FOR a long time now the so-called power-sharing agreement between Zanu-PF and both factions of the MDC, signed in September last year, has been touted as the magic wand that will take present-day Zimbabwe out of its current political and economic crisis.
That agreement is being dubbed a Government of National Unity (GNU).
I want to argue that the so-called power-sharing deal is exactly that: a power-sharing deal, and nothing more. It can never be the GNU it purports to be.
A GNU, as it rightly suggests, is a political arrangement where different political parties representing different political interests agree to come together to form a government, often during some form of crisis.
It is important to start at the beginning.
Attempts at GNUs are not unique to post-Independence Zimbabwe. With all its imperfections, it can be argued that Rhodesia’s experiments with the ‘A’ and ‘B’ roll parliament was an attempt at a GNU, as was the short-lived Muzorewa government of 1979.
At Zimbabwe’s Independence, Zimbabwe’s first Independence government was touted as such a GNU. All pretence disappeared when Mugabe soon relieved Nkomo and his colleagues of their cabinet posts.
Post-Independence, the so-called Unity Accord might also be regarded as such, though, unsurprisingly, there has never been an attempt by Zanu-PF to tout it as such. We are about to see another version of a GNU if Zanu-PF and MDC finally join to form a government.
All these GNUs have failed in the past. The so-called Unity Accord never existed as there has never been any pretence that Zanu-PF was swallowing Zapu. This represented the political capitulation of Joshua Nkomo, and through him, the Ndebele.
There is a critical question to be asked here: why have all GNUs failed in the past?
The answer is simple. They were never intended to work in the first place. They were, and always will remain, time-buying or pressure-releasing mechanisms by the incumbent government. In the case of Zapu, the purpose of the so-called Unity Accord, as pointed out above, was the subjugation of the Ndebele.Â
So it is with the so-called GNU between Zanu-PF and the MDC formations, where we are about to go back to square one: a pre-ordained failure.
So-called GNUs, particularly in non-democratic countries, remain a nebulous and elastic concept. Often they do not state what it is they are uniting and the purpose of that unity. So it is with the so-called GNU between Zanu-PF and the MDC, that beyond the fact that it describes itself as such, it is not a GNU.
What is clear though is that two violent parties are sharing cabinet posts. (It is immaterial that one of them came out second best.)
The meaning of a GNU in Zimbabwe and other such countries is to be found in the answer to the question why the Democrats or Republicans in the US and Labour and the Conservatives in the UK have never sought a GNU following defeat in an election.
A fundamental tenet of democracy is choice, where whoever is beaten this time awaits their next chance, but there is never an imperative to then join or unite victors and the defeated after the elections. Why in Zimbabwe and such other countries?
It is time for a re-think. But I believe that while everybody in the know knows what needs to be done to sort matters out in Zimbabwe, not everybody wants to do the right thing.
There are two things Zimbabwe does not need and has never needed. The first is a GNU. The second is regime change. It is time for Zimbabweans and Mthwakazians to sing from a different political hymnbook.
A number of factors make this important. Firstly, there is a new administration in the US. President Barack Obama has already extended an olive branch by promising to work with all suppressive regimes as long as they “unclench their fists”. There is promise for political engagement there.
In the region, new governments which are prepared to question the Mugabe regime have come to power in Zambia, Botswana and, to a limited extent, Mozambique. In South Africa Thabo Mbeki, who many saw as openly protective of Mugabe, is out of power.
His likely successor, Jacob Zuma, has already made favourable noises suggestive of a possible shift in policy vis-Ã -vis Mugabe and Zimbabwe under his presidency. It is simply unthinkable that the Zuma government would continue with the failed “quiet diplomacy” of his predecessor.
Within Zimbabwe itself, civic groups elbowed out of the present power-sharing deal present prospects for a broad-based political movement for true change. Within Zanu-PF, there are on-going power-struggles.
Then there is the revived Zapu, from whom we are still to hear much. Within both factions of the MDC there is growing talk of disgruntlement with both Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara.
Then there are emerging groups like MPC now seeking the partition of present day Zimbabwe into United Mthwakazi Republic and a new Zimbabwe. To all this must be added the political discontent and the economic collapse now afflicting Zimbabwe.
All these factors combine to make this the most opportune time to seek a permanent solution to the never-ending problems of today’s Zimbabwe.
To get to that point, policy advisers in foreign governments and international organizations need to get the facts right. I think grave policy errors have been made in the past in both Washington and London about pushing a regime change agenda, an agenda both capitals have not been able to advance once challenged about neo-colonialism and imperialism. Here is why these have been policy errors.Â Â Â
It is fact Mugabe has strong though diminished support in Zimbabwe, whether you measure this in terms of the recent or past elections. What is demonstrable is that at worst we are talking of margins of loss of support but not loss of support, even not discounting violence.
It is also a fact that many Shona people despise Tsvangirai. They see him as a “sell-out”, not just to the West, as Mugabe and some of them openly state, but also as betraying the advantage and domination Mugabe has given the Shona people in Zimbabwe.
It is also fact that many Shona people do not take Mutambara seriously. Many, among the Shona and Ndebele, regard him as a political careerist impatient to assume the full trappings of political office.
The regime change agenda has galvanised Africa behind Mugabe and led to the loss of political goodwill of Africa, which would have helped ease Mugabe out of office honourably.
