Sadc summit: D-day for Zim

Where do we go from here? Another chapter of this rather tragic story is due to be written with a Sadc summit tomorrow in Maputo where election dates, funding and the roadmap will be discussed.

Zimbabwe Independent Editorial

ere, once again, the problem is likely to be one of presidential intransigence. President Robert Mugabe yesterday proclaimed July 31 election day. He is still doing his best to avoid ceding power, even when he loses at the polls. He is supported in this by a coterie of security service chiefs and Zanu PF reactionaries — the post-liberation aristocracy which has corruptly amassed wealth and power over the past 33 years. The events leading up to this are not edifying.

The MDC-T’s Morgan Tsvangirai did well to break this power nexus to win a large batch of seats in 2000, this following a constitutional referendum victory. Relations thereafter were fraught with political violence and electoral manipulation thwarting prospects of democratic change. A brutal assault on Tsvangirai and other MDC officials at Machipisa Police Station led eventually to Sadc’s intervention. It was a turning point.

Regional leaders, backed by AU officials, were determined to prevent any further publicity that could damage investment prospects in the region. That meant stabilising Zimbabwe’s economy and reforming its political system via free and fair elections. Sadly, those elections proved just as discredited as those of 2002 to the extent that nobody recognised their validity. Zimbabwe was persuaded as a result to accept Sadc proposals for a Government of National Unity (GNU) based on a so-called Global Political Agreement (GPA). The GNU was not an unalloyed success. In fact, it was not a success at all as the two main parties battled for influence and stalled reforms.

Now, however, we face another dilemma. The MDC-T and its smaller MDC counterpart will not agree to elections until the GPA is fulfilled. In this they are supported by Sadc. Hence, the summit tomorrow will be as much a test of President Jacob Zuma’s resolve as it is of Tsvangirai’s. The agenda will look much the same as it did four years ago. This includes electoral, media and security sector reforms, among others.

But there is an elephant in the living room nobody has noticed. There is a possibility Zanu PF and MDC-T could garner an equal number of votes in any poll. Then they would have to devise some form of co-habitation which sticks in the throat.

Can they do that given the vitriol emanating from the Zanu PF camp and warped structure of the state? Mostly, the MDCs subscribe to normal liberal values to be found in any modern constitution, Zanu PF seeks to maintain its grip on power via manipulation and institutional control.

Vitriolic criticism this week of lawyers allegedly seeking to conduct “a sustained attack on the judiciary” by submitting a series of court applications demonstrates how far removed the former ruling party remains from the democratic process. Court applications are part of that process. But Zanu PF appears not to know this, childishly regarding it as a hostile conspiracy because it is used to dark plots. Are we really any further forward or is it much of the same? This weekend and events leading to the elections will tell.