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Electoral democracy also addresses social and economic rights

23 Nov 2011 at 04:58hrs | Views
There is widespread but erroneous belief that democracy goes only as far as elections and the enjoyment of civil and political rights. This view has seen other aspects outside of electoral democracy being negated or ignored altogether. The truth is that electoral democracy also addresses social and economic rights.

Zimbabwe's land reform and indigenisation and economic empowerment programmes are an effort to bring these social and economic rights to the fore. By the way, Zimbabwe has but the freest space in the world which already allows for the enjoyment of civil and political rights. This was achieved in 1980.

Today, though, the electoral democracy movement has taken over. According to the United States legislators who have imposed sanctions against the people of Zimbabwe, we must be forced to pursue a democracy that prioritises civil and political rights.

They then tell us that such a democracy will be the solution to our achieving equitable economic growth.

The very name of America's sanctions law, "Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act", would want us to believe that our economic fortunes are tied to the attainment of democracy and exercising civil and political rights. Of course this American legislation has remained vague on its true intent.

This is that the people of Zimbabwe must be forced by the pain of sanctions to cast our starved and manipulated vote to rid from government a Zanu-PF party maliciously blamed for the very economic challenges and socio-economic deprivation imposed upon us by western sanctions. What the sanctions law has sought to keep from paper is that the democracy and civil and political rights being demanded of us have little to do with achieving our economic growth and prosperity.

Does it make sense that the same western governments claiming to act for our economic prosperity would use sanctions to coerce and manipulate an economically deprived electorate to remove from government the very Zanu-PF party whose indigenisation policies have become the law enabling us to secure ownership of our own natural resources and a share in our national wealth?

Is there a better means to achieving economic growth than having a people own and control their natural resource and apply the wealth harnessed there from to fulfill their own socio-economic ends. If we allow ourselves to fulfill the intent of America/and ZIDERAs call to democracy do we not aid our own socio-economic demise having brought an abrupt end to ongoing efforts toward broad based economic empowerment.

We are being encouraged to shoot ourselves in the foot, cripple our march for economic liberation from the monopoly over our national wealth by foreign companies seeking to retain their privilege in the name of foreign investment.

The reality is that Zanu-PF is the heart of indigenisation. Such indigenisation, now expressed in government and the law, would have no voice; indeed die a premature death without Zanu-PF remaining in government to champion the indigenisation cause? No other party to the inclusive government has unwaveringly advocated for indigenisation, indeed some have rubbished it and preferred it to be brought to an end.

The democracy that sanctions seek to impose upon us is directed at stopping our economic democracy from bearing fruit, simply because the Government of Zimbabwe seeks to have such fruits prioritised towards feeding the socio-economic appetites of the majority indigenous Zimbabweans and not those of scavenging foreign interests.

America's intolerance towards Zanu-PF led government has been manifested in its pre-emptive attack against the policies formulated by such a government, including indigenisation and broad based economic empowerment, which policies they have admitted are an "unusual threat" to America's interests, including saving its collapsing economy by continuing to feed off Zimbabwe's national wealth.

Resource rich but socio-economically deprived and developing countries such a Zimbabwe are being mandated to pursue a civil and political democracy that will not guarantee them equitable and broad based economic growth. We are being distracted from prioritising the broad based application of our vast natural resources to achieve socio-economic development and rights.

Following Ghana's independence Kwame Nkurumah's dream to have Ghana industrialised and become socio-economically independent, was ended after his overthrow by a coup suspected to have been orchestrated by western governments.

Almost 50 years on, and despite being celebrated as Africa's example of democracy, Ghana's vast natural resources, including gold and now oil, have yet to be directed to achieve broad based economic growth that guarantees its majority their socio-economic rights.

On the other hand South Korea, which 50 years ago was poorer than Ghana, has emerged among the biggest economies of the world. Ironically, South Korea was put on the path to industrialisation and economic growth by a military government that took power through a coup in 1960, which non democratic government prioritised socio-economic development.

