Saturday, September 19, 2020

Power-sharing in Zimbabwe: Trials and tribulations

“Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun,” Mao Ze Dung once said.
But, how to share it grows out of genuine and legitimate consensus. First and foremost, I would like to register my frustration with our intellectuals for their lackluster position on the Zimbabwe crisis. Constructive and objective analysis and criticism of Robert Gabriel ‘Matibiri’ Mugabe/the ZANUP-PF from the intellectuals, scholars, and academics is indispensable. It has proved beyond any reasonable doubt that politician’s attack on Mugabe strengthens him even further. Mugabe himself, compared to many Presidents (politicians) who criticize him, is well-learned and is able to read their statements/remarks intelligently.

Mugabe reveres education so much that, to date, he boasts of six university degrees, and not honorary degrees like some of our chaps! A teacher by profession, he thinks that a university degree is a qualification for one to be the president/leader of his country. Thus, he enjoys describing Morgan Richard Tsvangirai, the eldest son of a carpenter and bricklayer, as the “ignoramus” one because he does not hold a university degree.

Obtaining his two law degrees (Bachelor of Laws and its Masters (LLM)), among others, while in prison, through the University of London External Programme, Mugabe is well-versed in almost all the academic fields, and he inspired many Zimbabweans.

Those who aspired to succeed him as presidents of Zimbabwe, like Joyce Mujuru and Emerson Munangagwa, had to go back to the classroom and listen attentively despite their old-age to get their first degrees. Indeed, they managed! It is the lack of education in Tsvangirai that Mugabe has exploited to the fullest. Mugabe has, and uses scornful rhetoric to dismiss his opponents, and he has done that successfully, at least to some extent. He and Blair are sworn enemies and he once said that “Unfortunately, the man in Britain (Blair) is immature and ignorant. When we got our independence, he and his kin in government were in school. They still have a lot to learn.” Mugabe’s academic robustness is something which even Thabo Mbeki, described as an academic, admires.
Let’s stop fooling the people! Mugabe, Mbeki, Tsvangirai, and the now turned ZANU-PF admirer, Arthur Mutambara, know that the talks will not produce any tangible solution to the crisis in Zimbabwe.

George Charamba, Mugabe’s spokesman, once said that Zimbabwe is not Kenya, and as Zimbabweans, they have a way of resolving conflicts. Indeed!
It is clear even to a toddler that the so-called second round elections in Zimbabwe were neither free nor fair. Mugabe won because his was a one-man’s show. Not surprisingly, he continues to claim, by using old-fashioned anti-colonial struggle ideological rhetoric, that he is the liberator of his people against neo-colonialism. If he thinks people like him, why did he coerce them to vote for him?

There are controversies going on in Zimbabwe over whether Mugabe should be made a ceremonial president. Whatever that means! In the first place, is he a president? In Zimbabwe, the dog’s breakfast which took place on the 27 of June did not produce a president. Did it? Mugabe knows that very well. After declaring himself the winner, Mugabe organized a quick inauguration ceremony, and later flew to Egypt to attend the AU summit. Mugabe’s intention was to see how his mates would react to him.
The AU, a club of dictators, did not criticize Mugabe openly. Mugabe even threatened that he would single out each and every leader at the summit if they dared to criticize him. Knowing that their houses are not in order, they decided to keep mum- giving the old man a sigh of relief.

It is surprising that a power-sharing deal in Zimbabwe is being negotiated on the basis that Mugabe won the second round elections, and categorically he is the President. If the talks start in this premise, I think Zimbabwe is heading towards a more protracted stalemate, more serious than the Joshua Nkomo-Mugabe power-sharing deal of the 1980s. For any tangible peace accord or power-sharing deal to be brokered, partners in the negotiations must be treated equally. The chief facilitator must be seen by all the parties as neutral. But, in the Zimbabwe case, Mbeki is not seen as neutral by the MDC and many observers.

The army commander, General Constantine Chiwenga, police chief, Augustine Chihuri, the prisons commissioner, retired General Paradzai Zimondi, are against any change of government in Zimbabwe. So, do we want to believe that these opponents of democracy are going to accept the outcomes of a power-sharing deal? Zimondi, for instance, once said that: “If the opposition wins the election, I will be the first one to resign from my job and go back to defend my piece of land.” He also ordered his staff to vote for Mugabe saying: “I am giving you an order to vote for the President (Mugabe). Do not be distracted. The challenges we are facing are just a passing phase.”
Augustine Chihuri was clear and loud to the MDC when he said that: “This time, we are wiser and we are determined, and this must serve as warning to puppets [MDC]… we will not allow any puppets to take charge.”

General Chiwenga was so furious to the extent of using Christianity’s widely used metaphor of “sacrifice” when he said that Mugabe had sacrificed a lot for the country and deserved support. When questioned about the role of the army in protecting democracy, Chiwenga burst out, “Are you mad? What is wrong with the army supporting the President against the election of sell-outs?”
Another army chief, Major General Martin Chedondo, warned the soldiers (mainly junior officers) that they should rally behind Mugabe, and threatened that: “If you have other thoughts, then you should remove that uniform. [To him] soldiers are not apolitical; only mercenaries are apolitical.”

