Litmus test for zim deal

Ido lekota

Ido lekota

The Zimbabwe power-sharing deal signed on Monday by President Robert Mugabe and the leaders of the two Movement for Democratic Change factions has once against put the country under the spotlight.

In terms of the deal, Mugabe remains the president, with MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai as the prime minister with executive powers. There will be two deputy prime ministers, one of them Arthur Mutambara, leader of the other MDC faction, and the other from Tsvangirai's MDC.

Fifteen ministers will come from Zanu-PF, 13 from Tsvangirai's MDC and three from Mutambara's MDC. Of the 15 deputy mini- sters, eight will be nominated by Zanu-PF, six by Tsvangirai and one by Mutambara's party.

Also as part of the deal the parties have agreed to set out a mechanism and timetable designed to place a new constitution before the electorate for approval in a referendum within 18 months.

Already the deal has drawn varying responses ranging from complete rejection, cautious welcome and outright support. Those rejecting the deal dismiss it as "an elitist exercise that will not address aspirations of Zimbabweans who were excluded from the negotiations, while promoting the political aspirations of the individuals involved in the deal".

A major criticism from these quarters is that no civil society organisations were included in the negotiations.

One of the key critics of the deal is the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) - an organisation in which Tsvangirai cut his political teeth. Instead of a government of national unity, ZCTU has always called for a transitional authority which takes Zimbabwe to fresh elections.

Following the signing of the deal, ZCTU released a statement on Tuesday reiterating its position.

"A government of national unity is a subversion of our national constitution and only a transitional authority should be put in place with a mandate to take Zimbabwe to fresh, free and fair elections that will hopefully not be disputed by the parties," said ZCTU.

Among supporters of the deal is Africa Action (AA) - a Washington-based group working on changing the US foreign policy in support of Africa.

AA said yesterday the deal presented real opportunities to end the devastating and political crises of the past 10 years.

"These hardships have driven an estimated four million Zimbabweans to leave the country in search of opportunity.

"We share the sense of urgency felt by millions of Zimbabwean keenly awaiting the end of these conditions and the restoration of hope in their lives."

This view is shared by constitutional law expert Shadrack Gutto who describes the deal as the end of "a decade of hell for the Zimbabwean people".

Like all negotiated settlements the deal is flawed. For example, there is concern about the fact that Mugabe will continue to chair the National Security Council - formerly known as the Joint Operations Command (JOC), the country's overarching security body that includes the chiefs of army, police, and the feared Central Intelligence Organisation.

The concern is that Mugabe still controls the instruments of repression that he previously used against his political opponents. What becomes important is how the signatories translate the commitments they made into action that will bring both political and economic stability to a country that has turned from being the breadbasket of Southern African into a basket case.

In its statement, the AA outlines the factors it believes are critical to achieve this objective.

These include unity, democratic institutions, truth, justice and reconciliation.

"The success of the deal depends on the ability of the parties to work together in a genuine spirit of national unity,'' says AA

In this regard it's important that the political leaders transcend narrow partisan interests and prioritise the broader social and economic concerns of all Zimbabweans.

Media reports of Mugabe facing a rebellion from Zanu-PF politburo members set to lose their posts in the new government, will be an acid test for his commitment to that unity. At least three quarters of the 49-member politburo will lose their posts. More Zanu-PF stalwarts are also set to lose their jobs when the outgoing 64-member Zanu-PF cabinet is reduced to 31 ministers.

In the spirit of the deal both Mugabe and his comrades will have to accept that these changes are in the interest of a new Zimbabwean nation.

To achieve justice and reconciliation, the AA suggests that Zimbabwe needs some kind of a truth and reconciliation commission.

"After a decade of gross human rights violations and the atrocities of the 1980s, Zimbabwe needs a truth, justice and reconciliation process to ensure accountability and facilitate long-lasting national healing," it says.

In terms of this proposal, families of those who disappeared need to know what happened to their loved ones and who is responsible.

"Perpetrators of the worst abuses must be brought to justice, and if individuals are to be forgiven, it must be done publicly as part of the transparent truth, justice and reconciliation process,'' suggests the AA.

A vital factor in making the new deal a success is support from the SADC, AU and the broader international community, including the European Union, the US and the UK - who have imposed selective sanctions against Zimbabwe.

Gutto argues that Western powers must also transcend their inward-looking policies - which drove them to seek a regime change in Zimbabwe - and come to the party.

"By coming to the party these powers will be redeeming themselves and showing they have learnt that they cannot continue interfering in African affairs to the detriment of the continent's citizens," says Gutto.

He says the UK could do so by compensating the white farmers who lost their farms during Mugabe's land redistribution programme. Such a move would also be the UK's acceptance of its complicity in Zimbabwe's political and economic decline.