GPA’s undemocratic dimensions

The GPA committed bitter rivals, Zanu PF and the two MDC parties, to work together towards restoration of economic and political stability and facilitate rebuilding of a “democratic society” free of the sea of troubles the country had been going through.

Necessarily, the end game for the GPA was going to be free and fair elections and hopefully transition from dictatorship to democracy. That is why the centrepiece of GPA reforms is a parliamentary committee-driven constitution-making process under the direction of Copac. While drafting of a new constitution has begun, steps leading towards an all-stakeholders’ conference, parliamentary approval and a referendum and back to parliament, presents new pitfalls and perils.

By most accounts, the GPA has managed to stabilise the situation and restore some normalcy. On the surface, the situation now is dramatically different from what it was before 2009, although beyond the veneer of peace and stability lies the reality of an unreconstructed authoritarian system and political maelstrom — a turbulent transition underway.

However, one of the biggest problems of the GPA, which has not been closely scritunised, is some of its inherently undemocratic dimensions and rough edges.
Although the GPA was useful for its original purpose,  its premise was not suitable for rebuilding democracy.

The issue of the constitution-making process, by-elections and expected general elections help to illustrate the point. Perhaps a question does that even better: how can an undemocratic framework be used to restore democracy?

The ongoing Copac constitution-making process shows beyond reasonable doubt the GPA is undemocratic in certain respects and thus problematic in terms of background, context and structure. The exercise is driven by a parliamentary committee whose members are selected from the three parties in parliament. This means only Zanu PF and the two MDC parties are represented in the process, while all other parties outside parliament are not. Civil society and other stakeholders were only incorporated after making noise as a window-dressing exercise.

The reality is Copac by its very nature is controlled by the three parties in the GPA. The rest of the groups and so-called experts were co-opted to mask the unrepresentative nature of the process. Thus Copac is undemocratic in character and content. It is a democratic smokescreen.

The other thing is by freezing by-elections, the GPA undermined the constitutional, legal and democratic rights of people living in 27 constituencies who have not been able to choose new MPs. Tie this to the constitution-making process which is controlled by MPs, it means some Zimbabweans were actually closed out of the process even if the stage-managed outreach programme was taken to their constituencies where they have no elected representatives.

How can an agreement between three parties in which the constitution-making process — a historic exercise of national significance that seeks to shape the future and destiny of a country and people — monopolised by a narrow section of society at the expense of vast swathes of varied and competing interests help to restore democracy? Indeed, how do you restore democracy by freezing democratic processes, in this case by-elections.

Even though there were extraordinary political circumstances used to justify the aberrations in the democratic process, still you can’t restore democracy by icing it up.
While GPA still offers the most workable and coherent framework for credible elections, it has also helped stymie democracy by shutting out other voices from the unfolding political processes. Evidently, the three GPA parties are negotiating in their own interests and cutting deals to suit their political designs ahead of elections.
Thus attempts to level the playing field may end up making it even more patchy and bumpy for other parties.

That is why the facilitation team has conceded small parties outside the GPA and government should participate in these national processes, including the constitution-making project and preparation for elections.

Zuma’s team on Monday met Zapu, MDC99, Ndonga and the Democratic Party, an admission of GPA flaws.

 

By Dumisani Muleya

 

dumisani@zimind.co.zw