By Briggs Bomba & Lenin T. Chisaira May 2019
Zimbabwe is in need of a national dialogue to end the current impasse and quagmire and open a viable pathway to a better future. Towards a Framework for Inclusive National Dialogue is an articulation of a perspective derived from a series of citizens’ consultations conducted under the auspices of Citizens’ Manifesto. These consultations brought together diverse citizens’ voices from a wide spectrum of stakeholders.
Most notably, Citizens’ Manifesto organized consultation meetings on national dialogue on 25 Janurary 2019, following the “national shutdown” protests and the deadly state crackdown and on 19 March 2019. The March meeting served as a high point in the consultative processes coordinated by the movement since 2017. Most of the views expressed in this document were developed in that meeting. The meeting included representatives from labour, civil society, students’ movements, women, youths, vendors and faith-based groups. The meeting also involved other stakeholders who are involved in National Dialogue processes such as the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) and the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC).
As a movement, Citizens’ Manifesto has participated in and contributed to various consultations on national dialogue including those organized by the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission, National Transitional Justice Working Group, Platform for Concerned Citizens and National Association of NGOs.
Towards a Framework for National Dialogue includes insights on citizens’ perspective on Defining national dialogue, Conditions for national dialogue as well as Expected outcomes from a successful process.
Citizens’ Manifesto is a national citizens’ movement made up of progressive activists and their organizations – including labour, students, women, informal traders, faith based organizations as well as rural, urban and peri-urban community based organizations. The movement is working to build towards a non-partisan national convergence platform to define a shared national vision of a better Zimbabwe for all and to collectively work towards its attainment.
The Citizens’ Manifesto hopes that Towards a Framework for Inclusive National Dialogue will contribute to national consensus and convergence among all relevant actors on an agreed solution-oriented framework for national dialogue for the benefit of Zimbabweans at present and for posterity.
The Citizens’ Manifesto is aware that there are different interpretations and expectations from various sectors of our country on National Dialogue.
We are aware that references to ‘National Dialogue’ hold different meaning to different stakeholders.
The Citizen’s Manifesto has developed a working definition of National Dialogue from its various consultative processes.
Our definition of National Dialogue:
An inclusive, bottom-up, solution oriented national conversation on those priority political, economic and social issues that are holding us back from moving forward as a country.
Rather than one process, we view national dialogue as a convergence of multiple sub-processes seeking to build cohesion within particular sectors and communities (e.g. political actors dialogue and community level dialogue initiatives).
The process of national dialogue must be transformative in itself and enable the reweaving of the torn social fabric of communities and produce a new social contract that underpins greater social cohesion, national healing and a trajectory towards sustainable peace and development.
Certain conditions should be met in order to ensure a credible National Dialogue process. Consultations carried out under the Citizens’ Manifesto platform identified the following:
An inclusive national dialogue is imperative given the diversity and magnitude of the problems facing our country. The repository for solutions goes beyond political parties requiring the participation of all relevant constituencies, including business, churches, women, youth, civil society and indeed political parties to enable co-creation of solutions that work for all.
ii. Informed Participation
Citizens must be adequately educated and informed on the national dialogue process, including its objectives and opportunities for their participation. In this regard, and as a pre-requisite, there must be extensive civic education programs carried out by credible civil society organizations and responsible state institutions to raise awareness and empower citizens (including the grassroots) for meaningful participation. iii. Safety and Security
Safety and security must be guaranteed to all participants in the national dialogue process in line with the constitutional right to free speech and expression. Freedom before and after speech must be guaranteed. The freedom is clearly outlined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe, in Section 61 (1) (a) which provides as follows:
Every person has the right to freedom of expression, which includes freedom to seek, receive and communicate ideas and other information.
Hence both as a constitutional obligation and as a necessary condition, there must be free speech, expression, safety and security for credible National Dialogue to take place. iv. Neutral and Credible Convening
The national dialogue process requires neutral and credible convening accepted by all stakeholders. The same applies to the sub-processes (sectoral - including at the level of political actors, and community level dialogue) feeding into the National Dialogue – these should all be anchored by credibile mutually accepted convenors.
v. Technically Competent Facilitation
By definition, National Dialogue is a complex process with many sticky points. Thus, the process requires technically competent facilitators with the necessary knowledge and experience to navigate through sticky issues and steward the process towards desired outcomes. Facilitators are required at all levels of dialogue process. vi. People Centered- Agenda
The agenda for national dialogue must be composed of those political, economic, and social issues issues that citizens identify as holding the country back and for which we need solutions in order to move forward. Oftentimes, national dialogue has been conflated with elite talks for political power negotiations. To avoid this pitfall, citizens and their organized formations must have a voice in deciding the issues that must be on the agenda for national dialogue. vii. Independent Monitoring
The National Dialogue process and it’s constitutive sub-processes must be open to independent monitoring and reporting by local and international observors. Objective, responsible, fair and balanced media reporting is a crucial aspect in this regard. Among other parameters, this monitoring must assess and report on conditions for a credible national dialogue process as proposed in this document.
viii. International Mediation and Guarantee
Given the acute polarization in the country, we believe international mediation is required to secure the buy in and consensus of all key stakeholders to an agreed framework for national dialogue. This mediation must be carried out by respected actors in the international community. From the consultations carried out under the auspices of the Citizens’ Manifesto, we propose The Elders to play the role of mediation between and among key stakeholders to come up with an agreed framework for national dialogue as well as agree on specific core elements including the convening and facilitation of the process. The Elders’ are ideally placed to play a mediating role in Zimbabwe, given their engagement efforts to support a successful transition in Zimbabwe over the past couple of years, the high point of which was a delegation led by the late former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, that visited the country in 2018 and met with a cross-section of stakeholders including president Mnangagwa, opposition MDC president Nelson Chamisa and a wide cross-section of civil society leaders. As part of this visit, the Elders attended the National Citizen’s convention where civil society made a specific request for The Elders to prepare to assist with mediation and dialogue and help the prevent the country from descending into social unrest.
Furthermore, the international community, in particular SADC, AU, and the UN must serve as guarantors both of a credible process and of the effective implementation of the compact from the national dialogue process. In this regard, Zimbabwe must be required to report, on the process and outcomes and be held accountable to the appropriate forums of the referenced inter-governmental organizations.
From our consultations, we expect that a successful national dialogue process will result in 1) A new social contract – that redefines the relationship and obligations between the state and the citizens and brings to an end the current national impasse and quagmire;; 2) A political settlement – in the form of an agreed political framework between the main protagonists to cease the current antagonistic hostilities;; 3) A framework for long term and systemic reforms – addressing the root causes of our national crisis.
We hope the insights contained in this document will contribute to ongoing discussions on developing an agreed framework for national dialogue. As a Citizens’ Movement, we commit to sustain our consultations, and to reach out to other stakeholders, and engage in civic education in our communities, workplaces, campuses, churches and villages towards building national consensus and convergence.