Zim stakeholders tackle crisis

A NATIONAL consultative meeting on the national crisis was held at Sapes on September 15, followed by a policy dialogue in the evening. The meeting brought together over 70 Zimbabwean citizens, drawn from political parties, churches, labour, war veterans, civil society, women and the youth, as well as citizens in their own individual right.

Ibbo Mandaza and Tony Reeler

A conference to discuss Zimbabwean’s transition will be held in South Africa on September 26-27 featuring politicicians, activists, academics, researchers and intellectuals.

It is evident from all the speakers and participants that Zimbabwe is in political crisis with the state unable to reform and the prospects of violence growing daily, let alone the increasing likelihood of economic collapse.

The critical economic reforms cannot be implemented in the face of major policy incoherence and bitter conflict within the government, all playing out to the deepening impoverishment of the Zimbabwean citizenry. The citizens, in response to their unending hardships, are taking to continuous protests, demonstrations, and probably strikes, to which the state can only respond with increasing repression and violence.

There are a variety of solutions looming on the horizon, fostered by the government, political parties and international interest bodies. None will be able to fully resolve the political crisis in a manner that will satisfy the aspirations of the populace for genuine democracy, full adherence to constitutionalism, reform of the state, economic stability, and fully free and fair elections.

A resolution of the succession crisis and internal reform of the government, while clearly improbable, will not alter the composition of a securocrat state. A government of national unity too will be unlikely to lead to the needed changes, and very recent history has taught the nation that such a body leads to short-term economic gains but nothing in the form of the needed reform of the state, nor the range of reforms that can result in a genuine election.

Early elections are again no panacea in the absence of the massive reforms required to ensure a genuine result. The narrow range of reforms currently proposed by opposition political parties and civil society will not address the comprehensive control by the government of not only the electoral machinery, but every other aspect of the electoral climate: the partisan nature of the security sector, virtually every arm of the government machinery, the media, and the organs of local government and traditional leadership.

Against all of these unhelpful options for resolving the political crisis, various political parties and civil society groupings have argued for a National Transitional Authority (NTA), and this option was widely canvassed during the two meetings. Whilst the exact form of this animal remains to be fully explored, there some consensus that any NTA must be wholly non-partisan and free from political party influence.

In animated discussion, the meetings raised these concerns about the national crisis and the ways in which this might be solved:

A consensus that an early elections would not solve the crisis;

A consensus that elite pacts, such as the GPA, similarly would solve the crisis;

Agreement that the active mobilising by citizen groups was complimentary to the push for an NTA, and that this should not undermine existing social movements;

There was need to build a coalition around a vision for the future, and this should include a genuine social contract between citizen and state;

A coalition will help to bring all political parties to the negotiating table;

Such a coalition and an NTA may even be useful to some sectors of the state.

There was need to change the political culture, to move away from narrow political concerns to a more inclusive nation;

There is need for an absolute commitment to constitutionalism and the rule of law;

There is need for a serious commitment to a human rights culture;

Various groups, including the PCC, have provided ideas about how an NTA should operate, with the most detailed being provided by PDP.

The current lack-step crisis in the state can only be resolved through negotiation, as is the case with all political crises;

There do not seem to be any serious legal difficulties in setting up the NTA;

The existing constitution will provide the needed framework for an operational and executive NTA;

The NTA will need to be programmatic, with a structure and identified procedural steps and tasks, which will be limited and focused on specific reforms;

As regards a possible programme for the NTA, Tendai Biti offered a 10-point outline in his address to the Policy Dialogue:

A serious commitment to ensuring peace and stability;

The restoration of a social contract that should include national healing and transitional justice;

A comprehensive economic turnaround that should include a rescue package;

Deal with the unfinished business of the constitution including the harmonising of laws and the establishment of the independent commissions;

Undertake crucial amendments to the constitution, especially replacing the First-Past-the-Post system with Proportional Representation and ensuring that ratification of all international legal instruments results in automatic domestic incorporation in Zimbabwean domestic law;

Comprehensive electoral reform;

Resolution of the “land problem”;

Security sector reform;

The strengthening of all national institutions;

Full international re-engagement.

Finally, the NTA will need an oversight body in order to ensure its success, and will need scaffolding from the outside.

Following this meeting, the participants were encouraged to discuss the various options as widely as possible, and the meeting will be followed by the meeting in Johannesburg to engage the diaspora and regional players.
Mandaza and Reeler are Co-Convenors of the Platform for Concerned Citizens (PCC).