. When I left there were
many cars in the parking area, hundreds of kids and adults playing in open
areas and many braai fires going with a smell of wors and steak.
If you are outside the country - adopt a councilor and support him or her
with funds to run a small office and meet their expenses. Small sums of
money can make a huge impact in this area and is critical to making
democracy work for the people and to improve their lives.
A group of businessmen are right now forming a Trust to mobilize the whole
business community behind community development and the strengthening of the
democracy we are building. Making democratic practice work for everyone -
creating servant leaders who will be honest and accountable. They are
identifying projects - small and large, that can be tackled by the public
and the private sector to their mutual benefit. One group in Bulawayo is
doing a joint venture with the City to manage and recycle wastewater.
We have a country to rebuild - not had a chance to do anything up to now
because of the crazy politics and the imbecilic economics. This is both an
exciting and a challenging task. The international community will help us
get back on our feet and after that it is up to us - we are a rich country
made poor by bad leadership. That must never happen again.
Democracy and development are the key to this. Democracy to hold leadership
accountable to the people they serve and development to lift everyone out of
the cycle of poverty and deprivation that has been our lot for too long.
Bulawayo, 27th July 2008