By Anthony Reeler
Since the signing of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) in September 2008 and the setting in place of the Inclusive Government (IG) in February 2009, Zimbabwe has been stuck with the inevitable consequences of a dysfunctional peace agreement.
An early civil society discussion of the GPA and the IG made forthright comment how well the IG was “working” one year on, noting the following:
“Working” could be merely existential in the sense that the IG is intact and has not dissolved in the face of the divergent objectives of, and acrimony between, the signatories;
.“Working” could mean that some governance is taking place which is responsible for bringing modicum of economic, social and political stability to Zimbabwe after a period of extreme turbulence in all of these spheres;
.“Working” could mean that the MDC’s stated objective of returning Zimbabwe to the rule of law and democratic governance is being incrementally realised;
“Working” could mean that Zanu PF’s stated objective of “removing illegal sanctions” is a work in progress, and the, probably unstated, goal of achieving legitimacy after unrecognised 2008 elections with a consequent easing of international pressure had been achieved.
These observations are as true today as they were in 2009. But whether political parties pay attention to civil society or not, it was increasingly evident through 2009 and 2010 that the IG was becoming increasingly dysfunctional and unable to develop policies to move the country out of the political stalemate.
Thus, in 2010, two independent civil society organisations undertook analyses of the deadlock and came up with different (but not markedly different) sets of conclusions.
The first, by the Solidarity Peace Trust (SPT), argued that there were three plausible scenarios that might be considered; withdrawal from the GPA, early elections, or an extended power-sharing period preceding a new election.
SPT argued that only the third — an extended power-sharing period preceding a new election — could have any value for developing stability in Zimbabwe.
The second report, by the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU), took a slightly different approach in its analysis, but concluded in agreement with SPT, that the problem was the opposition by Zanu PF towards real reforms and its determination to hold onto political power.
Both reports were clear that the problem was in creating the conditions for genuine elections to take place, but differed in their views about how soon elections were desirable.
The Sadc Troika on Politics, Defence, and Security Cooperation, held in Zambia on March 31 2011, strongly stated the need to move the process more determinedly, stating the need for the constitutional process to be completed and a roadmap for elections to be set in place.
This decision was endorsed later the same year by the Sadc Summit in Sandton, South Africa. There has been little compliance with the Troika’s decisions, either from Sadc or the Zimbabwean political parties.
Sadc was extremely slow in appointing the Sadc support to Jomic, and furthermore, there was the distressing suspension of the Sadc Tribunal in May 2011, which did little to create any confidence in Sadc’s commitment to good governance and accountability.
Zanu PF kept pushing for early elections, the MDCs kept trying to push the Sadc reform agenda, and the constitutional process kept stalling and re-starting, but there was little attempt at the kinds of reforms that are needed for decent elections.
Nonetheless, Sadc has continued to press for constitutional reform and the development of a clear “road map” towards elections, whilst Zanu PF has continued to press for early elections without any commitment to the kinds of reforms that might jeopardise their control of elections.
The latter’s attempts hit the hard road of reality in Luanda in June 2012, when it became clear to all just how much support Zanu PF has now lost in Sadc.
However, as a number of Zimbabwean civil society groups have continuously pointed out, the obsession with the constitution by everyone, except Zanu PF, has been missing a central issue: constitutions do not guarantee reforms, reforms guarantee constitutions.
The concern for the restoration of national institutions was first expressed by civil society groups in August 2011, with the point being strongly made that priority must be accorded to security sector governance (and not security sector reform, which is a much longer and involved process), reforms of the Zimbabwe Republic Police, local government, traditional leadership, the justice system, and the opening of the media before any effective roadmap for elections can be considered to be in place.
So, with the fixed constitutional deadline for the dissolution of Parliament in June 2013, the implications of the lack of reform and impasse over the constitution, it is perhaps time to think more creatively about how to unblock the Zimbabwe crisis.
The latest date for this election to be completed will be November 2013.
So, perhaps it is time to bite the bullet and shelve the matter of a new constitution until we can resolve the problems of our political culture, discuss widely what a new political culture might look like, and decide upon what process we need in order to move towards a proper “constitutional moment”.
In this, we might draw lessons from South Africa in the 1990s and Kenya since 2008, and learn from both our own mistakes and those of other countries, for Zimbabwe is certainly not the first African country to struggle with the transition from the politics of liberation to the politics of a citizen-empowering democracy. All we have to say is start again.
Anthony Reeler is a director of the Research and Advocacy Unit