HomeOpinionSA's experience an invaluable lesson for MDC

SA’s experience an invaluable lesson for MDC

By Paul Taylor

THE Israeli soldier-statesman Moshe Dayan observed: “If you want to make peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.” But what happens when your enemi

es don’t really want to talk to you?

The thought crossed my mind when last week’s Independent splashed the story that MDC negotiators had been given a tutorial on the South African Constitutional settlement by a Codesa team.

No doubt the MDC group had both something to learn from and something to teach their eminent South African interlocutors. But surely the people who really need to be given a lesson in the art of peaceful conflict resolution are the members of Zanu PF?

Recent events have reminded us yet again that Zanu PF is profoundly divided on the subject of negotiations.

Let us leave aside Robert Mugabe’s embarrassingly out of touch Heroes Day address. His calls for repentance were eloquent proof that the man is being increasingly secretly sidelined by ministers who wish to seize the initiative in the talks process to protect their interests when he is gone. The legend has become an irrelevance in his own lifetime.

Some Cabinet greybeards genuinely recognise the need to demilitarise our political scene and come to terms with the MDC as the representative of civil society. But political parvenus who have inherited Mugabe’s arrogance see the putative talks process simply as one more arena in which to combat the democratic aspirations of the nation.

The decision of Judge President Paddington Garwe last week to allow the application for the dismissal of the treason charges against Messrs Ncube and Gasela, while ordering the continuation of the trial of Morgan Tsvangirai, was highly significant.

There are obviously no grounds to suggest that Garwe was instructed to send any subliminal political message to civil society. After all, since the visionary judicial reforms implemented by the noted legal philosopher, Joseph Chinotimba, public confidence in the objectivity of our judges has achieved new levels.

A message was nonetheless sent.

All parties to the case agree it is sustained exclusively on the basis of “evidence” obtained through intimate cooperation between the Zanu PF security establishment and its hireling, Ari-Ben Menashe.

Whatever the merits of Garwe’s decision, the continuation of the trial signals that the isolation of Tsvangirai from his MDC leadership colleagues remains a key Zanu PF security project.

In the same time-frame we have witnessed Patrick Chinamasa’s attempt to wreck the attempt of Church leaders to bring together wise heads in Zanu PF and the MDC on the supposed grounds that these Churchmen are MDC wolves masquerading as apolitical sheep.

In truth most Zimbabwean Church leaders really are sheep. For the greater part of the Hondo Yeminda the ZCC’s member churches and others shamefully failed to enunciate a principled theological, let alone political, response to its horrors.

Chinamasa has no support base in reality. He is not an elected MP. He speaks for no constituency but himself. Nevertheless he is entitled to say his piece like any other ordinary Zimbabwean.

And his comments serve as a useful reminder of a certain mindset. A German, Von Clausewitz, is said to have described war as “the continuation of politics by other means”.

Certain diehard Zanu PF foot soldiers see the talks process as the continuation of the Hondo Yeminda by other means. They are not interested in negotiation with the MDC. They want to accomplish the negation of the MDC and the consolidation of Zanu PF rule for many years to come.

Let us hope therefore that in the course of discussions with the Codesa negotiators the MDC team reflected carefully on the realities surrounding the deliberations of the polarised South African political elite.

Firstly, those negotiations only became possible when PW Botha, “the Great Crocodile” had been removed from power in what amounted to a Cabinet coup.

They took place against a background of division in the National Party between the Verkramptes (Conservatives) who were ready for a Hondo Yeminda to a bitter end, and Verligtes (Liberals) who wished to come to terms with the inevitability of majority rule.

A maelstrom of State violence was orchestrated by Verkrampte securocrats, using both regular forces and Third Force proxies to derail the talks process and prolong supremacist rule. The ANC skilfully recognised and manipulated these divisions to their own advantage.

Let us hope the MDC negotiators are able to isolate the Hondo Yeminda goats from among the sheep. Unsettling rumours suggest that individuals from the MDC elite are being offered a certain number of Cabinet positions in a Zanu PF-dominated government. Surely the only valid response would be to offer certain Zanu PF Verligtes seats in an MDC dominated post-transitional government?

The ANC and its allies realised that strength came from constant dialogue, consultation and mandate re-approval from grassroots structures in their wider constituencies.

There was an intensive programme of rolling mass action, repeated court challenges and, where useful, boycotts to fight a ruthless and often intractable State on its own terrain.

Let us hope the MDC does not voluntarily castrate itself by surrendering its legal challenge against the rigged Presidential election, or its democratic right to mobilise the people in peaceful support of the freedom campaign.

Talks need to be supported by people power. Zanu PF is already in the process of organising its campaign to win the 2005 election by hook or crook.

The ANC never conceded the legitimacy of the apartheid regime, because international pressure, which was predicated on the illegitimacy of the apartheid state, massively amplified the ANC’s bargaining position.

Let us hope the MDC negotiators draw the right lessons. Their mandate derives from the legitimacy awarded by those whose votes were stolen in the last two elections.

Paul Taylor writes on civic issues.

Recent Posts

Stories you will enjoy

Recommended reading