The two sworn political rivals in Zimbabwe, the peace-hungry MDC and the peace-shunning ZANU-PF, have finally agreed on a compromised unity/peace deal.
On the surface, the deal appears sugar-coated, but deeper into it; the deal is salt-smeared, complicated, impractical, and wobbly.
I want to focus on this higgledy-piggledy arrangement and other aspects, and assess whether the deal is worth-celebrating.
Boniface Chidyausiku, Zimbabwe’s envoy to the United Nations, has highly praised this deal as a “triumph for African diplomacy”. My core questions and pessimism lie much on the aftermath and practicality of this power-sharing deal.
The hard-to-crack Mugabe and hard-to-please Tsvangirai have been playing a cat and mouse political game with each other over the last 6 months. But now, since the game is nearly over, what awaits Zimbabwe?
Many would view me as an infernal pessimist. But, I believe that critical analysis of this arrangement is vital.
Burying the heads in the sand like an ostrich cannot be helpful. I doubt the sincerity and substance of the deal. Afterall it was reached after a protracted exercise of mistrust, rancour, and chicanery.
According to MDC Chairperson and Zimbabwe’s Parliamentary Speaker, Lovemore Moyo, they had wanted Prime Minister Tsvangirai to have executive powers, while Mugabe was to remain a titular President. But, this was not possible. As Moyo laments: “So, what we got at the end of the day perhaps was probably nearly a sister-sister power-sharing deal, so I’m saying it’s not exactly initially what we wanted.” Already, the MDC has entered into a deal which it had not wanted, or, all along, fought for. Categorically, I view this as tantamount to applying lipstick to a pig.
We have seen how the Kenyan deal has led to the creation of the largest and costly Cabinet ever in the history of that country. The Kenyan tax payers would have to cough out US$800 million per year to sustain these greedy men-cum Cabinet Ministers under the pretext of securing peace. Commendably, Zimbabwe’s negotiators have not entertained a monkey-see, monkey-do approach in forming their Cabinet. According to the deal, MDC and its small faction have been awarded 16 seats in Cabinet, while the ZANU-PF will get 15. Also, Mugabe will chair the Cabinet meetings and will control the army; while Tsvangirai will chair a new Council of Ministers, and take control of the Police. Remember that the Police chief, Augustine Chihuri, once vowed not to recognise Tsvangirai, and said that “…we will not allow any puppets to take charge” referring to MDC. But under the recent deal, Tsvangirai is going to be his boss. Is this possible?
To start with, the land question in Zimbabwe is the most complex and politicised one in the region. Thus, it has a direct impact on the just-concluded deal.
I understand that the MDC proposed a Land Commission to be set up by an Act of Parliament with the anticipation of being the victors in the previous dog’s breakfasts dubbed “Mugabe’s elections”.
Now, how are they going to sell this Commission to their partner, ZANU-PF? The MDC, “…rejects completely the manner in which ZANU (PF) has pursued the land reform issue since 2000. When the MDC forms the next government in Zimbabwe, it will accept neither the status quo that existed prior to 2000 nor the position it will inherit after eight years of mayhem and destruction by a criminal elite. ”
ZANU-PF politicians, elites associated with ZANU-PF, senior security forces, and other important persons in the Mugabe regime, such as ambassadors benefited handsomely from the higgledy-piggledy “land reform” instituted in 2000.
In a coalition government, resolutions are reached through a consensus. But, in this case, it is clear that MDC policy on land reform differs profoundly with that of the ZANU-PF.
In fact, the land question will be hardest to sell to ZANU-PF war veterans (politicians). If it is repossessed, does the land revert to the previous owners? Most of the white farmers lost their property, suffered trauma, and lost their businesses during this madness.
Are they entitled to compensation under the new order? Some of the land confiscated in 2000 has been developed into squatter settlements. Are these squatters going to be evicted? How are the beneficiaries of Mugabe “land reform” going to respond to this power-sharing deal? The war veterans, most feared in the rural areas, might reject this deal. The MDC stated clearly that it will not accept Mugabe “land reform” nor will it accept the status quo which prevailed before 2000. A middle-way is in the minds of the MDC politicians. But what is this middle-way? Whatever middle-way will be agreed upon by the two sides, there is likelihood that it will be carefully scrutinised by the West, in particular former colonial master, Britain, and the Breton Woods institutions. There is no doubt that the funding of a land reform in Zimbabwe is needed, and that alone, gives the international donors a dictatorial say in the land reform policy to be adopted. Whatever MDC and ZANU-PF propose about land reform will not hold much since they have no money to see it through.
Simply put: ‘Show me the land; I will give you the money’ approach is going to be adopted by the international donors.
In a power-sharing deal, power has to be (re)distributed equally among the major rivals. Mugabe has finally agreed to relinquish some of the powers he has grabbed by force. This sister-sister power-sharing arrangement may result in two “governments” in Zimbabwe, operating in parallel; Tsvangirai with his Council of Ministers and Mugabe with his Cabinet. In the process, they will be confusion and eventually ruptures in the functioning of the whole set-up. The MDC must be very careful because ZANU-PF, cunning as they are, may swallow them in the course of this arrangement as happened with Joshua Nkomo.
