If bishops were guilty of aligning with Mugabe, ICG goes to the other extreme
By Joram Nyathi
IF the National Vision bishops were accused of being too close to President Mugabe, the ICG report is guilty of going to the other extreme. If the bishops were guilty of giving Mugabe a lifeline, the ICG is equally guilty of a false deconstruction of Mugabe.
Both have not achieved their ends — the bishops because a vision is essentially a dream still to be acted on, the ICG because of a false premise about Mugabe’s exit.
For purposes of space, I will leave out the problematic structure of the ICG report — Zimbabwe: An end to the stalemate — to focus on its contents —its weaknesses and false assumptions.
It opens its Executive Summary by claiming "a realistic chance has at last begun to appear in the past few months to resolve the Zimbabwe crisis, by retirement of President Robert Mugabe, a power-sharing transitional government, a new constitution and elections".
Would a foreign reader be wrong to assume that Mugabe had retired and we were in a process of reconstruction when the truth is that Mugabe is still president and the real bloody fight lies ahead? Their first recommendation is also foreign-based. They say Zanu PF should not extend Mugabe’s term but "support Sadc-led negotiations to implement an exit strategy for him". Shouldn’t it be Sadc supporting local initiatives, or is this an admission that opposition forces are unable to spearhead such a process?
What I found extreme about the ICG report was the direct taunting of Mugabe by suggesting that an exit package is being worked out for him so that Zimbabwe can quickly re-establish relations with the West and the Commonwealth. What is the point of this provocation?
While Mugabe’s party may be riven by factions, this is a proposal that makes it even more difficult for so-called Zanu PF moderates or Sadc leaders to approach him without being accused of advancing a dirty agenda. It is an agenda crafted in a way which ensures it is a stillbirth and therefore of no use to Zimbabweans.
The ICG states that the MDC is "prepared to negotiate an end to the crisis, accept a power-sharing agreement and support constitutional reforms — if Zanu PF delivers Mugabe’s exit".
This is to stand logic on its head. Shouldn’t it be the dominant party saying it is prepared to negotiate? What are the MDC’s other options, as the ICG admits that the party has limited "organisational capacity and resources"? This analytical sloppiness leads to the next error about the MDC accepting "a power-sharing agreement". Is that what the people said? What is the MDC’s claim to that power-sharing deal? I thought the idea of a "stalemate" was an acceptance that the opposition was in a weak position to set terms. Zanu PF’s problem is one of legitimacy at home and abroad, not one of numbers to change the constitution.
If the Zanu PF factions can get rid of Mugabe on their own, which they want and can do, then they don’t need the MDC. Morgan Tsvangirai admits as much when he warns that Zanu PF infighting is creating "a power vacuum" that could lead "to dangerous adventurism", implying the MDC is not ready to fill that vacuum.
The report admits that Zanu PF sees the MDC weaker as a divided party. This point takes us to a nebulous phrase about a "new constitution". This is supposed to guarantee free and fair elections if there are foreign observers. The ICG puts itself in an invidious trap here in which an election won by Zanu PF must be rejected outright while that won by the opposition is invariably free and fair. This is gratuitous opportunism, no more than wishful thinking, because politics is more complex.
Talking of Zanu PF moderates, the ICG makes the point that Solomon Mujuru and Emmerson Mnangagwa want Mugabe out for purely personal reasons — their businesses are hurting from lack of Western investment. So how do their personal commercial interests qualify them to be national leaders? Well, their background.
The ICG commits the sin of linking future leaders to the military establishment. Is this an attempt to nurture a culture of warlordism? What are the military leaders who back either Mujuru or Mnangagwa supposed to do should their candidate loses an election?
What bothers me is that it is taken as a given that one must have the support of the military without resolving the contradiction with the democratic imperative and civilian administration it rests on. Where does that leave opposition leaders like Tsvangirai who have no military background but are popular?
The ICG proceeds from there to give us sanitised criteria by which future leaders are judged by their inaction. All aspiring Zanu PF candidates are said to "have dark spots on their records". Simba Makoni’s sin is that he is not doing anything to stop Zanu PF’s damaging economic policies; Gideon Gono is guilty of defending these policies while Mnangagwa’s "dark spot" is his failure to provide houses for Murambatsvina victims. What about Gukurahundi?
Who is responsible for this Martian version of history? So democracy needs no more than a few lies about our past for it to work!
What values does the MDC share with Zanu PF? This leads to a fallacy in which opposition to Mugabe equates to democracy, hence vague phrases about a "restoration of" or "return to democracy". When did we part company with it? Is democracy the same thing as majority rule? If so, how is this different from periodic, ritualistic elections held since 1980 which have led us to where we are today? At what point did we enter a dictatorship?
Finally, I still insist that a "new constitution" is no use if it doesn’t enshrine in it the values and principles encapsulated in the National Vision document affirming the dignity and equality of man before God and the law.
Nyathi is a
columnist for the Zimbabwe Independent
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