HomeOpinionMbeki Still Key In Zimbabwe Crisis

Mbeki Still Key In Zimbabwe Crisis

POLITICAL analyst and Tsholotsho North MP Professor Jonathan Moyo spoke to South Africa’s City Press newspaper on Sunday on the unfolding Zimbabwe crisis.

Here is what he had to say:

Q: What is going to happen in the next couple of weeks in your view?

A: WE have to come to some closure on the March 29 election and that specific process should be wrapped up by the end of this week.

By this time next week we should know what officialdom says was the final outcome of both the presidential election, the results of which have not been announced, and the parliamentary election which has been going through a recount in 23 constituencies.

However, that will not assist much because it’s the official position, which will not have many takers given that it has been compromised by the inexplicable delay surrounding the presidential poll results and also the inexplicable decision to order a recount of 23 constituencies whose results had been declared as final.

It is unusual, in fact unheard of, that an authority declares the final result, turns around and reopens the same results. In terms of due process, when an authority has made a final declaration, it stands. It can only be overturned by another authority, in this case the Electoral Court.

Even if that authority discovers something wrong, when they do that, their discovery should form part of an affidavit that is submitted to somebody else to  look at.

So we have this background in which the first public reaction will be to question the official declaration that must be made this week.

We are about to move to the real problem which is a political stand-off in Zimbabwe.

And that stand-off will not be resolved by the official declaration of the results, whatever is declared.

It is also important to remember that the political stand-off is in fact the real issue that has remained unresolved.

We are back to square one.

Before March 29 there was a political stalemate in Zimbabwe and there had been attempts earlier, throughout much of 2007, to resolve the political stalemate through mediation.

But we know that mediation by South Africa mandated by Sadc didn’t resolve the political stalemate.

In fact, that mediation, like this election, ended in a stalemate.

It was inconclusive.

So the Zimbabwean story is a story of stalemates, even though we must observe that the mediation assisted the levelling of the political field ahead of the March 29 election.

We have to note, however, that it was unsuccessful in two respects.

One, levelling the field to ensure that Zimbabwe has an election whose outcome will not be disputed. Well we know that this election has produced an outcome that is disputed.

The mediation had also come up with a new draft constitution and transitional mechanisms for Morgan Tsvangirai.

The new draft constitution was drafted and signed by the various parties but unimplemented.

There were various calls, especially from the MDC, to have the elections under that new draft constitution.

Mugabe and Zanu PF resisted that.

The mediators accommodated that resistance, unfortunately.

But what has happened now takes us back to that time when there was an agreement on a new constitution and disagreement over when it should be implemented.

Now that the election has failed to resolve the political stand-off, the mediation must take over from the election and deal with the political stand-off, taking into account both the progress made after the election and also the new situation created by the election.

The new situation that has been created by the election is that MDC Tsvangirai got the most votes in parliament.

The mediation must now take into account that the MDC which had 41 seats combined with the other MDC in a 150-member chamber now has 109 in a 210 seat chamber.

Zanu PF, which before the election, during the mediation, commanded two thirds majority now finds itself not only having lost the two thirds majority which empowered it to change the constitution, but without even a simple majority.

That is an important reality that must be taken into account moving forward with the mediation.

Q: What are the factors at play in this stand-off?

A: Well the political stand-off in Zimbabwe has been unfolding over the past nine years.

It is an all encompassing stand off precipitated by a combination of two things.

One, the collapse of the Zimbabwean formal economy which started in 1997 when the Zanu PF government gave and sanctioned an unjustified compensation to war veterans which severely tainted the economy, thereafter continued with the military campaign in the DRC and with devastating effects on the economy.

It could not sustain that and it worsened in February 2000 after the rejection of the draft constitution followed by massive land invasions which then became the basis of a new land reform programme.

It had dire consequences on the economy.

We saw unprecedented flight of capital and loss of confidence in the economy, which coincided with the emergence of the MDC as a very serious political opposition to Zanu PF and the beginning of Mugabe’s unpopularity and the increasing resort to force and other coercive means to retain power.

Now the stand-off is characterised by a complete shutdown of Zimbabwe’s economy.

Now factories in Zimbabwe are not working.

There is no production and the Zimbabwean treasury coffers have no forex because there are no exports going through formal channels and massive unemployment and massive food shortages.

