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WHILE the Movement for Democratic Change has decided to concentrate all their efforts on the appointments of Gideon Gono as the Reserve Bank governor and Johannes Tomana as the Attorney-General, President Robert Mugabe is refusing to call for any by-election.

The Zimbabwean constitution is clear on when a vacant parliamentary seat must be filled. This failure by Mugabe to call for elections to fill the vacant seats makes all MPs lack legal mandates to execute their duties as legal representatives of the Zimbabwean constituents.

How do you explain a system where more than 10 constituents are not represented in parliament yet laws that affect them are passed daily?

Well, as they say, the vampire state does not care about nor represent the people. It sucks the economic vitality out of the people.  Eventually, however, it transforms into a coconut republic and implodes.

The implosion nearly always begins with a dispute over the electoral process: A refusal to hold elections or the results of outrageously rigged elections.

The political crisis starts when public furore, protests and violence erupt over election disputes. A gaggle of politicians and stakeholders scramble to resolve the crisis. They talk endlessly. The country is paralysed. Frustrations mount. Several scenarios become possible.

Opposition leaders may be bought off and co-opted to join the errant regime. A “government of national unity” may be attempted. But even before the ink on the agreement is dry, squabbles erupt over the distribution of ministerial positions.

Neither side is satisfied with what they get and hostilities resume. The regime may resort to brutal repression of the opposition as happened in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Zimbabwe or even extermination with the macabre logic that if the opposition doesn’t exist, then there would be no one to share power with as happened in Burundi, Rwanda, Sudan.

But sooner or later, the people come to see through the political chicanery and posturing. The public loses faith in the electoral process and the ability of politicians to resolve the crisis. Some group then decides it is no use talking and the only way to remove the tyrant in power is by force.

Zimbabwe is currently at this stage of the implosion process: Mass suffering, mass emigration (over four million Zimbabweans have fled the country), complete breakdown of the electoral process, total lack of faith in the political leadership, both government and the opposition, seizure of power by military generals, and catastrophic failure of regional and continental leadership.

The options available for peaceful resolution of Zimbabwe’s crisis have rapidly evaporated and the window of opportunity has closed.

The first option is the “government of national unity or healing”, which was adopted by Kenya after its violent elections in December 2007. It is a flawed concept which has never worked in any African country in recent times.

In the case of Zimbabwe, it is unlikely the military generals, who vowed they would never accept an MDC electoral victory, would enter “power-sharing” or “unity” talks with the opposition. Again, military generals do not compromise.

Furthermore, it is difficult to see how the opposition, after being brutalised and their ranks decimated, would join the Mugabe regime in a government of national unity for very long. The late Joshua Nkomo made such a mistake by joining the Mugabe regime in 1987 and was marginalised.

The second option is the “sovereign national conference” (SNC). It is premised on the realisation that the crisis in Zimbabwe is beyond the capability of Mugabe and Tsvangirai to resolve by themselves and it must take all Zimbabweans to resolve. The vehicle for doing this is SNC. It is based on the African institution of “village meeting”.

When a crisis erupts in an African village, the chief will convene a village meeting, where the people debate the issue until they come to a consensus. Once reached, everybody in the village, including the chief, is required to abide by it, hence, the term “sovereign”.

In recent years, this indigenous African tradition was revived by pro-democracy forces in the form of “national conferences” to chart a new political future in Benin, Cape Verde Islands, Congo, Malawi, Mali, South Africa and Zambia.

In South Africa, the vehicle used to make that difficult but peaceful transition to a multiracial democratic society was the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (Codesa). It began deliberations in July 1991, with 228 delegates drawn from about 25 political parties and various anti-apartheid groups.

The de Klerk government made no effort to “control” the composition of Codesa. Political parties were not excluded; not even ultra right-wing political groups, although they chose to boycott its deliberations. Codesa strove to reach a “working consensus” on an interim constitution and set a date for the March 1994 elections.

It established the composition of an interim or transitional government that would rule until the elections were held. More important, Codesa was “sovereign.” Its decisions were binding on the de Klerk government. De Klerk could not abrogate any decision made by Codesa — just as the African chief could not disregard any decision arrived at the village meeting.

Now, imagine a Convention for a Democratic Zimbabwe (Codezi). In this case, leaders of all political parties in Zimbabwe, all churches, trade unions, teachers, professional bodies, student groups, etc will be assembled to hammer out a new political future for the country.

Evidently, there is an African solution for the crisis in Zimbabwe but the leadership in Southern Africa and Africa generally don’t see it.

Only a few, notably leaders of Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Zambia, have made feeble attempts to condemn the barbaric brutalities of the Mugabe regime. It is noteworthy that the strongest condemnation came from Liberia and Sierra Leone — countries that have been ravaged by civil wars over the same issue of power sharing.

The rest of the African leadership is just not credible to condemn Mugabe when, as Africans would say, “they are doing the same thing in their own countries”. Who is President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda to urge Mugabe to step down? Back in 1986, the same Museveni declared that “No African heads of state should be in power for more than 10 years”. He has been in power for 20 years and still counting.

The paucity of good leadership has left a garish stain on the continent. More distressing, the calibre of leadership has deteriorated over the decades appalling depths.

The slate of post-colonial African leaders has been a disgusting assortment of military coconut-heads, fake revolutionaries, crocodile liberators, “Swiss bank” socialists, briefcase bandits, semi-literate brutes and vampire elites. Faithful only to their private bank accounts, kamikaze kleptocrats raid and plunder the treasury with little thought of the ramifications on national development.


The UN or the international community is fecklessly impotent in doing anything about Zimbabwe. The US is pushing the UN Security Council to impose sanctions but Russia and China may veto or block it. Besides, the sanctions would only be symbolic and totally ineffective. The international community will watch haplessly until Zimbabwe implodes and then rush in relief supplies and peacekeepers — until another African country blows and the whole macabre ritual is repeated: DR Congo, Darfur, Somalia, etc.

It is most ironic that Mugabe who fought against the illegal racist regime of Ian Smith of Rhodesia should end up himself presiding over an illegal regime in Zimbabwe.

Back in the 1970s, the most effective sanctions against the Smith regime were in telecommunications which cut the regime’s access to the rest of the world. In Zimbabwe’s case, African sanctions would prove more effective as it is a land-locked country.

South Africa could cut electricity supplies to Zimbabwe with a flick of a switch and neighbouring African states could seal their borders. But none of these is likely to happen. Nor would the Zimbabwe’s military generals bend to African sanctions.

Zimbabwe is finished, gone, but that is not the end of the tragic saga and if you think Mugabe is bad, wait till Emmerson Mnangagwa or Constantine Chiwenga takes over.

Dr Ayittey, a native of Ghana, is president of the Free Africa Foundation in Washington DC.


By Dr George Ayittey

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