Zim: Any Hope Beyond Amendment 19?

THE juxtaposition of Arthur Mutambara’s Inconvenient Truths about the West and Zimbabwe and Tendai Dumbutshena’s Mutambara: Wake up, smell the coffee in last week’s edition of the Zimbabwe Independent helped in highlighting the current debate on the political crisis in Zimbabwe, particularly the apparent deadlock over the so-called Global Political Agreement (GPA) which was signed on September 15, 2008.

(I am at a loss as to the origins of the term GPA — especially the “global” part of it — when the process towards the agreement itself was for the most part couched in secrecy, and the parties to it hardly reflective of a global purview of the problems confronting Zimbabwe, let alone a national consensus).

The debate will reach its climax on January 20 when the Parliament of Zimbabwe will consider Amendment 19 or the legal expression of the agreement signed on September 15, 2008.

Already there are indications that the MDC-Tsvangirai, whose current standing in the House of Assembly is almost unassailable, is likely to jettison Amendment 19 and put paid to the proposed inclusive government without which Mugabe and Zanu PF will sink deeper into the political and economic quagmire.

Therefore, there is need to consider the balance of forces that have accompanied and impinged upon these developments, as the basis for some insight into the possible trajectory of events in the weeks and months ahead.

This contribution to the debate concludes with suggestions on the way forward, not least because the MDC-Tsvangirai itself has so far not proposed an alternative to Amendment 19, nor a political and economic roadmap on the basis of which Zimbabwe can redeem itself from the current crisis.

Tendai Dumbutshena was correct in cautioning Arthur Mutambara, a signatory to the so-called GPA, against an abiding faith in the agreement.

Likewise, Dumbutshena’s insinuation that Mutambara has more than a vested interest in an agreement without which he might, on the basis of the outcome of the March 29 election last year, have become politically irrelevant in Zimbabwe.

Well, it is true that Mutambara has been the main political proponent of the so-called GPA ever since its signing as the  (political and economic) balance of forces have tilted against the goal of an inclusive government.

So much so that Mutambara has become blind to those changes in the balance of forces that he now wants to apportion blame for the imminent and impending demise of Amendment 19 directly to the West, indirectly to Tsvangirai, but hardly to Mugabe.

But, then, what in Mutambara’s view are the “inconvenient truths” about the West over Zimbabwe? The fact that most of the West, and likewise such African luminaries as Desmond Tutu and John Sentamu, want Mugabe to go?

But is that not a view shared by the majority of Zimbabweans, including many if not most in Zanu PF itself? And how many among the “Pan-Africanist” leaders of the African Union and Sadc do not share this view that Mutambara associates with the “imperialist” design on Zimbabwe?

As part of the analysis of the balance of forces that characterise the Zimbabwean situation, it is important to assert at the outset that Africa’s current position in the international division of labour is that which seriously limits its leverage vis-à-vis those who govern our globe — the imperialists!

This has not only proscribed Pan-Africanism in terms of its political and economic objectives, but also explains why it remains so relevant as long as Africa and peoples of African origin remain at the bottom of the human heap.

More significantly, this means that the post-colonial state itself is simultaneously a creation of, and operates within the orbit and purview of, that very world order to which Africa and Pan-Africanism is purportedly opposed.

In reality, however, “anti-imperialism” becomes largely rhetorical, invariably a plea for inclusion into and sympathy from the West, than an assertion of independence, disengagement and self-confidence on the part of African leaders and their states.

This makes Mutambara’s dream of an “African solution” to the Zimbabwe crisis not only illusory but also a political function the import of which is to distract and divert attention from such problems as confront Zimbabwe today.

For the Zimbabwe case itself is yet another classic illustration of the impotence of both the African Union and Sadc.

The continental body failed so dismally to deal with the Zimbabwe crisis last June when, confronted with Mugabe who had just emerged from the sham election that was the “run-off” on June 27 2008, it was the first to accord him the legitimacy he desperately needed as president, in the face of opposition at home and the world over.

And it has been the function of Sadc itself, as an inter-state organisation and through the mediation of one of its heads of state, Thabo Mbeki, that Mugabe has been able so far to weather the storm of opposition at home and the world over.

But, most significantly for this discussion, it is this Sadc initiative that many will regard as having redeemed Mugabe from defeat at the polls in March 2008.

Of course, the so-called GPA signed on  September 15  might have been the best possible solution, reflecting as it did the balance of forces between the MDC and Zanu PF at that critical time. And if the deal had been consummated as expected in the days and weeks following September 15, even the most rabid critics of Sadc might have celebrated such a breakthrough.

