FOLLOWING Zanu PF’s congress last month, which made resolutions effectively to stall the inter-party dialogue, negotiations on contentious issues between the party and the two MDC factions now appear to be headed for a blind alley. This might leave the inclusive government in perilous balance or lead to its collapse.
The prospects of survival for the inclusive government are gloomy. Before the parties took a break from the dialogue on December 6 ahead of the Zanu PF congress, there appeared to be a breakthrough on the talks as parties covered a lot of ground, clearing most of the issues of the 27-item agenda.
The negotiators appeared to be within reach of an ultimate resolution of the issues which have been creating conflict within the shaky coalition government formed after the disputed presidential election in 2008.
However, when the talks resumed on Wednesday last week things took a dramatic turn for the worse. Guided by their party’s congress resolutions, Zanu PF negotiators went to the negotiating table to throw spanners in the works. They said they were not going to negotiate anything because their hands were tied by the congress resolutions. As a result nothing progressive came out of it and all the ground initially covered was lost.
Progress was reversed and gains rolled back. Controversial issues including the swearing-in of Roy Bennett, appointment of provincial governors, appointment of Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono and Attorney General Johannes Tomana, and chairing of cabinet, among other things, took centre stage but there was no movement.
In fact, there was retrogression in dialogue as Zanu PF negotiators simply refused to negotiate, citing all sorts of excuses including the party’s congress resolutions that were designed to stall dialogue.
The MDC-T left the meeting stunned and exasperated. Zanu PF negotiators felt their tactics based on bald-faced intransigence and deliberate lack of cooperation was working. The party’s strategy is obviously to frustrate MDC negotiators and tire them out. Political wear and tear could eventually weaken the MDC and ensure its containment.
In reaction to last week’s latest stalemate, the MDC-T is now taking back the issue to Sadc, but it won’t end there.
Senior party officials are behind closed doors now mulling over other options, including disengagement yet again, which might deteriorate into withdrawal from the government if matters rise to a head.
Senior MDC-T officials are livid over what Zanu PF is doing and some are beginning to seriously consider the option of pulling out despite the fact that others now enjoying the trappings of power — status, posh cars and upmarket houses — might balk at this. But things are certainly not looking good.
The problem in the current round of talks started with the Zanu PF congress and its resolutions.
The party’s decisions effectively meant stalling of the talks and that’s where we are now.
We are entering a political danger zone and depending on the parties’ strategies, calculations and moves, we might soon have a really crippled government or see a start to the beginning of its end. After its congress, Zanu PF took a position not to make any more concessions in the talks.
Zanu PF said it noted “that the inclusive government brings the party into partnership with ideologically incompatible MDC formations from which it must extricate itself in order to retain its mantle as the only dominant and ascendant political party that is truly representative and determined to safeguard the aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe”.
This clearly showed Zanu PF was not interested in seeing this transitional arrangement succeed.
Now its negotiators are fulfilling that mandate of clumsily trying to disentangle the party from the inclusive government which has drastically limited President Robert Mugabe’s power and imposed fetters on his exercise of authority.
It is clear Mugabe particularly hates this arrangement for that reason, although it saved him from being swept from power via a looming popular uprising which was building up at the height of the economic meltdown, and widespread discontent among the public and even the security forces.
The soldiers had begun expressing anger through riots and had the inclusive government not been formed worse would inevitably have come. The course of history could have changed and by now things could be very different, for better or worse.
In resolutions which pre-empted the negotiations, Zanu PF also castigated the MDC over the “continuance of the illegally declared and undeclared Western sanctions which remain a paramount and decisive outstanding issue in the inter-party dialogue”. It said the MDC needed to “undergo fundamental mind frame change”.
To show the talks had no realistic prospects of success, the Zanu PF congress also “instructed” Mugabe to ensure that the party’s negotiators did not give in on anything until the targeted sanctions were lifted and foreign radio broadcasts to Zimbabwe stopped. It also gave other conditions for cooperation, including matters relating to alleged foreign interference, NGOs, so-called parallel government and a whole host of demands which make fruitful talks impossible.
As a result the negotiations are stalled. They may resume on February 8 but chances of success are between slim and none unless something dramatic happens. This leaves the MDC wedged in a conundrum: either to lapse back into passive submission or engage in an open fight with Zanu PF whose outcome will be unpredictable. The casualty of this would be the inclusive government whose collapse would be disastrous.