THE ongoing talks between Zanu PF and MDC in South Africa have raised high expectations particularly among the economically battered and suffering Zimbabwean masses.
The talks also stand on an unprecedented threshold of bringing democracy not only to Zimbabwe but across all Africa. It is hence important that the MDC treads very cautiously for history has shown that Mugabe is an expert at Machiavellian manoeuvring in as far as maintaining power is concerned.
Throughout its history, Zanu PF and Mugabe have always been preoccupied with outwitting and outflanking their opponents for power. Mugabe probably believes deep in his heart that he and Zanu PF alone are the legitimate heirs to power in Zimbabwe. That’s why he is prepared to keep power at all costs.
On the eve of Zimbabwe’s Independence in 1980, Zanu and Zapu had agreed that they would run for office as a united patriotic front under one leader. Even in most interviews at Lancaster House, Mugabe pretended that he was ready to play second fiddle to Joshua Nkomo for the sake of unity in a new Zimbabwe.
However, behind the scenes Mugabe was just awaiting the opportune moment to announce that Zanu was going it alone.
Mugabe was later quoted as saying: “We are not against unity with Zapu, but the problem is about the leadership and the method of choosing the leadership.” After the elections in 1980, Mugabe formed a government of national unity incorporating elements from both Zapu and the Rhodesian Front. Although some Zapu cadres got full government minister’s posts, these were more for window-dressing than for real power because their deputies from Zanu were in fact the de facto ministers.
In his book, The Story Of My Life, Nkomo vividly describes how Mugabe has total disdain for the cabinet. He makes it clear that in the first independent government, cabinet meetings were mere rituals whose decisions were not worth the paper they were written on for Mugabe’s Zanu central committee is the one that had power.
This is the dilemma that confronts the MDC in the current negotiations. The question to ask is whether the MDC will have any power even if they are offered posts in the envisaged transitional or unity government. In the light of the fact that the country is now being run by the Joint Operations Command (JOC), what role will the envisaged new cabinet have? Whose decisions will be implemented, JOC or the new government?
The MDC is in a tight corner. Obviousily Mbeki will flash a new constitution presumably more democratic than the current one with such sweeteners as presidential power limits and so on. Although a new democratic constitution remains at the heart of Zimbabwe democratic transition, it is not enough in itself.
The core is the challenge of changing an institutionalised culture. For example, there is nowhere in the current constitution where the army is said to be the extension of Zanu PF, but despite the clarity in the constitution that soldiers should be apolitical, they have openly involved themselves in politics.
Can the people of Zimbabwe and the world believe that Zanu PF and all its institutions can be transformed overnight into a new culture of tolerance, democratic inclinations and good governance because of negotiations in South Africa and perhaps a new constitution?
The answer is an absolute no. However, the MDC must realise that they have the upper hand. They can enter into these agreements but will need tactical and strategic genius to outwit Zanu PF for the benefit of democracy and the people of Zimbabwe.
Garikai Agenda Chimuka,