The point, however, is that the so-called GPA appears truly to be “dead”, to quote Tendai Dumbutshena. But it is not that the agreement itself was bad in terms of its main elements. Besides, the MDC had, rightly or wrongly, been party to the main import of that agreement and Tsvangirai appeared ready to enter into it as soon as he had signed it.

As I pointed out in an earlier submission to this newspaper, the agreement constituted essentially a transitional mechanism, of no more than 18 months (and not five years as Dumbutshena so strongly asserts), at the end of which period Zimbabwe would have a new constitution, followed thereafter by a general election.

In terms of that interim and transitional power structure, Mugabe would be head of state, or virtually a ceremonial president as Canaan Banana was in 1980; and Morgan Tsvangirai as head of government, an executive prime minister as Mugabe was in 1980.

There are also important aspects of the agreement that seek to address the problems and pitfalls that have been attendant to the Zimbabwean state over the past decade or more, especially issues relating to civil liberties and press freedom; and the need for a land audit as part and parcel of an economic recovery programme for Zimbabwe.

As pointed out by Dumbutshena (but hardly mentioned by Mutambara), it is Mugabe and Zanu PF that should be held responsible for converting what might have been the beginning of a “solution” that the agreement offered, into a problem.

In an address to his party’s central committee soon after the signing of the agreement in September last year, Mugabe described this development as a “humiliation” which would have to be accepted as the cost of having failed at the polls in March.

But the gist of his overall statement is one that should have informed the likes of Mutambara about Zimbabwe’s inherent vulnerability to Western pressure, including the extent to which even the agreement itself will have been an outcome of the threat of more and more sanctions against the Zimbabwe state, and not excluding the possibility of external intervention under the aegis of the limited Security Council.

Mugabe acknowledged as much as he pleaded with his party faithful to accept the agreement.

But as Dumbutshena has outlined, almost everything Mugabe has done since September has virtually rendered him and the Zimbabwean state even more vulnerable to these external factors: by ignoring the central protocols of the September agreement, treating his prime minister designate as an enemy rather than as a partner, taking unilateral initiatives the effect of which has been to pre-empt some of the key provisions of the agreement, and continuing to pretend that it is business as usual in the face of an economic implosion.

Above all, Mugabe and Zanu PF have ignored the rapidly changing balance of forces in which their political fortunes are fast receding and that of the opposition rising correspondingly.

This means simply the following: any hope that Mugabe and Zanu PF could ever reverse this trend and recover the political initiative in Zimbabwe is entirely non-existent.

And if, as is expected to be the case next Tuesday, the MDC formally rejects Amendment 19, it will be a development enough to cause Mugabe and his stalwarts sleepless nights.

If so, Morgan Tsvangirai and his colleagues and allies at home and abroad will have achieved the main objective for which the MDC was established in 1999. However, there is the bigger picture that is Zimbabwe’s current economic and political crisis.

This will continue to face us all even as Amendment 19 is defeated. It is this absence of an alternative national agenda — the glaring and growing power vacuum — that should scare Zimbabweans.
So what is to be done?

First, parliament should itself seek to salvage some of the key elements of the September agreement, at least as a framework for reinstating and establishing some semblance of a transitional authority for the next 18 months, during which the constitutional reform exercise is undertaken and the economic recovery plan effected.

Parliament itself should decide on the leadership and composition of such a transitional authority, taking into account the respective strengths and representations within the two houses, and in relation only to the main tasks to be undertaken by a slim cabinet and the inclusion in the latter of specialists in the financial and economic fields.

For example, there are several outstanding economists and financial experts in the diaspora who could be almost indispensable to these talks.

Second, the broad framework that is the September Agreement should be used as the basis for a national dialogue that will necessarily involve all key factors in Zimbabwean society: all political parties, the churches, civic bodies like the NCA and Woza, media organisations, intelligentsia and other professional groups, the trade unions, traditional leaders and peasant associations.

It is this national dialogue that should ensure the evolution of the best possible Constitution for Zimbabwe whilst also informing and pervading the national economic recovery programme.

Third, the United Nations should institute a programme through which to mobilise regional, continental (African) and international support to this national process in Zimbabwe, towards a successful transition and the conduct of free and fair elections at the end of the 18 months’ period.

Ibbo Mandaza is a Zimbabwean academic, author and publisher. He is one of the founding members of the Mavambo-Kusile-Dawn Movement and its current national coordinator.

BY IBBO MANDAZA