The MDC-T agreed to the GPA, hoping to rehabilitate Zanu PF and at the same time elbow the former ruling party out of power, but realism has since set in and Mugabe has proved impervious to influence.
Last week, MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai opened up to the public, saying when he signed the GPA, he was prepared to work with Mugabe to allow him to address the mistakes of the past and help him “rebuild his legacy”.
Tsvangirai said there were many sceptics, advising against working with Mugabe, questioning the president’s sincerity, integrity and ability to respect an agreement with anyone.
“I was prepared to work with Mr Mugabe to allow him to address the mistakes of the past, and to help him to rebuild his legacy,” Tsvangirai said. “This is why, despite the challenges that I have faced in working with him, I have repeatedly said that whilst our relationship was not perfect, it was workable. This was meant to encourage Mr Mugabe to right the wrongs of the past,” he said.
“However, the events of the past few months have left me sorely disappointed in Mr Mugabe and in his betrayal of the confidence that I and many Zimbabweans have personally invested in him.”
Many people are now asking whether Tsvangirai was naïve or strategic when he decided to sit next to his yesteryear enemies and tormentors, hoping that they would start respecting and abiding by the principles of democracy.
Mugabe has appointed judges, ambassadors, the Attorney-General, the governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, and just two weeks ago he reappointed provincial governors without consulting Tsvangirai, which the MDC leader said was in blatant violation of the constitution.
Tsvangirai has proposed a blend of strategies to reverse the unilateral decisions made by Mugabe and while the success or failure of this move is yet to be tested, observers question why the MDC entered the agreement in the first place.
Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni, a professor in the Department of Development Studies at the University of South Africa, said the GPA was meant to solve problems obtaining in the country.
“The GPA is a product of a terrible political logjam where those who had popular support and won elections on 29 March 2008 could not be allowed by those who lost elections but had a monopoly of the means of violence to ascend to power,” said Ndlovu-Gatsheni. “But those in control of the means of violence lacked legitimacy. Violence proved to be an inadequate means of retaining power. Something had to be done to return Zimbabwe to some level of normalcy within a situation where ordinary citizens were suffering all sorts of depravities.”
Ndlovu-Gatsheni said the two MDC formations had always been very sceptical of Zanu PF and the same was true of Zanu PF’s attitude towards MDC.
“Trust was never there from the beginning,” he said. “Therefore I cannot say MDC was naive. Something had to be done to break the stalemate. MDC entered the inclusive Government knowing very well that it was another terrain of struggle.”
Another analyst, Ibbo Mandaza, who is also a publisher, said the MDC was battered into the agreement in the first place.
“The MDC was under pressure both at home and within the region and this drove them into the GPA,” said Mandaza who is also a former top civil servant. “The problem is that the MDC did not look at the finer details of the agreement. For example the dual executives, where there is an executive President and an executive Prime Minister.”
Mandaza said what Zanu PF was doing was to exploit the weakness in the GPA and the party’s spin doctors were doing so by referring to President Mugabe as the Head of State and Government and Commander in Chief of the Defence Forces.
University of Zimbabwe’s Economic History Department lecturer Kudakwashe Chitofiri said there was no other option for the MDC prior to signing the GNU.
“However, it is now up to Sadc (Southern African Development Community) to assist in solving the issues,” said Chitofiri.
Analysts added that Zanu PF, the largest beneficiary of the GPA, was capitalising on the loopholes in the agreement and was unlikely to make further concessions.
“Zanu PF entered (into the GPA) in order to buy time and relaunch itself from political death – the Lazarus moment (a resurrection moment) as Professor Jonathan Moyo put it,” said Ndlovu. “MDC has tried every trick in the book to gain more concessions, but Zanu PF is adamant as conceding more concessions to MDC is tantamount to Zanu PF giving power to MDC. It is a tricky situation involving the struggles over the control of the state that began with the jostling over ministerial positions.”
Mandaza concurred saying the GPA was a reflection of the balance of forces and it saved Zanu PF.
“It gave Zanu PF a new lease of life,” said Mandaza. “The GPA also gave Zimbabweans a respite from the economic problems they were facing as well as the violence.”
Ndlovu-Gatsheni added that apart from being the greatest beneficiary of the GPA, Zanu PF also forced MDC formations to speak its language.
“It has managed to make the sanctions look like the only cause of the Zimbabwe crisis,” he said.
Ndlovu-Gatsheni said as a way forward, it was important that both Zanu PF and MDC put national interests before partisan interests.
“This means there must create an ideal environment for free and fair elections that will restore political legitimacy in Zimbabwe,” said Ndlovu. “Those who will lose must be good losers and concede defeat and allow a legitimate government to run the country. Those who will win elections must also be good winners able to take into account fears of losers and expectations of winners, fears of previous perpetrators of violence and victims’ cries.”
While elections could be the best way forward, it is still hazy as to when they could be held.
Mandaza said he doubted elections could be held soon saying the best bet was in 2013 once a measure of healing had taken place.