Reports from Zimbabwe on Thursday indicated that a power-sharing agreement had been achieved between Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change.
Needless to say, having been led down this path before, the long suffering Zimbabweans greeted this news with a mixture of doubt, disbelief, joy, cautious optimism and even fear.
While people are craving for a meaningful settlement, they are even more afraid of the possible consequences of this political union of inconvenience, especially considering that the loser was calling the shots and making demands of the winners.
Robert Mugabe has never been trusted nor has he ever been willing to play second fiddle to anyone.
The continued veil of secrecy, to which the MDC is party to, is cause for concern to some of us who feel opposed to this agreement and still believe this agreement will collapse very soon.
And when that happens brand new vengeance will visit.
Apart from gagging negotiators, Mbeki’s disgraced ‘quiet diplomacy’ has presented Zimbabweans with a nerve wrecking four day wait to hear what these men agreed upon on their behalf.
A lot of anxiety is gripping the populace given the fact that the people have been denied the chance to be party to the agreement or to offer suggestions here and there.
In 2000 when our nation arm twisted a stubborn Mugabe into agreeing to a new Constitution, the resultant draft constitution was the subject of a nation wide referendum and the people rejected the draft constitution hands down, jolting Mugabe and his ZANU-PF out of complacency.
The well-crafted draft constitution failed to fool the people who made their position very clear in spite of intimidations and briberies.
The rejection of that constitution was the signal to Mugabe to unleash his notorious farm invasions and Zimbabwe started on its now humiliating downward spiral. It has never been the same since.
This time around, citizens are not going to be extended the opportunity to veto or agree to the negotiated terms of that agreement. They will just have to accept it.
Both Tsvangirai and Mugabe know what the people can do when confronted with a choice and I honestly hope their tactic of revealing and signing the document at the same time, denying people the opportunity to study the agreement and give feed back is not a deliberately designed move to swindle the people.
And this is happening while some MDC Members of parliament are still in hiding from ZANU-PF.
The MDC, at the very least, agreed not to extend that courtesy or take the people’s views into consideration. And to ensure that the people of Zimbabwe get no chance to voice their opinions on this agreement, it will be revealed and signed the same day, tomorrow (Monday) and once its signed, the people might find themselves fighting both Mugabe and Tsvangirai, should the agreement include or exclude certain issues unpalatable to their sense of self.
Signing an agreement is easy; it only requires the principals involved. Anyone can do it.
But to implement the agreed terms is another matter; people’s participation is required yet the very people who must be the actors in the implementation of the agreed terms are the very ones who have been denied the opportunity to amend, improve, add or remove parts which they felt to be unsuitable for them and the nation.
For starters, the talks were not people oriented; all the focus was on power sharing and little was said about re-establishing or creating space for democracy. The masses became spectators as the three groups wrangled over who gets how much power and which party gets how many cabinet posts. The talks were about power sharing and not about what is to be done.
Clearly, the people were to play no role otherwise a simple courtesy of daily or weekly briefings could have been extended to the supporters who suffered so much for standing by the MDC.
In a statement, the National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (NANGO) reiterated the call for transitional justice as a ‘critical remedy’ to massive human rights abuses carried out in Zimbabwe even as the negotiations were in progress.
NANGO demanded no impunity for rights abusers.
“Transitional justice in the Zimbabwean context,” said NANGO, “refers to the pursuit of comprehensive justice during times of political transition through certain strategies.”
They explained that such strategies include ‘retributive justice’ and ‘truth seeking’ “to create a more just and democratic future in Zimbabwe”.
Civil society groups have listed a set of demands that include no impunity for crimes against humanity, torture and gender based violence.
They called for a Truth Seeking Inquiry “as a foundation for closure, reconciliation and healing”.
They are clearly worried about what the MDC agreed to during the days of the signing of that infamous Memorandum of Understanding.
The MDC had capitulated and agreed to a blanket amnesty for all Zimbabweans who might have committed crimes, including murder and rights abuses, as they promoted or protected their political party.
The issue of amnesty is a very unpopular one and civil society fears that politicians might just agree to forgive each other of the atrocities committed and not involve people who lost their loved ones to political madness.
Will they sign?
I personally doubt it. There is too much at stake and the loopholes resemble a fishing net.
Most of the things of concern to the people should have been covered before the signing. Instead, they are allocating pieces of a carcass to each other.
I fear the MDC, if it is not careful, will be heaped in the same pile with ZANU-PF and start a slow death. Mugabe is a master at that.
If they sign, then Zimbabweans might as well forget about opposition politics. How does Tsvangirai hope to maintain his policies and independence? How does he hope to explain his party’s policies without criticizing Mugabe’s discredited policies? Because, if he is a member of the government and cabinet, there is something called ‘collective responsibility’. He cannot attend cabinet meetings and then dash out to the masses to denounce the very policies they had agreed upon in their cabinet meeting.
He will be part of the Mugabe machine and that will be the end of him…then there will be a new political party…or, quite possibly, the MDC might mutate into triplets.
Well aware of the lack of alternatives, I still believe that by signing this agreement with Mugabe, Tsvangirai and his MDC have opened a fresh chapter of unsettling misery for Zimbabweans because, unless Mugabe is reigned in by other outside sources, the presence of the MDC in government will not stop him from continuing with his barbaric and harsh rule.
Tsvangirai accepted less than he won, while Mugabe got more than he won. Why would Tsvangirai do this when he has the people’s support and at a time when outside governments were swinging towards him? After giving Tsvangirai so much support, even the likes of President Ian Khama and the Congress of South African Trade Unions must be wondering what to do next.
Will this support be there when Tsvangirai comes begging again after being jilted by Mugabe, as indeed will happen?
I suspect we have been laid out on the pyre and they light the match tomorrow.