Zimbabweans have been reduced from being citizens to subjects who cannot exercise their democratic rights, a civil society leader has said.
Addressing a policy dialogue forum in Bulawayo yesterday, Rodrick Fayayo, of the Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA), said Zimbabweans were no longer free to raise their concerns to the powers-that-be as they risked being abducted.
The policy dialogue forum is a citizens’ platform in which topical issues of governance and leadership are discussed.
Yesterday’s discussion running under the theme: “Placing citizens at the centre of governance and politics in Zimbabwe,” was organised and coordinated by five civil society organisations from Matabeleland.
These are Emthonjeni Women’s Forum, ORAP, Habakkuk Trust, Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association (BVTA) and BPRA.
“As citizens, we are only useful (to the authorities) when it comes to elections,” said Fayayo.
“We have been turned into voters instead of citizens. Zimbabweans are no longer free to be citizens.”
He said it was important for citizens to have a say in the way they are governed as well as participate in policymaking.
“How can we reclaim our citizenship? We need to be clear on our ideological inclination,” said Fayayo.
“The challenge is that we are all over. Activists need to go back to the drawing board. Our structure of mobilisation should start at the family level.”
Belinda Ncube, also from the civil society said it was regrettable that citizens were no longer holding leaders to account.
“As citizens or residents, I think we are also tired,” she said.
“Policymakers will continue making decisions. Some of us are saying even if we participate in consultations and decision making, nothing changes and as a result, we have given up.”
Ncube said a situation where citizens are pushed to the periphery while authorities remain at the centre was dangerous; arguing the mandate to govern comes from the people.
“Citizens must never give up because people will be taken for granted,” she added.
Participants drawn from across Bulawayo expressed concern over failure by citizens to demand change in the country.
“We have lost our confidence as citizens,” noted one participant.
“No one wants to die or to be a scapegoat. Some people say if you start politics, you will disappear. I think you better die for a cause than to live for nothing.”
Another participant, Francis Nyoni, said it was high time Zimbabweans brought forward solutions to problems bedevilling the country.
“Let us not fear death but let’s fight for our rights,” he said.
“We are now run by Statutory Instruments; people are no longer consulted.”