The economic meltdown, probably could have put Zimbabwe where Somalia and other countries like that are, but for the Diaspora population which is subsidising the country through remittances and so forth.

That economic meltdown has exposed the failure of the government in the sense that Mugabe and Zanu PF have not come up with any policy response to the Zimbabwean currency collapse.

We have no currency to speak of.

Rural people, even for a hair cut, are now asking for payments in rands because not only has the Zimbabwean dollar collapsed, no-one, not even the peasants have confidence in it.

Mugabe has no solution besides saying the mess is because of sanctions by the Americans and British who disagree with the land reform programme.

The survival of the ruling party is at risk each day Mugabe remains in power. He personifies the crisis. He represents it.

That’s why in terms of the political stand-off it’s not a matter of who is better than Mugabe, and what policy is better than Zanu PF policies. But now it has become who is different from Mugabe.

The difference is what people are looking for now. Mugabe is no longer able to implement any policy — good or bad.

Q:Where does the military and civil service fit in this crisis?

A: I think that it is fair to say that this is their experience.

Definitely that is how everybody else, including the military and the securocrats around Mugabe are experiencing the conditions.

But of course, the government’s explanation is that the suffering is due to the sanctions.

This has been the mantra. The generals around Mugabe experience this in ways that are different.

They have access to subsidised fuel. They have state vehicles; they even get subsidised foreign currency.

So they are able to live in a fantasy world within hell for everyone else.

However, the one thing that has connected them to the problem is that whereas generals have access to this subsidised lifestyles, their forces don’t.

They now are finding it difficult to provide the ordinary forces with their constitutional rations.

They are finding it difficult to provide even uniforms.

You see some of them say this is not how a soldier should look like.

The police are not able to attend to their normal duties because they have no transport.

It’s no longer possible for the civil service to function in a normal way.

So you have generals who may have subsidised lifestyles leading impoverished forces.

These people who are led by the generals have connections with other ordinary people.

The reason Mugabe did not win the election and the reason Mugabe cannot win any election whatsoever in Zimbabwe is precisely because in reality this understanding is broadly shared in Zimbabwe, save for the fact that there are some generals who have a different understanding of this situation.

Their understanding would not be to say Mugabe personifies this crisis.

Their understanding would be to say Mugabe is a victim of Tony Blair and now Gordon Brown, George Bush and the European Union that conspired behind former Rhodies who had their farms repossessed.

However, I must add that the generals have a close working relationship with Mugabe since Independence.

They have been playing the role of safeguarding national security while Mugabe has been useful because of his hegemonic influence, his political capital which he was bringing to the table.

Now things are falling apart because while the generals bring guns to the table, Mugabe does not bring cohesion to the table.

He no longer has the support of the ruling party, he is presiding over a divided ruling party, which division was dramatised by the Simba Makoni project and apart from losing support from the ruling party, he has lost support in the nation.

It is embarrassing for those generals to sit with Mugabe, look at him and start to explain why he did not get the votes and if you are a politician and you lose the political support that you bring to the table, then they will start asking what use are you because now you are a source of insecurity whereas when you were commanding, you were a source of control, cohesion and so forth.

Mugabe’s problem right now is that he stands humiliated before his generals.

He is no longer able to say to them “look, these multitudes behind me, they support what we are doing, they support me” and that is a very dangerous situation in the context of the political stand-off.

The lip service of the generals might be that this is due to the sanctions but they know better.

They can see that the political ship is sinking, they can see that it is sinking because it no longer has a captain.

Q: Why has Sadc failed to put pressure on Mugabe to reform?

A: When I wear my political hat as an activist, I sometimes find myself on the political bandwagon of people who say Sadc has failed.

But when I wear my hat as a political observer, I don’t share that view.

I don’t think the evidence supports a conclusion that says Sadc has failed.

The impatience of people on the ground invites that conclusion.

The reality is different.

I think if you look very closely at how this Zimbabwean crisis has unfolded over the past nine years, you will see a dramatic shift by Sadc, especially if you look at it against the background of what we all know to be the Sadc essence.

The essence of Sadc is a solidarity organisation, it starts with the premise that we are all the same, we share the same values, we are here to stand for one another.

We are victims of a common colonial history and so forth.

But we have seen Sadc shifting gradually from a reflexive expression of solidarity with Zimbabwe to an inquisitive and now proactive disposition.

