The Second miStakeholders’ Conference

She wakes up early in the morning, bathes quickly, and dashes past the cattle dip, down the valley and across the river towards her desired destination. She has been waiting for this day for the past 3 years. Her heart is beating loudly with excitement. “Finally I will make my choice. I will decide today who I want to live in that house. That house I have never seen-do I even know what colour it is-no actually not? That house with the high impenetrable looking wall and the barbed wire at the top. That house with the thick foliage even if you were to get a ladder you would not see what’s inside,” she thinks to herself.  Finally she arrives. The queue is long and winding but she doesn’t mind. The woman in front of her has a baby on her back, wailing like a banshee- not surprising, who wouldn’t in the heat. The sun is scorching, hitting hard on her bare arms she feels like she is cooking. But patiently she waits, moving an inch at a time as the queue snails forward. “They are conducting a meticulous verification of the voters’ roll. They have to make sure it is you on the list,” one man who had just completed the process said on his way out. Finally, 7 long hours later it is her turn. She hands the polling officer her National Identity Card.

Officer: D! D! D! You are not here! You are not on the list!

Woman: But I registered.

Officer: Where did you register?

Woman:  Right here in Chikomba.

Officer: Where do you live?

Woman: Right here in Chikomba.

Officer: Where have you lived since you were born?

Woman: Right here in Chikomba.

Officer: Have you lived anywhere else in the past 5 years?

Woman: No, I have been right here in Chikomba

Officer: When did you register?

Woman: In 1999. I voted right here in Chikomba in 2000, 2002 and 2005

Officer: I am sorry your name is not here, there is nothing that I can do to help you.

She leaves, dejected, despondent, demoralised. She has waited for 3 years and will not be able to say who lives in the big white or grey or pink house-who knows what colour it is??? No one is ever allowed to go in there, at least among the ordinary people like her and those who have been inside are beyond her reach.

I have a similar story. A historic process is unfolding in my country, that of constitution-making. I have been feeding into the process in any way I can, after all I am a patriotic Zimbabwean. I have been raising awareness through blogging, tweeting, facebook and even live broadcasts on radio to let people know what is going on with the constitution making process from the alarming days when people thought the Kariba Draft would stand, to the days of the formation of the Thematic Groups, to the First Stakeholders’ Conference, the release of the First and Second Drafts and now the Second All Stakeholders’ Conference. So was it too high an expectation for me to want to be accredited for that Conference?

I submitted my name through civil society because that is who I am. I am an independent member of society contributing to the promotion, protection and advancement of human rights. People may call me whatever they like, a human rights defender, an activist, a feminist but what holds true is that I am in pursuit of justice, equality, and respect for human dignity but to my surprise my name was not on the list. Groups would arrive in trucks and their names would mysteriously appear on lists fished from the back office and before long they walked out with their accreditation identity cards. Names were being crossed off the ‘original’ lists replaced with those of more ‘important’ delegates. Even some members of civil society, whom I knew, were coming to ‘pick’ special civil society delegates whose presence at the Conference was deemed more necessary than others, escorting them inside for accreditation. They looked right through me as if they had never seen me before. The very same people I had sat with several times deliberating issues of elections, transitional justice among others.  “Which party are you being accredited under?” the security at the gate asked me. What party? I am not a member of any political party. I am civil society. Why should my name appear under ZANU-PF or MDC-T or MDC?

But that one single factor is why I did not make it to the Second All Stakeholders’ Conference. None of the parties thought I was a critical enough individual to ‘endorse.’ I remembered the question that a journalist asked one of the COPAC Chairs, Honourable Mwonzora at a Press Conference at the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights Offices when the Honourable mentioned that 571 delegates would be from civil society. The journalist asked,”who will decide which civil society organisations will go?” That question was never answered satisfactorily but now I know. Political parties determined who went in and who didn’t. Was that transparency? Is that the Zimbabwe we want? What then is civil society if it can be endorsed by political parties for a national process that should be transparent and open? What do you call a watchdog if it drinks beer with the robbers? There shall not be another 2nd Stakeholders Conference in a COPAC driven constitution making process. I missed my chance, like the woman who waited for 3 years to cast her vote and her name was missing from the voters’ roll.

I watch, I observe, I write—history has it on record.


4 thoughts on “The Second miStakeholders’ Conference

  1. No body but the elite know the colour of that house. America is the most security sensitive country in the world but citizens and foreigners are able to step into The White House. Strangely a Zimbabwean can tell you more about The White House than The State house. I have heard your story, that of others and experienced things myself to be convinced that this isnt about Zimbabwe or Zimbabweans its all about them

  2. I feel you sis. What i love is that you did not completelystay out of the process because there were chances of being pushed aside at some point. You went right in and pushed many of us to keep our eyes and interest on the process. That is in itself a BIG thing, Ru. You may not have managed to sit in that power filled room and breathe in the egos but you played your part. Thats more than we can say for the rest of us who say by the wayside right from the beginning of all this, feeling too small to make ourselves seen or heard…

  3. Totally empathize, after all, I was with you, lol. Yep, I am scared out of my mind that this thing could just be hijacked right from under us. What with the President’s chilling words for MPs to remember where the power lies. It is the three Principals that will decide COPAC draft’s fate. Not us the people, neither Parliament. Three years later and all those public consultations by Copac count for naught. Cry beloved country, eyes forward to the Referendum. With bated breath,

    1. You read my mind hey. And now I hear these chilling statements and I think, umm maybe Dr Madhuku was right to say this process is not people driven. Indeed those who initiate a process have motives for doing so, if it is the people it is because they want to improve their lives and if politicians then they want to remain in power. Tichaona kunowira tsvimbo nedohwe.

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