Candid Comment: The People and the Beast

THE agreement by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) national council to be part of the inclusive government is a controversial one to say the least. 


The controversy stems from the reaction of various sections of the MDC-T itself to the agreement with doubts over conditionalities being met by February 11.

Simultaneously civil society organisations have expressed cautious optimism at best.

The key question that is on almost every thinking citizen’s mind however is whether the events of the last week will herald change, and if so, what sort of change?

The sceptics are quick to point out that the equitable power-sharing of ministries has not been realised and therefore this deal is dead in the water and it’s just a question of time before everything crumbles.

Those that claim to be pragmatists argue that there was no option for the MDC after the Sadc extraordinary summit of January 26 had made its decision, while the optimists, seeing the glass as half full, view the entire process as giving the long suffering people of Zimbabwe a chance of having a government that responds to the humanitarian and economic crisis.

All of this is well and good, even understandable, given the dire circumstances that the country finds itself in. There are a number of issues that must however be brought into public discourse, and if possible, understanding. The first of these revolves around how to perceive this inclusive government.

The Zanu PF/MDC government can only be viewed as transitional because, for one, it cannot last until 2013 (as prescribed by the current constitution), secondly because it will never achieve total international support in its current form and therefore will be unable to address the political and humanitarian crisis effectively, and thirdly, because the levels of mistrust between the two main principals will remain irreversibly high, leading to threats of pulling out, as well as manoeuvres to get fresh elections as soon as is politically possible.  

The second issue that must be placed on the table is that the Global Political Agreement (GPA), for all its flowery language, is at best a political party document that seeks to create a framework for how the political parties will communicate with each other and what issues they are permitted to discuss in private or in public.

In fact, the GPA is a sort of “fundamentalist law” for the political parties because no one is really allowed to promise anything outside of its parameters.

This means that where, for example, it states that the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act as amended should be the tool through which new media players are allowed to operate in the country, discussions on this particular law will then be framed specifically around that process as opposed to its thoroughly repressive function against freedom of expression.

In fact, the fate of Zimbabwe’s media would ostensibly then reside in the ability of the political parties to negotiate with each other, as opposed to consulting the media fraternity and the public.  

The GPA does this in a number of other areas, such as sections on national reconciliation, the economy and most significantly the constitutional reform process.

The agreement must therefore be viewed as a politically-motivated document that is really about the political parties more than anyone else.

It is a creature that will consistently be evoked into action by either of the political parties as they seek ascendancy over the other or to prevent the same.

 
A third issue that cannot be ignored is the actual government/cabinet itself. There should be no doubt that when it does finally become a reality, this inclusive government’s cabinet will be as competitive as parliament.

This is not to say there will be votes on each motion passed, but that the role and extent to which each political party leader either as president, prime minister or deputy prime minister makes a decision about improving health, revitalising education etc will be played along for political gain. 

It would be far from surprising if the three principals in their government capacities fall over each other at the opening ceremony of a clinic, school or business centre, trying to claim credit.

The ministers too will compete since they will be eager to prove their capabilities to their principals as well as position themselves as potential successors.

So while this inclusive government will seek to put across an image of being people-centred, it will really be about the politics, and about outmanoeuvring each other, even at the expense of the livelihoods of the masses.

It is therefore fair to infer that given the foregoing, the inclusive government is a political creature that will be difficult for the people of Zimbabwe to either fully understand let alone influence as far as is democratically possible.

It is my view that in order to tame this beast, to bring it to heel, there must be popular emphasis on a constitutional reform process that is far-reaching, authentic, people-driven and above all, democratic.

The immediate target must therefore be Article 6 of the GPA, which refers to constitutional reform processes and is essentially about the political parties seeking to manage, as far as is possible, how they eventually get a fresh election.

This means that the principals are all too fully aware that a constitutional reform process is merely their Plan B of getting rid of each other, as long they control the end-product document and determine the framework under which new elections are held.

 
This therefore requires civil society organisations to try as far as is possible to make constitutional reform a non-negotiable issue outside of the framework of parliament and Article 6 of the GPA, if the processes are not to be compromised by political party interests.

 
Zhangazha is director of Misa (Zimbabwe).

BY TAKURA ZHANGAZHA

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