By Crisford Chogugudza (April 29, 2008)
I have watched with interest Zimbabwe’s political paralysis following the general elections in March. What started as a watershed election has quickly degenerated into a nightmare of gigantic proportions. Hopes for seismic political change in Zimbabwe sooner than later have fast evaporated. There is overwhelming public consensus that change in Zimbabwe is now inevitable irrespective of what the establishment can do. The question to ask is how can the current political impasse between Zanu PF and MDC be resolved? Clearly, elections alone cannot resolve the current crisis in Zimbabwe. In functioning democracies of course, elections constitute the major foundation of a good political transition. However, it is disheartening that elections have become meaningless in Zimbabwe and as such demeans the process of democracy. Some say March 29 presidential election results can only be accessed through the black market by those who are prepared to compromise their integrity and commit political suicide.
It appears without any shred of doubt that the solution to the current crisis lies in the Kenyan style of political resolution. Through negotiations, the Zimbabwean political jigsaw could be easier to resolve than many would imagine. It would be a good idea to invite Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary General still fresh from brokering peace in Kenya to help with negotiations.
Only a few months ago Zimbabweans were being assured repeatedly by the international community that the resolution of their deepening problems lies in the holding of elections. The elections came and passed, no presidential results have been released and there is more grim and gloom as the authorities show no signs of relenting. The MDC claims Tsvangirai won by 50.3 % whilst Mugabe and Zanu PF talk of an election rerun whose results never saw the light of the day. Some believe that a rerun will only make things worse as evidence of a new wave of terror campaign shows. It the worst case scenario, presidential results may never be published and the conspiracy theories will only get worse. It is also advisable for the MDC to start negotiating for power sharing with Zanu PF sooner rather than later. Mass demonstrations as a strategy of negotiation will not succeed in Zimbabwe today, as people are more interested in finding food than demonstrating in the bloody streets of Zimbabwe.
Some analysts believe that the MDC is now effectively a defacto government in waiting and as much they should improve their public face. There is urgent need to review the public role of ‘Mr Tough’ Tendai Biti, Secretary General whose increasingly terrifying militant style rants and raves on press conferences may be damaging to any hopes of serious negotiating with Zanu PF.
On a positive note, Morgan Tsvangirai’s current diplomatic efforts in Africa and Europe are commendable and will eventually bear fruit in future. Meanwhile, he should exert more pressure on the people surrounding Mugabe and perhaps start acting more presidential. To be fair to the man he has acquitted himself reasonably well recently and is becoming increasingly visionary. The international corporate media including the BBC could also be spoiling things for MDC and Zimbabweans in particular. They should avoid over sensationalization which may exacerbate the situation in the country. Their increasingly antagonistic approach could be more damaging to the political negotiation process. However, as much as it is important for the foreign media to put Zimbabwe on the international spotlight, sometimes they exaggerate the crisis. Of late there has been a tendency by BBC to show horrific scenes of situations which have little bearing to the current crisis. We continue to see television footage of events that happened in 2000 at the height of land seizures as if it’s happening today. What the foreign corporate media is reporting on Zimbabwe today is exactly what Mugabe wants. He enjoys responding to vitriolic attacks and even gets stronger and more relentless when put in a position to defend what he believes to be colonialist or neo-colonialist agendas. The British government, whilst they are doing their best to support efforts to bring to a logical political end to the Zimbabwean crisis they are better off playing their act behind the scenes or through multilateral platforms i.e. the UN, EU or G8.
The political reality following the just ended elections is that neither Zanu PF nor MDC can monopolise power and therefore power sharing is inevitable. This should only be done in the spirit of moving the country ahead and setting new agendas for a better future. Zanu PF should not pretend that MDC does not exist and MDC on their part should always remember that Zanu PF is not finished yet. However, the opposition now have an upper hand in negotiations but their fortunes can only be raised by a combination of factors i.e. continuous people consultation, good diplomacy and vision.
Negotiations between Zanu PF and MDC should start now whilst the election fever is still gripping the people’s minds, both parties should be prepared to compromise for the sake of progress. Results that indicate a win for President Mugabe should not be published because they will cause more harm than good. It may be necessary to consider creating the post of a Prime Minister and give it to Tsvangirai, whilst Mugabe retains the Presidency only on condition that he does not contest elections after the transition period of 12 to 18 months. The Prime Minister will have some executive powers and will only be sacked by Parliament through a vote of no confidence. The President during the transition period should not have powers to dissolve parliament. The modalities of such a power sharing agreement can be achieved through the UN, SADC, EU, China or the Jesuit Fathers of the Italian Catholic Lay Institute of St Egidio who brokered peace in Mozambique. The transitional administration may include people like Dr Simba Makoni, and other important stake holders for it to be effective and representative.
The main tasks of the proposed transitional government would be to consider the following:
- Drawing up a new constitution for Zimbabwe in readiness for fresh democratic elections in 12 to 18 months.
- Re-engaging the international community with a view to reviving the collapsed economy
- Reviving agricultural production by rationalising the farming sector.
- Demilitarising the Zimbabwean social political and economic institutions.
- Setting up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission
- Requesting for a Donor Conference (ZIMCORD) to raise money to revive the economy, Infrastructure, Education, Social Services and Health.
Ultimately, the longer the impasse between Zanu PF and MDC takes the more the people continue to suffer. Those who support the two parties involved should do more to push them to the negotiating table now rather than later. People can talk and mourn about the situation in Zimbabwe but empty words of solidarity and condemnation alone will do little or nothing to resolve the situation. It is time for both Mugabe and Tsvangirai to show leadership and save the country otherwise Zimbabweans will never forgive them particularly Mugabe for standing by whilst the country is burning into ashes.
Crisford is a political writer based in London, England.