Parliament should protect writing culture

By Own Correspondent  

When Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe`s former President died one of the greatest lamentations were on how that man did not write despite all he knew.

It felt and still feels like a lost opportunity.

As we proceed as a country imagining what memoirs from a man of Mugabe`s knowledge and experience could have added to the country`s discourse, we should fix the now.

This should be a wake-up call to all politicians including Parliamentarians on the need to write.

When one holds public office, they carry obligation not only to the present but to generations to come.

There should be chronicles and accounts of the journeys they travelled to ensure there can be a template followed by those who come after them.

History judges leaders, there is need for individuals to set records straight and give insights into what they saw when they walked the corridors of power.

For Parliament, the electorate is curious on why there is a gulf between promises made during campaigns and deliverables.

It is captured aptly in the joke which says; “politicians will promise you a bridge where there is no river.”

What is the architecture of the decision making in Parliament?

Does the party take precedent when debating issues? Who exactly dictates the direction conversations take within Parliament?

There are some who have already gotten off the mark, Tendai Biti and former Parliamentarians Tshinga Dube and Jonathan Moyo among others.

But before the current legislators think of penning books, they should ensure the environment they will launch the books is not toxic.

It appears there is the use of state and other extrajudicial methods by political parties to quash as well as silence writers whose works carry views that appear critical of the status quo.

It is not a new phenomenon; censorship through banning has been a persistent stain on Zimbabwe     `s expressive history.

Just after the constitution making process, filmmaker Camila Nielssen had her film Democrats banned.

The documentary was an incisive account of the compromises made during the process of coming up with Zimbabwe`s new constitution.

Its distribution was however not allowed until 2017, when the Mnangagwa administration overturned the ban in its bid to win the international community over.

As the reengagement project loses the momentum it began with, some of the masks which had been worn to create an illusion of reform are being tucked away.

It appears we are back to the Stone Age where systematic methods are employed to silence writers who do not tow the ruling party, Zanu PF line.

A contrast, former Zanu PF Parliamentarian Tshinga Dube (who is still in favour with the system) released a book and launched in both Bulawayo and Harare.

The book, which is more of an autobiography, was launched with no headaches of interference.

Within the same time space, former Tsholotsho legislator Jonathan Moyo tried to remotely launch his book through Ibbo Mandaza`s SAPES Trust.

The launch was disrupted by rowdy youths, Zanu PF affiliates, who claimed to have the backing of the state.

Up to now the book is yet to be retailed in Zimbabwe and there is no prospect that bookshops will be stocking the ‘Excelgate’ any time soon.

Even the ISBN registration at the National Archives which was meant to be the identification code for the book is being reportedly sabotaged.

This means there is a section in the influential circles who do not want to see the book distributed in Zimbabwe.

We should have legal instruments that make it difficult for people to try and stifle the capturing of history in the country.

Our constitution through Sections 61 and 63 give people the right to express themselves, to impart and distribute information as they please.

Parliament should be the defender of our supreme law; it should not allow the expedient disregard of our constitution.

There is more energy given to issues of an economic bearing like the issuance of treasury bills and contentious government policies like Command Agriculture, which is expected.

As Parliament fights through its oversight role to ensure there is administrative sanity in the country, it needs to keep an eye on how all those battles are documented.

Lost or won.

Decisions made in the future will be best informed by opinions expressed in contemporary political debate.

This is why books like Excelgate should be allowed to exist.

Obviously Jonathan Moyo will never implicate himself by writing exposes on processes he was ‘allegedly’ part of.

The question of rigging has been present from the very first election the country held.

Zanu PF has had defectors in the past from Edgar Tekere, to Phelekezela Mphoko and a thousand others in between.

But no one has been angry enough to give clear details on how the elections are “stolen.”

Expecting full disclosure on elections prior to 2018 from Jonathan Moyo is clearly forgetting what the man is capable of.

However, he is a man who holds anger against the current administration and may try to thread together the information he gets wherever he is, to further deepen the legitimacy debate which has held the country at ransom.

Moyo`s Excelgate is an important text in that it comes from the man who has mastered the art of using information as a political tool.

Even his Twitter is testament.

There is curiosity on why a man who appears to know so much, decided his usual channels are not strong enough to handle the information he is about to share.

Parliament should put effort in ensuring all outlets are available to people who want to document political events.

That way, maybe Parliamentarians will be inspired to see the impact some books may have by those who have dared to write them.

Books are where the future generations will make sense of what they will find in place.

Parliament as one of the key pillars of the state should be a source of a number of books which will shed light on the transitions that the country Zimbabwe goes through as it tries to find itself.

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Daniel Chigundu

Daniel Chigundu is a male journalist in Zimbabwe and has been practising since September 2009. He used to the editor for The Business Connect (newspaper) in Harare, has his own news website Tourism Focus which is biased towards the tourism sector. Daniel is also working with Magamba Network on their project called Open Parliament where they do live coverage of Parliamentary activities on Twitter and Facebook. He is currently the secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Parliamentary Journalists Forum, is a member of Zimbabwe Small Broadcasters Association and a board member of Digital Communication Network. He holds a Diploma in Communication and Journalism from the Christian College of Southern Africa (CCOSA), a certificate in Youth leadership training from the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), a certificate in Citizen Journalism from Magamba Network and is currently a first-year student at Zimbabwe Open University studying for a Bachelor of Arts Honours in Ethics and Organisational Leadership.

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