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Is A Govt Of National Unity Possible?

A GOVERNMENT of national unity (GNU) in Zimbabwe can only succeed if the ruling Zanu PF and the MDC resolve their differences on the ideological front, political analysts have said.

Sadc is reportedly pushing for a GNU as a solution to the country’s multiple crises after the March 29 presidential election which the MDC’s Morgan Tsvangirai claimed to have won against President Robert Mugabe.

The crises are characterised by plummeting GDP, inflation of above 165 000%, 80% unemployment, growing poverty, and deteriorating health and education standards, among other ills. It is feared another election will simply compound political divisions.

It is against this background that Sadc is understood to have tasked South African President Thabo Mbeki to open negotiations between Zanu PF, the MDC and other opposition forces to form a GNU.

Political analysts said the Zimbabwe crisis should be treated as an emergency and the proposal by Sadc for a GNU was the only way the country can come out of the morass.

The analysts argued that political parties should set aside their ideological differences to champion national interests.

They said a GNU was compelling given that legislative election results showed there was no clear winner between the ruling Zanu PF and the opposition MDC.

The Tsvangirai-led MDC garnered 99 seats, Zanu PF 97 and the Arthur Mutambara-headed MDC won 10.

On Monday the MDC leaders announced they had decided to reunify the party.In the Senate poll, Zanu PF won 30 seats, MDC-Tsvangirai 26 and MDC-Mutambara 6.

Chris Maroleng, a political analyst with the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, said a GNU was the only solution to the current crisis in Zimbabwe. He argued that parliamentary and senatorial results revealed a society that was politically torn down the middle.

This polarisation has been evident since the general election in 2000.

“The divisions coalesce around two dominant crisis narratives,” wrote Maroleng. “One focused around regime security concerns and an alleged neo-colonial imperialist conspiracy epitomised by the campaigning slogan, sovereignty, land and empowerment.”

The other narrative, the analyst said, was championed by civil society and opposition parties emphasising the need for a post-nationalist liberation discourse centred around good governance, democratisation and human rights that finds expression in the broad notions of political choice and societal renewal.

“It is clear that if a solution is to be found to this protracted crisis a middle ground has to be reached. The winner-takes-all rule that presides heavily in the political culture of the elite, on both sides, has to begin to give way to compromise,” Maroleng suggested.

Another political analyst, Michael Mhike, said while a GNU was the solution to the Zimbabwean crisis, achieving it would be a tall order.

“The crisis in Zimbabwe can be defined in two ways — imperialism and governance,” Mhike said.

“Zanu PF sees the MDC as an agency of Western imperialism bent on reversing the gains of Independence.

On the other hand, the MDC accuses Zanu PF of being antithetical to democratic ethos and good governance.”

In that case, argued Mhike, it would take a great deal of negotiations to strike a compromise between protagonists that will culminate in the formation of a GNU.

“I am not suggesting that it is impossible for a GNU given the main parties’ differences; I am simply saying there will be need for thorough negotiations to reach a settlement,” he added.

He said the negotiations were likely to be hamstrung by who would lead the GNU between President Robert Mugabe and Tsvangirai if the anticipated presidential run-off is called off to make room for the unity government.

“The best is to have the run-off and whoever emerges the winner will form and lead the GNU,” Mhike suggested.

“This is the way it was done in South Africa.”

South Africa constituted a successful unity government to end apartheid. Between April 1994 and February 1997, South Africa was governed under the terms of an interim constitution that required that any party holding 20 or more seats in the National Assembly could claim one or more cabinet positions and enter the government.

Despite the African National Council winning the majority of seats in the assembly, the National Party and Inkatha Freedom Party obtained cabinet posts.

The then president Nelson Mandela also invited other parties to join the cabinet, even though they did not obtain the minimum 20 seats in the assembly.

The requirement for the GNU lapsed at the end of the first parliament in 1999. Even so, Inkatha Freedom Party and the Azanian People’s Organisation continued to hold seats in the government, as minority partners, until the elections of 2004.

The South African GNU was a result of a series of negotiations between 1990 and 1993 aimed at ending apartheid and was between the NP, ANC and a wide variety of other political organisations.

It was the Multiparty Negotiating Forum that resulted in the GNU, after the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (Codesa) 1 and 11 failed to end the political crisis in South Africa.

The negotiations took place against a backdrop of political violence in the country, including allegations of a state-sponsored third force destabilising the country.

In Zimbabwe, the same accusations of state-sponsored violence have surfaced after the polls, with the MDC claiming that 15 of its supporters have been killed,  3 000 families displaced and 800 huts burnt in the countryside by security agents, Zanu PF militia and war veterans.

Tsvangirai and independent presidential hopeful in the March 29 election Simba Makoni have since endorsed the idea of a GNU.

Unconfirmed reports said Makoni expressed his willingness to head a GNU during Sadc’s extraordinary meeting in Lusaka, Zambia, on April 12 despite coming a distant third in the presidential race.

Zanu PF is yet to make an announcement on the GNU proposal even though Tsvangirai claimed that the party approached him in pursuit of a unity government soon after the poll, but later backed off.

Deputy Information minister Bright Matonga has poured cold water on the suggestion.

South Africa’s ANC president Jacob Zuma last week leant his support to a unity government to end the Zimbabwe crisis.

Speaking in London, Zuma said the call for a unity government “is not premature, it is actually appropriate at this time”.

Zuma said the presidential election appeared to have produced a very narrow margin between Mugabe and Tsvangirai, meaning that both men commanded significant support among Zimbabweans.

But he was keen to avoid the impression that he was initiating the call for a unity government, which was a model used to resolve Kenya’s bloodstained post-election crisis earlier this year.

It therefore remains to be seen if Zimbabwe will have a GNU in the next few weeks.

Its proponents in the diplomatic community say voters have lost faith in electoral politics because of the behaviour of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission in withholding the results and the violence that has been unleashed against opposition supporters.

Many on the other hand believe Mugabe would stand no chance in a second round and they would welcome the chance to prove it.

The MDC should not run away from a challenge it will win, they say.

By Constantine Chimakure

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