Open Letter To President Mnangagwa

February 17, 2018
| Report Focus News
FILE PHOTO: Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa looks on after delivering the State of the Nation Address (SONA) in Harare, Zimbabwe, December 20, 2017. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo/File Photo

To His Excellency, Cde Mnangagwa

Mr President, I am writing this letter to express my views being fully cognizant of my constitutional right to do so and not be treated in any unfair manner on the grounds of my opinion.
I have been trying to pay very close attention to your utterances, be it at your inauguration, the Harare meeting with youth before your trip to Davos, your interview in Davos and so on. I must say, much of what you say gives many hope that there is a possibility that we may develop our nation. I’m sure you will agree with me when I say this – words are powerful. It is some of those words you say that have prompted me to write this letter.

You keep reiterating that we need to let bygones be bygones. This statement insinuates that those who hold us to account for our past actions are simply stuck in the past. I disagree with you when you also say that there is nothing we can do about that past. There is. Firstly, we can acknowledge the part we played in those acts of omission or commission. Secondly, we can apologise for the destructive role we played. Lastly, we can then look at how, going forward, we can foster a reconciliatory relationship with those we have wronged. Sir, calling on us to let bygones be bygones, seems more like an attempt to evade these steps I have mentioned. Forcing or guilt-tripping those wronged into “forgetting the past” only results in a situation where, even as we move forward, we are not moving in unison. I’m sure we will all agree that we need each other to build a better, more prosperous Zimbabwe. You said it yourself, every Zimbabwean has an important role to play in getting the nation where it is supposed to be. If we fail to mend any broken relationships, how can we even begin to imagine us working together for the progress of the nation?
At the #RoadToDavos meeting with the youth, you also implored us to preach love and unity. I personally would rather see the sermon than hear one, but your point was well noted. For the purpose of informing some of the readers, as the President of our nation, you are required by the Constitution to promote unity and peace for the benefit and well-being of EVERY Zimbabwean. You must also ensure the protection of our fundamental HUMAN rights and respect the nation’s DIVERSITY. In essence, you – Mr President – are the one who has to champion the love and peace you advocate for. You will have to lead us by example not only in word but in deed.

You have mentioned that Zimbabwe is not where it is supposed to be and that change needs to be happen. It is inspiring to know that your team recognises that the way the world operates is changing now and we must all embrace it. I believe that we all need to agree on what that change looks like. One thing’s for sure – any change that will be deemed as democratic will have to be for the well-being of everyone. That change also entails a change in our way of thinking or the beliefs we hold which inform our actions or the policies we make. The hard truth is we cannot expect to usher in a new era while adhering to the same beliefs that have proved to divide us and keep us from progressing as a nation.

Having said all this, my question to you Mr President is – will the love and peace you speak of be extended to the LGBT+ community? Will the change that must be embraced also entail changing the prevailing attitude towards the LGBT+ community? In the past, you have defended Zimbabwe’s decision to reject recommendations by the United Nations Human Rights Council to decriminalise same gender marriage. You’ve also said that the nation remained committed to promoting and protecting HUMAN rights. When I look at your utterances then, when you were the Vice President, and your recent proclamations as the new President, I must say, the issue of LGBT+ rights is a grey area that you need to address. A few months ago, army recruits were urged to protect the nation against homosexuality, which many claim is a threat or an imposition from the West, a form of neo-colonialism. Your silence, in the face of what is an incitement to violence which is itself a violation of other’s rights, was unsettling. It has long been held that silence, in times of injustice, is consent. Do we then take your silence as an affirmation that you will not champion the cause for the LGBT+ folks? If that is the case, are you not violating your Presidential duty to promote peace and respect for diversity?

The resignation of Cde Mugabe raised the hopes of many, including the LGBT+ community. As many talk of ushering in a new Zimbabwe, so too, are many hoping that this new era brings with it some reprieve for the community that has endured a lot of hate in Zimbabwe. Mr President, as the nation talks about mapping the way forward for Zimbabwe, as many bring pressing issues to your attention, there is no way the discussion can carry on without a discourse on LGBT+ rights. Most people – from our leaders to the ordinary human in the streets – are quick to dismiss the plight of the LGBT+ community because, to them, “there are more important and urgent issues to deal with”. BUT, how can we develop the nation when we continue silencing the voice of those who are also unfairly discriminated against? How do we develop the nation if we fail to recognise that the personal is political and the political is personal? How do we move forward if we fail to see the interconnectedness of the political, social, economic issues and so on and how it is important that we not look at any issues in isolation? How do we even begin to imagine a better, more democratic Zimbabwe when we are OK with unleashing violence, inciting violence or perpetuating violence targeted towards the LGBT+ community? What kind of culture, what family values, what African identity are we trying to protect when we hate one group of individuals simply because we are not comfortable with the idea of sexual diversity?

I sincerely hope that we can begin to have a conversation on how we can truly embrace and protect our nuanced diversity as human beings. I hope we can embrace the change that recognises and uphold the fundamental human rights of ALL humans.
Thank you.