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Crisis: will it make people speak out?

Former Southern Rhodesian Prime Minister, Garfield Todd, who has long been associated with the struggle for black rule and participated in the first independence Parliament, has expressed hope that the present crisis in the country will encourage people to speak out more to shed off some of the fear which still lies over the country.

Addressing a meeting sponsored by Open Forum, Todd said although President Mugabe wants a one-party state and warns MPs to toe the line or be ejected, what the President needs today is the best advice and the best contribution to the well-being of the country and its people that any citizen can make, regardless of party policies or party approval.

“Any MP who is caring for his constituents but who has an unpopular view to advance should recognise that while he might be expelled from the party he would probably be re-elected as an independent member and that he is investing in his political future.

“In 1980 we turned to Robert Mugabe for leadership and he gave most generously of himself and of his exceptional talents. We will not forget what we owe but it seems to me that the President is today not receiving the full, critical and generous support which he needs in this very difficult period” Todd said.

“Under the circumstances of the liberation struggle when it was decided that only the armed resistance to the Smith regime would win our freedom, the only nations who were ready to provide the weapons and the training which our men required were the communist countries.

“They were obviously our friends and their thoughts and their ways, as well as their arms of war, were attractive. We did not know that their policies and their economies were on the verge of bankruptcy.

“Now, just as the nations of East Europe have had to turn to a market economy and search for democracy, we find ourselves still in their company, also doing a U-turn in official ideology. Whether we like it or not we are required to change and to acknowledge that we are turning to a market economy. But market economy has to be utterly practical and Zimbabwe has many acknowledged weaknesses, especially in the public sector,” he said.

Todd cited the example of the confrontation between Energy Minister Herbert Ushewokunze and the former ZESA board as an example where the President should have taken action but did not.

He said after accusations and counter-accusations which glaringly showed that ZESA was in serious trouble, one would have expected a judicial inquiry to be set up to probe the parastatal because water and energy are vital to the success of the country’s economy.

This was not done. Instead Ushewokunze appointed a new board and added more insults to the old board.

“This must be the fourth or maybe even the sixth attempt that the present minister has made at running a division of government and the continuing favour shown to him by the President is hard to understand.

“Whatever may be the truth about the affairs of ZESA it is obvious that the crisis has not been handled either openly or responsibly.

“What investor would be tempted to offer his funds and expertise to a country where the policies and conduct of the Ministry of Energy and Water are permitted to remain under a could of uncertainty and suspicion?”

Another stumbling block on the road to democracy, Todd said, was the potential abuse of the CIO which he termed “a very specialised department which is a protector of the one-party state and which reports only to the President.”

“It is my opinion that people do not fear the police or CID but there is widespread fear of the Central Intelligence Organisation. Recently I wrote to the President about this. I did not receive a reply from the President but I had copied my letter to the High Court and I did receive a reply from the registrar. That reply evaded my real concern and increased my apprehension,” he said .

He referred to the case cited by Justice Hwacha in which an investigating officer described the CIO as a “fierce and dreaded organisation”. The officer had once investigated a CIO man who was subsequently convicted of a capital offence and sentenced to death. However, the man was mysteriously released from prison and went to the officer’s house and threatened to kill him.

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