Let’s be clear about this. The treatment of Roy Bennett is only one dimension to this falling out. The central complaint is that of insincerity.
Certain targets were identified in the GPA and there has been no attempt to meet them. What happened to the provincial governors? Why has there been no progress on that front?
A free media was agreed upon together with the unimpeded return of journalists in the diaspora. Why then is President Mugabe sitting on the list of nominees for the Zimbabwe Media Commission submitted to him weeks ago? And why is the Media minister unable to give the assurances he is required to in this regard? Instead he has announced board members for media-related parastatals that he should have consulted on, and which contain many manifestly unsuitable individuals including army officers who know nothing about the media.
As for the weightier matter of the Attorney-General and Reserve Bank governor, nothing could be more emblematic of Zanu PF’s deceit. It was agreed in the communiqué of the Sadc extraordinary summit in Pretoria in January that these matters and other outstanding issues would be resolved by agreement between the parties immediately upon their return to Harare. But Mugabe refused to budge, claiming it was his constitutional right to make the appointments. The GNU was thus confronted with its first fait accompli.
It may indeed have been his constitutional right to make senior appointments. But Mugabe had at the same time agreed to uphold the Sadc Pretoria protocol. He gave a solemn undertaking to his future GNU partners and then ignored their objections. It was to become the pattern of things to come. These include accommodating more ministers than the GNU agreement allowed.
The Bennett affair is actually the straw that broke the camel’s back. Bennett, it will be recalled, had experienced appalling treatment at the hands of Zanu PF including the seizure and pillaging of his coffee farm and a lengthy prison term for pushing Patrick Chinamasa to the floor after he had insulted Bennett’s forebears in parliament.
Bennett’s real offence was his popularity. Mugabe to this day splutters with indignation when he is asked to explain his campaign against Bennett. He points to Bennett’s past as sufficient grounds for excluding him from government.
This is where Zanu PF lives — in the past. They could not understand how their record of violence, coercion and deceit could have lost them a series of elections. The people were “voting with their stomachs”, it was explained as if hunger and misrule were not grounds for political rejection!
To this day Mugabe and his inner circle believe the Americans, through the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, deprived them of their historic right to misgovern the country.
This explains why extraordinary steps — such as reviving the youth militias and appointing military men to parastatal boards — are being taken to ensure the next election doesn’t go against them. The public media which should be opening to a variety of voices has become a crude instrument of mind-control in the hands of last year’s losing party.
Mugabe sees the GNU as a means to lift sanctions and sanitise his rule, not a genuine means to share power and engineer recovery. He doesn’t see himself as the loser he is and hopes to turn the tables on Morgan Tsvangirai. And he doesn’t seem to understand what is needed for economic recovery.
Meanwhile, as we report today, the optimism of the business sector so evident six months ago is fast evaporating. It is inevitable given the failure of the GNU to act in concert. Clear and predictable policies — essential for success anywhere — are invisible here. And then we have a chorus of denunciation when Tsvangirai understandably draws a line in the sand. What is the point of the MDC remaining in government when they cannot make a difference?
Zimbabweans must impress upon the reactionary clique around the president that there is no future in isolation. Arthur Mutambara made this point forcefully this week. Charges against him for voicing his views last year — and many others — remain outstanding. This is not “healing”.
Twenty years ago the Berlin Wall fell and East Europeans recovered their liberties in a largely peaceful transfer of power. Today they live in modern democratic societies. Zimbabwe is still in thrall to a Stalinist cabal holding the country back. We need to pull down the wall that separates us from the liberties to which we are entitled, and which are clearly spelt out in the GPA as preconditions for recovery.