The 2007 Sadc summit on Zimbabwe in Dar es Salaam was the turning point when that mediation was put in place.

It became specific, focused.

While continuing the solidarity rhetoric, there was a new acceptance that Zimbabwe was facing a crisis and that to get out of that crisis the principal political players had to dialogue and for that dialogue to take place Sadc had to facilitate through the good office of the president of South Africa.

That was a new ball game. Has that new ball game failed? I think it would be premature to say so because as I indicated earlier we must acknowledge that the dialogue led to a set of constitutional reforms and legal reforms that were accepted by Zanu PF and the MDC and adopted by all members of parliament.

That’s a first.

To imagine Mugabe, who likes to say we are our own masters and sovereignty is the beginning and end of everything allowing a constitutional amendment influenced by the Sadc process, supervised by President Thabo Mbeki, I think if we balance our observation and review the record with what we know about Mugabe, and what we have seen happening, we have to conclude that it’s not fair to say that they have failed.

In fact right now, when things seem to be getting worse, wheels falling off, the consolation is that there is an inconclusive Sadc mediation that must come in to conclude.

Thanks to that involvement I think there is a need for people to shift their appreciation of the dynamics and to stop this automatic, uncritical conclusion that Sadc has failed simply because Sadc refuses to do its diplomacy publicly.

Zimbabwe would not have had as free, as peaceful, as fair an election as happened on March 29 had it not been for the Sadc mediation.

Along with that, I want to say that the MDC would not have performed as well as it did in Zanu PF strongholds as happened in this election.

Q: Morgan Tsvangirai says Mbeki should be asked to step down from the mediation. Is that helpful?

A: The opposition must, especially Tsvangirai and the MDC, move away from continuing behaving as opposition and start behaving as a government in waiting.

It is very easy for an opposition politician to shout from a press conference and say president so and so must be removed.

The only people who can do that and get away with it are opposition politicians.

Real people with obligations to govern, people who are ready to govern, can’t do things like that.

They should know better.

You will not get President Mbeki removed because an opposition politician has said so.

The immediate response to that call was for Sadc to say President Mbeki is going nowhere and for Sadc to reaffirm its confidence in President Mbeki.

I think the opposition MDC should start behaving like a government in waiting. They have the numbers in parliament.

They have opposed and succeeded.

Q: What is the best approach for the opposition to circumvent this obduracy by key institutions like the security forces?

A: They need to allow for a reform of key institutions which are a problem right now. This includes the army, the air force the police the Reserve Bank, the public service and so on.

The pockets of resistance which threaten conflict come from these institutions. So the transfer of power from an election is impossible, certainly difficult where you have institutional resistance.

We need to democratise these institutions so that we remove unjustified fears, anxiety and insecurity… to allow key institutional players, heads of some of these institutions who right now fear that an electoral handover will result in retribution against them, to allow them time to retire and to allow a process of providing guarantees for their security so that they do not feel secure because one politician says so at a press conference: “don’t worry nothing will happen to you”. Nobody believes that.

But because nobody allowed the transition that could have happened under the President Thabo Mbeki mediation to take its course, where those issues would have been taken into account, they said no let’s just have the elections.

Well one impact of an election is that you wake up and find that your job is up for grabs and you start becoming insecure.

This transition must see that it provides key legal, institutional guarantees for that.

Q: Does that include guaranteeing Mugabe immunity from prosecution?

A: Well the facilitation of his exit … should include that.

Q: But does the MDC have the capacity to govern Zimbabwe?

A: Not alone. That’s why we are talking about a transition.

If we have an election, we will be talking about an MDC government and then you ask that question.

But a transitional government will bring the best talent in the country.

And a key aspect of a transitional government that people are talking about is that it should have a Prime Minister who will supervise these processes and these functions.

Ideally, that Prime Minister should be somebody who did not participate in the election. And so, to address precisely this question, clearly the MDC alone does not have that capacity.

In fact if the MDC were to do this alone, we would not need a transitional government; that would have been a hand-over of power completely. But that is not possible due to the stand off.

The fact that we have a stand-off means that we do not have the possibility of a hand-over of power.

So, now, we need a transition between this and the next step.

