It is widely anticipated that Zimbabwe will be top of the agenda when United States secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, visits Africa on a seven nation tour this week.
She will, not for the first time, raise the Obama administration’s concerns about President Robert Mugabe’s continuing role in the government of that country.
She visits at a time when mutual mistrust of the past casts a dark shadow on efforts of the main actors in the Zimbabwe political arena as they attempt to craft a constitutional dispensation that will allow for elections inside the agreed 18 months.
Unfulfilled expectations flowing out of the global political agreement (GPA) signed in September 2008 threaten to foil the initial efforts of the ‘national constitutional assembly.’
The Constitutional assembly is supposed to negotiate a new legal framework for the remodelling of the press and electoral laws to permit openness and fairness.
The most aggrieved are the Movement for Democratic Change constituency who believe that they were robbed of a clear victory at the aborted election two years ago.
Even as MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, and Robert Mugabe put up the public face of cooperation in the pursuit of the agreed measures that should be in place to set the stage for ‘free and fair’ elections, the prime minister’s visit to South Africa early this week points to the ongoing consultations about unfinished business around the GPA.
Evidently, South Africa will continue to serve as a proxy for briefings that the MDC will give to the US government following President Barack Obama’s promise of $73million in indirect aid to the Zimbabwe government at the request of Tsvangirai in July. The money will be released through ‘civil society organisations’ as identified and determined by the US government.
Robert Mugabe continues to believe that the United States government under Obama has not retreated from its desire for ‘regime change’ in Zimbabwe. He is probably correct even though the United States government prefers the wording, ‘social, economic and political reform’.
On his visit to Ghana, also in July, Obama offered the standard of “democracy, opportunity, health and peaceful resolution of conflict” as preconditions for development.
The euphemisms aside, the United States prefers a Zimbabwe without Mugabe, and Clinton will communicate that to Jacob Zuma after she gets the brief that Tsvengerai was there a few days before.
Tsvangirai will also have retorted that his, and Mugabe’s goodwill, did little to drive last week’s constitutional talks forward.
The MDC constituency was not impressed with the ‘Kariba’ document which was purportedly designed to serve as a framework to launch discussions around the reform of the constitution.
“We don’t even know this Kariba paper,” said a protester speaking to television cameras outside the negotiations’ hall in Harare.
Other sources point out that the Kariba document ÔÇô or at least most of its contents ÔÇô was circulated and agreed by most of the political actors in Harare months ago. The approval that the document enjoyed was foiled when it became apparent that Mugabe was not about to leave as would have been required to set the stage for open, free and fair elections.
There has yet been no settlement of disputes over certain government positions, among them the governor of the Central Bank.
Further animosity between the parties to the ‘government of national unity’ is fanned by the arrest of MPs of the majority MDC party in parliament on charges of corruption.
The arrest of the parliamentarians is viewed by the MDC as a deliberate ploy to reduce its majority in the law making body, thereby foiling the party’s potential to put through pieces of legislation that would prepare the country for elections, also shifting the ground with regard to the appointment of senior government officers.
News reports out of South Africa point out that Prime Minister Tsvangirai met South African president Jacob Zuma on Monday, apparently seeking his intervention in Zimbabwe in his capacity as chairperson of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Neither leader would release details of what they discussed. Zuma promised to make contact with Mugabe and other SADC leaders to seek a way forward.
Zuma is encumbered with the challenge of living up to a more aggressive approach as opposed to former president, Thabo Mbeki, who was accused of a soft approach towards Mugabe and his manipulation of negotiations to his favour.