ZIMBABWE and Kenya were for many years regarded as two examples of successful African countries.
They boasted stable political systems and relatively prosperous economies.
That reputation in both countries now lies in tatters.
In Kenya when incumbent President Mwai Kibaki realised he was losing an election he instructed the electoral body to cook the numbers and proclaim him winner. Ferocious violence ensued claiming over 1 000 lives. A deal was struck under the mediation of former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan creating a government of national unity.
Kibaki’s rival Raila Odinga who actually won the election now serves as prime minister serving under the president. The man who won plays second fiddle to one who trampled on the will of the Kenyan people. In Africa this is hailed as success.
This example was soon to be followed in Zimbabwe. The leader of the MDC Morgan Tsvangirai won the first round of presidential elections but fell short of an outright victory. With certain defeat staring incumbent Robert Mugabe in the face he unleashed such savage violence that Tsvangirai had no option but to pull out of the run-off. Tsvangirai did this to save lives and not to lend dignity to a blood-soaked charade.
The AU’s tepid response was to call for a government of national unity.
South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki eventually managed to secure a so-called power-sharing agreement in which Tsvangirai like Odinga is a junior partner. Again amid much pomp and ceremony this was trumpeted as a victory for African diplomacy. African solutions for African problems, Mugabe says.
The people of Zimbabwe were denied an opportunity to freely elect their president. At gunpoint a coalition government led by Mugabe was imposed on them. Yet they are expected to be ecstatic. They are told that this is their only hope for economic salvation. In grand speeches delivered at the signing ceremony no mention is made of their inalienable right to elect leaders of their choice.
The signing of the power-sharing agreement in Harare on Monday was nothing Africa should be proud of. There were only two winners —— Mugabe and Mbeki.
Mugabe won because he is now recognised as the legitimate President of Zimbabwe for a full five-year term without being freely elected. Soon sanctions will be lifted and some foreign money will start trickling in. He hates having the MDC in government but considering what he has gotten away with it is a small price to pay. Mbeki is also a winner because his cynical diplomacy has succeeded. Since 2000 when Mbeki began his mediation in Zimbabwe his objective was to protect Mugabe and keep him in power.
The three losers are the MDC, the people of Zimbabwe, and the people of Africa. The MDC may try to sugar-coat the agreement but the harsh reality is that they made the substantive concessions. Mugabe conceded nothing of substance.
During the course of the talks the MDC stipulated that the agreement must reflect the results of the March 29 elections which they won. It does not.
They wanted a transitional government of no more than 24 months duration. They wanted elections held after this period on the basis of a new constitution.
What they eventually agreed to is a government that will be in power for five years. Mugabe will serve a full five-year term without being freely elected, thanks to the generosity of the MDC. As they will soon find out, it is a generosity that will not be reciprocated in any way. Tsvangirai repeatedly said he wanted to be prime minister and head of government and would settle for nothing less. He got the title without executive authority.
Mugabe is head of government and state and Tsvangirai’s boss. A body called the Council of Ministers which Tsvangirai will chair was created as bait to secure his signature. Chasing a mirage of power he fell for it. Given Mugabe’s megalomania the fact that he is not a member of this body says it all. It will be a powerless and irrelevant talking shop far removed from the centre of power.
The people of Zimbabwe lost because this agreement negates their right to freely elect leaders. It has proven Mugabe to be right when he said in Zimbabwe the bullet is mightier than the ballot. The agreement lent legitimacy to what was essentially a coup d’etat on June 27.
African people lost because another dangerous precedent following Kenya has been set. An incumbent ruler using state power to thwart the will of the people blackmails the nation into settling for a coalition government which he leads.
Zimbabwe and Kenya have now become precedents for other African autocrats to follow. Which country will be next? The AU might as well throw out all its protocols on elections and governance. They are not worth the reams of paper they are written on. In Africa brute force and cynicism carry the day. They are applauded and rewarded.
An argument advanced to support Zimbabwe’s power-sharing agreement is that the people have suffered so much any deal will do. What condescending claptrap. Today no plight is greater than that of the Palestinians. They have no state with the majority living outside their homeland in refugee camps. In Palestine itself they are cramped like sardines on the West Bank and Gaza depended on foreign money for their existence.
Given their desperation is it fair to expect them to accept any deal from Israel? Or should they fight for a settlement that meets their fundamental aspirations and restores dignity to their people?
That the MDC is a junior partner in this new government is beyond dispute. This puts the party in a precarious position because it now relies on Mugabe’s good faith to salvage something worthwhile from this flawed agreement.
Mugabe has got what he wants —— the presidency for a full term and more. Will he work genuinely to transform Zimbabwe into a decent democratic country or will he seek to destroy the MDC from close range?
The latter seems more likely. It is instructive to note what his spokesman George Charamba wrote last week in his column in the Herald. He said from Monday —— the day of the signing —— Tsvangirai would begin his journey to oblivion. This betrays Mugabe’s true intentions ——to destroy Tsvangirai and his party. The MDC will soon realise the folly of its decision to accept such a flawed arrangement. It will have little influence on events, while wallowing on the margins of power. Ultimately it will be confronted with a choice —— either to remain in government powerless and humiliated or to quit.
Whatever decision they make will not reverse Mugabe’s gains.
There will be a honeymoon period during which the MDC will be accorded a modicum of respect. This will be a cynical ploy to convince the world that the agreement is being honoured. Once sanctions are lifted and foreign money flows in the pretence will end. Compromised and discredited, the MDC will be like a person in an unhappy marriage who cannot end it for financial reasons.
They will find solace in their hefty salaries and privileges watching their political base shrink. Mugabe’s intent will be to ensure that come 2013 when the next elections are due the MDC will be in no position to challenge him and Zanu PF.
Do not bet against Mugabe seeking re-election at 89.
By Tendai DumbutshenaÂ