It was a transitional arrangement which came in the aftermath of the bloody June 2008 presidential election run-off in which President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF –– battling for survival amid fears of being held to account for their excesses in power if they were defeated outright –– unleashed a shocking wave of violence and brutality to remain ensconced at the helm.
The general understanding of the parties, informed by the GPA and the circumstances of its genesis, as well as events during the preceding decade of turmoil that posed a serious existential threat to Zimbabwe, was elections would be held after a new constitution had been adopted.
The parties had a choice to use the already agreed Kariba draft. Zanu PF wanted the Kariba draft, saying it was part of the deal. The MDC-T, under pressure from civil society, changed its approach and demanded a “people-driven” constitution.
However, the trouble was the MDC-T resisted demands by civil society to have an inclusive process. This led to clashes between the MDC-T and civic groups.
At the time, as a newspaper, we warned the MDC parties that, by refusing to include other various interest groups in the process, they were running the risk of hopping into bed with Zanu PF alone and getting a raw deal in the end. We argued the problem with a process driven by the three GPA parties –– which represent a narrow section of society –– was that it would not capture the full spectrum of people’s views and that in any case Zanu PF was playing dirty games and would manipulate the outcome unless checks and balances were in-built.
But MDC-T officials mainly and their surrogate civil groups claimed it was better to embrace a flawed process and get a new constitution and then make improvements afterwards. They further claimed, rather naively, Zanu PF would not renege on its promises because the GPA was binding and its guarantors –– Sadc and the AU –– as well as the facilitator President Jacob Zuma would not allow it.
We, however, warned that whatever their argument, the MDC-T mainly was embarking on a dangerous game like running with the bulls. Many analysts at the time, including Professor Jonathan Moyo and Professor Lovemore Madhuku, argued, albeit for different reasons, the process was flawed because it was not inclusive. The outcome, they said, would also be equally flawed.
Most critics suggested a constitutional or constituent assembly, which would balance the interests of the people and political parties, to spearhead the process but were rebuffed. We insisted the difficulty was that after or during periods of conflict, parties may not really represent the people, and their role and influence may be a problem issue in constitution-making because political parties have interests as parties, and politicians as politicians.
But no one listened. Now the chickens are coming home to roost. Predictably, Mugabe and Zanu PF have treacherously changed course. The MDC parties have now been reduced to merely reacting to Mugabe’s manoeuvres to stall or manipulate the constitution-making process to suit his electoral agenda.
As things stand, transition and reform are stalled. Mugabe and his party, running rings around the MDC parties, remain in denial, fighting a rearguard battle to short-circuit or manipulate the process to suit their elections agenda. Profound deficits remain in GPA implementation and prospects of securing comprehensive reforms before the elections are very remote.
Opportunities to build a foundation for sustainable political and economic recovery are consistently undermined. Violence and repression are pressing concerns; the police appear unwilling or unable to provide effective deterrence or remedy and the expectation of a more proactive engagement by Sadc is fading.
Mugabe and Zanu PF, which retains the dominant role in power relations, seem to be succeeding in frustrating implementation of the GPA and now the constitution-making process before early elections.
An elections endgame was the main objective in the GPA. But now the real question is: When will elections be held and under what conditions given that the reform agenda has ground to a halt?