FULL TEXT: “National Dialogue Is One Of The Solutions But Not The Exclusive Solution”:Peter Mutasa
10 March 2021
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By A Correspondent- Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) President has called on Zimbabwe’s political leadership to exhaust all the solutions available in resolving the country’s crisis.

Speaking at a discussion forum hosted by the Public Policy Research Institute Of Zimbabwe held under the title “Elusive Political, Electoral and Economic Reforms in Zimbabwe : ls National Dialogue The Solution?” Mutasa said:

• I start by pointing out that the Zimbabwean crisis is complex and can not be resolved by one solution. None has the simple solution to the crisis but through lots of engagements and trials and errors will we find the elusive magic wand.

• It is therefore my position that yes, National Dialogue is one of the solutions but not the exclusive solution. There are other solutions that must be considered as solutions on their own or to be jointly used with national dialogue.

• National dialogue also has to be properly conceptualized and it be established what different classes, groups and interests perceive it to be. We may have different views of what it is and what we seek to achieve out of it.

• However before evaluating whether National Dialogue is the solution, there is need to understand what the problem is that requires a solution. We need to have a clear conception of the Zimbabwean problem as well as an understanding of its depth. A progressive solution is a product of an understanding of the problem through objective and inclusive analysis. A FAILED STATE THAT HAS LOST LEGITIMACY

• The basis of my submissions is that Zimbabwe is now a Failed State and the government has lost legitimacy in the “eyes and hearts” of majority of the citizens

• There is bound to be a lot of debate and disagreements about this conclusion. Much of it will be driven by ideological, philosophical and academic definitional arguments.

• I am from a specific class that has peculiar needs and expectations from the state. The working class in its broadest sense forms the biggest social class and faces particular problems and unmet needs.

• The legitimacy of the state or it’s status as weak, failing ,failed or collapsed, is based on what the citizens see and experience daily. This is never neutral especially in a kleptocratic oligarchic state where some benefit at the expense of the suffering majority. The daily struggles therefore determines the legitimacy of the government and status of the state.

• Therefore, legitimacy of the state is not only based on the way it attained power. For the working class how it provides political goods is the most important measure. Both input and output legitimacy becomes important for assessing whether the state still has legitimacy in terms of its policies and programs. The question is whether it is a government for the people that listens to the people and meet the basic needs of the citizens.

• There is no doubt that in this regard, the Failed Zimbabwean State has lost legitimacy in the “eyes and hearts” of the majority and especially the working class.

• The state has failed in many regards and these examples indicates clearly how it has failed. 1) A State failing to promote, protect and guarantee security of persons.

• One of the most fundamental obligations of the state is to protect its citizens. The Zimbabwean State using its various state organs has actually provided the biggest danger to citizens. The abductions, torture, unlawful arrests and pre trial detentions, police and military brutalities and many other forms of abuses points to a state that has become a danger to its citizens.

• Although powerful, exercising monopoly of violence and controlling an effective state security machinery, the state has been operating outside the parameters permissible by law. In many instances some of its organs and agents have been behaving like militias and acting above the law thereby endangering citizens. 2) A state Failing To Provide Public Services

• For the working class, everything is not working well. We are failing to access medical care, education, adequate housing, proper transport etc. Public hospitals are in a sorry state lacking basic drugs and equipment. Some schools resemble pigsties and many kids are failing to access quality education as teachers are always incapacitated and schools have no books.

• Workers are facing serious problems going to and from work. There is no suitable and adequate public transport. Many are now using open trucks in the rains and cold. This is a serious regression 3) State Facing Social and Economic Implosion.

• High inflation and currency debauchery has led to serious erosion of wages and pensions. The majority of the workers are earning far below the PDL and many are literally enslaved working for nothing.

• Domestic workers earn only USD9 equivalent to 9 loaves of bread. Minimum wage can only buy 25 loaves of bread for a full month salary. •

• Many are food insecure and facing starvation. Endemic poverty affecting 70% of the population with 34% in extreme poverty.

• We are in a vicious cycle, with low incomes, low demand, low savings, and low productivity • Many kids will drop out of schools as working parents fail to pay fees. Many families can barely afford a single meal a day.

• There is massive unfair transfer of wealth from the poor workers and peasants to the elites and their cronies through corruption, arbitrage, state and regulatory capture and its concomitant rents.

• In this regard, the state has failed as it safeguards the interests of a few while exploiting and exposing the majority to social and economic dangers Reasons For Failure

• There a many reasons for the State Failure and these includes:

• 1) Dictatorship, Kleptocracy

• 2) Anti people and Anti Workers policies ( Neoliberalism- Austerity, currency debauchery)

• 3) Militarization of the State

• 4) Corruption • 5) Cartels and State capture

• 6) Lack of Constitutionalism and Rule of Law National Dialogue

• Whilst l believe that national dialogue is inevitable, the following must be noted

• (1) National Dialogue is not an event. It has been happening since 1980 even beyond that if we take the prior independence epoch into account.

• (2) Dialogue takes many forms including formal set up that appears to be the focus currently. It however can also take different forms like mass actions, protests, petitions, legal challenges, boycotts, open letters, and many other forms of expressions. The state’s responses to these must also be regarded as part of the broad national dialogue process • Dialogue mustn’t be narrowly conceived to be a formal and pleasant process always based on good faith. In the labour market we have come to realise that dialogues have different processes and dynamics. So as weird as it may sound, there is already a national dialogue going on albeit between the powerful elites and submissive citizens under a hostile environment. Just like we have an unfair social contract contrary to common belief that we have no social contract.

• (3) There has been different forms of national dialogues processes in Zimbabwe and various outcomes. We need not lose these historical developments if we are to find a sustainable solution.

