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09/03/2012 00:00:00
by Tawanda Hove
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THERE has lately been noises emanating largely from the Zanu PF corner of the coalition government regarding the issue of elections and the recent statements on the matter by Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, the South African Foreign Affairs Minister.

Responding to a question in the South African parliament, Nkoana-Mashabane stated that in South Africa’s role as the facilitator, they envisaged that elections in Zimbabwe would only follow the adoption of a new constitution.

She is quoted as having said: ‘A committee [of the Zimbabwe Parliament] is drafting a new constitution, after which a referendum and then elections should be held. Our government therefore expects that there would be no deviation from the provisions of the GPA.’

This quite predictably drew a torrent of criticism bordering on abuse but certainly rude and undiplomatic from Zanu PF. The usual suspects came out screaming. Among them were characters well-known for their chameleonic tendencies of opportunistically changing political colours to suit the circumstance for one’s advantage.

In recent months, they have developed a tendency of commenting on everything but usually saying nothing of substance. They  latch onto anything that might provide a platform to scream the loudest probably with the hope of getting noticed but most likely to draw attention away from their own indiscretions made known to Zanu PF godfathers courtesy of WikiLeaks.

Not to be left out, Zanu PF spokesperson, Rugare Gumbo barked that South Africa cannot dictate to Zimbabwe. He added, rather disingenuously it must be said, that President Mugabe is entitled to call for elections without the new constitution. He knows it’s preposterous but he must be seen to be making such statements.

Nevertheless, all this noise does not and cannot alter the facts which are contained in the Global Political Agreement (GPA). Any reasonable person who has read the GPA knows it’s nonsensical to accuse the facilitator of dictating to Zimbabwe when the role of the facilitator is set out in plain terms.

Contrary to what is peddled by Zanu PF officials, the facilitator is also a guarantor and underwriter of the GPA. This is clearly captured in Article 22.6 of the GPA which states that: “The implementation of this agreement shall be guaranteed and underwritten by the Facilitator, SADC and the AU”.


SADC appointed the President of South Africa as the facilitator, a role so far occupied by three South African Presidents, Thabo Mbeki, Kgalema Mothlante and Jacob Zuma. The facilitator is entitled to act and speak through his appointed agents. The Foreign Affairs Minister, being an appointee of President Zuma, acts and speaks on his behalf. She was merely responding to a question and she explained what she understood to be the terms of the GPA.

In any event, the role of guarantor and underwriter should not be taken lightly, as Zanu PF commentators would have everyone believe. The facilitator, just like SADC and the AU, who are also guarantors and underwriters of the GPA, have legal and political obligations that they have assumed by virtue of their role. They owe it to Zimbabweans, not the political leaders to perform their role in good faith, which is to give effect to the terms of the GPA.

Now, how do you guarantee and underwrite something over which you have no measure of control? You would be foolish to do that because providing such a guarantee leaves you legally and in this context, politically, exposed. So it is not about SADC or South Africa dictating to Zimbabwe. Rather it is simply SADC and its chosen facilitator playing their role to ensure the GPA is fully implemented. Giving an opinion on what they expect to be done to meet the terms of the GPA is hardly the same thing as dictating terms to Zimbabwe.

Instead of raising voices and shouting abuse, Zanu PF politicians should apply their minds to the text and spirit of the GPA, which their principal signed. It is clear from reading the GPA that the writing of a new constitution is clearly part of the implementation of the GPA as provided for in Article 6.

Article 6 begins with a long preamble that acknowledges the flaws of the current constitution and that “it is a fundamental right and duty of the Zimbabwean people to make a constitution by themselves and for themselves”.

The signatories state their recognition of the “need to ensure that the new Constitution deepens our democratic values and principles and the protection of the equality of all citizens, particularly the enhancement of full citizenship and equality of women”.

Article 6 goes on to state the minute details of the agreement between the parties on the process of making a new constitution. It is from this that the mandate of the Selct Committee of Parliament (COPAC) to lead the writing of the new constitution is derived.

The provisions detail the process and procedures to be followed, including the All Stakeholders Conferences, the role of Parliament and importantly there is an agreement that “a referendum on the new draft Constitution shall be held within three months of the conclusion of the [Parliamentary] debate”. There is therefore an expectation that in fulfilment of the GPA, a constitutional referendum will be held.

