HomeCommentEditor's Memo: Zuma Faces Uphill Task

Editor’s Memo: Zuma Faces Uphill Task

SOUTH African President Jacob Zuma faces an unenviable task of breaking the deadlock on serial violations of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) and clearing outstanding issues which continue to polarise political relations between the parties involved while threatening the unstable inclusive government.

Zuma arrived in the country yesterday and held meetings with President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara on the current political situation, focusing on lingering GPA issues. He is expected to hold further meetings with all the principals together today.


Zuma will also today officially open the Harare Agricultural Show, but his main mission is to push for a resolution of disputes that have largely rendered the limping government dysfunctional.

The talks will show whether Zuma has the political leverage to tackle the stubborn outstanding issues and turn around the fortunes of a country ruined by a decade of misrule.

In his capacity as Sadc chair Zuma will hold meetings to sort out issues which could explode into a crisis at the forthcoming regional summit in the DRC if left simmering.

The issues include the dispute over the sharing and swearing-in of provincial governors, the appointment of Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono and Attorney-General Johannes Tomana, the swearing in of Deputy Minister of Agriculture Roy Bennett and the arrests of MDC-T MPs.

There is also a dispute over constitutional reform process and appointment of members of constitutional commissions, especially the media one. The quarrel over the mandate of the ministries of Information Communication Technology and Transport is also another matter.

Then there is the issue of the review of the six months of the inclusive government which might open a Pandora’s Box by bringing up all unresolved or parked issues.

Of course there has been slight movement on a few issues, including the appointment of diplomats and meeting of National Security Council. The issue of permanent secretaries was resolved earlier via capitulation by the MDC factions.

Zuma will also have to help break the deadlock on the issue of constitutional reform. There is an impasse over the process and leadership. The process is now consumed by chaos and confusion. This is a critical issue because if the process stalls or worse still collapses, there would be no elections perhaps until 2013.

The new democratic system will require a constitution that establishes the desired framework of the democratic government. The constitution should set the purposes of government, limits on governmental powers, the means and timing of elections by which government officials and legislators will be chosen, the inherent rights of the people, and the relation of the national government to other lower levels of government.

Within the central government, if it is to remain democratic, a clear division of authority should be established between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government. Strong restrictions should be included on activities of the police, intelligence services, and military forces to prohibit any political interference.

In the interests of preserving the democratic system and preventing dictatorial trends and measures, the constitution should preferably be one which establishes a devolved system with significant prerogatives reserved for the regional and local levels of government. This is how best to introduce a democratic dispensation.  

The current process of constitution-making is flawed and cannot produce such a desired document.
Zuma has a mountain to climb. Mugabe and Zanu PF are recovering and becoming intransigent again.

On the relatively easy issue of governors, for instance, the parties had agreed on the formula and when the new governors must come in but Zanu PF is now backtracking, claiming it is Mugabe’s prerogative to appoint governors who are his representatives in provinces.

Mugabe is also determined to refuse outright to compromise on the Gono and Tomana issue. There is going to be a vicious fight on this before the matter could be closed.

The MDC is arguing that Gono and Tomana were appointed in violation of the MoU signed by parties in July last year. The MoU froze senior government appointments pending the conclusion of inter-party talks.

However, Mugabe is saying despite the MoU he had a constitutional obligation to make those appointments.

Following the House of Assembly’s adoption on July 30 of the MDC-T resolution calling for the appointment of a Select Committee to investigate Tomana’s conduct in all politically-motivated prosecutions, the next step is for parliament’s Committee on Standing Rules and Orders (CSRO) to appoint the members of the Select Committee. 

As with all parliamentary committees the membership will reflect the political composition of the House.  The CSRO meets on Monday. Zanu PF says parliament cannot investigate the Attorney-General. This has intensified the battle over the Tomana issue.  

Zuma would need to use all his diplomatic savvy, experience and the capabilities of his country, which are largely undeliverable in the circumstances, to resolve these issues. Maybe his experience in dealing with the intractable Burundi conflict will help.

Zuma would need to be firm, yet measured in his approach. Clear thinking is required as to how the dispute could be cracked.  

The parties and their leaders — including Zuma — must always remember that in negotiations it is not the relative justice of the conflicting views and objectives which determines the content of a negotiated agreement. The outcome is largely determined by the power capacity of each side.

This is what the GPA reflects and the sooner the parties and their officials understand this, the better. But the hard truth is that Zuma faces an uphill task to get the job done.

Dumisani Muleya

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