INSIDE the Zimbabwean political amphitheatre are scenes of the tired; the old and the uninspiring.
These are scenes one doesn’t gladly and willingly watch — but are forcefully thrust in our faces. No-one is spared from the ever-disappointing drama coming out of Zimbabwe.
Like many, I have watched with great caution the drama on the swearing in of the Prime Minister, his deputies and ministers in Zimbabwe. I say with caution because I am one of those people who believe that this Unity Government is built on sand.
As you might expect, the structure will soon collapse. It is a matter of time — that is if my analysis is spot-on. I know this is not palatable to many but historical and recent developments justify my pessimism. I would rather tread with cautious pessimism than wild optimism. These are my reasons:
First and foremost, the GNU was driven by the desire on both parties (MDC and Zanu PF) to share power equally; of-course this after each failed to have all the power individually. Given room to assume all the power, each of these parties would have sidelined the other; as we see unfolding now. The context however detected otherwise.
More critical for these parties was who gets what position in government; who gets to run what department; who has the power to appoint who and how? In other words, the main driver for the GNU was who gets the biggest share of the national resources; and not what would hold the nation together.
Giving equal or even disproportionate power to different political actors is not the solution to Zimbabwe’s crisis. Rather, what this might create is a perpetual conflict between the two ‘bulls’ so to speak. If we used the metaphor of animals to illustrate this scenario, we would notice that the current experimentation will be characterised by permanent stand-off between Zanu PF and MDC-T.
If two bulls are put in one kraal; expect no peace in that kraal for both bulls but also for the other cows. The older bull will always want to flex its muscles and apply its authority on the young and new one. To do so, it has no choice but to use violence.
But of course, the young and new bull won’t take kindly to this. It will resist any moves to be sidelined. At the back of its mind, the young bull is convinced that the old has no real stamina, and that in any case this is the moment for a new leader in the kraal. So we end up with these endless fights in the kraal causing sleepless nights for the other cows as well.
Nearer home; does this not resonate? Roy Bennet was arrested some minutes before ministers were sworn in. Is this not the case of the old bull flexing its muscles? The new bull is definitely going to fight back; how is still the question. But this is a serious test for the new bull. If it fails this test; it might as well accept that the old bull is still the most powerful in the kraal; and just eat the grass like other cows. There will be many of these unnecessary tussles.
Second, the GNU has just recycled the old especially from Zanu PF back into ministerial positions. Thus nothing has changed — it is the old and tired back in the driving seat. Is there any hope for safe-landing? Your answer is spot-on.
The MDC-T list is even more interesting. It is a mixture of friends and the absurd. There are capable appointments I must say, but in the main the MDC also fell in the same trap of rewarding loyalty. This is as sad as it is disheartening.
I have followed some heated arguments on Facebook concerning regional representation. That is a topic for another article. Those from Matabeleland seemed concerned that they are not represented proportionally in the new appointments. And the white community felt persecuted. These are real issues that the country should discuss — whether now or later is another question.
The point though is that we seem to have stagnated. Frankly, the current set up is not inspiring. Will there ever be time when government and other appointments are made based on merit and not some relations or loyalty?
When all this is happening-of-course there is total disregard for what holds the nation together. The politicians including the architects of the GNU did not ask the question: what is the national question for Zimbabweans? What are Zimbabweans’ common values and principles? In other words, should the GNU not be built on a common value system rather than on power-sharing? The very notion of sharing power implies severe or even bloody competition. Who would want to lose out? No one of-course. And yet if the process was reversed and we started with the values and societal glues; I bet we would not have as many bloody scuffles as we currently have.
Indeed the central uniting feature would not be what goes where and who gets what but what defines Zimbabweans in substantive ways. A GNU built on the national question and value system would be solid — simply because it would be built on the foundation of societal values and glued together by what unites the society rather than what separates it. What we have currently, is a union forced together by what separates the society rather than its glue. Can we expect the impossible to happen?
We need to confront this monstrous and erroneous formula. I have heard all kinds of arguments regarding GNUs; I am still to be convinced that they work at the end of the day. My view is that Zimbabwe is a special case and there were no alternatives to a GNU formula.
However, the process leading to the GNU was very flawed as I have stated elsewhere and above. Not only was it exclusive to a few individuals; its participants were also naïve.
MDC-T signed an agreement that had no serious substance they ended up bound by the signature rather than the contents of the Agreement. Zanu PF on the other hand needed MDC but still went on as if they could do without MDC.
The unanswered question in all this is: where were the intellectual bases for these politicians? Why did they take decisions that are so obviously wrong in the eyes of their constituencies? The GNU is not the solution to Zimbabwe’s crisis — it is a stop-gap measure. We still have to find a solution to the crisis.
In the immediate, some actions can be taken to rectify the flawed process leading to the GNU. Firstly, what the Agreement has referred to as national healing should be expanded to include what the churches at one point attempted with ‘the Zimbabwe We Want’ consultations that led to a report that was, regrettably, Zanunised.
A national consultative process around the national question and what people care about most must be initiated with a view to building social cohesion.
My view has always been that there are no fundamental divisions between political players in Zimbabwe regarding what Zimbabwe ought to be; but what has separated and kept them apart are the methodologies and approaches they use to get to the desired goal.
Second, civil society formations must grab this moment to hold the government accountable for not just the past wrongs but also for their promises. It is more important now because there is no opposition.
To do so, however civil society organisations need to be capacitated both conceptually and in practical terms.