By Mutumwa D. Mawere
Last updated: 09/24/2007 10:01:20
SEPTEMBER 20, 2007 will remain etched in Zimbabwe’s unfolding history as a historic day in which the people of Zimbabwe through their parliament put in legislative motion forces for which there may be no turning back.
Although the significance of the day in defining the fate of Zimbabwe has not been fully digested, it is a moment pregnant with implications for the country and marks a significant and decisive turning point.
On this day, the Constitution of Zimbabwe Bill Number 18 was unanimously passed by both Zanu PF and MDC legislators and yet barely a year ago, such a development would have been unthinkable.
The harmonisation project mooted and authored by President Mugabe last year was condemned even by the same people who now embrace it. However, the object of my article is not to dwell on the past but to fully unmask the nature, content and context of the secretive deal that SADC through President Mbeki has brokered in the quest for a lasting solution to the Zimbabwean crisis.
The bill that was passed unanimously by 111 members of Parliament who were present or 74% of the House seeks to harmonise next year’s presidential, parliamentary and local government elections. No-one, including Tsholotsho MP Professor Moyo (Indep) who was not part of the Mbeki negotiations voted against the bill.
As the country and the world at large tries to digest this development, it is instructive that no such deal could be realised without a resolution of the fate of President Mugabe.
In the absence of a formal confirmation about what has been agreed between the parties, the subtext of the deal is instructive and there was no better person to expose to the nation that President Mugabe’s days are numbered and an agreement has been reached that he will step down as President of Zanu PF in December 2007, the same month as a new President of ANC is to be elected, than Vice President Joseph Msika who in the excitement of the moment gave a clue to the fate of not only him but President Mugabe.
This is what Vice President Msika was reported to have said amid resounding applause: "May we keep it like that. Never ever should we fail to love our nation! We should put the love of our people first. This is the legacy I want to leave with you. As you know, I have come a long way; it’s time for me to depart. Work together as a nation."
When a person of Vice President Msika’s age (older than Mugabe) talks of leaving a legacy and for the first time announcing that it is time for him to depart then you know that a Tsugabe has taken place. Vice President Msika is on record having said that he will not leave President Mugabe in the trenches and would rather die in office than surrender before the successful completion of what he describes as the national democratic revolution.
If Vice President Msika is retiring, then it is evident that President Mugabe is also retiring which explains why the MDC formations would in their collective minds choose to align themselves with a project that eliminates Mugabe from the scene while providing a roadmap to elections presided over by someone other than Mugabe.
To the extent that the SADC leadership was satisfied about the progress reported by President Mbeki at the Lusaka summit, it follows that the forthcoming Extraordinary Congress of Zanu PF will be tasked with choosing the new leadership of the party. If Mugabe and Msika had not accepted to step down, there would have been no need to convert a Zanu PF Conference into an extraordinary Congress in December.
Mugabe and Msika’s terms as party President and Vice President, respectively, were due to expire in 2009, creating a problem if the presidential and parliamentary elections were not harmonised and hence the proposal by Mugabe to have a transitional process that would have extended the Presidential term to 2010 to allow Zanu PF to elect its leadership in 2009 who would have led the party in the elections. This is now history and it is evident that Mugabe and Msika will not seek to renew their terms in December.
Under this construction, Zanu PF will choose a new president and two vice presidents in December assuming that the framework of the ZANU and ZAPU unity accord is still in place. It is expected that Vice President Mujuru whose mandate in the party was also due to expire in 2009, will offer herself as a candidate for the presidency, leaving the party to elect two other individuals for the presidential posts.
With respect to the national leadership question, President Mugabe and Vice President Msika will finish their terms in March 2008 and will not seek to renew their terms. Although Zanu PF would have wanted the elections to be held in March, it appears that an agreement has been reached to have a transitional six-month period after the exit of Mugabe to prepare for the harmonised elections.
The U-turn by MDC on the harmonisation project and Professor Moyo’s active support of the constitutional changes exposes the fact that Mugabe has agreed not to be a candidate in the 2008 elections otherwise the outcome would have been as predictable as night comes after daylight.
It is no longer debatable whether Mugabe is a factor or not, it is clear that the MDC has taken the gamble that with Mugabe out, the chances of unseating Zanu PF through an electoral process are higher. Informed by this belief, MDC leaders were prepared to ditch their NCA colleagues who have not appreciated that the real objective of making noises on the constitution was to remove Mugabe. Now that this has been achieved through the efforts of SADC, the NCA and other non-state actors including their external supporters have been left guessing about the way forward.
President Mbeki appears to have understood the Zimbabwean political quagmire to allow him to persuade President Mugabe to step down without him feeling that he has been pushed out. To the opposition, their acceptance of the deal exposes the narrowness of their agenda. It appears that all that was required was for president Mugabe to agree to step down without reversing any of the policies that have combined to exacerbate the economic meltdown.
It is clear that MDC has accepted that the land reform is irreversible and the only way in which compensation for the dispossessed white farmers will be realised is through the intervention of the British government. Equally, the allegations of human and property rights violations did not feature in the deal structure.
What is evident is that the MDC has accepted the position of the government of Zimbabwe that sanctions are the root cause of the crisis and Mugabe will only step down on condition that sanctions are lifted and the indigenisation and economic empowerment program as envisaged in the bill before Parliament is implemented.
It is clear that President Mugabe has succeeded in writing the agenda for his successors. To the extent that the removal of Mugabe was the primary preoccupation of the UK and USA governments, African heads of state and government are united in asking for the lifting of sanctions and in the reopening of dialogue between Zimbabwe and the UK on the unresolved land question. By brokering the Mugabe exit deal, President Mbeki and his African colleagues will naturally be angered if new conditions like restoration of the rule of law, democracy and respect for property and human rights were to be asked for.
By agreeing to this deal, the MDC faces a great risk of alienating its traditional supporters who were hoping for a radical change in economic and political direction. The proposed constitutional changes may not guarantee the demise of Zanu PF as an institution because the deal brokered by President Mbeki presents Zanu PF with an important propaganda weapon.
For the first time, Zanu PF can say that it has been vindicated after more than eight years of what they classify as extended moments of infantile disorder instigated by imperialist and neo-colonialist forces. To the extent that the MDC has been convinced to accept the leadership of African heads of state in resolving the crisis, it no longer has any legitimacy as a force to negotiate with Mugabe’s outspoken critics in the West.
My prediction is that Vice President Mujuru will emerge as the president of Zanu PF in December in as much as ANC is looking for a female successor to President Mbeki. It is likely that one of the vice presidents will come from the former ZAPU and the other from possibly Manicaland.
Under this deal, Mugabe is expected to manage the transition in the party and government under the guise that the national democratic revolution requires revolutionary and committed leaders and the country cannot be trusted to elect such leaders without guidance. It is instructive that the ANC faces the same challenges as Zanu PF for different reasons. December will certainly be an interesting month for Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Time will tell whether President Mugabe will disappear in the political twilight and honour the deal brokered by President Mbeki and now accepted by MDC or will find an excuse for changing the goal posts. This may explain why President Mbeki has asked all the players to decide the future of the country in camera by relegating citizens to spectators in the unfolding political drama that will continue to make news headlines.
Mutumwa Mawere's weekly column appears on New Zimbabwe.com every Monday. You can contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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