2010: A case of ‘political kung-fu’

ALTHOUGH 2010 saw some economic and general conditions in Zimbabwe improving, political tension between the two main principals in the inclusive government, President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, was on a knife edge.

Zimbabweans welcomed the deal under which Mugabe and his Zanu PF party agreed to share power with rivals, the MDC, whose leader Tsvangirai became prime minister in February 2009.
However, almost two years down the line Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe deputy chairman Charles Kuwaza’s phrase best describes Zimbabwe’s political situation, which in 2010 was an arena of “political kung-fu” as the rift between Mugabe and Tsvangirai continued to deepen.
Summing up the year, MDC-T secretary-general Tendai Biti said this week in a Facebook message: “It’s a year where we have been violated and abused, a year in which toxicity and insanity dominated. Indeed we made a lot of mistakes, missed many opportunities and perhaps allowed ourselves to be drowned by the mundane and the suffocating mediocrity of our tired opponents”.
But what caused the rift and what happened to the once workable relationship?
Although the union has always been shaky, things really fell apart in October. The relations between Mugabe and Tsvangirai broke down in bitterness and recrimination after the president made unilateral appointments which outraged the premier.
Mugabe re-appointed 10 provincial governors on October 1 without consulting Tsvangirai as he was required to do by Amendment 19 and he only informed his partners in the inclusive government at their Monday meeting three days later.
In addition Mugabe had earlier also unilaterally appointed judges and ambassadors, angering Tsvangirai who said the president’s actions were unlawful, null and void.  
The premier challenged Mugabe’s appointments in 2008 of Attorney-General Johannes Tomana and Governor of the Reserve Bank Gideon Gono without consulting him.
In anger Tsvangirai boycotted cabinet meetings and stopped attending the Monday meetings with the other two principals.
He also wrote several letters notifying Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku on the illegal appointment of the judges, the president of the senate Edna Madzongwe urging her not to consider the governors as members of the senate. He also wrote to several countries and the United Nations (UN) over the unilateral appointment of ambassadors. He described Mugabe’s actions as “nonsensical and rank madness”.
The MDC-T leader has since sued Mugabe for making a series of unilateral appointments. Tsvangirai also briefed civic society and diplomats on his party’s decision.
Zanu PF has been arguing that the three principals –– Mugabe, Tsvangirai and MDC-M leader Arthur Mutambara –– had agreed that governors would be appointed simultaneously with the removal of sanctions, a resolution which was in South African President Jacob Zuma’s report and adopted by the Sadc troika meeting in Windhoek, Namibia.
Tsvangirai distanced himself from the principals’ report authored by Mutambara saying the deputy premier misrepresented facts, while MDC-M maintained that the premier had seen the first and final drafts of the letter before it was sent to Zuma. MDC-M also argued that if Tsvangirai and his party were opposed to it they would have objected at the Troika meeting in Windhoek which adopted Zuma’s report.
Tsvangirai’s actions infuriated Mugabe whose party said there was nothing unconstitutional about the re-appointments.
Zanu PF then adopted a hardline stance saying they would not move on any of the 24 agreed issues in the Global Political Agreement until sanctions were removed. Mugabe told Tsvangirai that he had no intention of swearing in deputy agriculture minister-designate Roy Bennett.

