November 29, 2018 Print

The coup d’état in Zimbabwe in November 2017 dealt a considerable blow to the prospects of developing classical liberal principles in the country. Today, Zimbabwe exists as an oligarchy; with the elites controlling virtually all levers of power, inflation rates frequently exceeding 50 percent a month, and the frequent arrest of journalists that dare to question the government narrative. In the face of these monumental challenges, the newly founded organization Advocates for Progress (AFP) is working to educate and advocate for a free society, most recently through a series of op-eds which published in News Day — the largest independent daily newspaper in the country.

Pearl Matibe, executive director of AFP and author of the op-eds, credits Atlas Network’s trainings for equipping her with the necessary knowledge to craft and publish these pieces in such an esteemed publication.

“Before attending a single Atlas Network course, I was not sure I could write an effective, credible op-ed a lawmaker would pay any attention to,” Matibe said. “I’ve been using the Atlas Leadership Academy op-ed template I learned in a course.” Matibe further explained that she took on the task of writing the op-ed in order “to gain credibility with the elite, the scholarly, and the people of Zimbabwe including those who make up the oligarch and opinion leader space…”

Establishing a reputation as an expert familiar with local affairs — especially with those in positions of power — is a critical step in establishing credibility. Reception to the op-ed has been widespread and positive with both the elite and everyday citizens of Zimbabwe.

“[The first] op-ed was picked up by Voice of America (VOA), Washington, D.C. later the same day (polling day) it was published, VOA tracked me down to conduct two interviews; one in English (VOA English) and one in Shona (VOA Shona news broadcast) for that evening's news broadcast,” continued Matibe. “VOA asked me to comment on what lessons we can learn from the U.S. mid-terms; although a topic unrelated to the content of the op-ed, they viewed me as a primary source on U.S.-Zimbabwe foreign policy … it was [also] encouraging to read a Zimbabwean post a general comment saying, ‘Pearl, your columns are brilliant stuff, reminds us of the best of what can be.’ While keeping to the Editor’s word count is tough, I’m pleased that now three of the five op-eds have been published in the last month.” A Zimbabwean lawmaker also commented on the op-ed, saying it was “well-articulated.”

These accomplishments are significant in changing the political atmosphere in order to make principles of liberty more mainstream and acceptable in public forums of ideas in places that have historically been hostile to them. They also represent a huge accomplishment for AFP as it continues to gain credibility as a well-respected institution in the political space in Zimbabwe.

“[These op-eds are] the advertisement that makes a case for our organization outside of business hours,” concluded Matibe. “Every day we provide a legal framework and quality support to journalists, media houses, lawmakers and citizens to allow them to move the needle in the life cycle of public policy. Because when stakeholders can focus on new ideas, backed by data-driven, evidence-based research, it helps our vision have the greatest chance of improving our community.”