Now, why would the GPA go to all these lengths if the adoption of a new constitution is not one of the key deliverables of the government? It is important in answering this question to recall that the current coalition government is a direct result of the deep and significant flaws in the existing constitutional and electoral framework. Logic dictates that to prevent the problems that bedevilled the last elections and therefore to avoid another GPA scenario, you have to change the constitutional and electoral framework.

Only a fool continues to repeat the same thing and producing the same result. Why go through an election under the existing flawed framework when there is an opportunity to create a new landscape that could make the election free, fair and effective? There is no other reason, unless one is not in control of his faculties or he knows that flawed framework works to his advantage.

This pattern of Zanu PF’s impetuous behaviour and petulant tantrums directed at South Africa and President Zuma is nothing new and is certainly unsurprising. We have seen, over the past couple of years, Zanu PF’s growing discomfort in the company of President Zuma. We have heard the harsh criticism of South African officials who work with Zuma in his role as facilitator.

This attitude from Zanu PF towards President Zuma and his team is completely different from the manner and approach of Zanu PF towards former President Mbeki. President Mbeki was regularly criticised for alleged sympathy and a soft approach towards President Mugabe and Zanu PF. Indeed, some credit him with rescuing Mugabe and Zanu PF in the aftermath of the disastrous 2008 elections. Mugabe and Zanu PF seemed to have a cordial relationship with Mbeki whereas Mbeki’s relationship with Tsvangirai and the opposition generally was less than warm.

However, it is clear from Zanu PF’s reaction towards Zuma that he is a different character altogether. Zuma is not singing from the Mbeki script. He has seen through Zanu PF’s veil that tries hopelessly to cover dishonesty and thuggish behaviour. SADC too is probably quite tired of Zanu PF’s clear dishonesty and reckless disregard for the GPA.

Zanu PF commentators regularly claim that there should be no interference in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs, yet there is no greater evidence of Zimbabwe allowing external interference from SADC than the fact that we have a fthis coalition government guaranteed and underwritten by external bodies like SADC and the AU.

As a matter of fact, our current government and the GPA which is part of the constitution are creatures of external interference. The GPA is defined in the definition section as “this written Agreement signed by the representatives of Zanu PF and the MDC, in its two formations ("the Parties") in fulfilment of the material mandate handed down by the SADC Extraordinary Summit an 29th March 2007 and endorsed by SADC in Lusaka, Zambia and adopted by the African Union Summit in Sharm El- Sheikh, Egypt”.

We consented to it and gave away some control of our affairs, at least for the duration of this GPA for which those external parties have a responsibility.

The preamble of the GPA is itself illustrative of this submission to which the country was committed. It starts by declaring as follows: “SUBMITTING ourselves to the mandate of the Extraordinary Summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) held in Dar-es-Salaam, United Republic of Tanzania, on 29th March 2007 and endorsed in Lusaka on 12th April 2008 and in the AU Summit held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt from 30th June to 1 July 2008”.

How is that submission not an act of voluntary consent to an externally directed mandate? And President Mugabe signed it. He was not forced to do so.

The fact of the matter is that ever since Zimbabwe presented itself before SADC and the AU and submitted itself to the process of facilitation and mediation by SADC through its facilitator, it voluntarily conceded some control over certain aspects of its internal affairs. This may not sound politically correct but it is a fact from which running away would be futile.

This is the political price that the country is paying for the failure of its politicians to resolve issues internally. Zimbabwe had a choice to deal with things internally and on its own terms but there was a clear failure to do so hence the resort to SADC.

There are two ways to stop the interference that is currently a fact of our political life. Either Zanu PF gets bolder and decides to walk out of the GPA, sticking two fingers to SADC, itself a high risk strategy or they comply with the GPA, see out the constitutional reform process and ensure a free and fair election which will not require further mediation.

But they don’t seem to have the guts to walk away. They can only make noise. The noise is Zanu PF’s preparation to get rid of the South African President as the facilitator. SADC should resist this. When Mbeki was clearly favouring Zanu PF, they were happy with him. Now there is a new man who does not tolerate their nonsense and they want him gone. SADC should not allow itself to be bullied.

Nkoana-Mashabane did not do anything wrong. She has read the GPA, and she correctly noted what is required to give effect to its terms – Article 6 sets out clearly that a new constitution must be written and Article 22.6 clearly sets out the facilitator’s role as both guarantor and underwriter of the GPA, with obligations to the people of Zimbabwe to see it fully implemented. If Zanu PF is not happy, they should ditch the GPA and deal with the consequences in the region.

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