South Korea today attributes its economic growth to a "localisation policy" which kept foreigners from dominating Korea's emerging economy, giving Koreans the opportunity to own and grow their own economy.

Yet we in Africa continue to blindly believe that the solution to achieving economic growth is pursuing a democracy prescribed upon us by the same western governments that are resisting our efforts to break down the monopoly by their companies over our economies and natural resources.

We have failed to prioritise the pursuit of economic democracy and socio-economic rights, to the extent that human rights advocates are funded by the same western governments and institutions to promote a democracy that confines our citizens to marching the streets and swearing profanities to the powers that be all in the name of freedom of expression and assembly.

As Zimbabwean citizens exhaust their energies marching the streets, having emerged from socio-economically deprived homes, their natural resources continue to be exploited by foreign companies that reinvest in their own economies and not the Zimbabwean economy we must all rely on. Those professing to advocate for human rights in Zimbabwe, who have won numerous accolades presented to them by western governments and corporate funded institutions have helped perpetuate this distorted interpretation of democracy that values only civil and political rights but negates our socio-economic rights.

All you now ever hear of the human rights situation in Zimbabwe are the over played allegations of torture, unlawful arrests, freedom of expression, but never any defence of the socio-economic rights that have been stripped off a people historically reduced to labourers, made worse by western sanctions directed at causing Zimbabwe's slow economic death.

We are yet to see in Zimbabwe a human rights organisation that boldly engages democracy as the equitable distribution of national wealth to the benefit of the majority, an organisation that acknowledges indigenisation and economic empowerment as an opportunity to guarantee the Zimbabwean majority their socio-economic rights.

Would Zimbabweans not rather engage a new language of democracy and human rights which poses the question, "What democracy, without economic empowerment, without socio-economic rights for the majority?" We need no longer despair the betrayal of our socio-economic, America's own citizens have become the new champions of socio-economic rights, including our own.

I mean the majority American citizens now engaged in economic protests and seeking to occupy the symbols of America's monopolised national wealth. Indeed these are the same corporations, come foreign investors, whom Zimbabwe's indigenisation programme has obliged to return a greater share of Zimbabwe's national wealth to its majority indigenous people.

As I write, American citizens are waking to the reality of the exclusive nature of their government's version of democracy. The same American citizens that had long applauded their red-white-and-blue piped piper imposing its democracy tune upon the rest of the world are shocked that they too have been under the piper's spell, made to dance as far away from their own nation's wealth as possible, to where they have now fallen into socio-economic deprivation.

President Mugabe and Minister Kasukuwere may well thank the occupiers of Wall Street, Washington, London and other western capitals, for telling to the world, and to self doubting Zimbabweans, that Zimbabwe has after all been on the right track in its pursuit of broad based economic empowerment as a guarantee of an equitable share in the nation's wealth and of social harmony. Should we urge these western citizens to strengthen their occupational resolve in pursuit of economic democracy, so we can expose the western hypocrisy that would have us stop the indigenisation of our economy?

They are after all protesting business enterprises that have monopolised the national wealth and condemned them to socio-economic deprivation. Maybe we best remain spectators, least America's resort to pre-emptive strikes, in the name of preserving America's minority economic and unbridled capitalist interest, send drones to rain bombs upon us, Libya style.

We have a Shona saying that "we learn to avoid tragedies from observing the misfortunes of others." Let us learn then from western citizens marching against their socio-economic deprivation imposed under the noses of their democratically elected regimes which have clearly valued the welfare of the minority and negated the majority. Maybe they might teach us how to attain the "real democracy" they now demand.

Meanwhile, should their governments continue to speak to us of democracy, its civil and political rights, we have stronger cause to ask boldly; "If your own citizens have declared that yours is not a real democracy, one "for the people", what then is this democracy that your sanctions seek to have imposed upon us.

Rangu Nyamurundira is a lawyer and human rights consultant based in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Source - zimpapers
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