Are we making Progress?

In February 2009 the MDC accepted a compromise forced onto it by the region and negotiated by Thabo Mbeki, the former President of South Africa, and entered into a Unity Government that was meant to be a transition to free and fair elections in two years. In that agreement were 37 different reforms to the way we are governed that were meant to make the government more representative and the electoral system more democratic and the electoral playing field, more even.

If all had gone to plan, the agreements reform agenda would have been implemented in full by February 2011 and in the following months we would have held an election for all 2400 seats in both local and central government. These elections would have been under a new constitution and backed by a complete overhaul of the electoral system itself. The elections would have been supervised by the region and I have no doubt (and neither does Zanu PF) that the MDC would have emerged as the clear winner with a two thirds majority in both Houses and with Morgan Tsvangirai as President.

That was the plan – endorsed by the region, the AU and the global community, with the sole exceptions of China and Russia who remained on the outside looking in and perhaps plotting mischief.

The MDC has played its part, gone into a deal that should never have happened, accepted compromise in the interests of national salvation and brought sanity back with real recovery and progress to every area of the State where it has full executive authority. There can be no argument about that. The region has played its part – sticking to its position and encouraging the players in Zimbabwe to do their part. The international community, led by the G8 leaders (minus Russia) have done their bit – poured in over $3 billion in humanitarian aid and assistance with essential reforms.

What has Zanu PF done? They read the GPA with a sinking feeling, appreciating for the first time that it was no victory for them, it only bought them time. They appreciated immediately that if it was implemented they were finished, metaphorically and politically. So they began a devious and carefully crafted programme of action designed to slow down implementation and to subvert the outcome.

As a result, here we are in February 2012, three years down the GPA road, still with a road map, but making very slow and hesitant progress. The Zanu strategies are clear; they have slowed down the constitution making process and successfully derailed its “people driven” character. They have maintained the parallel government that they constructed in the months leading to the formation of the Unity Government and foiled all attempts to get their hands off the real levers of power – electorally and from a security perspective.

Media reform has been significant but the main driver of the Zanu propaganda agenda, the State controlled media, electronic and print, remains firmly under their control and direction and much of the alternative media is either controlled, influenced or neutral to Zanu PF. MDC remains without a voice, not even the Prime Ministers letter is being maintained and published even though this was his only means of reaching the people with his message.

So where are we in this game? First we must recognize that the central strategy that Zanu PF has adopted to foil the GPA and frustrate the GNU has not succeeded and now looks as if it will have to be abandoned, with dire consequences for Zanu PF. This strategy was adopted in mid 2010 after Zanu PF failed in its alternative efforts to collapse the GPA and the GNU.

Its content was quite simple: they argued that the GNU was dysfunctional (they should know, they were responsible), the GPA was running out of time and would lapse in 2011; the recovery was not taking place (again Zanu PF knew full well why, they were responsible with certain deliberate interventions such as indigenisation). They argued that we needed an election NOW and cannot wait for the reform process, in any event, we are a sovereign State, we have a constitution; the State President has the right to call an election any time. That was the mantra.

Under this mantra, they first called for an election in October 2010, then March 2011, then October 2011 and finally (and irrevocably) March 2012. In the middle of this process their worst nightmare became a real possibility, Mugabe’s health began to deteriorate, the fuse on the final event began to burn and its progress was visible for all to see. No amount of Singaporean water could extinguish that fuse!

The key to the failure of this strategy has been the region. Steadfastly, regional leaders, led by South Africa and several other key States, have refused to allow the renegades in Zanu PF to pull the trigger, either on a military coup (favored by the security chiefs in JOC) or a political coup (favored by Zanu PF hardliners). We have no idea what they have done to enforce this but it has been effective and that is what matters.

So here we are, all of us, Zanu PF and the MDC, in February 2012 and still no clear indication as to where we go from here. The final straw that has broken the back of Zanu PF (although it seems that they do not yet appreciate this) was the AU summit in Ethiopia. There, the President of South Africa, speaking on behalf of the SADC States put forward a report on the Zimbabwe situation, the progress made so far and the obstacles to completing the exercise. It was adopted without a dissenting voice and in so doing the AU stated that Zanu Pf has run out of time, that the Continent, not just the SADC, recognized the need to hold a legitimate election in Zimbabwe and that there was no going back on the deal we signed in September 2008.

Mugabe flew home a subdued man. On the following Monday he met with Morgan Tsvangirai for over two hours and then repeated the process on Wednesday – in the presence of Mutambara, the third Principal in the GPA. This time the minutes were captured by the Chief Secretary to the President and subsequently released to the public. Both MDC leaders called a Press conference and announced agreement on almost all outstanding issues, but in particular: that elections can only be called by the three Parties acting in agreement; that the next elections would follow completion of the remaining reforms as set out in the GPA road map; and that the reappointment of senior figures in the government, including the Commissioner General of the Police, could only be carried out in “consultation” with the Prime Minister.

This constituted the first real progress in the implementation of the GPA in two years and must go down as a seminal event in the history of Zimbabwe. As if to confirm that they were still in place, the hard liners immediately launched a media blitz – “Chihuri reappointed” was the Herald headline even though it was patently obvious that he was there only in an acting capacity and his future was in the balance.

In recognition of the progress in the process of political reform, even though below expectations, the EU reviewed its position this month and announced it was switching from a policy of isolation to one of strategic engagement and was partially lifting the travel restrictions on 51 persons on the list and 20 companies. Zanu PF was strangely silent on this news knowing full well what it meant. This was no lifting of “sanctions” on the former regime; it was a relaxation of the restrictions, contingent on the progress made so far not being reversed in any way and the reform process continuing.

So Zanu PF finds itself in a fight where it has loaded its gun and suddenly discovered that it cannot pull the trigger. Its left with a burning fuse that is now 14 months shorter than it was when it was first lit. As those of us who went through the bush war well know, there is nothing as dangerous as an ambush that goes wrong.

Post published in: Analysis

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