THE inclusive government will celebrate its second birthday in February. The coalition government can celebrate achieving economic stability but the political gridlock which almost crippled the alliance shows that much work is needed to address the asymmetrical division of power.
President Robert Mugabe of Zanu PF, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of MDC-T and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara of MDC, signed an ambitious Global Political Agreement (GPA) on September 15 2008, leading to the birth of the inclusive government in February 2009.
Since then the principals have struggled to establish cordial relations as Mugabe and Tsvangirai were at one time or another involved in a bitter power battle. At one point last year the two allegedly went for months without talking as relations between the long-time rivals soured.
The differences between the two are partly ideological and as a result their mindsets are miles apart, but they have struck a compromise and so far it has worked to the extent that many feel this experimental form of government should continue while the economy stabilises further before any elections are held.
For the first time in a decade, Zimbabwe’s stratospheric inflation, which stood at 231 million percent by the end of 2008 disappeared at the onset of dollarisation and the country briefly slid into deflation before inflation rose to 3,2% in November last year.
Industrial capacity utilisation jumped from 10% to about 40% last year while hospitals and schools which were facing closure due to lack of resources maintained operations.
Even investors joined the euphoria, with delegations and investment scouts descending on the country.
However, on the flipside of the coin, analysts say political reforms implemented in the past two years have been largely cosmetic and more action was needed from the coalition.
The wobbly government helped Mugabe gain legitimacy after the one-man June 2008 presidential run-off sham.
The GNU however, failed to distribute power evenly, with Mugabe holding all the levers of power. Mugabe remains head of state and government and chairs cabinet while his rival, Tsvangirai, is prime minister.
The irony is that Tsvangirai cannot chair a cabinet meeting because, according to the GNU’s power structure, he is only number four behind Mugabe and his two lieutenants, vice-presidents Joice Mujuru and John Nkomo. In Mugabe’s absence nobody is allowed to chair the cabinet.
The MDC have confirmed on numerous occasions that they are secondary partners in the power matrix of the GNU, and this failure to balance the distribution has often led to clashes between the two on matters of policy and priorities.
This has seen multilateral lenders and donors refuse to extend loans and lines of credit to the new government until “real” political reforms resulting in proportional power-sharing have been implemented.
Investors who had joined the trek to the verdant opportunities in the country held back as discord emerged in the GNU over some laws, notably over the indigenisation and economic empowerment regulations.
The inclusive government can take credit for reducing political violence. The tacit acknowledgement of how deeply the violence-scarred the country can be seen in the appointment of ministers of national healing under the three principals to spearhead the remedial process.
Political analyst Dewa Mavhinga said two years of the inclusive government had given Zimbabwe a measure of political and economic stability which he felt would be threatened if the country were to hold elections later this year.
“The inclusive government has dismally failed primarily because Mugabe and Zanu PF continue to call the shots and continue to block progressive democratisation reforms,” he said.
He also blamed the two MDC formations for failing to stand up to Mugabe and for giving the impression that the inclusive government is a bed of roses when it clearly is not.
Failure to fully implement the GPA means that the principals cannot fully trust each other or work together.
For instance, Mugabe has consistently refused to swear in MDC-T nominee for the deputy agriculture minister post, Roy Bennett. The 87-year-old ruler has also unilaterally appointed judicial officials, ambassadors and provincial governors in breach of the GPA while he retained his cronies Gideon Gono and Johannes Tomana as Reserve Bank governor and attorney-general respectively.
Political analyst Trevor Maisiri said Mugabe’s political machinations had undermined any hope of better governance Zimbabweans may have expected at the onset of the GNU.
“The political situation going into 2011 is clouded in tension, irregularity, unrepentant political attitudes, power games and outright disregard for political normalcy. This unfortunately has far-reaching, deep-rooted and widely-diffusive effects on the social and economic sectors of the country.
“To date more than 24 months after the signing of the GPA and the subsequent formation of the Government of National Unity antagonism still spoils the projected expectation of political sanity. Zanu PF and the MDC-T still have major disagreements in the discharge and function of the unity government and on key reforms which were supposed to result from the said agreement. These two main parties have adopted shifting positions away from the spirit and dictates of the agreement they signed,” he said.
Maisiri said gains realised from 2008 into 2009 could be lost if the political leaders fail to commit to intentional reforms and democratisation.
Finance minister Tendai Biti projected economic growth to peak at about 7% last year but by April he had downgraded his projection to 4% as investors adopted a wait and see attitude to Zimbabwe’s political head-butting.
Mugabe has, for example, called for elections later this year while his rivals want constitutional, electoral and other critical democratic reforms implemented before such elections can be held.
The business sector has also lobbied against elections to protect the gains achieved in the past two years but their voice is unlikely to carry favour with power-hungry politicians.
“Where it comes to the stabilisation of politics the GPA has not really succeeded. The mere mention of elections in Zimbabwe affects everything and this is not what we want for our democracy,” said Julius Mutyambizi-Dewa, a lawyer.