It is true that the regime change agenda has made Mugabe even stronger and more determined to stay in power by whatever method will achieve that. It is also fact that due to very bad political advice to Tsvangirai, Africa has long written him off.
For all the political blunders he is known for, Tsvangirai is not entirely to blame for them. Some of the major and critical ones must attach to his long coterie of “advisers”.
The people of Matabeleland do not support Mugabe or Tsvangirai. The Matabeleland vote for Tsvangirai is a protest vote against Mugabe.
It is fact that the international community is fully aware that the Ndebele (uMthwakazi) do not want to be part of present-day Zimbabwe, but the international community is happy for the moment to conveniently look the other way. UMthwakazi must, however, take the largest blame for this.
The constitutional position of Matabeleland (as ruled by King Lobengula) has not been resolved.Â The Lancaster House agreeent did not address the issue. It is therefore fact that the constitutional position of the Ndebele (broadly defined) in present-day Zimbabwe is both a constitutional and political issue yet to be resolved.
Tsvangirai has not turned out to be what was expected, as it is fact that Mugabe has proved some of his detractors wrong, even with the deplorable methods he has used in the process.
All these misjudged facts lead to a number of flawed policy positions that have obtained to this point.
It is a false policy premise that the people of present-day Zimbabwe no longer want Mugabe. Most Shona people still want him and the political architecture of advantage he has built for them. This is not to suggest that they would not change him for a leader of similar mental and political make-up.
It is also a false policy premise that Mugabe has been bad since 2000, as it is also a false policy premise that Mugabe has changed. Mugabe has not changed for better or worse. He is what he has always been, a ruthless megalomaniac. What has is the attitude of the West towards him.
Therefore a correct policy position must be developed to tackle Mugabe as he is and not as people now wish he was.
It is also then a false premise that the people of present-day Zimbabwe want Tsvangirai. Even judging by the flawed standard of the March elections this premise is false. But more telling criticism and disgruntlement is replete in newspaper contributions and forums such as New Zimbabwe’s forum and the popular Inkundla forum.
Indeed, there does not appear to be anything more that most commentators from Zimbabwe agree on. It makes it worse when it appears that Tsvangirai is now being force-fed on Zimbabwe, and it is certainly unfair for him when he has to take all this heat all for what appears to be a reward for having been there from the beginning.
For all political purposes nothing much can be said of Mutambara. I agree, though, with most of what Mutambara stated in a recent article in which he criticised the West’s handling of the Zimbabwean crisis.
I do not in this article propose to analyse these facts and the flawed policy positions supporting them beyond stating them.
I just want to emphasise that these are the facts that need correcting, which confronts any policy maker developing an effective policy designed to resolve the Zimbabwe crisis. I want to move on and briefly discuss what I believe Zimbabwe needs.
Zimbabwe needs only one thing at this moment, and that is a Transitional Government (TG) and transitional arrangements under such a government. Such a government must be made up of prominent citizens of Zimbabwe who will not be contesting elections under a new constitution to be hammered out at the end of the TG.
Under the TG, a political process similar to South Africa’s Codesa must be put together to discuss, under international supervision, all political matters afflicting Zimbabwe. Participants to this political conference should be all political groups, civic groups and civil society at large. The international community must underwrite such a conference by whatever appropriate mechanisms are necessary. Â
Such a political conference must identify all political issues which should be included in a new constitution. From the political conference must then be written a new constitution under which fresh elections will be conducted.
There is no point in attempting to write a new constitution, as suggested by the NCA, before such a political conference. Who is to say what should be included or excluded in a new constitution if the people themselves are not involved in identifying the political and constitutional issues to be included in the new constitution?
The so-called GNU is nothing less than a mutually assured destruction game, with Tsvangirai leveraging himself with a signature which will allegedly unlock international financial support while Mugabe blocks Tsvangirai’s rush to State House. Â
Luckily, though, both the MDC and Zanu-PF have not concealed the fact that what they are presently involved in but wrongly refer to as a GNU is in fact simply a power-sharing agreement. Little wonder then that they are quarrelling over who gets what in the new gravy train, in total disdain of the suffering on the ground.
We also know that both these parties (less so the Mutambara faction of the MDC) are on the power-sharing table, courtesy of violence and courtesy of the Kenya model. So the message is clear to other aspiring politicians in Zimbabwe, that the cruellest and most vicious gets the top place in the power-sharing table followed by the next cruellest and next vicious. Kenya is therefore a model that must never be allowed to take root in Zimbabwe or Africa for that matter.
Zuma, if he successfully becomes president of South Africa, must lead a true African renewal to stop this latest example of Black Africa’s sure regress to the Dark Ages.
As we enter this defining moment, ushered in by the election of US President, Obama, and the likely assumption of power by Zuma in South Africa, we must hope that either or both men will have the courage of their convictions to convene an international conference on present-day Zimbabwe in which the African Union, United Nations, Sadc, regional governments and the people of Zimbabwe will play a part.
For our part, as the affected people, we have a duty to point the world in the direction we want to go and not the world to point us in the direction it wants us to go. This will be Mthwakazi and Zimbabwe’s opportunity to get things right, finally, and permanently.
Ndabezinhle Edwin Mkwananzi is a social and political commentator. He writes in his private capacity. He can be reached at email@example.com.
BY NDABEZINHLE EDWIN MKWANANZIÂ