During the transitional process, which is proposed to be around 24 to 36 months, one hopes that the MDC will be learning the ropes of power so that when there are elections, comes the new constitution down the line, the MDC can rule on its own.

You then have a democratic hand-over.

That’s what the MDC were telling Mbeki before the election. But having tasted the pudding, now that the election results tell a different story, they are saying “no give us the whole pot” because of the election results which is why there is a need for sensitive negotiations and maturity, responsible politics and statesmanship.

That’s what is really needed because we are treading on dangerous ground.

But it’s very important to know, that’s why I thought this business of trashing Mbeki is very irresponsible in my view.

The Mbeki team knows too well that Tsvangirai was putting to them proposals for this kind of a transition two months ago, before the election.

They did not even want the election.

They wanted the election delayed and held under a new constitution which made tremendous sense.

The only stumbling block was Mugabe who thought he would win the election and then call the shots and then author his own transitional arrangements and his own succession.

It’s one of those strange situations. Yesterday it was Mugabe blocking the transition, today it is the MDC.

Q: You worked with Mugabe as Information Minister for five years. Do you think he will leave voluntarily?

A: I think he has no choice but to agree to go.

I think the issue is a sensitive one and nothing much will be achieved by addressing it with specific details in public because that’s what riles him.

But it’s not that people should be so continuously afraid of Mugabe that they don’t discuss useful things even in public.

The bottom-line is that he has come to the end of the road and that is a bottom-line which he can do absolutely nothing about other than accepting that fate, accommodating it in order to secure his interest and safeguard his legacy as an African liberation icon.

He would be immensely respected even by people with a lot of issues with him if he plays a statesman role now to exit graciously in the same way he entered.

What is he thinking right now?

He obviously is a very, very shocked man because he had become like a typical African leader who thinks that when there is an election, their people love them so much that they are guaranteed 99,9% of the vote.

And you know taking into account that this is an 84 year old and he is not immune to the vagaries of biology.

He is not at his best in terms of his thinking capacity, even if he tells us or those around him tell us that he is. We ought to know better that he can’t be.

He is as human as anybody else. He can be pumped with all sorts of new medicine but he is at the end of the day a creature of God and he has come not just to the end of his political life, he is very close to the end of his own life and he probably would spend his last days far better with his family and I’m sure his family needs him.

If Mugabe was of Tsvangirai’s age, we would be facing a serious problem, a very, very serious problem, but no we are dealing with an old man.

That is why we are saying, “look let’s be reasonable dealing with this old man, let’s try and be as dignified as possible”.

But otherwise he is terrified. He is afraid. He can’t imagine life without the trappings of high office, the sirens of his motorcade. He can’t imagine that.

That’s the life he had known since he came out of the bush.

Here is a guy who was in prison for 10 or more years, goes to the bush and then comes back and gets into this lifestyle.

He cannot imagine living without that.

Mugabe cannot continue as president of Zimbabwe.

The time for a new leader in Zimbabwe has decidedly come, irrevocably so.

We have not had a platform where everybody is sitting around the table — Morgan (Tsvangirai), Arthur (Mutambara), Welshman Ncube.

The run off was going to create that strategy, but now that it looks unlikely that there will be a run off, the thinking now is to have a transitional arrangement.

The discussions for that should start taking place, especially after this week when the results are announced.

Going forward, the choices are simple.

If the army carries the day, then we are going to have a run-off which would be difficult, or which the MDC will refuse to participate in, in which case Mugabe would be declared the president, which would be catastrophic in the sense that the crisis will be prolonged for a while.

That’s a scenario you should expect.

Otherwise the most likely one is that a result is finalised and the result does not create any new situation that brings any confidence in anybody, it makes the situation worse and mediation kicks in and that mediation should within a month or so conclude.

So it’s either a run-off and the MDC participates with guarantees or a run-off and the MDC refuses to participate and Mugabe is declared a winner or mediation where there is a negotiated settlement.

The one I would like to carry the day is a negotiated settlement.

I will put my money on that one.

The sooner the better. Mugabe should be history within six months.

Q: You have taken various and maybe contradictory positions in your political career. Is that a strength or weakness?

A: One of the beautiful words of wisdom from the late Mahatma Gandhi when some little boy approached him and asked why he had changed his position and it appeared like he contradicted himself, was “young man, consistency is the virtue of a donkey”.

I think in politics consistency is linear.


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