OUTSTANDING issues between President Robert Mugabe and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai should be resolved first if the inclusive government is to get international recognition and aid to deal with the humanitarian and economic crises bedevilling the country, analysts have said.
Almost three weeks after Mugabe, Tsvangirai and the leader of the smaller formation of the MDC, Arthur Mutambara, formed the inclusive government the administration is yet to come up with concrete plans to deal with the crises.
Mugabe and Tsvangirai are still haggling over the appointment of provincial governors and permanent secretaries, the continued detention of civic society and political activists, the appointment of Johannes Tomana as Attorney- General, and the re-appointment of central bank governor Gideon Gono.
The struggle for power at the expense of dealing with the humanitarian crisis in the country and the flagging economy has left many wondering as to when Mugabe and Tsvangirai will focus on the issues that affect the people.
Close to 4 000 people have succumbed to cholera since its outbreak last August and more than five million are in dire need of food aid.
But political analysts this week said Zimbabweans should understand that there was an agreement between Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara to be implemented whose provisions ought to be complied with before the inclusive government starts focusing on “substantial” issues like the humanitarian crisis and the comatose economy.
University of Zimbabwe political science professor, Eldred Masunungure, said some analysts were unfortunately setting their own priorities when the agreement does not set a hierarchy of needs and assumes that all the issues it covered were of equal importance.
“But to politicians, the outstanding issues may be as important —— if not more important —— than the substantive issues regarding health, education and other elements of the humanitarian crisis,” Masunungure argued. “Politics has a symbolic dimension that has to do with the image of the politician or the political party in the eyes of the public.”
He said both Zanu and its MDC allies in government have to be seen by their respective political constituencies to be scoring political victories and, for Tsvangirai, one of the victories would be to get its own members appointed as ambassadors, permanent secretaries and governors.
“The MDC-T will insist on these demands being met for fear of projecting an image of a junior partner vis-a-vis Zanu PF,” Masunungure said. “The demands are perfectly legitimate, especially when they are backed by the constitution. In short, both the substantive and symbolic aspects of the inclusive government and the global political agreement are very critical in politics and in the life of political gladiators.”
Alex Magaisa, a Zimbabwean lawyer and newspaper columnist based in the UK, said while it sounded sagacious that Mugabe and Tsvangirai should focus on the real issues afflicting the nation, the outstanding issues have a bearing on the balance of power.
He said since the formation of the inclusive government on February 13, Mugabe has shown little commitment to embark on effective agricultural and institutional reforms leaving Tsvangirai with no option except to insist on the finalisation of the outstanding issues.
Magaisa said Mugabe’s speech at his birthday celebrations in Chinhoyi on Saturday reveal that the 85-year-old leader, like a leopard, would not change his spots.
Mugabe, according to the lawyer, said the inclusive government should pursue his destructive land policies and that Tsvangirai was in government due to the goodness of his heart.
“Politics is by and large a game of power and to the extent that those outstanding issues have a bearing on the balance of power, Mugabe and Tsvangirai will continue haggling over them,” Magaisa said. “There are also important issues in their own right, for example the detention of political prisoners, the appointment of senior civil servants and diplomats. All these things do matter, both in terms of building a working relationship in government and also ensuring that a better image of the country is created in the long run.”
He argued that while there were urgent and pressing matters to do with health and education, there was need to appreciate that they were victims of bad politics and that if that political environment was not settled then chances of improving things in those sectors would be severely limited.
Magaisa agreed that there were main priorities the government should deal with simultaneously with resolving the sticking issues, but questioned whether the government had the capacity or skills to “juggle many balls in the air”.
“Clearly Zimbabwe is in a humanitarian crisis —— the provision of food and access to basic necessities like health-care facilities, clean water are things that must be attended to as a matter of urgency,” he said. “All the government needs to do is to create an environment in which aid agencies can provide the resources they have to assist the public.”
Zimbabwean-born South Africa businessman Mutumwa Mawere said sticking points should be resolved first to give a firm foundation for the transitional authority.
He argued that Mugabe and Tsvangirai do not share the same understanding of the legal and political basis of the global political agreement.
“Mugabe holds the view that he is still in charge and he is supported by the constitution. Constitutional Amendment 19 did not change the role and status of the president,” Mawere averred. “All it did was to add a new variation to the composition of the cabinet where Tsvangirai effectively becomes like a chief operating officer or more precisely a senior minister.”
He argued that the question of legitimacy was not “cured” by the implementation of the GPA.
“The world expects genuine power sharing and yet the GPA has no such provision. So the outstanding issues are important to the extent that they do provide a moral and political basis for the engagement of the two dominant political forces,” Mawere said.Â Â Â
“Although the law may be on the side of Mugabe, it is evident that change must occur and new policies have to be introduced to move the country forward. It is now evident that a new agreement will be required between Mugabe and Tsvangirai to convince would-be financial backers that the kind of change that has been crafted is in the interests of the nation and not merely the political actors.”
Political scientist Michael Mhike said instead of spending precious time haggling for power, the inclusive government must put the nation first and craft an economic plan to extricate the country from the current humanitarian and economic problems.
“While Zimbabwe needs some assistance, the government should also be looking at ways to generate income using the resources we have so that we do not have to overly rely on foreign aid,” Mhike suggested. “Zimbabwe has had declining export revenues not because of sanctions but because we have not been producing enough and what little we have produced has been channelled into a few private hands through corrupt means.”
He said the economic plan has to address the short-term requirements to enable people to get by, but there must also be a long-term plan.
“I would recommend a thorough audit of the state companies and national resource base, see what we have, what went wrong and what we need to do to increase productivity and revenues,” Mhike suggested. “Then of course the democratisation issue —— this, to my mind, is an ongoing, incremental process that is already in motion. There will be challenges, such as the violation of individual rights and these will need attention.”
He said the ultimate goal of the inclusive government is to create a new democratic and people-driven constitution.
Masunungure was of the opinion that virtually every sector of Zimbabwe’s life had collapsed and under these circumstances, everything becomes a priority. “This is because no sector operates in isolation as each sector is part of an indissoluble whole,” he said. “Nonetheless, the humanitarian crisis (cholera, hunger, health, education) is the most visible and sad manifestation of the multi-layered syndrome of crises and therefore must have pride of place in the hierarchy of priorities in the short term.”
In the medium, the most strategic priority, according to Masunungure, is to resuscitate the economy —— in all its facets —— so as to be able to sustain recovery in the other sectors of society.
“The whole enterprise is very dicey and Herculean,” he said.
Mawere said national priorities have to begin with the government talking as one on the key challenges that are affecting the country.
“Zimbabwe needs one government with a clear span of administrative control. It is important that the fusion between the two teams is speeded up,” Mawere said. “It is only then that one can begin to talk of national priorities, which include short-term measures of mobilising capital and directing to the supply side so that the jobs that have been lost can be restored.”
He added that the productive sector has to be resuscitated as well as the social sectors, which required confidence building.
BY CONSTANTINE CHIMAKURE