It’s been a dizzying week for Zimbabwe. Not since the country’s independence in April, 1980 has Zimbabwe been all over the news, all over the world as in the past two weeks. Back in 1980, hope about that young country’s prospects filled the world’s airwaves, because the cause of freedom and democracy had triumphed over the evil of colonialism and racism.

On Saturday, November 18 and 21, 2017, the world again witnessed Zimbabweans celebrating another triumph, this time over dictatorship and the hope that perhaps a path would be found to triumph over repression and economic and social degradation. For 37 years now, Zimbabweans have seen their lives deteriorate on every front: human rights violations, rigged elections, economic mismanagement and corruption, broken education and health systems and a decayed infrastructure. When they attempted to use constitutional means to right these wrongs through the electoral process, they were consistently denied this avenue by a government that thwarted their choices of new leaders. You were part of this government for all 37 years.

But, perhaps because you were in this government for all those years, you may actually be in a position to make the necessary changes to past failed policies and a failed approach to governing. Because you know the ins and outs of what went wrong with a government in which you were a central figure, you may actually have specific ideas on how to get Zimbabwe out of this morass, now that you are the man in charge of the governing ZANU-PF party and the government.

To move the country forward, there are certain basic things that must be done and followed. Success depends on them. The first is adherence to the rule of law. It is common knowledge the world over that in Zimbabwe, government and its agencies acted with impunity because they were not accountable to written rules of conduct. Opposition politicians and their political parties within Zimbabwe were thrown in jail or actually murdered for their political beliefs. Many are alive and are witness to this. And individual Zimbabweans who had their rights violated without redress and watched government officials acting without accountability can also tell jaw dropping stories about their treatment in an environment where there is the absence of the rule of law. You will need, Sir, to demonstrate from the beginning that Zimbabwe is a country of laws and that no citizens are above it. You can start by realigning Zimbabwe’s statutes with its new constitution, something which Robert Mugabe and his government did not do or deliberately neglected to do in the past 5 years. And which you, as a recent former Justice Minister also neglected to do. This will be crucial, for Zimbabweans and the rest of the world need to be confident that change is indeed coming to the country. And yes, the common refrain by you and others that “party and government” are above everything must be replaced by a new slogan extolling the virtues of the rule of law. Surely, as someone who has spent the last three weeks in hiding, trying to escape Mugabe’s wrath, you must now appreciate how crucial the rule of law is to all Zimbabweans.

Secondly, you should take the lead in ensuring that the next elections in Zimbabwe are free and fair and peaceful. There can be no stability in that country if Zimbabweans continue to be denied their choices of who will lead them over a given period of time under their constitution. Let’s face it. You have been accused in the past of taking the lead in suppressing voters from exercising their rights, the 2008 elections being a documented glaring example of this, among many other such past instances. It will take your bringing all stakeholders in the political arena to a discussion and agree on how the elections will be conducted, including objective and nonpartisan mechanisms for monitoring the elections to ensure their integrity. Anything less will be viewed by Zimbabweans as a continuation of the fraudulent practices that have been the hallmark of Zimbabwe’s electoral process for the past 37 years.

Thirdly, my advice to you would be to call a meeting or series of meetings with all Zimbabwe’s political and civic leaders and engage them in a discussion on how to make a fresh start for Zimbabwe. For you to succeed, you will need to hear what they have to say about how to move the country forward from now on. They, in turn, will need to hear from you about your plans for the country’s future. Only by talking to each other, away from your political galleries, will you as Zimbabwe’s political class arrive at an understanding of what it will take to revive the country. Many people have suggested that you call on parties to come together and form a transitional power sharing coalition government to prepare the country for the next phase of its history, including the next elections. I too endorse this approach. And the American civil rights leader, the Reverend Jesse Jackson said it well on November 21, 2017, as he reacted to Mugabe’s resignation: “It is healing time. It is unity time. It is time to go forward in peace and rebuild Zimbabwe for the better.”

I have had discussions with individuals who know you and who think that you have the potential to bring Zimbabwe out of its self-inflicted quagmire. They cite your ability to evolve and incorporate new ideas into your thinking, for example, in sound economic policies based on your success in business ventures, and in coming out against the death penalty as something central to your acceptance of the Christian faith. Zimbabwe certainly needs a leader who will incorporate new thinking as it faces the future. A man whom you admire, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, once described Zimbabwe as the jewel of Africa. Think of your new and awesome responsibility as bringing that jewel back to its shining state.

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