SOUTH African President Jacob Zuma’s much-anticipated visit to Zimbabwe –– his first official visit since 2010 –– was auspicious in many respects as the country enters the home stretch towards holding credible elections to elect a government of the people’s choice. The meetings he held with unity government principals and political leaders on Wednesday were in preparation for the Sadc troika meeting and main summit scheduled to start yesterday and today, respectively, in Maputo, Mozambique.
Zuma arrived at a time when the constitution-making process, a major signpost to the polls for the Government of National Unity (GNU) which has lurched from one crisis to the next since its formation in 2009, has hit more turbulence, with Zanu PF and MDC formations poles apart on the next move after the belated production of a draft constitution. While the MDC formations insist the draft is final and must proceed to the second all-stakeholders conference and referendum without changes, Zanu PF was until yesterday making wholesale amendments to the document.
It is a measure of the deep-seated feuding and disparate interests within the so-called unity government that despite being two years behind schedule and gobbling up US$45 million, the constitution-making process appears no nearer to conclusion than when it began three years ago.
Soon after separately meeting GNU principals on Wednesday in Harare, Zuma expressed satisfaction at the progress made by the parties so far in implementing the Global Political Agreement (GPA) –– which he has indeed done several times before –– but conceded there were still “hitches” requiring ironing out if the agreement is to be fully consummated. The fact of the matter is that the GPA will not be anywhere near full implementation before elections. And the sooner those holding hopes to the contrary, especially the MDC formations, accept this the better for all concerned.
Thanks largely to Zanu PF’s intransigence and duplicity, the hybrid government is woefully short of time to make good a yawning GPA implementation deficit. It is inconceivable that most of the outstanding agreed-to reforms will be fast-tracked and implemented to make a material difference to the Zimbabwean environment before elections.
Therein lies the priority imperative: Zuma must henceforth ensure that the parties to the GNU focus on those deliverables that would guarantee a free and fair election –– the ultimate objective of the GPA, but an elusive goal since Independence in 1980. Indeed Zimbabwe has registered a modicum of success in some GPA key result areas that include “restoration of economic stability and growth”, “sanctions and measures”, “respect for national institutions and events” and “freedom of assembly and association”. Others, such as “national youth service” and “external interference”, though important, can always be revisited later to allow partners in the coalition government to expend more effort towards ensuring no-one would be able to steal the forthcoming crucial elections and hence the nation’s hopes and aspirations.
So for Zuma and Sadc — the guarantors of the GPA –– political consensus is the name of the game. Pressure must be ratcheted up in Maputo to ensure that the unity government protagonists find common ground and reach consensus on the way forward, in such a way that none of the parties feels shortchanged. A major shortcoming of facilitation efforts thus far is the impression that Zanu PF clearly holds the whip hand, to the extent of making unilateral decisions within the GNU and thumbing its nose at GPA provisions. Zanu PF’s overhauling of the latest draft smacks of another attempt to ride roughshod over coalition partners. And Mugabe’s claims to reporters that the GPA was progressing well should be taken with the proverbial pinch of salt, given his failed strident calls for early elections, and description of the GNU as “dysfunctional” and a “creature” that had outlived its welcome.
As Sadc deliberates the perennial Zimbabwean question, it should keep its eyes on the ball to ensure that no foul play derails long-suffering Zimbabweans from their goal of undisputed polls. It must keep alive to the fact that the unity government arose after Zanu PF launched a violent presidential campaign after losing its parliamentary majority. Thus Sadc must use the tried-and tested carrot and stick method to ensure that through give-and-take, the crucial constitution-making process moves from the carousel it’s currently stuck in, and heads for the finishing line. Obscure election roadmaps and equally hazy GPA implementation matrixes will just not work again; for Zuma and Sadc the way forward is to focus on free, fair and credible elections.