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Zimbabwe: a case for a collective head of state

We look back into our history to make sense of how we have got into this big mess that is Zimbabwe; we look at the present to face the reality; the reality of our [in]decisions; we are the generation making the history for the next generation. Instead of feeling sorry, we need to start reviewing systems and building a government by consensus.

We have to identify and confront all systematic flaws; what needs immediate review are policies that have impacted the broader political power transactions across Zimbabwean society. Politicians have not attempted to involve the electorate in the decision-making processes. Ordinary citizens had no contribution in the perpetuation of the 1895 colonialists’ merger of the two traditional states, Matabeleland and Mashonaland, to create the modern Zimbabwe state at independence; Matabeleland citizens had no role in the 1987 Unity Accord between ZANU PF and PF ZAPU that followed the early 1980s genocide in Matabeleland; Zimbabweans were not consulted when the constitution was changed to establish an executive presidency system. Zimbabwean citizens had no say in the legislation that authorised the expropriation of white citizens’ commercial land in the early 21st Century.

The country cannot continue to be run like a private members club.  Executive presidency has been nothing but a disastrous experiment for Zimbabwe, particularly for Matabeleland. We need to design a government system that will prevent concentrations of power in any one part of the process or ethnic group or linguistic group.

The motive needs to be more and not less decentralisation and active participation of citizens across all levels of governance. First, executive presidency has to go and in its place come a collective head of state system. A federal council made up of at most 9 members elected by members of parliament will form the Collective Head of State and members should be representative of regions, main linguistic communities and be representative of sexes in the country.

Paramount to the system will be the equality of the council members; each member of government will act as head of a department of the federal administration. However, major government decisions will have to be taken in regular weekly meetings either by consensus or by majority voting of all government members. The presidential role will be ceremonial and rotated annually among the council members as is the case in Switzerland, a country widely regarded as the most stable in the world today.

We need a good balance between government leading and reflecting what the electorate wants. There should be constitutional provision for ordinary citizens to be able to propose changes to the constitution through popular initiatives. There should be mandatory referendums for any changes to the constitution; legal instruments will have to be put in place with regards to initiating referendums.

To avoid unhealthy political influence by ethnic majority groups, consensus leadership in which main political parties govern together as equal partners will be paramount while the use of a double majority (majority of people and a majority of the regions) will be essential for an initiative or mandatory referendum to pass.

Since independence, the promises and practices of politicians have frequently been at odds. An executive presidency has failed Zimbabwe; we can no longer accept a situation where one man and his apologists dictate the fate of millions of citizens. It is wrong that ethnic Shona value systems remain the basis for the country’s governance; genuine collective leadership is the best way forward.


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