THERE will no doubt be many people on both sides of the political spectrum who have questions and queries about the “power-sharing” deal which was signed last Monday.
A good number of these people may be reacting less on the basis of an objective analysis of a process of negotiations that, with the benefit of only brief hindsight, now appears to have been inevitable in terms of its outcome, than as a knee-jerk reaction to an event that definitely represents a major turning point in the political history of contemporary Zimbabwe.
The complaint on the part of some Zanu PF heavyweights to the effect that Mugabe has “sold out” smacks of the kind of self-denial that has pervaded that party even as it faces defeat. These heavyweights are just as responsible as Mugabe himself for the demise of Zanu PF: they have lacked the courage and conviction to warn their leader of the gathering clouds nor urge him to place the party and nation beyond himself.
Of course, Mugabe himself is the master of self-denial: the problem in Zimbabwe is extraneous, he asserted in his largely incoherent address during the signing ceremony on Monday; and above all, he is not responsible at all for the division in his party nor for political circumstances that have led to this “humiliation” at both the March polls and the consequent capitulation to the “power-sharing” deal.
For, a closer reading of the “power-sharing” agreement does contradict Mugabeâ€™s assertion that Zanu PF is “still in a dominant position”, less still in the “driving seat”, to quote his statement to the central committee on Wednesday. And within the few months that follow the historic deal, he may learn to understand that, in the real world of power relations, there is no such thing as “power-sharing”, especially when someone other than yourself is actually in the driving seat, as the executive prime minister, like you were in 1980.
Worse still, it might turn out to be delusional to expect that, having conceded defeat as Mugabe has, and no longer able to live off resources of the state as Zanu PF has been doing with such reckless abandon, the party can be “re-invigorated” and “revived”. As history and precedent can testify, no party of independence in Africa has survived having lost state power.
The “power-sharing” agreement gives Morgan Tsvangirai immense executive powers as the new prime minister, and leaves Mugabe as a virtual ceremonial president. It was essentially fallacious for the architects of the agreement to have sought to “share” power between the two persons and their respective offices. But it will prove even more farcical, as the agreement is rolled out and implemented, to expect such a “power-sharing” exercise. The devil, as the saying goes, is in the detail; but, likewise, the reality will dawn with practice and in the exercise of power itself.
Essentially, the prime minister is the head of government, to whom all cabinet ministers are accountable, and is responsible for the oversight of the formulation and implementation of policies by the cabinet. Whichever way one reads the text of the agreement, it is clear that the prime minister and his Council of Ministers constitute the centre of power in the new dispensation.
Of course, much will depend on the prime ministerâ€™s ability to build and forge a team out of the apparently disparate ministers that come into cabinet. To his advantage will be the core principles that guide all cabinets: collective responsibility under the leadership of the prime minister; and complete deference to Cabinet matters and policies ahead of any party considerations.
Herein lies the opportunity for the new prime minister to build a team that will be loyal to both himself and the task at hand. There is enormous potential for a real new dispensation that, in Tsvangiraiâ€™s own expectation as expressed in his address last Monday, will render party labels increasingly meaningless.
The backdrop of a former ruling party now on the ropes and the necessity of the prime minister himself having to downplay his party in favour of a united government â€” all help towards the successful implementation of the agreement signed on September 15.
At least two other observations need to be made with respect to this historic agreement.
First, is the priority given to the “restoration of economic stability and growth in Zimbabwe”. Clearly, the architects of the agreement were alive to the studies that have been completed and expectant of a political settlement in Zimbabwe.
Here is an opportunity, as outlined in article III of the agreement, for the country to develop a genuine economic policy framework, on the back of national dialogue through the National Economic Council, as a key advisory body to the government.
Related to this, though an important provision in its own right, is the reference to the land question (article V) and how its resolution will constitute not only the fulfillment of the social justice that has been a central objective in this regard, but also the backbone of Zimbabweâ€™s economic development.
The proposed “comprehensive, transparent and non-partisan land audit” is, of course, long overdue and will help to restore the noble objectives of the land reform programme whilst also complementing both the social justice and economic considerations.
For, the abuse of the land reform programme over the last eight years had become one of the most controversial subjects in the politics of Zimbabwe, not to mention the extent to which it has also impacted negatively on agricultural production.
Above all, it is evident that the agreement itself is premised on the need for a new Constitution for Zimbabwe. In fact, the life of the agreement begins and ends virtually with the process through which Zimbabweans will develop and design their Constitution, within a very well-defined time frame, from November, 2008 to April 2010, by which time the Constitution of Zimbabwe will be law, following a referendum in February, 2010.
Significantly, the agreement states, under Article XXIII, Section 23.1.C, that “this agreementâ€¦..will be reviewed at the conclusion of the constitution-making process”
Therefore, it is a fair inference that this transitional government will conclude its work by April 2010, after which there should be elections under the new Constitution, by June 2010, if the normal three months are required in preparation for the day that will see Zimbabwe truly enter a new dispensation.
By Ibbo MandazaÂ
*Mandaza is a poiltician.