It is clear in Zimbabwe’s case that Mugabe is not negotiating for the interest of the ordinary citizens, but rather to appease his security giants. These are the people who are holding Mugabe at ransom. In fact, if Chiwenga wants to seize power, he can do that without any resistance. He is in control of the security wings. For this reason, in Zimbabwe, demands for power-sharing by whoever is advocating for it, is bound to ferment conflict than resolve it. What makes people and African leaders, in particular, Mbeki, to think that by striking whatever deal between Mugabe and his rivals will appease the army: who have clearly and repeatedly showed disrespect to democracy? These guys can never be changed overnight because unlike Mugabe, who spent years in prison, they were at the forefront, fighting a protracted “bush war” with the Smith regime, for more than 15 years. It is unlikely that any agreement which excludes them will have any meaningful resolution to this crisis. Major General Rugeje was even boastful when he said “As soldiers, we enjoy war.”

We should not understatement the role and influence of the army in Zimbabwe politics. For example, in 2002, all the service/security chiefs, including retired army General Vitalis Zvinavashe came together at a press conference where they vowed that they would not salute Tsvangirai if the MDC leader was elected president. Is it a matter of saluting Tsvangirai or defending democratic principles? They were very clear in giving that conditional statement.

When ZANU-PF came into power, most of those who participated in the “bush war” were assigned important posts in the government, ambassadorial posts, integrated in the police, CIO, and army. Those who joined the political wing include the likes of Mugabe, Edgar Tekere, Enos Nkala, Joyce Mujuri, and the lot occupying ministerial positions in the current government. Mugabe knows that he has to strike the deal which can ensure that all of them are appeased and represented.

Immediately after independence, between 1982 and 1984, Mugabe, through his North Korean trained Fifth Brigade committed the worst genocide in Matabeleland Province where an estimated 20, 000 plus civilians (mainly Ndebele’s) were mercilessly butchered.

In the context of the ongoing power-sharing deal, how is this issue accommodated? Are we going to have blanket amnesty? Those who carried out the terror campaign in Matabeleland are still alive, and some of them are the army chiefs in the present Mugabe regime. Enos Nkala was by then the minister of Defense, while the main man in the Gukurahundi campaign of terror, Air Marshal Perence Shiri, is the current commander of the Air Force of Zimbabwe.

A number of individuals in the current Zimbabwe regime were responsible for what went on in Matabeleland. Thus, they should be held responsible. Even Tsvangirai by then was an official in ZANU-PF, and he claim(ed) to have been clearly against the Gukurahundi campaign.

Mbeki, Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara must know that they do not have any legitimacy whatsoever to give anyone blanket amnesty to the perpetrators of Gukurahundi. This is an issue which has to be dealt with at the international level. It is said that Mugabe apologized to the Ndebele people. But this is not enough. Since Zimbabwe is not a signatory to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), an independent Truth and Reconciliation Commission has to be set up to deal with this issue. The Gukurahundi issue is the main reason why the army chiefs are against the “fall” of Mugabe. In 2001, Tsvangirai said that Gukurahundi was “…a barbaric operation by Zanu-PF. It should never have happened. It was a sad episode in our history and the MDC will obviously want to see justice being done if it comes to power. Such human rights abuses should be revisited and those responsible will have to account for their actions” So, MDC leader should stick to his words at the power-sharing negotiations, and push for a just solution to this “sad episode”.

The problem that we are facing in Zimbabwe is that the MDC seems not to have concrete resolutions to the core issues; such as the land issue, Gukurahundi massacres, prosecution of those who committed atrocities in the recent post-election violence, and how the army and the police can be integrated in a democratic government. The biggest challenge in Zimbabwe, so far, is the land question. I want to make it clear that unless the British honour their promise of funding Zimbabwe’s land redistribution; and Mugabe’s land redistribution programme of 2000 is declared null and void, these two thorny issues will remain the litmus test to the power-sharing deal. Even if Tsvangirai can be allowed to rule Zimbabwe, his party will never resolve the land question in that country. I am pretty much convinced that MDC has no solution to the LAND QUESTION.

Lastly, divided as they are, the MDC and its smaller faction must be advised that in power-sharing, if minority groups can frame their demands in a way that emphasizes joint benefit, and focus on developing a mutually acceptable way of achieving self-determination for all groups, they are likely to meet with more success than they are if they take a more combative or competitive approach. Any combative approach to the ZANU-PF is unlikely to yield any significant positive result. These people enjoy violence! In Zimbabwe, a transitional government is ideal. This political arrangement can last for about 36 months. During this period, major constitutional reforms, in preparation for the elections should be undertaken. The role of the civil society, church organizations, media, and other bodies should be taken into board. At the moment, some key stakeholders are entirely absent and not represented in the talks. In conclusion, I want to make it clear that the current power-sharing dialogue in Zimbabwe will NOT produce any tangible result because it is done in bad faith. ZANU-PF dictates terms to the other negotiators.

MANATSHA is a PhD student at Hiroshima University, Japan.

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