Elections
While the business community and ordinary Zimbabweans have been asking for an extension of the inclusive government to allow for economic recovery and national healing, Mugabe and Tsvangirai have publicly announced their intention to hold polls next year.
Mugabe said the inclusive government could not be extended by more than six months after the expiry in February 2011, although critics say democratic reforms should precede polls.
The president wants the constitution-making process to be fast-tracked to pave way for the elections, saying Tsvangirai was being used by Western governments to remove him from power.
“Some of the things that Tsvangirai does are stupid and foolish,” said Mugabe. “He relies on Europeans to get advice. That’s why we need to have elections to end this inclusive government.”
Tsvangirai agreed that the only way out of this quandary was to go for elections to resolve the March 2008 election dispute, in which none of the leaders garnered enough support that is constitutionally required to form a government.
However, he is insisting that agreed democratic reforms outlined in the GPA, which include electoral, media and security reforms should be implemented first before elections are held.
Tsvangirai also wants a guarantee that elections would be violence- and intimidation-free and regional and international monitors must be in the country six months before and six months after the elections.
“Council notes and restates the position that an election in Zimbabwe should be held to deal with the question of illegitimacy associated with the farcical presidential run-off election of June 2008,” said Tsvangirai.
While MDC-T is insisting on presidential elections followed by harmonised polls in 2013, Zanu PF said according to Constitutional Amendment No18, elections should be harmonised. 
Although Zanu PF adopted a resolution for early harmonised elections at its conference in Mutare, the party is still divided with a certain section opposed to 2011 polls.
The faction led by retired army commander General Solomon Mujuru is said to be opposed to early elections because it would upset the political situation and reverse the economic gains achieved under the shaky inclusive government.
Analysts and MDC-M have said Zimbabwe was not ready for elections next year, arguing that national healing should precede elections.

Regional intervention
But where was Sadc as relations deteriorated?
Tsvangirai has slammed Sadc chief, Tomaz Salomao, over the handling of the Zimbabwe crisis at the Windhoek summit in August.
He accused the regional body’s executive secretary of not capturing a report by Zuma, which outlined outstanding issues and a roadmap for free and fair elections.
Tsvangirai protested against the alleged “doctoring” of the communiqué and accused the secretariat of blocking debate on Zimbabwe at the full summit of heads of state and government.
After the Sadc summit in Windhoek on August 16-17, Zimbabwe’s political principals were expected to clear outstanding issues.
Besides that, the leaders were supposed to implement within one month or two months in some cases issues of media reforms, external radio stations, a land audit and ministerial mandates. Also due for resolution, were the National Economic Council, constitutional commissions, national heroes, rule of law, state security organs and institutions, cabinet and council of ministers’ rules, Constitutional Amendment No 19, electoral amendments and sanctions.

However, when the communiqué came out, emphasis was placed on the removal of sanctions and it mandated the chairperson of Sadc, assisted by the chairperson of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security and the facilitator of the Zimbabwe dialogue Jacob Zuma to engage the international community on the issue of sanctions.

The constitution process
The constitution-making process has stalled and it is not clear when the country is likely to go for a referendum.  The process was marred by intimidation of villagers. Constitutional Parliamentary Committee (Copac) co-chairman Douglas Mwonzora accused the military and other state security agents of terrorising villagers during the outreach programme, saying a climate of fear enveloped outlying districts of the country.
Tsvangirai also complained about activities of the army during the flawed and violence-ridden constitution-making process.

WikiLeaks
The release of 10 cables under the WikiLeaks whistle-blowing disclosures was a game changer in Zimbabwean politics as it fuelled the already rising tensions between Zanu PF and MDC-T.  Zanu PF appeared to have got propaganda fodder ahead of the anticipated elections as it has started to build its message around the contents of the cables.
One cable which appears to have excited Zanu PF greatly concerns sanctions where Tsvangirai is accused of double dipping on the issue –– telling Zanu PF he was seeking a lifting of the restrictive measures while urging the Americans to stand firm. Zanu PF at its Mutare conference this month resolved that any person who calls for sanctions against the country should be charged with treason.
The Attorney-General, Johannes Tomana, said this week government was going to set up a commission of enquiry soon to investigate any constitutional violation arising from WikiLeaks reports.  

Sanctions
The European Union and the United States insisted that sanctions would only be removed if there is full implementation of the GPA and an end to human rights violations and violence.  
They said the restrictive measures only affect one in every 70 000 of Zimbabwe’s population and 35 companies. However, Presidents Zuma and Khama have advanced an argument on whether it would be politically prudent to remove sanctions and test Zanu PF’s commitment to fully implement the necessary reforms agreed on in the GPA. The next EU meeting is in February to discuss the renewable sanctions.
It looks certain that 2011 is going to be an interesting year, which might usher in a new constitution, paving the way for elections, a new leader which will see MDC-M being referred to as MDC-N after Welshman Ncube takes over from Mutambara, an MDC-T congress and more squabbles around elections, the constitution and the never resolved outstanding issues of the GPA.