Zimbabwe Update

zim_flagAt the start of 2010 I discovered that the local mafia were using my mails as a source of intelligence and that in addition they were intercepting and reading my mails on a daily basis.

Since then I have taken some elementary precautions and have not been sending out my usual weekly analysis of the Zimbabwe situation. A long time has gone by and I felt that I should send out something of a progress report and score chart to mark the 11th anniversary of the formation of the MDC in September 1999. I remember that occasion very well, several thousand delegates gathered and the newly appointed leadership spoke, amongst great celebration and expectation. I sat with a few others and watched the events and wondered what lay ahead of us all.

After brushing the threat of the new Party aside, the leadership of Zanu PF, who up to then had been able to eliminate any opposition (the Center Party, Forum, Zum) with spectacular ease after they had dealt with Zapu in the 80s, were soon given a sharp wake up call. In the subsequent referendum the Government was defeated and Zanu PF had to scramble to avoid a defeat in the elections that followed soon after.

After that, the gloves came off and in the decade that followed the MDC became the target of a massive and sustained attack using every instrument at the disposal of the regime in power. What made it even more difficult for the MDC was a campaign led by South Africa in support of the liberation movements in southern Africa and directed against the MDC for domestic ANC reasons that have become even more apparent in recent days.

Looking back, the real turning point was at the March 2006 Congress where 18 500 delegates met to elect new leadership and then resolved to adopt a road map to change. This called for democratic resistance leading to negotiations that would create conditions for a free and fair election and a transfer of power. This resolution maintained the position of the MDC that it was working towards a peaceful, democratic, legal transfer of power in Zimbabwe and would not use violence in any form, to achieve this goal.

We have stuck to the road map, and even our most vociferous antagonists and critics have to admit that basically we have won the game since that Congress. We have forced negotiations and in those talks we have gradually pushed the agenda forward for reforms that will create the conditions for a free and fair election. In fact we achieved that goal in March 2008 when we won the election but failed to secure a complete transfer of power, ending up in a dysfunctional political partnership with the two other political parties in a transitional government that is supposed to facilitate the completion of the reform process.

We were not alone in this situation Kenya was going through a similar exercise and are now slightly ahead of us in finding a solution to their crisis of leadership and governance following the adoption of their new constitution in recent weeks.

The process of change here is messy (was it ever going to be anything else) and protracted, but it is under way and critics do not seem to understand either the complexities or to appreciate the progress. The latter being hidden by continued conflict and dispute and a cloud of propaganda and misinformation. One thing is clear; no meaningful economic recovery is taking place although, as usual, Zimbabwe is exhibiting its amazing economic resilience.

As to the road map, its a bit like using a GPS in your car, every time we take a wrong turn, the voice on the GPS says she is recalculating the route and then in a short while the new route is displayed with the same ultimate destination. So here we are nearly at the end of the consultitative stage of the drafting of a new constitution. Some 4000 meetings have been held and this stage will be completed by the end of the month 9 months late, but completed despite every machination possible.

Nobody is underestimating the difficulties of the next few stages drafting, the all stakeholders conference and then Parliament followed by a referendum. If we get over all those hurdles, they will be followed by implementation and another national election to decide who takes over following the dissolution of the transitional government.

What is encouraging is that this process of reform and change is for once, truly indigenous to Africa. This is an African process being managed and guided by African leadership. The international community is helping technically where requested and is supporting the process financially, but is adopting a strictly hands off approach. Having been through the Lancaster House exercise in 1979, this is a welcome development and shows how far we have come in the past 30 years.

However its not without its unexpected turns and squiggles take the People Driven Constitutional Reform Process. This has been the clarion call of the MDC and civil society since 1995. Now we are getting it and what is disturbing all the pundits is that the people are calling for a very different sort of Constitution to what the political parties and much of civil society had in mind. For a start it will be much more conservative than expected and many will find this difficult to accept.

The other thing people are underestimating is the depth and extent of the political commitment by African leadership to the GPA process as the road map is now called. This was clearly demonstrated the other day when SADC leadership met to discus the way forward for Zimbabwe and other issues. The outcome after three days of intense debate was a clear call to the three parties to the GPA to fulfill their obligations and get on with the task of clearing the ground for fresh elections to be held under SADC supervision in the second half of 2011.

While elements are still resisting this position, the Zimbabwean leadership has now accepted there is no alternative. This has always been the view and position of the MDC and all Parties are now gearing up to the coming electoral contest. Will it be neat and tidy and predictable of course not, but it will happen and the consequences will affect all of us who live in southern Africa.

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