Candid Comment: Tsvangirai Deserves A Better Deal

“THE best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity,” said William Butler Yeats in his poem The Second Coming, a century ago.

 

He wasn’t of course referring to the plight of ordinary Zimbabweans who have no voice in the current inter-party talks. If these Zimbabweans lack anything, it is knowledge of the objects of dispute between their political leaders rather than what they themselves want: peace and food.

It is those least affected by the standoff who are against any immediate political settlement –– in the name of “the people”. The people have become so indeterminate that everyone wants to speak on their behalf so long as there is money to be had.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai has expressed his commitment to the talks between his party and Zanu PF. His formation’s secretary-general Tendai Biti this week said “failure is not an option”.

Both men know what they are talking about, having been engaged in the talks for close to 15 months. It would however be disingenuous of them to insist on the March 29 electoral upshot as a non-negotiable benchmark as if they were ignorant of the law.

Similarly, it would be unconscionable for Mugabe to offer, and unimaginable for Tsvangirai to accept, a non-executive portfolio in any transitional authority, given his performance and that of his party in the March elections. It is not for foreigners to tell us this; fair play commends it, so does commonsense.

But let these power games not be confused with a desire to fulfill the “will of the people”. People elected their parliamentary representatives who have a legal mandate and they are waiting for them to deliver on their promises.

What has marred the “talks about talks” is either malicious propaganda or the ignorance of those who have been excluded. They are being treated as the final thing when they should not be.

My understanding is that those involved who signed the MoU are discussing only the structure and mechanics of the transitional authority or unity government, and how executive power should be shared.

There is no final constitution as yet.

The draft constitution which will be adopted at the talks will be subjected to a referendum under the transitional authority where everyone will presumably have a say.

Part of the propaganda is driven by those obsessed with the facilitator in the talks, Thabo Mbeki’s failure. Having convinced themselves that he is engaged in a conspiracy with Mugabe, they can’t admit that they were wrong; that Mbeki might be on the verge of a breakthrough . Thus any sign of progress must be grudgingly attributed to the lone actions of Botswana or Zambia.

In any event, he can’t get anything right unless and until he can see the Zimbabwean crisis through Western eyes. That’s why Botswana’s Ian Khama has become such a salutary example of how all African leaders should behave.

I would agree if the argument was that Mbeki should leave the final solution to Zimbabweans. But instead, it was the Sadc summit in Johannesburg which was expected to conjure up a solution. That solution was in the form of a ban on Mugabe from attending, notwithstanding that he is one of the key stakeholders who was supposed to tell his side of the story.

I don’t know if those organisations pushing this bizarre line expected Sadc leaders to take them seriously.One of them was the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions which has been so entangled in politics it is hard to know if it still represents workers.

While it is calling for an increase in daily cash withdrawals, I know nearly 50% of workers in industry don’t earn more than $300. Why has it placed itself in this awkward situation where its leaders have to fight in the same corner as capital against workers?

Meanwhile Mbeki has once again demonstrated his neighbourly concern, cautioning after the Sadc summit against over-reliance on foreigners to dictate what is good for Zimbabwe.

“This is critically important because any solution that is imposed from outside will not last; it will not last unless it is a common product that is owned by this entire collective of the leadership of Zimbabwe,” he said.

Tsvangirai deserves better in any political settlement for the sake of both national progress and healing. But those advising him impetuously to pull out of the talks are misleading him. They are the same politically-blind dark forces, “full of passionate intensity” who cheated him out of the June 27 election which Mugabe went on to win on a silver platter.

Their motivation is neither in Zimbabwe’s nor Tsvangirai’s interest. Their personal desires have become “the people”.

For any rational person to insist on the March 29 presidential election result as the only benchmark on the way forward is to miss both the logical and legal argument in a political forest.

By Joram Nyathi

 

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