HomeAnalysisNTA: Possibility of a soft landing for Zim

NTA: Possibility of a soft landing for Zim

Zimbabwe is a country in crisis, bereft of any capacity to reform — neither politically nor economically. This is common cause for all Zimbabweans and a major reason for the citizens to protest increasingly loudly.

Ibbo Mandaza & Tony Reeler,Academics

The crisis is exacerbated by a crisis of succession in a mortally-divided Zanu PF, with all the potential for worsening internecine conflict and bloody fighting.

The current crisis in Zimbabwe is the product of outmoded and predatory politics and discriminatory economic policies and only a radically new approach will be able to reverse the inevitable march to domestic collapse. The Platform for Concerned Citizens (PCC) reached consensus that there are three critical principal issues that must be addressed.

Firstly, there is a crisis in governance and the economy that is evident for all Zimbabweans to see and requires urgent attention lest the nation suffers domestic collapse.

Secondly, there is profound alienation of the citizens of Zimbabwe, who have lost faith in governance, political parties and the leadership in general.

Thirdly, there is a critical need for transformative reforms that will pre-empt elections or any other elite processes or pacts, and/or succession arrangements, not underpinned by crucial reforms that prioritise the interests of the citizens.

Process towards an NTA

The process towards the establishment of a National Transitional Authority (NTA) requires consultations across the nation and abroad with a regional and global “buy-in”, or external scaffolding to ensure a peaceful and smooth transition, as happened at Lancaster House and the Global Political Agreement of 2008. The NTA is thus nothing new in Zimbabwe’s political life, but the process and form may be an improvement on the previous attempts at a solid political settlement.

The NTA will need expert inputs towards its design and the ensuing legal instrument will then be submitted to parliament as a Bill that can be passed by a simple majority. The constitution will remain in place and already offers all the framework necessary for an NTA to carry out its work of reform and lead the country to genuine elections.

The NTA framework

A primary purpose for the NTA is to heal and nation and embark on a limited political and economic reform agenda. The NTA cannot solve all the problems that afflict the country, but will provide the necessary first steps to move the country to international legitimacy and deeper democracy.

The debate has already begun.

The political parties have responded, broadly accepting the idea. Civil society is engaged in serious consultation as evidenced by the Sapes Trust’s Policy Dialogue Forum on August 18: the large turnout, reflecting a healthy curiosity about and interest in the idea of the NTA; the general consensus that this could be a “soft landing” that could save Zimbabwe; and the assertion by Dumiso Dabengwa that the alternative could be tantamount to “continue folding our arms” and watch the situation develop into the inevitable chaos that is quickly enveloping the country.
However, there remains scepticism in some quarters.

Three reasons have been given for this being a bad idea. The first was that there was already a legitimately elected government and all patriotic Zimbabweans should throw their energies behind this rather than seek new solutions. The second was that no elected government, and especially Zanu PF, would ever concede to devolve power against its own narrow, and not national, interests. The third was that it did not seem possible that such an entity could emerge as a constitutional body and that it matters more that we be constitutional than solve pressing problems: in short, a slide into illegality was unacceptable.

We have previously dealt with all these arguments in the position paper issued by PCC issued on July 23 and re-articulated many times.

Those, as reflected in some sections of the media, who have attacked both the notion of the NTA and the messengers recommending it, appear to reflect more on the knee-jerk reactions of a faction in a mortally-divided Zanu PF-state apparatus than a considered analysis of the current situation in Zimbabwe. Clearly, the critics are oblivious of the extent to which principals in the state are already engaged with the idea.

On our part, we are encouraged by the favourable feedback from the various political persuasions across the board, including the leadership therein. The effect is that the idea of the NTA is already being considered, even though there is yet no consensus towards the following principles which the PCC outlined in the position paper mentioned above. Here the PCC outlined a set of critical reforms:

Adherence to the constitution and institutionalising the principles of constitutionalism;
Reform of key institutions that impede the above;

Reform of the electoral process to create conditions for genuinely free and fair, elections devoid of all controversy;

Stabilising of the economy and the setting in place of an Economic Reform Agenda aimed at the following: Debt management, and recovery of misappropriated assets, nationally and internationally; comprehensive macro-economic fundamentals; policy consistency; land policy and property rights; revival of productive sectors; and mobilising the diaspora into the economic life of the country.

The PCC also outlined a set of suggested principles for the operation of the NTA:

No political party will hold a position within the NTA, neither shall the convenors of the PCC, Ibbo Mandaza and Tony Reeler;

All MPs (the National Assembly and the Senate) will hold their position until the declaration of a national election;

The judiciary will continue as an arm of the state;

The NTA will act in accordance with such legislation as enacted by parliament;

The members of the NTA shall be non-partisan and professional;

The members of the NTA will be selected according to agreed criteria and procedures, from among the candidates put forward to an independent body, selected from among churches and other civic bodies;

The NTA shall be composed of not more than 18 members; and

The NTA may apportion responsibilities for the management of government and the overseeing of all state bodies through a system of sub-committees.

Our hope is that the National Consultative Conference, scheduled for September 15 will assist towards consensus-building and the establishing of a National Task Force that will thereafter drive the process to its intended conclusion.

Undergirding of the NTA

A Regional-International Consultative Conference is scheduled for September 26-27 in Johannesburg, South Africa. This will seek to secure the buy-in and support of regional and global factors for a process that necessarily be both delicate and complex. It will also offer an opportunity for our brothers and sisters in the diaspora, so often neglected by the national debate, to participate and help shape the process.

In this regard, we welcome the statement of the Elders — Kofi Annan, Graça Machel and Jimmy Carter — in their appeal to Sadc this week, “to consider how they can support a successful and inclusive transition in Zimbabwe that will return stability and growth to the country”.

These words seem wholly consonant with the vision that the PCC offered in its position paper: “An inclusive nation that guarantees its citizens freedom and all human rights and develops its resources, both human and material, in an equitable manner.”

Dr Mandaza and Reeler are the convenors of PCC.

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