HARARE – In February 2009, Zimbabwe’s newly formed coalition government was trumpeting ambitious reforms and regional leaders were basking in the glory of a rare SADC crisis-resolution success.
One year later, the euphoria has been extinguished, the global political agreement that gave birth to the inclusive government has still not been fully implemented and there is a resurgent low-key crackdown on Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC party supporters, characterised by systematic arrests.
A deadline for Zanu (PF) and the two MDC parties to conclude talks on outstanding issues in the power-sharing pact, set by SADC facilitator Jacob Zuma during his March 16 to 18 mediation visit to Zimbabwe, was missed on Monday, and the parties in the ruling coalition are increasingly failing to settle issues that continue to strain their relationship.
“We met the whole of Monday and we will meet again tomorrow after cabinet meeting. The negotiations were not concluded,” said Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, a member of President Mugabe’s Zanu (PF) party who is part of the team that cobbled together the power-sharing deal.
“There is simply no political will to make power sharing work,” said political commentator Ronald Shumba. “Something had to be done to end the conflict but perhaps it could have been better thought through,” he added.
Zimbabweans’ faith in their rulers is at its lowest, the pledged reforms are nowhere to be seen, repressive laws remain on the statute books, and many argue that, as the government doubled in size to accommodate feuding parties, so did corruption. Most of the reforms intended to prevent a repeat of the post-election violence have not been carried out, there has no justice for victims of violence – and efforts to stamp out corruption have been caught up in political rivalry.
Zuma, the chief mediator, and the Western powers that are pumping in millions in humanitarian assistance but maintaining travel bans and financial restrictions on Zanu (PF) leaders, are constantly reminding Zimbabwe of its pledges and sounding alarm bells over resurgent violence and impunity for state forces and Zanu (PF) thugs.
While Zuma has steered clear of commenting directly on the deadlocked talks, preferring to ratchet up international diplomacy against targeted sanctions imposed on Zanu (PF) officials, his spokesmen have spoken of “concerns and frustrations”.
“The international community and the mediation team believed in this agreement more than the Zimbabweans did,” argued Shumba.
The feuding camps “were forced into marriage without opening the pandora’s box of the election’s real outcome,” he said.
As a result, the basis of the power-sharing deal was perceived as being quite different by either side, he added.
What was touted at the time as a 50-50 deal, Prime Minister Tsvangirai himself now bemoans as a raw deal, with Mugabe’s people maintaining an iron-fisted grip on the powerful security, justice, and foreign affairs portfolios.
The dysfunctions of the coalition have been plain to observe since, culminating in the hold-up in talks over appointments of the central bank governor and attorney general. One year on, one minister, Roy Bennettt is still not serving in government because Mugabe wont swear him into office.
Mugabe, in power since 1980, has also staunchly refused to share power, gubernatorial posts, permanent secretaries. Six MDC governors are still not in office, MDC diplomats have still not been sent to foreign missions, and the recent unilateral reallocation of ministerial mandates that left MDC ministers with no Acts of Parliament to administer has still not been resolved.
However Shumba argued that the colossal reform wishlist SADC slapped on the newly-formed coalition would be “overwhelming for any government, however unified and well-intentioned.”
“It was as if SADC was trying to prove they were still relevant. The crisis made them look incompetent because they didn’t predict it,” he said. “Mugabe is a sly leader who runs a sophisticated dictatorship. He will not sign away aspects of his authority. And Zuma knows this, thats why he is engaging in this silent and speculative diplomacy, refusing to disclose the status of the talks.”
The bickering has had consequences on the Zimbabwe population, which hoped the coalition would extricate them from poverty, a senior Western diplomat told The Zimbabwean. Western countries wanted to see more reforms and full implementation of the GPA and an end to rights abuses and the land grab before pumping money into the bankrupt coalition government.
Power sharing governments also set a bad precedent for other African countries, the diplomat added.
“I think many authoritarian regimes could see the scenario as rather attractive: you want to stay in power so you rig the election, raise the spectre of political violence and wait for a panicked international community to broker a power-sharing deal,” the diplomat argued. “Its happened in Kenya, Zimbabwe, now Madagascar.”
Despite its poor performance, Zimbabwe’s GNU has over the past year been credited with ending hyperinflation and political violence. However analysts insist that despite the bickering around power-sharing, there is no threat that the coalition would unravel or collapse.
“The truth is that Mugabe wants this coalition government and he won’t end it because it would end his presidency, Tsvangirai won’t end it because it’s as prime minister he gets attention and the ministers won’t end it because they have ministries to run and loot,” Shumba said. “It’s almost a perfect conspiracy against the Zimbabwean people.”Post published in: Opinions