IN five days’ time, Zimbabwe will go for crucial elections to end the Sadc-brokered Global Political Agreement (GPA) which gave birth to the coalition government after the disputed 2008 elections.
Senior research mentor at the University of the Western Cape, Brian Raftopoulos, wrote that the outcome of the GPA has been fiercely contested and marked by severe ebbs and flows in his book The Hard Road to Reform.
When the MDC-T signed the GPA, they hoped to weaken Zanu PF from within and elbow it out of power eventually, but they soon realised that Mugabe had other ideas.
He wanted a respite to reorganise and fight again. But Mugabe and Zanu PF have benefitted more from the GPA compared to the MDC formations.
MDC-T president and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has admitted that he signed the GPA to work with Mugabe to allow him to address the mistakes of the past and help him “rebuild his legacy”.
“I was prepared to work with Mugabe to allow him to address the mistakes of the past, and to help him to rebuild his legacy,” Tsvangirai said.
“This is why, despite the challenges that I have faced in working with him, I have repeatedly said that while our relationship was not perfect, it was workable. This was meant to encourage Mugabe to right the wrongs of the past.”
As the GPA nears its end, Mugabe has emerged as the major beneficiary as he cunningly used the coalition government tenure to reorganise and revive his waning support base.
Far from genuinely committing to reforms to usher in a democratic dispensation in Zimbabwe, Zanu PF has used the GPA to regroup and recover from an all-time low which saw Mugabe losing the presidential poll first round to Tsvangirai in March 2008. Raftopoulos said Zanu PF had benefitted immensely from the coalition government, disunity between the MDC formations as well as allegations of corruption levelled against MDC officials.
“Their biggest challenge was that they failed to work together from the beginning and even allowed themselves to be divided by Zanu PF, especially on the (Deputy Prime Minister Arthur) Mutambara issue,” said Raftopoulos.
“Their lack of co-ordination weakened them. On the whole, Zanu PF has benefitted the most because, having lost the 2008 elections, they got a second chance to regroup, rebuild and start trying to deal with issues of their legitimacy.”
Prior to the formation of the coalition government, Mugabe’s rule was on the brink of collapse as the economy was at an all time low with hyper-inflation shattering world records. Soldiers had started rioting in Harare in 2008 after failing to withdraw money from banks which ran out of cash.
Zimbabwe’s official annual rate of inflation skyrocketed to 231 million percent, although independent economists put it in the billions.
The joining of the coalition government by the MDCs helped halt the runaway inflation rate. They also played a critical role in the introduction of the multicurrency system which replaced the valueless Zimbabwe dollar. Jabusile Shumba, a political analyst, said although Tsvangirai can be seen as the ultimate loser in the GPA, it was necessary to be part of it after failing to take over power in 2008.
“The GPA came as a product of a terrible political fraud in which Tsvangirai trounced Mugabe in 2008 but was not allowed by those who had a monopoly of the means of violence to ascend to power,” said Shumba.
“But Mugabe lacked legitimacy. And something had to be done to return Zimbabwe to some level of normalcy.”
Shumba also said while the MDCs sleep-walked into the GPA, they were always sceptical about Mugabe and Zanu PF but something had to be done to break the political stalemate.
“Zanu PF entered (the GPA) in order to buy time and rescue itself from political death,” said Shumba. “The MDCs have tried to level the political field but Zanu PF has remained adamant that conceding to the MDCs’ demands was tantamount to losing power.”
Mugabe and Zanu PF are now riding on the gains they made during the inclusive government by even claiming ownership of policies introduced by the MDCs.
Tsvangirai has conceded more and left his erstwhile opponent stealing the narrative ahead of the high-stakes elections.As elections near, Tsvangirai and his MDC-T party have failed to claim credit for pushing for the introduction of the current multiple currency system which helped curb inflation and saw food returning to shops which had been echoing with emptiness.
Instead, Mugabe now claims that Zanu PF’s indigenisation has helped resuscitate the economy which had been battered by decades of targeted sanctions imposed on him and his Zanu PF cronies at the instigation of the MDCs.
Tsvangirai did not protest when Mugabe picked Zanu PF loyalists to serve in the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) and even defended appointments of other crucial commissions such as the Zimbabwe Human Rights and Zimbabwe Media Commission.
It was only after the pronouncement of an elections date that Tsvangirai started crying foul saying a raft of reforms meant to pave way for free and fair elections had not been implemented.
Political analyst Alexander Rusero said although they could have tried harder to have reforms implemented, the MDCs were forced into the agreement in the first place.
“The MDCs were under pressure both at home and abroad, and this drove them into the GPA,” said Rusero. “However, credit must be given to them for internationalising the Zimbabwe crisis which came about as a result of Zanu PF’s poor policies.” Rusero said.
Raftopoulos said Zanu PF only agreed to form a coalition government with the intention of regrouping and consolidating after plunging to the nadir of legitimacy following its 2008 electoral defeat.