“If it is a question of just a couple more months, then I will have no objection but to give it another life of six months or one year, no, no, no, no,” so maintains President Robert Mugabe on the possibility of Zimbabwe’s power-sharing government extending beyond February 2011.
Mugabe’s comments came soon after Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai unleashed what is perhaps his most unmeasured public outburst over the Zanu PF leader’s exercise of unilateral executive authority to date. Tsvangirai finds Mugabe’s unilateralism disgusting. Mugabe regards Tsvangirai’s conduct in government as foolish and stupid.
Over the course of time, you develop some “chemistry”, Tsvangirai said of his relationship with Mugabe not too long ago. Mugabe is part of the “solution” to the Zimbabwe crisis, the MDC leader once defended his Zanu PF counterpart. Mugabe is a “hero”, Tsvangirai praised the Zimbabwe president recently.
So why is Mugabe’s behaviour now disgusting? Has the chemistry died? The naked truth is that there never was any chemistry to kill because Zanu PF and the MDC are like fire and water. The water (MDC) is there to put out the fire. The fire (Zanu PF) is there to vaporise the water.
Since February 2009, when the power-sharing government took charge, Zanu PF has employed the politics of continuity. The politics of continuity denotes four constants.
First, Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, the leader of a rival MDC faction, signed a power sharing pact that entailed no real power-sharing because the powers vested in the executive presidency, which is occupied by Mugabe, were left largely intact.
Second, the heads of the army, police, air force, prisons and intelligence agency, known as the Joint Operations Command (JOC), remain under Mugabe’s control, and there is no timetable for security sector reform and de-militarisation of the state.
Third, Zanu PF’s uninterrupted use of violence and Zimbabwe’s liberation history against its power-sharing partners.
Fourth, Zanu PF’s strategy of obstruction and subversion of democratic reforms in order to discredit the MDCs’ ability to govern effectively and deliver change, thereby diminishing its chances of victory in the next election.
Tsvangirai’s response to the politics of continuity has been one of “protest and capitulation” over a range of issues including the renewed seizure of white-owned farms and human rights violations. Remaining in the power-sharing government is a better option than leaving for MDC leaders, because it offers the hope that they can improve service delivery, win-over Zanu PF voters, and see to it that a constitution guaranteeing free and fair elections is somehow drafted and adopted.
Remaining in the power-sharing government is also attractive because it allows the MDC access to state resources which have been used for personal enrichment and to strengthen its patronage network.
But there is limited evidence that the MDC’s presence in government is having concrete effect. Power-sharing has done little to reform the state. Nor has it moderated Zanu PF’s behaviour. The commitment of the military to continued Zanu PF rule is solidified by the lavish lifestyle that leaders have managed to carve out for themselves within the power-sharing administration.
In October 2008, one month after the Global Political Agreement (GPA) was signed, the military seized control of the Marange diamond fields in eastern Zimbabwe, for instance. All this has been a direct product of the politics of continuity.
It is worth recalling that in 2008, Tsvangirai was in favour of swift negotiations, not because he thought power-sharing was a panacea, but because “the people have suffered enough”. And yet the 2008 violence and human rights abuses are rooted in Zimbabwe’s complex unresolved legacies of impunity, intolerance and pseudo-reconciliation.
The diplomatic rush to reach a power-sharing deal papered over the need to resolve these issues. It also resulted in the failure to craft an arrangement that would guarantee real sharing of executive authority between the President and Prime Minister.
Yet there is little that is effectual Tsvangirai can do to remedy the situation his MDC party finds itself in. If Tsvangirai walks away from the power-sharing government, an upsurge of Zanu PF violence awaits him and his party.
It is unlikely that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) will push Mugabe over the edge. So Tsvangirai will stay put, protesting and capitulating. In the background the drumbeat of elections reverberates louder with the passing of time and the prospects for meaningful reform and a constitution based on the views of Zimbabweans diminish.
Power-sharing is a tiger Tsvangirai and his party are riding with the hope that they will not end up in the belly of the beast.