“We Are Not Regime Change Agents”: CiZC
8 August 2023
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CRISIS in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) says labelling the organisation regime change agents is a usual tactic used by dictatorships worldwide to muzzle all voices which attempt to hold them to account.

In a recent interview with NewsDay (ND), CiZC chairperson Peter Mutasa (PM) said this would, however, not silence them. Below are excerpts of the interview.

ND: When was CiZC born, and what prompted its birth?

PM: The CiZC was formed in August 2001 by several civil society organisations and the formation of the coalition was meant to spearhead a collective civil society response in addressing the multi-faceted crisis of governance and governmental legitimacy then engulfing Zimbabwe. The formation of the coalition was also informed by the need to push for a developmental trajectory informed by the people and inclusive of every citizen regardless of creed.

The coalition is a membership-based organisation and currently has 92 institutional members. These members are organised by thematic committees namely youth, gender, advocacy, peace building, arts, information and human rights committees.

The coalition also has a regional information and advocacy desk which operates from our office based in Johannesburg, South Africa, whose major role has been to champion the accurate projection of Zimbabwe’s challenges not only in the region but internationally. This is anchored on our belief that resolving Zimbabwe’s challenges requires informed solidarity from her regional neighbours and the international community.

ND: Can you briefly outline the journey towards attainment of democracy and inclusive national development in Zimbabwe?

PM: The journey has not been an easy one, especially taking into consideration the increasingly authoritarian nature of our State, more notably at least since 2000. The 22 years of our existence symbolise years of trials and tribulations characterised by State repression and closure of the democratic space.

It is unfortunate that in response to our calls for a genuinely people-centred governance framework, the State has responded essentially by further constricting the civic and democratic space, which is supposed to be the lifeline of a constitutional and participatory democratic governance framework. Instead, the State has resorted to name-calling, restrictive laws and brute force, characterised by abductions, arbitrary arrests, torture as well as extra-judicial killings, but we have remained vigilant and continue to be guided by our vision.

The journey has not been easy, but we have soldiered on and the coalition continues to leave an indelible footprint in the fight for democracy and good governance in Zimbabwe.

The heightening of the closure of civic and democratic spaces that we have seen post the November 2017 coup just serves as a reminder to comrades and the generality of citizens alike, that the struggle continues and we must continue to push until we realise the dream of inclusive national development in Zimbabwe.

I cannot overemphasise the apparent pointers to an increasingly authoritarian State we continue to see — the militarisation of key state institutions, persecution of dissenting voices, obscene levels of corruption and plunder of State resources and weaponisation of the Judiciary among many other vices.

Our antidote to these vices and resolving the long-standing crisis in the country is also simple. Zimbabweans must be assisted to have a genuine national dialogue process.

What will this dialogue seek to do? It must seek to help Zimbabwe return to full norm compliance in modern statecraft by implementing comprehensive electoral, social, economic and political reforms. Such reforms must be undergirded by a firm commitment to return to political legitimacy and the restoration of constitutionalism.

A devolved constitutional State (entails) the declaration of rights is the cornerstone of economic development; a political system built on a free and fair electoral system; and a competitive multi-party system that strengthens the social contract and underpins governmental legitimacy.

It is incumbent upon the country’s leadership to desist from cosmetic approaches on the issue of a national dialogue and engage all the key stakeholders including but not limited to political actors themselves, business, civil society in its entirety — the church, labour, students, women’s movements, peasants, war veterans, ethnic minorities — every section of our varied population must be included and represented in this national dialogue.

ND: The CiZC has been accused of being a “regime change outfit that continuously seeks to please its Western masters”. How do you react to these allegations?