From the look of things, ZANU-PF conceded to the demands by the MDC so that Tsvangirai can help revive the shattered economy. But, in the process, if MDC is not careful, it might find itself dancing to the tune of the ZANU-PF dirty politics; thereby hurting its relationship with the international players who are, at the moment, dictating whether Zimbabwe is left to sink further or is rescued.
What may also happen is that after Tsvangirai quick-fixes the economy, he might receive hostility from the ZANU-PF, and mainly its security forces. The main reason why the security forces did not stage a coup in Zimbabwe is that they realised that doing so will be tantamount to digging a mass grave for themselves. However, the security forces, including the Police he is going to head, will always view MDC with suspicion, and its success may threaten them; materially, politically, economically, and socially. Thus, we should expect some difficulties and hostilities in Zimbabwe even as the economy stabilizes. A cabal of elites within the ZANU-PF nucleus, security forces, and former war veterans, have built themselves an empire of wealth and political power over the last three decades. With the economic boom expected in Zimbabwe the ZANU-PF cabals are positioning themselves to this new order.
And thus, any change brought by MDC which may radically affect/stifle their (ZANU-PF cabals) future political and economic ambitions may be received with cunning, vitriol and hostility. In other words, Zimbabwe might experience economic and political success in the first decade, and a reverse of that gain as the ZANU-PF cabals would be now struggling for political, economic, and social space/recognition with the new elites from the MDC, highly educated Zimbabweans, now in Diaspora, who are eager to come back to their country, conscious peasants, and the re-emerging civic groups, which have been suppressed for the last three decades.
Chaos, disorder, political mistrust, chicanery, and disgruntlement by the so-called war-vets, the security forces, and the ZANU-PF elites against the “new men” should be expected after the economic boom and bang. In short, Zimbabwe may experience the fierce politics of recognition than elsewhere in the continent. As we are about to enter a “new era” in Zimbabwe, the above issues must pre-occupy the Zimbabweans, the region, and the international players who are determined to help.
The other aspect that we ought to look at is that of amnesty.
It plays a critical role in the just-concluded power-sharing deal too. Should amnesty be granted to all the perpetrators of genocide, political torture, rape, maiming, and indiscriminate killings which have been the trade mark of the Mugabe regime? There is no qualm that Zimbabwe needs reconciliation.
Without reconciliation, no power-sharing deal can be successful, not only in Zimbabwe, but every where else. If things can be “politically calm” in Zimbabwe as expected, I foresee a situation whereby some civic groups; women groups, NGOs, minority-ethnic groups associations, and student bodies rising up to the new order demanding that justice should be done regarding the violence which has raged on for three decades in that country. This might as well undermine the power-sharing deal between MDC and ZANU-PF. I am of the view that this deal should not be taken as representative of the other stakeholders outside ZANU and MDC.
Civic societies, and NGOs were not represented, and with the new government, their views must be respected and accommodated in the day-to-day running of that country.
Neglecting them would be tantamount to “political rape”. Therefore, the aftermath of MDC-ZANU-PF political deal may be a haven for more complexities, raptures, and the room to challenge the status quo – not from a rigid political perspective, but from civic societies’ approach (peaceful-coexistence). This power-sharing deal could have been meaningful if it was a transitional (government) political arrangement.
This Kenyan-style deal may result in the death of MDC! It happened to Nkomo in the 1980s. The current deal would result in Tsvangirai facing a lot of difficulties. He would want to please many players; firstly his party, secondly ZANUP-PF, and thirdly the international players/ donors. By pleasing the ZANU-PF, Tsvangirai would want to show that he is committed to “African diplomacy”.
African electorates are easily manipulated, so MDC should not fall in the booby trap set by Mugabe. Mugabe could seize any opportunity to ridicule MDC, if any policy they suggest would compromise the deal. The army and the police are also likely to shun the MDC in the long run. The power-sharing deal in Zimbabwe is a delicate one. I emphasise that the role of the security forces would ensure that the deal succeeds or fails. Furthermore, there are countries like China and Russia, which MDC is suspicious about, but which have been Mugabe’s long-time allies. We all know the suspicion that the West, America, the IMF and World Bank have over China’s growing influence in Africa. The MDC and ZANU-PF must be careful not to be used by the big powers to fight their proxy wars using the Zimbabwe power-sharing deal. What we all hope for are the best, genuine and friendly bilateral and multilateral relations between the government of Zimbabwe and the rest of the world. In summation, I would like to reiterate that the signing of a deal is not the end of the crisis in Zimbabwe. It might be the beginning of a more protracted but less volatile stalemate. We are also going to see the (re)emergence of class in Zimbabwe, geared towards rebuilding the country, repositioning themselves to, and redefining the new order in that country. We might also witness the death of the MDC, and the reversal of the democratic change or path in that country. Eventually, autocrats (ZANU-PF) might regain control if MDC relaxes, and allows itself to be donor-driven. Sugar-coated as it is, the deal leaves many questions unanswered! As they embark on this exercise, MDC and ZANU-PF must know that the great Zimbabwean liberation heroes, who fought for a better Zimbabwe, are watching them day and night: Josiah Tongogara, Herbert Chitepo, Nikita Mangena, Joshua Nkomo, George Nyandoro, Ndabaningi Sithole, Leopold Takawira, and Sekuru Kaguvi.
*Manatsha is studying for a PhD at Hiroshima University, Japan