Press your ear against the fine print. You will hear these mumblings about the need to form an inclusive government after the 2018 elections in Zimbabwe. But, with due respect, that agenda is as useless and abusive — from a governance point of view — as it is absurd.
corruptionwatch WITH TAWANDA MAJONI
The European Union (EU) has called for a “truly inclusive approach” to moving Zimbabwe forward after Friday’s Constitutional Court (ConCourt) judgement upheld the declaration of Emmerson Mnangagwa (ED) as winner of the July 30 presidential election following an application by Nelson Chamisa. The EU didn’t say that approach is an inclusive government.
The rule, though, is that if you are going to read the lips of diplomats, look for the fine print.
It was always going to be unnecessary for the bloc to urge an inclusive approach to ensure sustainable reforms if the EU didn’t imply the establishment of an inclusive government. The opposition, particularly the MDC coalition, bagged more than 60 seats in this month’s elections. That means the opposition will naturally be included in the legislature, which is or must be the main theatre for reforms.
And there was this report by Reuters, a reputable international news agency, which, quoting unnamed sources in the Mnangagwa administration, indicated that Britain et al were spoiling for an inclusive arrangement reflective of the British political model whereby the leader of the main opposition would receive a salary. God knows what for?
Mnangagwa seems to be feeding into the skewed agenda too, despite earlier denials by him and his deputy, Constantino Chiwenga. Immediately after the ConCourt dismissed Chamisa’s application to nullify the presidential results or declare him the winner instead — in itself an absurdity for lack of clarity—Mnangagwa took to his newly-discovered sphere on Twitter. There, he declared his undying love for unity and peace and stretched out his arms for Chamisa, saying his doors were open for his rival so that they could “move (Zimbabwe) forward together”.
It is both informative and revealing that Mnangagwa singled out Chamisa. He made no mention of the other 21 presidential contestants, nor did he refer to the opposition even in broad terms. Chamisa was his main rival who almost grabbed the bone from his jaw. That says a lot about ED’s preferences. He knows the pressures that are barking out and, in his scheme of re-engagement with the international community, and his quest to earn legitimacy after a hotly-contested and subsequently disputed election, he is just too anxious to ensure that he tosses Chamisa into the matrix to mollify his would-be benefactors.
The rationale for an inclusive government is informed by and rests on several conditions. Whenever mediators have come in to help in the establishment of inclusive governments — and there are too many to count on your fingers here, the rest of Africa, the Developing South and, indeed, the West — they often considered the existence of conflict, flawed or disputed elections, politically-based polarisation, bad governance and the possibility of a state getting failed.
In that context, an inclusive government has often been resorted to and sometimes nicely foisted on a state as a way of managing prevailing conflicts, enhancing inclusivity, unity and peace and providing a chance for disputing parties to try and resolve their acute differences while promoting stability, better governance and economic transformation.
In 2007, Kenya held elections that were angrily disputed by the opposition, resulting in violence that killed 1 200 people, injured close to 4 000 others and internally displaced more than 300 000. The late Kofi Annan led a mediation team that helped in the signing of a political agreement that produced an inclusive government in early 2008, bringing together Mwai Kibaki of the Party of National Unity as president and Raila Odinga of the Orange Democratic Movement as prime minister.
This model was repeated in Zimbabwe a year later when ex-South African president Thabo Mbeki steered another mediation team which saw Robert Mugabe of Zanu PF sharing power with the late Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC as president and prime minister, respectively. The inclusive government also brought on board two MDC breakaway groups. That followed a widely condemned and violence-infested presidential run-off forced by Tsvangirai’s initial win in March of 2008.
In fact, Zimbabwe has had two other flirtations with national political coalitions following pronounced conflicts. In 1978 there was an attempt to set up a government bringing together blacks and whites. That was the short-lived Zimbabwe-Rhodesia outfit led by Abel Muzorewa. That was at the height of the war of liberation against colonial rule that neither the apartheid government of Ian Smith nor the black nationalist movements seemed to be winning. That one was a bad simulation for an inclusive government because what it was trying to do was to make Muzorewa appear like he was leading government on behalf of the blacks when in fact he was Smith’s stooge. A year later, a more serious intervention was taken through the Lancaster House talks and the subsequent transitional constitution that led to majority rule in early 1980.
Then there was the largely internally-driven Unity Accord in December 1987. Following an internal crisis that resulted in the death of thousands of people from the early 1980s, an agreement was reached between the ruling Zanu PF and Pf Zapu to end political hostilities. Robert Mugabe, who had been prime minister since independence, became the president while Joshua Nkomo, the PF Zapu leader, was made his deputy.
