Unity govt: Who will clear political landmines

THERE remains little doubt among most Zimbabweans and observers alike that the Global Political Agreement (GPA) could be the best possible agency towards a better political and economic future for the country.


Nevertheless, the delays and hiccups attendant to the process so far, and hardly two months away from the first anniversary of the GPA, underline the political landmines that still stand in the way of progress in Zimbabwe.
The constitution-making exercise, not to mention the political fracas thereto at the Harare International Conference Centre (HICC) on July 13, is one such political landmine that has so far been exposed.
However, what about the land audit, an outstanding issue which both the MDC and Zanu PF appear so afraid to have thrust in the public domain? In addition, what about the many delays in the rectification of the most basic of people’s needs? The list is long: water and sanitation, particularly in the high-density urban areas but not excluding many of the low-density suburbs; the food, transport and energy shortages across most of Zimbabwe; the agonisingly slow recovery of the education and health systems; the grinding urban poverty and unemployment; rural underdevelopment, etc.
Sadly, these are the bread and butter issues which, still largely unattended to, are quickly dissipating the euphoria that accompanied the inauguration of the inclusive government in February. The reality now is simply this: the economic and social questions will not be resolved as long as these political landmines remain in place. These are the problems which the GPA sought to resolve; they are the same that threaten the transitional process and leaves the economy in limbo.
As I pointed out in an earlier contribution to this new newspaper (“Zimbabwe’s Transitional Government: The First 100 Days”, Zimbabwe Independent, May 22 2009), the problem is all about the tension that underpins the compromise between Zanu  PF (the “defeated”) and the MDC (the “cheated”), and the mostly conflictual  (though mostly subtle) relationship between the two executive authorities — the executive president and the executive prime minister — within the GPA and its inclusive government. The ideal set-up would have been that which the South African architects of the GPA had tried in vain to establish in June 2008, soon after the “run off” of that month: namely, having Mugabe as ceremonial president, while Tsvangirai assumed executive powers as prime minister. It is not difficult to understand why this model was rejected by Mugabe, leaving Mbeki and Sadc to browbeat Tsvangirai into a GPA which, even on paper, is an ambivalent document, to state the least.
But, as has to be acknowledged, it was an outcome that reflected the balance of forces in the Zimbabwean polity on September15, 2008. Even then, the expectation, particularly amongst the South African and Sadc underwriters of the GPA, was that, with the passage of the weeks and months following the signing of the GPA, the old man would gradually but certainly recline towards retirement, as the younger man, the prime minister, got into the saddle, helped to create an integrated (and even non-partisan) Cabinet, and on the basis of which the transitional government would undertake its task, without hindrance and with the full confidence of the Zimbabwean people.
What a great opportunity has gone begging; and so the political squabbling and quibbling goes on. There have been some significant benefits for the MDC in the meantime, in addition to the latitude which the GPA has provided for an opposition movement that hitherto had been virtually outlawed: for example, next week the MDC will see its provincial governors and ambassadors take office, at last!
Still, both the constitution-making exercise and the land audit issue remain the major political landmines. The Zanu PF stalwarts, few in number but disproportionately big in terms of the strategic positions they hold in the state apparatus, will not concede easily to the idea of the land audit, let alone the exercise itself. There is far too much to hide; there is speculation and fear that the revelations of a land audit would be enough to obliterate whatever legitimacy the party of liberation still has in the eyes of the population. This in part explains the persistent “land invasions”: to make the land audit not only unfeasible but also eliminate it altogether as one of the provisions of the GPA.
So far, the strategy is working, as long as the MDC lacks the political capacity to demand that this key element of the GPA is followed through to its logical conclusion and to the benefit of the country, as property rights are restored and agricultural production recovered. No doubt, the land question still stares us in the face, with the decade-long land reform exercise only a live reminder that we are no closer to its resolution.
Both the MDC and its collection of NGOs have, traditionally and ideologically, viewed economic matters as largely secondary to issues of democracy and human rights. For that reason, the MDC still finds it difficult to translate the concept of transformation into a meaningful economic agenda that will also address the national question, confront international capital and its comprador representatives at home, and lay the foundation for urban and rural development. On the contrary, there is the growing temptation in the ranks of the MDC leadership to translate the transition itself into an agency for its nouveaux riches, those corporate pimps some of whom have been among its ardent financial backers in the recent past; whilst correspondingly placing on the backburner the real priorities that concern the urban and rural masses. So, what’s new?   History repeating itself within 30 years of a post-Independence period?
