Editor’s Memo: Facing Hard Truths

Every well-meaning and realistic person who genuinely wants an urgent, sustainable political solution to the current Zimbabwe crisis supports the current talks.

 

A workable power-sharing agreement could pave the way for reconstruction to ensure social and economic recovery.

However, these talks reflect our political underdevelopment as a society — its lack of developed institutions, values and attitudes that form the political power system. It also reflects the convolution of the current problems.

Let’s face the hard truths to find our way out.

Given the current situation in which successive elections since 2000 have failed to resolve the crisis, talks appear to be the best way out. They seem to be the most useful tool, although limited in many ways.

The biggest problem is that in the final analysis talks may help to rescue President Robert Mugabe or force the MDC into a negotiated surrender. Otherwise, they have to be pursued to the limit because there are no other options.

Generally speaking, negotiations may not be an option at all. Firmly entrenched dictators who feel secure in their positions may refuse to negotiate with the opposition. Or, when negotiations have been initiated and they recover, they may then refuse to be cooperative. This is what Mugabe is doing.

Yet at the same time an all-out political fight between Zanu PF and MDC would inevitably lead us into civil strife. The conditions for that already exist. Any explosive event would ignite the situation.

This further illustrates why talks must be pursued to the end. However, this is not to say the MDC must accept a raw deal. It must push the frontiers. Mugabe and Zanu PF are hard-nosed, but they must be forced to adjust to the political landscape after March 29.

The assumption underlying this is Mugabe at some level wants the talks and can work with the MDC. If he is just driven by narrow self-interest, deceit and cynicism, as some of his critics say, then talks will lead us nowhere.

Understandably, reacting to recent brutalities, torture, disappearances, and killings, some people say confronting Mugabe head-on is the only way out. They say talks are a waste of time. Mugabe personifies the crisis and cannot be part of the solution, they argue. They also say Mugabe still thinks at the very same warped level at which he created the crisis and cannot pull us out of the woods unless he adopts a paradigm shift.

Others put it simply: As long as Mugabe is in charge nothing will change, except for the worse. They say the solution is for the MDC to pull out of the deal and continue the war of attrition with Mugabe until he quits by himself or is forced to go.

The method suggested is mass action and civil disobedience because, the argument goes, Mugabe has no political legitimacy because he lost the substantially free and fair March 29 election, only to storm back into office through a brutal campaign of violence.

The assumption informing this proposition is that the MDC in its current structure and form is able to mount an open campaign of defiance against Mugabe.

Whatever the merits of the confrontational option, however, one point is clear. By resorting to antagonistic engagement, the MDC would have chosen the very type of terrain and struggle in which Zanu PF would almost always have an upper hand. Zanu PF still has all the instruments of coercion at its disposal.

The MDC’s choice to engage the regime, especially after the March elections in which Mugabe and Zanu PF were defeated was a good decision as the situation appeared ripe for the picking. The only problem was the MDC gave away too much too soon in the negotiations and now is being forced to surrender all key ministries, except perhaps finance.

This deal is very bad, whichever way you look at it, but there is no better option at the moment.

Some amazingly naïve MDC officials and their supporters still claim up to now the agreement is a good deal. They don’t get it. They still deny it leaves Mugabe firmly in charge. They argue illogically that Mugabe is head of state but not head of government because the agreement does not state it in writing.

But it is clear to everybody who is straight-thinking that Mugabe is the head of state and government. His role as head of state is clearly outlined. He is also head of government simply because he chairs cabinet.

Let’s go back to the basics. According to the Oxford Concise Dictionary of Politics, covering political institutions, philosophies, concepts, leaders and thinkers and renowned as one of the most up-to-date, cabinet means “regular meetings of ministers — chaired by a head of government — with authority to make policies and decisions on behalf of government”.

This may be a bitter pill to swallow to some, but that’s the hard truth.

Instead of being in denial, MDC functionaries and their strategists need to remember that in such a conflict characterised by political defiance, things are constantly changing in the field of struggle with continuing interplay of moves, countermoves and manoeuvres. Nothing is static.

Power relationships, both absolute and relative, are subject to constant and sometimes rapid changes.

In the absence of an alternative, the MDC should try to capitalise on this deal. Flawed as it is, it provides significant openings for them. It must also ensure that if the ancien regime continues to resist change, the world will quickly know of it.

By Dumisani Muleya

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