Daunting Mission Awaits Unity Govt

ZIMBABWE’S inclusive government has a Herculean task to resolve a decade-long crisis which is characterised by deep mistrust between its leaders, a worsening humanitarian situation, international isolation and a flagging economy.

The country’s political rivals, President Robert and the leaders of the two MDC formations, Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, signed a power-sharing deal last September which will be consummated today when a new cabinet will be sworn in.

The cabinet will be charged with a mandate to formulate policies to extricate the nation from the current crisis that has forced over five million people to flee to other countries in search of a better life.
Political analysts said the biggest challenge to the unity government is to get Mugabe and Tsvangirai to work together for the common good.

The analysts said the level of mistrust between Mugabe and Tsvangirai during the talks for the unity government showed that it would not be easy for the two protagonists to work in common purpose given their different views.

After signing the power-sharing deal on September 15, Mugabe and Tsvangirai haggled over the allocation of ministerial portfolios, provincial governors’ posts, appointment of ambassadors and permanent secretaries, among others, between their parties, which resulted in a seven-month delay in implementing the pact.

It took several Sadc meetings to convince the two leaders to form the government.

“Working together is the biggest challenge that the politicians in the new administration will have to overcome and it won’t be an easy task,” observed Alex Magaisa, a Zimbabwean lawyer and newspaper columnist based in the UK. “Not only will they have to remove the political structures and rules that impede free politics, they will also have the challenge of revamping the retrogressive political culture that is now part of the national psyche.”

He added that party interests should be subordinated to national cause.

Still on the political front, the analysts said, the inclusive government faces a challenge on how to achieve national healing after last year’s bloody campaign for the June 27 presidential election run-off.

According to the MDC-T, close to 200 of its supporters were killed, plus 10 000 injured and thousands more displaced by state security agents, Zanu PF militia and war veterans who violently campaigned for Mugabe. On the other end, Zanu PF also accused the MDC-T of having perpetrated political violence.

Fears abound that there would be a bitter fight in government over national healing with the MDC-T insisting on prosecution of perpetrators of violence while Mugabe and Zanu PF would seek immunity.

Government would also seek to embark on institutional reforms of parastatals and the civil service that have been systematically militarised by Mugabe since 2000.

For a genuine transition to take place, the analysts said, government will also have to ease out security generals who have publicly announced their allegiance to political parties.

During the run-off campaign, Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander Constantine Chiwenga, army Chief of Staff Martin Chedondo, police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri and Prisons Commissioner General Paradzayi Zimondi publicly declared their support for Mugabe and swore that they would never salute Tsvangirai.

The other immediate challenge confronting the new administration, the analysts said, was the worsening humanitarian crisis.

Government should immediately source regional and international assistance to feed over five million people who are near starvation and to stop cholera, which has killed over 3 400 people and affected more than 70 000 people since its outbreak in August 2003.

So serious is food insecurity throughout the country, that the Mugabe government has predicted that over 8,2 million would soon need aid.

Despite concerted local, regional and international efforts to contain cholera, the disease is spreading throughout the country because of lack of access to clean water and sanitation.

The political analysts said the new government needed to urgently come up with a programme of action to be internationally financed to end this humanitarian catastrophe.

Government also faces the challenge of reviving the health delivery system that saw health workers leaving the country in droves, lack of drugs and equipment at public hospitals.

The education delivery system has also gone down. Teachers have been on strike since the beginning of last year pressing to be paid in foreign currency, while some of them left for neighbouring countries where the majority work as labourers.

According to Unicef, 94% of rural schools in the country failed to open for the first term.

Once the humanitarian situation is in check, the analysts said government would have to shift focus to economic revival by re-engaging the international community for balance of payments, lines of credit and other rescue packages.

Government would also have to persuade the international community to lift declared and undeclared sanctions and at the same time work flat-out to boost domestic production to increase foreign currency inflows.

The economic policies, the analysts suggested, must take into consideration the plight of the poor who have been on the receiving end of Mugabe’s poor governance over the past decade.

“From an economic point of view, government has to formulate and implement positive economic policies that will benefit the ordinary people,” Magaisa said. “It is up to the government to confront economic challenges but it will need external assistance. This means that a major challenge is rebuilding relations with the international community. Our new administration must demonstrate the necessary will and capability to do this and the hope is that their efforts will be guided by the public interest.”

The country’s economy has been in free fall since the late 1990s and is characterised by high inflation now estimated above one trillion percent, over 90% unemployment and high interest rates, among other wrongs.

Sanctions against Zimbabwe, the analysts said, would have to be lifted but were quick to point out that it was up to the new administration to demonstrate its commitment to democracy, rule of law and the upholding of human rights before the West can come in to assist.

BY CONSTANTINE CHIMAKURE