• For example the most notable outcome of the national dialogue processes is the Zimbabwean Constitution. This is a progressive outcome in many regards which if sincerely implemented will resurrect the failed state.

The important questions in light of the above therefore are

• (i ) Those seeking dialogue, what is the desired outcome?

• ( ii) What will be the contents of the expected outcome and how different will that be to the Constitution?

• ( III) lf the Constitution is being ignored and not complied to, why would the same people comply with the expected dialogue outcomes?

• These are difficult questions that also shows that perhaps this dialogue call maybe a result of ephemeral consciousness that is not rooted on clear understanding of the problem and reasons for the failed state. It may also be based on hoping against hope that the ruling elites may genuinely embrace reforms. Based on experience that is highly unlikely.

• These questions give credence to the need for widening our search for the elusive national solution Alternative View

• For any dialogue to be meaningful, respected and to produce sustainable outcomes relative power of the parties is an important factor.

• From my background and experience in labour market dialogues, all forms of negotiations are influenced in a big way by the perceived or actual power of the parties.

• This calls for shifting the focus from begging for a particular form of dialogue to building power for those suffering under the burden of an unfair social contract.

• The ruling kleptocrats are powerful and are using the whole armour of the state. This class is also benefiting a lot through patronage, corruption, state capture and cartels and rents. It has no reason for it to lose these massive benefits through a dialogue with people that are battered and already submissive. That is only logical and from experience the ruling classes have never voluntarily reformed themselves out of power and risk everything just to please the exploited classes.

• It goes without saying that any dialogue with the ruling elites , the oligarchs and their cronies will not be sincere unless the citizens possesses and use collective countervailing power.

• If the ruling elites accept this call for dialogue or as appears to be happening now, if they call for it and shape it, they will be seeking to achieve a PR coup against the increasingly conscious exploited classes.

• Worse still any top – down dialogue approach will inevitably cement the ruling elites stranglehold on the state and economy. It is also clear that, such a dialogue will be on their terms, produce their desired outcomes and those terms undesirable to them will not be accepted or implemented.

• State Of The Citizens, Labour , Political And Social Movements • All are weakened, fragmented, infiltrated, some co-opted and others being coerced into submission. • Successive years of state attacks and brutalities against any form of dissent has to an extent decimated the once robust mobilised collective movements and communities.

• The militarization of the state, push for one party state agenda and weaponisation of covid19 has led to suspension of all important constitutional rights. Freedom of association, assembly and speech to mention a few have been suspended. There is a powerful invisible and unpronounced martial law in operation.

• These and other rights are extremely important for any fair , effective and inclusive national dialogue. Without these civic and political rights, any dialogue will be elitist and in the main a farce. Practical Means Of Attaining Genuine Dialogue

• There must be a bottom up approach that respects the affected people and that is sensitive to their needs, fears, aspirations and grievances.

• It must take into account historical developments and outcomes of all forms of dialogues

• It must be based on solidarity within classes and between classes. No one is spared except the ruling elites and their cronies. So the people must unite. Only a United Front grants citizens power which is necessary to engage the state actors with some ability to sanction non committal.

• It must be based on clear ideological foundation. Only when we realise that power retention by the elites is not an end in itself but a means to accumulation of wealth will the people be empowered. Many are fighting for political power and not progressive revamp of the social and economic structure which is in actual fact what the oligarchs are defending. • Thus, for the working class the struggle is against both repression and neoliberalism induced poverty or misery. We can not accept or afford a dialogue for sharing power in order to continue exploiting the masses.

• The focus of the Labour movement, churches, students, peasants, civic society , political formations and all citizens must not be a rushed formal political dialogue but building a critical mass. This critical mass must be able to engage in many forms with whoever wields political power to atleast comply with the progressive dialogue outcome we already have, the 2013 Constitution.

• If this dialogue outcome is implemented fully or even partially, the failed state will be transformed and common good attained.

• The 2013 Constitution has provisions for most of the issues that l speculate to be what those begging for dialogue desire to attain.


• It is my submission that what the progressive forces and all other sectors outside the state sphere need to urgent do is build an active citizenry that effectively exercise its agency.

We need to :

• 1) Organise and come together despite sectorial interests. Class collaboration is unavoidable.

• 2) Clarify the most important agenda. One that cuts across all interests. Without being prescriptive because there is no room for that, two issues stick out, repression and neoliberalism induced misery.

• 3) Mobilise for the agenda. The agenda must be known and believed by the majority across the country. This is the first signal to the elites that the people can not bear the repression and neoliberalism induced misery any longer. Civic education that is properly planned and rolled out is part of this mobilisation.

• 4) Take action. Please note that only non violent actions especially those provided in the constitution are effective. There must never be any illusion about use of violent means, this will not work. The state has monopoly of violence and citizens can not seek a progressive outcome through violent means against the state. Again the 2013 Constitution is the most important tool. Citizens must ensure that the rights guaranteed in the Constitution are exercised

• 5) All must be anchored on solidarity between classes, communities and person to person. Solidarity must be the glue that unites the citizens as well as the buffer against continued state brutalities.

• It is this United Front that has legitimacy to initiate and engage in many forms of national dialogue with the state (or government). It is again this mass that can with some level of equal power bargain effectively with the mighty state.

• This is just another view to the current focus on the national dialogue as it has been propagated so far. • Thank you for inviting me to share my views, which mainly reflect the interactions and debates within working class platforms.

I acknowledge that some may hold different views and that there are some practical limitations to my suggestions. This is why such a platforms you created and invited us is extremely important for the citizens to critically discuss and analyse the problem in search of the elusive national solution.