By Dumisani O. Nkomo-Chief Executive Officer –Habakkuk Trust
The Zimbabwean political leadership, chiefly President Robert Mugabe has become obsessed on talks about elections in 2011. The opposition M.D.C led by Morgan Tsvangirai has disappointingly joined in this discordant choir calling for elections in 2011 in spite of the fact that the situation on the ground is hardly conducive for free and fair elections. Civil society and churches have been clear in calling for comprehensive policy and constitutional reform as a pre-requisite and priority not just for elections but also for the process of democratic transition.
I would like to argue that it is unrealistic and naïve to advocate for elections in Zimbabwe in 2011 hardly three years after the last elections in which Mugabe was beaten by Tsvangirai. The opposition, SADC, sections of the international community and a portion of civil society are now so infatuated with elections that they have ignored reason and like a starry eyed adolescent believe that an election will solve Zimbabwe’s problems in spite of the fact that the bulk of the institutional and structural factors that contributed to disputed elections in 2008 are still in place. Mugabe’s prime objective is to seek legitimacy and to consolidate political power at all costs and he seems to have found willing partners. His strategy is an election which will ensure that he no longer has to share power with the M.D.Cs.
Tsvangirai who has been at the forefront of the struggle for democratization has tragically miscalculated in calling for elections as his party is not ready for elections as evidenced by his party’s failure to mobilize it’s constituency in the constitution making process. More critically the M.D.C is naively delusional to the reality that it does not control the levers of power which are critical to the transfer of power. There is nothing to suggest that the M.D.C has a strategy to influence the effective transfer of power. To base an argument for elections to be held on the promises made by Mugabe to Tsvangirai that the next elections will not be disputed is like holding on to a promise made by a lion to a sheep that it [the lion] would not eat the sheep no matter how hungry the lion becomes.
Broadly and importantly elections in Zimbabwe should be predicated on the implementation of the Global Political Agreement which the three main political parties signed, and adherence to the SADC GUIDELINES ON THE CONDUCT OF DEMOCRATIC ELECTIONS. As things stand today only a tenth of the agreement has been implemented. The agreement was signed by the country’s political leadership with SADC as guarantors and the country’s political leadership has to own up to what it signed. Admittedly the Agreement is inherently faulty but it offers the only realistic solution to the country’s political, social and political crisis. Holding the elections may move the country back and not forward. The script is still the same so the result will obviously be the same.
In order to correct the imbalances in the country’s political and social architecture the following issues should be addressed [All these are contained in the Global Political Agreement]:
1. Amicable conclusion of the constitution making process in a conducive political environment
2. Implementation of the national healing process as outlined in article 7 of the Global Political Agreement. The organ which the government set to deal with issues of national healing has failed to develop a proper framework for healing and conflict transformation as well as effective public outreach in this context. This process is important if we are to move forward because elections and political processes are the context in which violence takes place in Zimbabwe. We are talking about elections when the wounds of victims of political violence are still fresh from the 2008 elections, the 2005 elections, the 2000 elections and the massacre of 30,000 Matabeles in the period prior to the 1985 elections.
3. Institutional reform – including security sector reforms
4. De-politicization of traditional leadership.
5. Granting of licenses to independent broadcasters.
6. Freedom of association, assembly and free political participation
7. Security of persons
8. Review of sanctions and measures - sanctions and measures have failed and have only given Mugabe and his cronies propaganda ammunition to use to woe African leaders and the electorate. Removal of these measures will provide leverage to engage Mugabe on other issues as well as to woe SADC leaders.
9. Setting up of the economic advisory council - the country needs to be given time to stabilize and grow. An early election may send the wrong signals and result in stalling of investment and growth as a result of waning investment.
10. Setting up a land audit. This is important but there is lack of political will to make this happen because it implicates hundreds of top ZANU PF big wigs who benefitted from land grab at the expense of ordinary Zimbabweans.
This may appear to be a wish list but we need to start making the wish list into a shopping list as there are things which are too expensive to ignore at the moment. Strategically it will be important to look at what is achievable and what is attainable, within which time frames and to prioritize the things that can be achieved. The Global Political Agreement has gives space to civil society and the Zimbabwean people to begin to engage. It has also given the M.D.Cs a little bit of strategic influence through their presence in government. They should not sacrifice this at the altar of political expedience. We need a pragmatic approach to Zimbabwean politics and the regional /international dynamics that accompany it.