What Happens If the Opposition Wins?
By Dumisani O.Nkomo
Dumisani Nkomo is the Chief Executive Officer of Habakkuk Trust which a Zimbabwean based information and Advocacy organization.
The electoral impasse and political crisis that is currently dogging Zimbabwe could culminate in a number of scenarios, some being desirable, others undesirable but possible and yet others desirable and possible. It is therefore, necessary for Zimbabweans from all walks of life and through organized political space to begin to interrogate the future before the nation becomes the victim of a tragic fate.
If Tsvangirai won the election, a scenario highly possible but most undesirable and unpalatable for ZANU PF especially the so called hawks in the party, that of the M.D.C Tsvangirai forming the next government, the biggest challenge they would face is to translate this electoral victory to practical access to power.
Hardliners in the Joint Operations Command could resist an M.D.C government taking over. The M.D.C could however exploit support from ordinary members of the army, police, air force and intelligence organs most of whom have been wallowing well below the poverty datum line for years .Tsvangirai would need the support of some crucial senior army officers in order for him to win over the military and it is hoped that the party is engaging critical players in that establishment in order to get the reins of power.
Given this scenario, different opposition players would have to display exceptional political maturity by agreeing to work together in the legislature to facilitate the smooth passage of legislation and policies. The current situation where a minority party, the MDC Mutambara, has the deciding seats in parliament is extremely healthy for democracy. With no party having an absolute majority in parliament, the two factions of the MDC by design or by default would have to develop a symbiotic relationship as they have both intimated recently. This may be undermined by hawks in both factions who may be keen on taking entrenched positions which may not be in the national interest.
A Tsvangirai government may have to fish for extra talent from its rival faction and possible one or two people from the Makoni project .The likes of David Coltart,Moses Mzila Moyo,Dumiso Dabengwa and Makoni himself come to mind .There may be stiff opposition from those who feel they need to be rewarded for fighting and “dying” at the hands of Mugabe .This is to be expected in any transitional process and such healthy conflict should be encouraged so as to conceive a government birthed through robust democratic interface and political intercourse.
It is hoped that Tsvangirai will come up with a small and competent cabinet tasked with meeting short, medium and long term goals .The most urgent issue would be that of formulating a “people driven constitutional dispensation” within a period of 12 to 24 months .Three months would be ideal but impractical given other challenges that the new government would face such as restoring macro economic stability[including the reduction of inflation],restoring investor confidence ,rehabilitating the civil service as well as building the capacity of the state and local government to deliver basic services.
The country will need major shock therapy but the new government will have to ensure that the shock comes with the therapy or else the country could just get a major
‘culture shock’ and react unfavourably to sudden and rushed change.
It is crucial that within the short to medium term the government, in partnership with civil society players and private companies would need to carry out a massive capacity and resource audit. The new government would need to know what resources are at its disposal, its human resource deficits, its material deficits and importantly the kind of skills which are at its disposal both in the country and the diaspora. Concurrent to this should be the much talked about land audit which will ascertain who has land, whether the land has been given to deserving people and its productivity levels.
Politically, structures of violence and coercion such as the youth militia have to be disbanded. The MDC as well, will have to reform and rehabilitate rogue elements within its party who may perpetuate ZANU PF’s legacy of violence .The process of birthing a new constitution should be guaranteed by an act of parliament. An elected constituent assembly with representation from labour ,churches, human rights groups, youth groups, students,farmers,the business sector ,the academia ,professional organizations and other civic groups could be set up to drive the process of a new constitution .The process should be inclusive and non partisan.
The content of the new constitution is another matter all together and is the subject of another article .The other option would be to go the route of a constitutional conference, followed by a people’s referendum .The constitutional conference should involve all major political players, civic groups, churches ,the business community, interest groups and academics. Instead of reinventing the wheel, the process could revolve around the National Constitutional Assembly’s Draft Constitution, the Constitutional Commission’s draft, the drafts from the Thabo Mbeki mediated process [if they are there] and submissions from different civic and political players .The conference could take up to three or so weeks with various working committees working on thematic areas before submitting to plenary.
The draft from the constitutional conference should then be widely debated in all the country’s provinces before the final draft is adopted within three or four months .The draft would then be subjected to a referendum in order to be legitimized or rejected by the populace .The whole process could take about five months .A great deal of resources would be needed for this project but it would help the new government to chart a clear way forward and paint a picture of how Zimbabweans would want to be governed in a new Zimbabwe .The option of fresh elections after a new constitution could still be open but six months would be too short to call for another election. Zimbabweans have already been subjected to, too many elections and this could cause fatigue to both the people and the economy.
Critically the new government would need to set up think tanks and resource groups that would inform the decision making and policy making processes of the new regime .They should be made up of competent individuals from the business sector, civil society and the academia .It must be remembered that the focus of the government should be that of nation building not retribution or replacing ZANU PF with another “gangster government”. The biggest challenge facing the new government would be that of addressing inflation, creating jobs, attracting investment as well as aid and increasing productivity.
Whilst international lines of credit are likely to open and donor funds may pour into Zimbabwe, it must be remembered that the Zimbabwean crisis cannot be solved by pouring money into the country .The country needs to build a new business ,political and work culture whilst at the same time developing institutions that would ensure good governance ,democracy and accountability. A new government should not imagine that millions of donor funds will just fix the country overnight. Rebuilding the country will not be like mending a hole or just replacing the old with the new .The task of rebuilding the economy, governance systems, the social and physical infrastructure is a process that will require sound planning, extensive consultation and investment of both material and human resources.
The spectre of corruption may not disappear overnight but may actually increase if there is a new set of politicians bent on lining their own pockets at the expense of the populace. Professionalism, good work ethics, productivity and hardwork have been replaced by a culture of short cuts, deals and speculation .It will take a long time to build a positive culture and to rebuild the social infrastructure that informs a growing economy and a healthy democracy.
In addition to this, a new government will face the challenges of dealing with past injustices and national healing .The issue of Gukurahundi [the Matabeleland genocide, the marginalization of western regions, Murambatsvina, the land reform programme and the political unrest of 2000 and 2008 will all be issues that need to be wrestled with. These issues are very sensitive and may even affect transitional processes as many people within ZANU PF are living in fear of retribution from the MDC.The country at the same time cannot move forward without addressing issues of past injustices. True healing and reconciliation can only come about after a process of truth telling, forgiveness and restorative justice. In doing this, the new government should be careful about using its position to settle old scores.
The new government should move beyond its election manifesto and formulate tangible, realistic and time framed policies. It should be careful in agenda setting and prioritization lest it becomes a populist government which is all things to all people and thereby becomes detestable to all people because of its inability to fulfill its promises .Tough decisions may have to be made which are not popular but absolutely necessary for restoring economic growth.