This development followed the signing of the Inter-Party Agreement between the two formations of the MDC and the then ruling Zanu PF party in September 2008.
The signing of what is referred to as the global political agreement (GPA) and the consummation of that agreement brought some hope of reforming the state after years of human rights violations. The history of these violations threads from the Gukurahundi period through every post-independent national election and protest to the electoral farce of June 27 2008 which actually reinvigorated the talks after President Robert Mugabe’s election was disputed by both domestic and international actors on the basis of egregious human rights violations and other electoral malpractices by Zanu PF and its surrogate state security agents.
In my understanding the GPA is a stopgap measure meant to bring sanity to Zimbabwe’s political environment after the human rights violations committed by Zanu PF and state security agents. It has a clear mandate to deliver constitutional, media, security service sector and law reforms as well as bringing socio-economic stability after almost a decade of recession. The parties to the GPA also agreed to bring law and order in the country as well as justice to victims of human rights violations.
In this regard, the inclusive government of Zimbabwe is a transitory arrangement. It’s not permanent. Simply put, the role of the inclusive government is like that of Biblical Moses whose role was to deliver the children of Israel from bondage, oppression, hunger and slavery to the promised land of Canaan where they could enjoy their fundamental freedoms including the pursuit of happiness. Zimbabweans have been facing unjust persecutions, human rights violations, hunger, unemployment and poverty from the then Zanu PF regime. They want the restoration of their rights and dignity as espoused in the GPA.
If the inclusive government fails to play this Moses role as is currently the case, more than a year after its consummation, then Zimbabwe needs a Joshua and this Joshua should be the holding of free and fair elections supervised by Sadc, AU and the UN with no role whatsoever for the military and other Zanu PF surrogates responsible for the past electoral frauds.
In my view, in order to interrogate the work of the inclusive government as a transitory agent, there is need to understand what a transition entails, the types of transition and the one currently in place in Zimbabwe. This will assist people to realise why this kind of transition is failing or succeeding.
A transition refers to a regime change or simply a change of governance. A regime change is a change in the institutional structure of a given country. It is the formal and informal organisation of political power, and of its relations with the broader society.
A regime determines who has access to political power, and how those who are in power deal with those who are not. It should be a government of and with citizens and not a government without citizens as was the case with the Zanu PF regime. That’s why there was need to change that regime so that it could be a regime of and with citizens. There is nothing criminal about citizens working towards regime change. Regimes should be periodically changed using lawful means.
There are basically three types of transitions. Transition through transaction; this happens when the authoritarian regime initiates the process of democratisation of its body politic but remains a decisive political actor throughout the transition although opposition political parties and other players are part of the process.
The second one is transition via extrication. Scholars of transitions point out that this type of transition occurs when the authoritarian regime is weakened but not as significantly as is the case in the transition by defeat. However, in this situation, the authoritarian regime has less power to negotiate as in transition by transaction
Transition via regime defeat involves a decisive defeat of the authoritarian government leading to the end of authoritarian rule and the establishment of a democratic government
From these three types of transitions, Zimbabwe is experiencing transition by transaction where the two MDC formations led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and the one led by his deputy Professor Arthur Mutambara and President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party are in a compromise agreement following the signing of the GPA in September of 2008. The regime has more comparative power in relation to its partners. That’s why the outstanding issues can only be resolved at the pleasure of Zanu PF.
As a result of the kind of transition currently in place where Zanu PF controls the state through the Central Intelligence Organisation, the army, the police and the prison services, the reforms necessary to make sure that there is a transition to democratic rule in Zimbabwe can only happen at the pleasure of Zanu PF and its autocratic system which has not be decisively shaken. The refusal by Zanu PF to deal with outstanding issues in the GPA such as the appointment of provincial governors as well as the disputes over the appointments of the Reserve Bank Governor and the Attorney General, the continued disruption of the Constitutional reform process and the failure until recently to swear in members of independent state commissions like the Zimbabwe Media Commission all point to the comparative power that Zanu PF has in this arrangement.
A proper transition to democratic rule should come up with new values, new democratic institutions and a fundamentally new political culture premised on the rule of law and the protection of citizens’ civil and political liberties. In my view, Zimbabwe is yet to realise such things in the media, security service, constitutional and the general governance framework since the consummation of the inclusive government. This is because the oppressive system of Zanu PF is still in charge of the state.
Zimbabweans, therefore, need to appreciate that the inclusive government born out of the compromise agreement by the political parties involved can virtually stall the transition and compromise the democratisation agenda relataive to transitional justice issues and other broader human rights issues such as the exercise of civil and political liberties as well as social, cultural and economic rights
In my view, there is need for civil society organisations and the reform wing of the inclusive government to concentrate on democratic consolidation and broaden democratic struggles and refuse to be blinded by the constitutional reform process as the only avenue of democratising Zimbabwe.
The process of consolidating democracy entails the strengthening democratic institutions (especially the rule of law and protection of civil and political liberties), extending democratic processes and preventing democratic reversals.
Political institutions and civil society need to be infused with democratic practices, for example by the empowerment of civil society organisations to increase popular participation and make it more difficult for elites to manipulate democratic institutions.
Authoritarian political discourses need to be rejected and authoritarian political actors such as Christopher Mutsvangwa, Jonathan Moyo and Tafataona Mahoso need to be neutralised by profiling democratic intellectuals and political activists. There is need to have restrictions on the scope of policy-making powers by for example advocating for the exclusion of authoritarian lawmakers from the defence and police budgets to make sure that the taxpayer dollars are not used to fund oppression and abuse of human rights by security forces
Consolidation means that democracy has become routinised and internalised in political behaviour. No groups pursue unconstitutional, illegal or undemocratic means to achieve their aims. Elites and the wider public accept democracy as the preferred means of governance and deciding on political succession. Civic actors and other democratic players should intensify the struggle to see the emergence of a democratic political culture in which trust, tolerance and compromise are the dominant political forms.
Democratic consolidation also requires having civic and political players prepared for a broader democratisation agenda, not piecemeal reforms. They should work to ensure that the values associated with the stability of a democracy such as moderation, cooperation, bargaining and accommodation exist among the political players. Moderation and accommodation simply imply toleration, pragmatism, willingness to compromise and civility in political discourse.
Ruhanya is a human rights researcher.
By Pdzisai Ruhanya