The Honorable Jessie Majome is the Deputy Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs in the Coalition Government in Zimbabwe. Minister Majome was in Rwanda as part of a study visit by a cross-party coalition of Zimbabwe’s female politicians. As a senior member of the Movement of Democratic Change(MDC) headed by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai which is a partner of the Coalition Government in Zimbabwe, The New Time’s Fred Oluoch-Ojiwah sought an exclusive interview with Honorable Majome that was centered around a host of issues within the African political landscape.
What is your comment on the vexing issue of transitions in Africa whereby the continent seem to suffer a dilemma as it seeks to replace the old order with a new order in a process that has not quite really produced the desired outcomes?
I would say that it is difficult in many parts of Africa for the new order to break through to the fore after years and years of various post colonial systems of governments within Africa which have not largely taken through to the logical conclusion the African liberation struggle per se from the shackles of colonialism.
It appears sadly that a lot of such governments seem to be still hamstrung by the very shackles of colonialism which these governments sought to replace in the first place in areas like lack of transparency and things like that.
Lets talk about coalitions in the new order coming up in Africa, what I would term as the political ‘come we stay’ arrangements in cases like Kenya and your country Zimbabwe. What is your take on that?
Coalitions become necessary because of outcomes emanating from the flawed conditions in which parties to the contests found themselves in.
The coalitions came in as a result of the fact that they are not the ultimate wish of the electorates as they seem to be compromises arising out of such sad circumstances.
I will add that because of such sad circumstance these coalitions must only be seen to be transitional only in order to facilitate the free contestation of parties so that citizens after such periods should be able to choose freely the leaders they so wish.
But these transitions are relative in terms of time as the case in Kenya illustrates whereby in its political system there was registered a second phase of the transition of the current Government in place.
So in the case of Kenya it appears that transitions seem to be an ongoing process.Meaning that transitions cannot in themselves be bound by strict time guidelines.
I agree by what you are saying that transitions can be stalled or elongated. But it is also possible for transitions to be truly transitional.
However, I must say that the difference between transitions that are destined to be permanent or long term on one hand and those that are destined to take people to another place, the difference lies in the conditions themselves of such transitions.
The differences come within the terms and conditions more so the rubric of the terms of such coalitions is the key to unlocking such systems giving forth to a new dispensation. In the case of Zimbabwe the global agreement signed by the three parties in September 2008 while it does not in itself determine the duration of the agreement, it does have within it facets the mechanics that make the Government transitional.
There are certain processes that must be borne through. Which if they are concluded through sufficiently they would then allow for free elections to come through. For instance constitutional reforms within set and mutually agreed time frames.
Rwanda seems to be an exception basically to such cases where it has made a clear break with the past. What lessons do you draw from the Rwandan case study?
Rwanda is a radical departure quite clearly from what other African countries have been associated with. More so in terms of political movements and progress.
Hence from Rwanda very many lessons are there to be learnt. I just feel proud as an African because of the Rwanda story.
Give specific reasons why you feel proud about the Rwanda story you are talking about?
I am proud about Rwanda because it has emerged from a dark and painful and tragic past to a stage practically where every where you go you can sense a determination to actually break with the past.
So the first lesson is that of the will. The will to be shared among the populace. A will centred around a unifying vision to move a country forward from a dark past to the present situation.
Lets talk about women in decision making as you are a woman leader. Within Zimbabwe is it a new culture as here in Rwanda we have women entrenched within the political decision making process?
This is another reason why I am really proud about the Rwanda story. Beyond the concessions offered to Rwandan women, that is beyond the constitutional provisions it actually is a fact that women are part of the decision making process.
That has been internalized within the Rwandan citizenry. I have witnessed clear evidence that Rwanda believes in gender equity within the political space and hence decision making. In Zimbabwe we are still struggling with the issue of gender equality.
So the gender dimension within our system is still missing. However, the coalition agreement that brought forth the Government recognizes the necessity of having women appointed to strategic positions.
So what gives hope to the Zimbabwean women?
The article six within the agreement does that. It talks about a new constitution for the people that should be in place by 2010.In that article there is emphasis on a commitment to a need to ensure equality of women.
Let us talk about leadership and the African renaissance. This renaissance that our leaders seem to be talking about is about delivery of a new awakening which some leaders seem not to be delivering.
For me again I give the example of the Rwanda story as a beacon of hope not only in Africa but to the whole world. What is going on around Rwanda is a new awakening and to me numerous examples can be pointed out.
For instance the consultative forum for political parties is a home grown solution here that is new and very surprising to me for a person coming from Zimbabwe.
For us the question about renaissance means that issues such as gender has to come to the fore.
That is happening quite clearly in Rwanda and this is the sort of awakening that Africa needs. For us to move from a nice fluffy philosophy we need to move to a certain practical point.
To me the gap between philosophy and reality is leadership. So if we can have leadership in Africa that is willing to be that bridge between reality and philosophy then I think the renaissance will be real.
As a leader, lets talk about failed leadership in Africa in a situation where our continent is littered with failed leaders as leadership is actually judged through success or failure?
First of all I would say that the concept of failed leadership is oxymoron. If you are a leader you cannot have failed to lead. Leadership connotes success in doing something.
When you have failed then you are not a leader. You failed to be a leader. What I want to say about Africa I will give the Rwanda story once more.
Africans deserves good leadership. They deserve to live well and eat well and to live in peace. In order to get to that they will need the bridge of leadership that would allow them to do so.
As Africans we must start to demand good leadership that we deserve in order to take us to the right and desired path. To do so we need to be honest and we must talk about it in our own African way.
We can actually put pressures to demand the right to be governed properly. And where a leader has failed Africans must demand that he or she is relieved of such as responsibility.
That brings me to the question of leadership succession in Africa. How can Africa evolve a credible succession mechanism?
The answer lies with the ordinary citizens themselves. For there to be a stable succession, and not frightening to even the status quo, it is important to empower the local African masses to be able to choose their leaders.
In this peace and calmness is what can contribute to credible successions. So that there can be dialogue and discussions and respect for different parties.
In a situation where you have a revolutionary leader, do we impose a two term limit to such leaders as your president is in fact one. They say that revolutionaries do not have a ‘sell-by’ date.In Rwanda the president has categorically stated that he will abide by the two term limit set on the Rwandan constitution. That in itself sets him far apart from a host of the other African revolutionaries in his own right as one such leader?
In Zimbabwe we don’t have a two term limit. Part of the new dispensation will look at constitutional reform.
Whereby the people of Zimbabwe will say themselves what it is that they want. In that they will speak about such issues like the two term limit.
It is very likely that Zimbabweans will want a limitation on terms for leadership. The idea of limiting caps on the presidency is an attractive one for Zimbabweans.
So in Africa how do we give forth to succession that works and is sustainable?
We just need to widen democratic space. We also need to sell and publicize good leadership and good practices. So that we get accustomed to the idea of leadership changes.
We can draw also on past African succession within pre-colonial Africa and we can try to understand how Africans used to undertake succession before the white man came.
What lesson can we learn from your party the MDC?
Africans can learn from the MDC that it is possible to mobilize people to have a different brand of politics as an alternative to established and long entrenched governing parties and that it is possible to persevere the hardships that come with making a move towards change within society.
That despite odds it is possible to give society alternatives within politics.