Whatever the case, it is consistent with modern-day mass movements that the MDC, and its NGO’s and donors alike, view the issue of constitution-making as both a priority in terms of the “democracy agenda”, and a soft target, a lesser landmine than the land audit, in the pursuit of the GPA process which will logically culminate in a general election, the outcome of which will guarantee the MDC unfettered victory and power.
That was the MDC’s calculation, until the fiasco at the HICC on July13: Zanu PF strategists had read the script and resolved to put the spanner in the works. “The constitution-making process should be delayed for another three months,” read part of the resolution issued by the war veterans a day after the confrontation at the HICC. At least, that betrayed the plot on the part of the Zanu PF strategists in both the party and the state. Enough indication, at the least, that even the constitution-making exercise is so fraught with dangers that it might not be concluded according to the schedule of the GPA. For there are elements determined to make the GPA process open-ended and even wreck the agreement altogether. So, who will rein in these elements and thereby clear the political landmines?
Reference has already been made to the strategists who have assumed the mantle of would-be “Zanu PF machinery”, few in number but holding strategic positions within the pillars of the state apparatus. The agenda is driven essentially by self-interest and self-preservation, as a class buttressed by a securocracy that had become so powerful over the last decade and now lacks the capacity to either unbundle itself or adjust quickly to the demands of the new dispensation.  Self-anointed as the usurpers of the history and ideology of liberation, these strategists sustain a disproportionate influence within the state, maintain the threat of violence as a major part of the arsenal the securocrats had monopolised over the decade, and orchestrate and hegemonise a public media mantra designed to fuel a desperate fight-back against a would-be ascendant MDC.
It is doubtful that such a backlash can be sustained indefinitely, especially given their lack of a viable alternative to the GPA and against the background of a Zimbabwean population so weary of a miserable past and yearning for a better future.  Also, any discernible improvement in the social and economic life of the people is likely to be associated with the GPA, if not also the MDC as the new kids on the block.  So, inevitably, a GPA success story is more likely to be a feather in the cap of Tsvangirai and the MDC and a nail in the political coffin of Mugabe and Zanu PF. But, the backlash of these incorrigible elements within Zanu PF and the state will continue to wear down the inclusive government, disrupt the GPA, and delay the country’s economic and social recovery.  Hence the need for a game-plan on the part of the inclusive government as a whole, supported by the key stakeholders in the civic society, business and the diplomatic community, in the region and internationally. 
First, the inclusive government should streamline its own functions, so as to ensure a definitive and integrated executive authority, as opposed to the current set-up which appears to be amorphous and divided between the president and prime minister.  The key provision of the GPA in this regard is that the prime minister is the head of the government, responsible for policy formulation and implementation, and is the one to whom all cabinet ministers are answerable.  If the emphasis is on functionality and delivery, then it is the office of the prime minister that should be accorded primacy over those issues of protocol which uphold the superiority of the head of state.
Clearly the prime minister has so far failed to assert his position in this regard, even though his diplomatic stance will have helped portray a less partisan figure, a national rather than party leader.  But the country wants to see and needs a prime minister who must impress as the man in charge of policy, leading from the front in all state matters, and in close and visible liaison with his ministers.  In doing so, he must also create the appropriate modus operandi through which to win the confidence and trust of a head of state who has been all in charge for almost 30 years.  Only then can we expect a thoroughgoing implementation of the GPA, including constitution making and the land audit.
Second, the state bureaucracy itself requires streamlining through the requisite change of guards, not as part of retribution against misfits or reward for new loyalists, but as the need to ensure that the state is equipped with skills and personalities who understand the demands and imperatives of the new dispensation.  In this regard, the Public Service Act can be used as it was in the early 1980s, to retire and replace the service chiefs (including the chairman of the Public Service Commission) and selected permanent secretaries, This is a necessary exercise in renewal and rejuvenation; it also sends the message that it cannot be business as usual under the new dispensation. For such changes will liberate the latent forces within the state apparatus, towards a new mission and the confidence that Zimbabweans can leave up to any challenge, as they did in 1980.
Third, the inclusive government should institute a series of non-partisan think tanks, beginning with the political in which the old and the retired politicians can offer their advice, to the economic and technical as proposed by deputy prime minister Arthur Mutambara in his initiative, “The Zimbabwe 2040 Vision”.   
Last but not least, regional, continental and international support remains crucial for Zimbabwe, easier to mobilise and engage once the inclusive government is truly on course and has established its credentials with the Zimbabwean society.  However, even the element of oversight on the part of these factors should remain at hand, not least in the face of such real threats to Zimbabwe’s transitional process. 
=Ibbo Mandaza is a Zimbabwean academic and publisher. 
         
By Ibbo Mandaza

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