Scaffolding Zimbabwean transition

Elections  Matters, Matters Elections

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Opinion by Charles Madhihwa

ZIMBABWE has remained in a perpetual transition since gaining independence from Britain in 1980.

Failure to usher in a civilian rule free from military influence has kept the nation in a transitional mode as the military remains deeply entrenched in the civilian processes, a feat that predates independence.

The 1975 Mgagao declaration that resulted in the unceremonious removal of the founding president of Zanu, Ndabaningi Sithole, replacing him with Robert Mugabe became an indelible mark of the military involvement in the civilian politics of the nation, the adventure remained imbedded in the national psyche much that up to this day the military remains the king maker of Zimbabwean politics.

The military influence in civilian politics was reconfirmed in November 2017 when the Mgagao beneficiary was also unceremoniously jettisoned from power through a coup.

This historical narrative and political interplay suggests that there could be possibly no Zimbabwean solution without the express involvement of the military, as it has become so imbedded in civilian matters of politics and it has clear vested interest.

The ruling Zanu PF party is no longer a civilian organisation but has rather become a conflation of some key security personnel, selected business people, some party elites and has morphed into a state plundering creature.

The organisation has become an octopus spreading its tentacles on all strategic economic veins of the nation as it plunders state resources with reckless abandon, foreign businesses mainly of Russian and Chinese extraction is deeply involved in the state plunder through opaque business arrangements at the behest of this Zanu PF creature.

The current generation should do something in order to stop the ongoing state plunder so as to save future generations.

A cogent home grown-political settlement plan has to be put in place to save the nation from further reckless mutilation, for this to happen one has to understand the Zimbabwean historical narrative and political realities.

Zimbabwe in its short history has gone through three Governments of National Unity to deal with emerging different political circumstances.

In 1980 independence came about through a negotiated settlement that was agreed upon at Lancaster House in Britain after a failed attempt in Geneva, Switzerland. Both warring parties, the nationalist movement and settler regime were persuaded by their respective allies to end the war that had become costly both in human and material terms and pursue dialogue to end the war.

Zanu led by  Mugabe, PF Zapu led by Joshua Nkomo, Rhodesian Front led by Ian Smith and UANC led by Bishop Abel Muzorewa settled for a government of national unity to end a bitter war and political realities.

The coalition government coexisted reasonably well, political hostilities were well-managed and the nation became an envy of many.

In 1983 an institutionalised civil war broke out between the predominantly Shona government of  Mugabe as it embarked on a military campaign to annihilate the  minority ethnic  Ndebeles  who formed the core of Nkomo’s  PF Zapu.

A North Korean-trained army crack unit was enlisted to systematically deal with a few renegades soldiers from the PF Zapu’s military wing, the Zipra.

The campaign was so brutal as it claimed thousands of civilian lives, women, children, the old and the able bodied. The military campaign ended with a government of national unity in 1987 between Mugabe’s Zanu and Joshua Nkomo’s PF Zapu to form a Zanu PF government of national unity.

While there could be reservations, the unity has held up, up to this day and it became a tool to end civil   war, mistrust and political hostilities.

In 1999 an opposition party largely backed by the main labour movement and other civic organisations was formed as a direct response to the economic crisis that had started in earnest owing to the Western influenced Economic Structural Adjustment Programme.

The newly formed opposition party seriously challenged for state power much that the ruling party activated the participation of security apparatus to veto opposition electoral victories through violence and rigging.

In 2008, inaugural harmonised elections whereby the opposition was widely believed to have defeated the Zanu PF ruling party, an inconclusive Presidential vote ended in a forced rerun by the defeated military backed-Zanu PF but was eventually condemned by everyone including Sadc and AU as the runoff became a brazen military adventure.

A government of national unity became a solution to the political stand-off.

Though the marriage was problematic it produced an offspring, a national constitution which is relatively democratic and a bold step towards a final lap to full democracy.

This historical narrative brings to the fore that a cogent home grown political solution lies in yet another government of national unity.

Research shows that each phase of government of national unity was put together to manage different political circumstances with different outcomes.

The last GNU that existed between 2009 and 2013 managed to infuse a modicum of economic stability and give birth to a democratic constitution and this can highlight that if warring parties are well committed to end political hostilities and economic crisis, the answer lies in yet another negotiated political settlement.

Some distinguished scholars are pushing for a National Transitional Authority(NTA) based on non-political actors, the proposition is very ideal on paper but practically not feasible if juxtaposed with political realities.

Currently Zanu PF is enjoying an unassailable parliamentary absolute majority much that the proposed national transitional authority in its form and content is a serious disincentive to their political interest.

The solution lies in agreeing on a serious multi-stakeholder national dialogue with a view to conduct elections which are broadly free, fair and credible.

Whatever the outcome of those elections, a government of national unity is an inescapable reality if the nation is to extricate itself out of the current quagmire, the pact should be agreed in principle before elections in order to smoothen the election contest.

A pre-election pact whose structure and frame work should be discussed and agreed through the envisaged national dialogue remains a plausible permanent solution to the perennial twin crisis of political hostilities and economic implosion.

The envisaged government of national unity should draw its executive from the multi stakeholders, though election results should be used as a yardstick to configure the executive structure of government, but the frame work out to be put in place before elections to allay any fears.

This can be an emotive issue but Zimbabweans no matter their differences should understand that a solution to their problems lies within themselves, more so there is no point in spilling blood if the ultimate goal is for the nation to dialogue among itself.

What is of paramount importance is the realisation that every Zimbabwean has a duty to play to bring about a Zimbabwe we all want and proud of.

The main political parties should dispense with narrow political interest and swallow their pride and selfishness and make painful but bold and necessary steps to find each other to extricate the nation from the obtaining abyss.

Dialogue is meant for people with opposing views, it is never meant for people who are in agreement, it is called dialogue because it is a two-way communication, parties to it should make concessions and doing so is not a sign of weakness but rather strength.

Is there not a cause?

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