THE country’s church organisations have presented quite an interesting proposal which is to postpone our elections for seven years in order for us to find each other as a people.
The Church has likened this seven-year hiatus to some kind of Sabbath, which in the biblical context is “a day of religious observance and abstinence from work”.
The Jews of Israel observe the day from Friday evening to Saturday evening, while most Christians take the off day on Sunday, with others taking it on Saturday. Now the Church, having obviously taken time to ponder and pray for a possible solution to Zimbabwe’s enduring crisis, believes that the seven-year Sabbath period would help establish “an emergency recovery mechanism to address the dire national situation … The Sabbath entails the suspension of the constitutional provision of elections, but such a deficiency will be redressed through a national referendum”. This proposal effectively means that the country’s next general elections would be in 2030.
While we support the Church for making all efforts to get a lasting solution to our relentless problems, we are, however, quite curious to know what has happened to efforts to try and get the country’s two major players, President Emmerson Mnangagwa and main opposition MDC leader Nelson Chamisa to sit down and talk. These guys, in our persistent view, are the ones who can alter the course of this country just by sitting together and ironing out their differences. The seven-year Sabbath might turn out to be yet another seven years in the wilderness if the nature of the governing authority during that time is not agreed to by all concerned stakeholders.
If the proposed seven-year break is presided over by a transitional authority in the form of the 2009 to 2013 Government of National Unity (GNU), the Sabbath might just get us somewhere. But past experience has, however, taught us that all the gains and opportunities that the GNU era presented were squandered simply because of serious friction emanating from the fact that the parties to the Global Political Agreement which birthed the GNU were mistrustful of each other. More specifically the late former President Robert Mugabe’s side of the GNU was hardly interested in working with the opposition MDC until Mugabe and team ended up telling us that they were no longer interested in working with the opposition and were now well-placed to go it alone. Sadly the decision got us to where we are today.
What also worries us sick about this suggestion is that we remember that just after the late former President Mugabe was pushed out of power in November 2017 there was serious talk that elections would be postponed for about five years to sort out the country’s political and socio-economic bearings. And what happened is now water under the bridge. The behind the scenes proposals for the five-year hiatus fell flat after, we understand, ruling party apparatchiks opined that they could get the mandate to run the country from the majority of the electorate. But the election results were disputed, which has gotten us to where are today.
These are just some of our reservations about the Church’s suggestion. We may as well add that results of the referendum may also end up being disputed because many still reckon that the political playing field is still not favourable for any free and fair balloting. We are also doubtful that the ruling party, given its decades old agenda to establish a one party State in Zimbabwe, will ever genuinely work with anyone or party for that matter which threatens the status quo. Also, seven years is a very long time indeed in terms of political gamesmanship.