THERE is strange irony that currently pervades Zimbabwean politics, particularly on the part of that combative element in Zanu PF.
Opinion by Ibbo Mandaza
On one hand, there are the complaints of what the latter considers to be gross breach of Zimbabwe’s sovereignty, not least when Sadc appears to be questioning the decision of the highest court in the land.
So, even as all parties to the Zimbabwean problem had to assemble before last weekend’s Sadc summit in Maputo, such impatience was almost palpable and the murmurs so audible: “Why doesn’t Sadc and its facilitator (South African President Jacob) Zuma leave us alone?”
On the other hand, there is evidence — from the process that culminated in the Global Political Agreement (GPA)/Government of National Unity (GNU) in 2008, to the present conjuncture in which Sadc and its facilitator might be redeeming Zimbabwe from yet another crisis, this time a constitutional one — that, without such institutionalised attention as the regional body has had to afford this country ever since the disputed presidential election of 2002, Zimbabwe would long ago have been another Somalia.
Yet, even last Saturday’s Maputo summit itself could be proof that, without such timely intervention as was the case previously at the Sadc troika meeting of March 31 2011, President Robert Mugabe would find himself unable to manage that rogue element within his party as I wrote then, following that Livingstone meeting:
“So, it is this little Fifth Column — made up of no more than five or seven persons — that has claimed and assumed a most disproportionate space in the body politic of Zimbabwe. And as long as no one within the Zanu PF establishment has stood up to it publicly, the Fifth Column appears to be the state itself, writ large and indispensable.
“In reality, however, this is a downright reckless and dangerous lot which, in the not-so-distant future, is bound to be shipwrecked as the majority of Zimbabweans, tired and impatient with the dangerous pranks of a few malcontents, lend their support to the emerging convergence across both Zanu PF and the MDCs.”
This is what I wrote on an article headlined The Sadc Troika on Zimbabwe: Against the Arrogant Disdain, Impunity and Reckless Rhetoric in Harare, April 4 2011.
I was wrong then to have concluded that it would be a matter of weeks or months before the march of national convergence would put paid to the machinations of the Fifth Column in our midst. On the contrary, it is this national convergence — expressing itself around the GPA/GNU process in the first instance, the institution of the principals as the main agency through which, inter alia, the constitution-making process finally succeeded, and the prospects of a peaceful and credible election — that now stands as a real threat to the Fifth Column for whom a permanent crisis situation has become its raison d’être.
This explains why earlier elections were always part of its agenda; to take everyone by surprise and have an outcome according to a pre-conceived template. And what about the programme of political destabilisation ever since the new constitution became law, and in pursuit of early elections at any cost?
Is it only a rumour that the Jealousy Mawarire application was part of the plot by this clique of troublemakers?
Likewise, the unceremonious manner in which the proclamation was put together last week, fast-tracked to pre-empt and preclude parliament and provisions of the new constitution, behind the backs of not only cabinet, but even the Zanu PF politburo itself?
And right on the eve of the Sadc summit, postponed a week earlier at Zimbabwe’s request, almost as if to afford the architects of chaos an opportunity to wreck even the Maputo meeting itself?
So it was that the Maputo summit arrested the rot, at least for a day or two since, because, almost incredibly so, the decision of Sadc was being threatened by Tuesday evening by a later withdrawn application to the Constitutional Court (Concourt) filed by the Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa which was at variance, in its import, to the objectives of the Sadc communiqué.
The communiqué was quite explicit that it would be the Government of Zimbabwe — that is to say the inclusive government — that would go back to the Concourt and plead for an extension; and Mugabe concurred by stating that Chinamasa would thereby represent the government in undertaking that task.
Needless to add that such an approach, if professionally and competently done, would almost certainly guarantee that the Concourt would accede to the request for an extension of the date of the general elections beyond July 31.
So, quite clearly, in doing precisely the opposite — that is by excluding the Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara and Professor Welshman Ncube as respondents to his application to the Concourt, Chinamasa’s initial intention was to ensure that such an extension would not be granted.
Obviously, Chinamasa’s actions could not have been prompted by government as a whole nor had it been canvassed in cabinet earlier in the day. That is why principals met over the issue on Wednesday.
So was it an attempt at anarchy on the part of the chaos faction?
If the letter and spirit of the Maputo summit is any guideline to the way forward in the Zimbabwean political process, we have to remain firm in our objective of ensuring that national convergence remains the dominant agency.
Quite apart from its communiqué, whose main import will no doubt prevail in the days ahead and yield the extension of the deadline for holding the elections beyond July 31, the summit also adopted the report of the Sadc facilitator and its recommendations on media reforms, Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee, rule of law, deployment of Sadc observers and elections fate.
Besides, there is no contradiction at all between these recommendations which were adopted by the summit (inclusive of Zimbabwe itself) on the one hand, and, on the other, the constitutional provision that general elections can be held up to four months after the dissolution of parliament on June 29 despite the Concourt’s ruling which interpreted the law otherwise.
Surely, all progressive Zimbabweans would welcome as much time as possible to ensure all who qualify to vote are registered as voters, the voters’ register is inspected to the satisfaction of the citizenry and free, fair and credible elections guaranteed.
The claim that a flawed election is better than no election at all is, of course, both nonsensical and a travesty of democracy.
Likewise, there are those who want elections yesterday at any cost and without regard to the basic tenets of democracy and constitutionalism. We have reason to be suspicious of their motives; and we must continue to resist this in the name of National Convergence, Economic Recovery and a Peaceful Transition in Zimbabwe.
Therefore, it is imperative that the political leadership — including Mugabe himself — remains firm and focused in the face of those who are seeking to wreck the roadmap that Zimbabwe has been walking over the last four years.
It requires a sterner stand on the part of the quiet majority in Zanu PF itself, especially the presidency therein; more so, the courage and conviction to confront the rogue element within.
This is particularly so in the weeks and months ahead. Otherwise, it is almost certain that there will be another Sadc summit on Zimbabwe before long, for the merchants of chaos have clearly gone for broke. There is no guessing what might be their next move.
Mandaza is a Zimbabwean academic, author and publisher. He is currently the convenor of the Sapes Trust’s Policy Dialogue Forum. — Ibbo@sapes.org.zw