If the inclusive government crumbles the consequences for the country would be ghastly. The failure of the arrangement would derail the anticipated transition which should be anchored on a new constitution and possibly plunge Zimbabwe back into the dark era of repression or lead to something worse.
It could also sidetrack transition and create a Hobbesian state of nature where everyone is against everyone! Under these conditions the country would be gripped by continual fear and the ever-present danger of violent death of those opposed to the current rulers, as well as mass suffering.
The dream of political and economic reforms would be shattered. The minimal gains of recovery would be fast reversed and accelerated economic meltdown which reached its peak last year, with hyperinflation scaling stratospheric levels, would return. Even under the multicurrency regime life would become unbearable, particularly if the economy shifts back to autopilot.
Hardliners in all the parties involved in the inclusive government claim they do not care even if this government fails but the problem is that such bluster and bravado does not offer serious political options. If the inclusive government falls an open political warfare between the rival parties — with attendant consequences — becomes inevitable. The hardliners would light the fire but run away.
There is no viable alternative at the moment. In the current circumstances if the inclusive government collapses things could deteriorate terrifyingly. That is why the current political developments are worrying.
Instead of the political principals putting their heads together to tackle whatever threats to the inclusive government remain, they stoking the fires. They seem completely oblivious of what the consequences of their actions might be.
President Robert Mugabe continues to fuel divisions through his belligerent words and deeds. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC are also stirring up the situation via veiled threats of pulling out of government. Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara albeit now quiet had been adding fuel to fire in his own way.
Mugabe and his Zanu PF lackeys has been waxing lyrical about sanctions and are refusing to make concessions on anything. Last night Mugabe was expected to rattle on about sanctions and other complaints on CNN while he is refusing to address disputed issues back home. His address to the UN General Assembly would also be laden with the same rhetoric.
Mugabe on Wednesday said he was giving the US President Barack Obama’s administration time to lift sanctions its predecessor imposed on his regime due to human rights abuses, killings of opposition supporters and a burning dispute over the chaotic and often violent land reform programme.
Mugabe said in New York sanctions were the main outstanding issue. This is what he told the recent Sadc summit in Kinshasa and a visiting European Union delegation.
Mugabe also dug in over the issue of Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono and Attorney General Johannes Tomana.
This is entirely unhelpful. It’s the sort of intransigence which could collapse the inclusive government in the end. Mugabe might be beginning to take things for granted but the situation could soon progressively deteriorate to crisis levels, leaving the government teetering on the brink.
While Zanu PF is digging in on sanctions and the Gono and Tomana issue, the MDC is fuelling the situation by threatening to pull out. The result can only be more instability in the government and around the country. The Gono issue has particularly become polarising. Gono and Finance minister Tendai Biti are locked in a fierce war of attrition which is gravely destabilising the government.
Mugabe and Tsvangirai should urgently sit down and discuss these issues before political events take their own uncontainable course.
The problem is that Mugabe and his party are no longer prepared to concede even an inch of political ground and have to all intents and purposes given the MDC a Hobson’s choice. It’s now a take it or leave it approach. Once relations start to deteriorate to those levels the expected transition would dissolve into chaos.
Events are gathering pace in that direction. The MDC’s National Executive meets today to finalise its consultation teams and logistics to go around the country asking people whether they still want to be in the inclusive government or not. The MDC’s move followed Sadc’s failure to deal with their complaints against Mugabe.
What is going to follow now would be touch-and-go developments. If the MDC gets the feedback that it must pull out, what will happen? Of course, it is unlikely the MDC would want to withdraw now without a Plan B but given the dynamics of the current state of flux and the volatile power struggle, anything can happen. The danger of renewed instability is looming.