By Pedzisai Ruhanya
HAVING observed the pre- and post-Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) squabbles and the succession crisis rocking Zanu PF leading to the Tsholothso
incident, I felt it necessary to advance a theoretical analysis of the role of South African President Thabo Mbeki in both crises.
The South African government led by Mbeki sought to effect leadership, not regime change in both the MDC and Zanu PF by making sure that President Robert Mugabe was removed from the leadership of Zanu PF by a faction led by Emmerson Mnangagwa while Morgan Tsvangirai was also toppled by the Welshman Ncube group. This, in my view, would lead to a government of national unity without Mugabe and Tsvangirai in a new political dispensation in Zimbabwe.
Mbeki’s government has failed to influence a return to democratic legitimacy in Zimbabwe. More so, in its analysis of the crisis in Zimbabwe, the South African government has dismally failed to appreciate that any account of human rights protection in Zimbabwe must critically examine the overlap between the domestic and international spheres of politics, law, institutions and norms.
Such an appreciation could assist the authorities south of the Limpopo River to see how the government of Zimbabwe and its citizens could be constrained in actions that may or may not lead to the violation of human rights in the country that has become the order of the day without any public condemnation from Mbeki’s government.
The succession debate in Zanu PF that led to the so-called Tshotsholo Declaration had all the ingredients of attempting to oust Mugabe from the leadership of Zanu PF using proper democratic and lawful means as enshrined in the Zanu PF constitution if followed properly. There was nothing amiss about that process because it was both legal and legitimate.
Those in the other camp, led by retired general Solomon Mujuru, were the ones who violated the Zanu PF constitution by refusing to abide by its dictates and by firing the elected provincial chairpersons on the eve of a crucial congress.
What I saw as the South African role in the Zanu PF succession debate was the apparent interest of the South African intelligence in gathering information about the succession war on the eve of the ruling party’s congress in 2004.
It is important to realise that it was during that period that some Zanu PF employees including party intelligence workers and a diplomat were arrested and charged with espionage. It was reported that the Zanu PF employees were supplying information about the succession wrangles to a foreign country that was not mentioned. Apparently the diplomat, Godfrey Dzvairo, was based in South Africa.
Most importantly, the South African Intelligence minister Ronnie Kasril this year negotiated with State Security minister Didymus Mutasa the release of a South African spy who was arrested by the Zimbabwean authorities in Victoria Falls in 2004. The arrest took place at the height of Zanu PF succession battles on the eve of its December 2004 congress.
Such kind of undertakings by a member of the intelligence services in a friendly neighbour could not have happened without the knowledge of the presidency of that country.
On the part of the MDC, questions should be raised why a president of a neighbouring country enjoying good relations with the Zimbabwean incumbent and has done everything to make sure that Zanu PF remains in power including endorsing two bloody and controversial election outcomes in Zimbabwe in 2000 and 2002 would want to reconcile the two feuding MDC groups.
It is also in the public interest to understand why the MDC group led by Ncube rushed to consult Mbeki before they exhausted their internal conflict resolution mechanisms. Such things need to be interrogated in order to find out the interests of Mbeki in opposition politics in Zimbabwe and why it should be the brief of a foreign president to organise the opposition.
Suppose Mbeki had a genuine interest to have a formidable opposition in Zimbabwe, the next issues to appreciate could be whether Mbeki is also organising the opposition against himself in South Africa. More critically, it would be very crucial to understand whether Mbeki had severed ties with Mugabe. If not, then what was he trying to do with the MDC feuding parties?
Further evidence of Mbeki’s involvement in the Zanu PF and MDC crises could also be seen from media reports that he was given a draft transitional constitution by Patrick Chinamasa and Ncube who represented Zanu PF and the MDC respectively in the failed talks between the two political parties although this was denied by both parties.
What is interesting about this scenario is that both Chinamasa and Ncube belonged to the camps that in my view Mbeki wanted to deal with in a new political dispensation in Zimbabwe. These two neither belong to the Mujuru nor Tsvangirai groups.
I take issue with Mbeki particularly on the transitional constitutional arrangement allegedly given to him by both Zanu PF and the MDC. I further question the democratic credentials of both Zanu PF and the MDC for allegedly crafting a secret constitution for Zimbabweans without their participation and sending it to a foreign leader to approve such a critical document without the authority of the governed.
This is a serious matter because the South African constitution itself was negotiated in a transparent manner with all South Africans represented by their political and civic formations. If South Africans deserve such transparency in the political governance of their country, why should Zimbabweans deserve less?
Given what I see as the South African government’s involvement in the Zanu PF succession crisis and the MDC squabbles, it is therefore prudent to view the Tsholotsho saga and the MDC’s October 12 2005 fallout as separate incidents
whose agendas and goals were the same.
The goals of both processes were to sideline Mugabe and Tsvangirai from Zimbabwe’s political scene. In the view of the South African authorities, the two were impediments to the resolution of the crisis in Zimbabwe.
The plot almost succeeded in Zanu PF rather than in the MDC. The Zanu PF champions of Tsholotsho were crafty and had the structures that matter to legally and legitimately defeat the Mujuru camp. Moreso, the Mnangagwa faction sought to use the legitimate platform in the form of the Zanu PF congress to effect a lawful leadership change in Zanu PF. They had the support of more than six of the party’s 10 provinces.
The MDC group led by Ncube lacked the grassroots support and party structures to effect a leadership change hence their failure to topple Tsvangirai. The group also used the wrong platform to topple the leader.
* Pedzisai Ruhanya is a journalist based in Harare.