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Candid Comment

Banking on a false pregnancy?

by Joram Nyathi

THE talks between Zanu PF and the MDC are becoming a veritable conundrum. South African president Thabo Mbeki told the recent Sadc summit in Lusaka that the

re was progress in the talks. Zanu PF’s pointman at the talks, Patrick Chinamasa, trashed the subject at the same summit, saying there was no need for constitutional changes because “Zimbabwe is a democracy like any other democracy”.

The MDC had made a new constitution one of its key demands at the talks although no one seriously believed they would get one before next year’s synchronised presidential and parliamentary election. It was a demand with more tactical value than electoral advantage.

Then on Friday it was reported that the Zanu PF politburo was happy with the progress of the talks. They were responding to a report on the issue by the same Chinamasa.

While they were patting Chinamasa on the back, MDC faction leader Morgan Tsvangirai was thanking Australia’s John Howard for a job well done in piling pressure on the Zanu PF government to change, and for expelling the children of government officials studying in that country. Is there any sense that these people share a common vision for the future of Zimbabwe?

Closer to home, Mbeki insisted from the onset that he would not be discussing anything with MDC “factions”. So the two pointmen, Welshman Ncube and Tendai Biti, go to South Africa as representatives of the MDC. But back home the two MDCs can’t sit around the same table. So what do they tell Mbeki when they meet in Pretoria? What do they talk about when they meet Zanu PF’s Nicholas Goche and Chinamasa?

But that is not the end of the jigsaw. It is common knowledge that Mbeki and Howard don’t see eye to eye because of Mbeki’s sin called quiet diplomacy, which in part explains why Tsvangirai said what he said to Howard.

Howard wants President Mugabe out yesterday while Mbeki and his Sadc comrades prefer a well-managed transition. So what is the substance of the “progress” in the talks, especially on the MDC’s part?

Then Tsvangirai reports that he has postponed the launch of his presidential campaign pending the outcome of the talks. I don’t know what this means in terms of election strategy. Perhaps he will soon elaborate.

What is evident though is that time is not one of Tsvangirai’s allies. What is it to be this time? To vote or not to vote, depending on what it is hoped Mbeki can wring out of a false pregnancy? The more tactical blunders the MDC leaders commit, the more reckless Zanu PF seems to get, seeing there is no imminent threat to its hold on power.

Why should Zanu PF negotiate to share power with the MDC when the MDC is too arrogant to talk to itself? Pressure for Zanu PF to change needs to come from a united MDC, not from Australia, the UK or Sadc. A fractured MDC is unlikely to get any significant concessions from Zanu PF. They should not expect Mbeki to tell them this elementary reality.

Why should it be Mbeki’s unenviable burden to parachute the MDC to power through a new constitution when the party can’t decide whether it wants to get there through the ballot or jambanja? When is the momentous decision going to be made? We know Zanu PF is already in campaign mode, with chiefs and war veterans at the forefront — something not even a new constitution can change.

In short, it is not Mbeki who will decide the outcome of next year’s elections through a new constitution, but those Zimbabweans who are registered to vote. Is this banal fact beyond the MDC’s grasp? How does it hope to win the election if it is still wedded to the myth that communal areas are Zanu PF strongholds?

Which leaves the MDC leadership in a fine dilemma: to take part in the election with little preparation and lose the vote or to continue its national boycott and lose both relevance and credibility.

The MDC will have to make the best of a terrible situation, making late electoral preparations with many odds stacked against it; the biggest being a penchant for fighting itself instead of the foe.

It’s a pity that the faction leaders are too arrogant to acknowledge this fact and they have surrounded themselves with insecure sycophants who see the MDC as the only sure way to power and wealth.

In this they believe that foreigners, in this case Thabo Mbeki and John Howard, are better placed to pave the way.

All said, if the MDC decides to fight the election as factions, the outcome is a foregone conclusion, itself rendering an unflattering verdict: that they are unworthy of the presidency of this nation, a nation in sore need of a leader to move it from liberation war politics to accountable governance.

So far, unfortunately, Zanu PF has no more than spineless schemers; the MDC pretenders who have atrophied before maturity. The best determination that the MDC/Zanu PF talks can give us though is that the elections are conducted in peace and that the parties abide by the outcome of the vote.

We have had the longest electoral dispute of any country not in a civil war: which should be cause for grievous shame to any leader.

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