Editor’s Memo: Tsvangirai, Mugabe Should Work Together

IF the current power-sharing deal does not collapse due to the simmering political clashes between the parties to it, President Robert Mugabe and incoming Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai would need to find common ground and agree to a collective reconstruction agenda.

 

So far there is no good reason to believe the two have a common national agenda on anything other than threadbare protestations of unity on the basis of an otherwise profoundly-flawed agreement that leaves Mugabe firmly in charge as head of state and government.

Mugabe is also chairman of cabinet and commander-in-chief of the defence forces. He is further chair of the National Security Council (currently known as Joint Operations Command) and will be the final authority on everything which matters in government. The need for him to consult or sound out Tsvangirai before making appointments is just a silver lining in a dark cloud.

Tsvangirai, as deputy chairman of cabinet and chair of the Council of Ministers, is undoubtedly a junior partner to Mugabe. Through irresistible pressure and deceit he was given a shell of a premier’s mantle or a false impression of power, while Mugabe retained the substance of it by means fair and foul.

Tsvangirai will have to manoeuvre in the limited operational space and if he is buccaneering and dynamic enough he may seize control and be influential.

This may anger a lot of people who appreciate that Mugabe has no chance of beating Tsvangirai in a free and fair election. But this is the reality. For the sceptical let’s wait until push comes to shove as it inevitably will. It’s just a matter of time.

Some may try to sugar-coat the power-sharing agreement by interpreting it in a different way or clutch at straws. That’s fine, but in the end it is clear that Mugabe remains in control of the levers of power. This was not surprising at all considering the gross imbalance in power relations between Zanu PF and the MDC, but the ultimate disequilibrium is rather too disproportionate.

However, if the deal holds Mugabe and Tsvangirai need to develop a serious and common reconstruction agenda to rescue the troubled country and move it forward.

A recent paper by the Centre for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), a non-profit affiliate of the US Chamber of Commerce and one of the four core institutes of the National Endowment for Democracy, states clearly what needs to be done in a post-conflict society like Zimbabwe.

In post-conflict societies, reconstruction efforts must focus on rebuilding and strengthening institutions in addition to providing humanitarian aid and basic infrastructure. It says:

“The private sector plays a crucial role in advancing reconstruction and establishing credible institutions in post-conflict societies.

“Institutional and economic reforms must be carried out at the grassroots level in order to cultivate a sense of responsibility within local communities and to engage the local private sector and civil society in meeting specific development needs of post-conflict countries.

“Post-conflict reconstruction is a challenging process for any nation recovering from protracted violence, and is often looked at with a dose of criticism and scepticism. It is especially difficult when early hopes for better livelihoods, economic prosperity, and conflict resolution meet the realities of political battles, ethnic disputes, misguided policies, social disorder, and quarrels over key resources.

“Still, post-conflict reconstruction can also be a time for hope. As reconstruction efforts mount, a unique window of opportunity for reforms opens up as domestic decision-makers, business leaders, social actors, and international donors come together in an attempt to create a more positive future for the citizens of a country emerging from conflict. Seizing this opportunity to implement real reforms is one of the greatest challenges facing all actors involved in reconstruction processes.

“Experience suggests one way to approach the complex challenges of post-conflict reconstruction is to view the process as a balancing act of providing sufficient humanitarian relief without compromising longer-term development objectives. These longer-term objectives include developing institutions –– not government agencies, but political, economic, and social structures and mechanisms –– that allow free market democracies to take root.

“The term “reconstruction” as applied to post-conflict countries can be somewhat misleading. It is often narrowly understood to mean the restoration of physical infrastructure: rebuilding houses, roads, bridges, factories, etc. In fact, these projects are often showcased in public coverage of reconstruction efforts, as they are easy to grasp and visualise –– one can see a new building where it wasn’t before, a government office with brand new computers on once-empty desks, or a functioning public utility system that lay in ruins just a year earlier.

“Although this physical element of reconstruction is undoubtedly important, experience shows it is not sufficient for the sustained, long-term political and socio-economic development of societies emerging from conflict.”

Equal attention should be paid to the reconstruction – and in many cases building from scratch – of institutions that underlie functioning market economies and democracies. Institutions are social, economic, and political structures that guide human behaviour. These may be laws and regulations, as well as informal rules of human cooperation, a vibrant civil society, or independent media.

Post-conflict reconstruction must provide sufficient humanitarian relief and physical infrastructure without neglecting longer-term development objectives that can only be achieved through institutional reforms.