Elsewhere in Africa, inclusive governments have been set up in Madagascar, Ivory Coast and South Africa, among others. In South Africa, this was in the form of an interim government to pave way for majority rule that would replace the apartheid model. In the main, the coalition governments were set up to deal with disputed elections, prevailing instability, internal hostilities and as part of broader political transformation arrangements.
Does Zimbabwe fall in any of the conditions mentioned above so as to justify an inclusive government? Of course, not! Consider the issue of polarisation first. There seems to be this perception that Zimbabwe is polarised on the basis that opposition members and supporters went out and protested after this year’s elections, resulting in at least six deaths when the army was deployed to reinforce the police. The army was also reported to have gone about beating up people in southwestern suburbs following the violent protests that erupted as election results were being announced and Zanu PF was leading.
You don’t want to start defining polarisation on the basis of short-lived violent protests and the tragic deaths that occurred. That is a wee to narrow a way to look at things. Take this example as an illustration. In local soccer, we have seen supporters pour onto the pitch, throwing bottles and stones, getting beaten up by the police and sometimes people even dying. But that didn’t push us to say local soccer was polarised.
Similarly, the fact that opposition supporters angrily disputed the results of the elections does not show that Zimbabwe is polarised. Remember, in the run-up to the elections on July 30, peace and harmony prevailed. Unlike in the past, opposition and ruling party supporters congregated for rallies and other forms of political engagements in a largely peaceful way. In fact, there are cases when rival party supporters drank and ate together. That wouldn’t happen if Zimbabwe was as polarised as people would like us to believe.
Again, the mere fact that the presidential poll was closely contested does not translate into polarisation. It must be seen as a healthy indicator of growing democracy. As it stands, it’s clear that a substantial number of voters elected members of their party in the municipal and parliamentary polls, but went on to vote a candidate from the other side in the presidential poll. That doesn’t happen in a polarised community.
As indicated above, an inclusive government is mostly adopted as a way of managing prevailing or potential conflict. The question is: Is Zimbabwe going through a conflict that is sufficient to justify an inclusive government? Unquestionably, the country is going through an economic crisis. There is no cash in the banks, unemployment is too high, industry is operating at a bare minimum and investment is sorely low. As a result, poverty levels are high, too high for a richly endowed country like ours.
Is this crisis big enough for us to call it a conflict? Let’s say it is, even though, in a strict sense, it isn’t. One school of thought seems to be convinced that an inclusive government can arrest this version of a conflict. The reasoning is historical. The establishment of an inclusive government that spanned 2009 through 2013 coincided with notable economic recovery. But that trend had nothing to do with the performance of the inclusive government, which was so mired in discord, mistrust and contradictions between the Zanu PF and MDC sides that, in fact, ran parallel governments.
The truth is that the positive economic performance was driven by a friendly international perception which was, in turn, generated by the zeal of the western community to see the opposition as part of a transitional government that some hoped could at the end of the day pave way for the removal of the long-sitting and authoritarian regime led by Robert Mugabe. The opposite was true, of course, because the coalition government gave key elements of the unpopular establishment the chance to regroup.
As already implied above, there seems to be a misplaced conception of inclusivity in this whole discourse. Many people incorrectly assume that an inclusive government must mean only bringing influential political players, in this case the losing ones, into the executive estate of government. Democracy defines the political opposition as a vital game-changer. If the opposition claims its seat in the legislature, that’s inclusion. It’s not as if the opposition will be denied that opportunity. If leaders of the opposition must be included in the executive arm of government, then they must be included in the judiciary too, because that is the third estate of government.
But that can be done through other more sustainable means instead of rushing to hammer out a discordant inclusive government that, as we saw in our last experiment, doesn’t address the root causes of our conflicts or problems. The main problem with our model of electoral democracy is the tendency to give everything to the winner and leave the loser with very little if anything.
How, then, about playing around with the constitution in the next parliament to establish proportional representation? In this case, Chamisa would claim a 44% stake in all layers of government, in addition to the parliamentary seats that go to his party, while Mnangagwa gets the 50 and something percent that he got in the election. No other version of inclusivity beats this. It would also provide for checks and balances to enhance good governance.
Africa seems tom be rattling in the wrong direction by starting to consider inclusive models especially whenever there is electoral contestation, ion particular. This is bad not only for democracy but direct corporate governance too. It bloats governments, postpones solutions and creates unfounded sense of entitlement among some.
* Tawanda Majoni is the national co-ordinator at Information for Development Trust and can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org