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The transition has been hijacked: Biti

Opinion by Tendai Biti, MP

The day that was came and passed. Zimbabwe now has a new President – officially sworn. Except he in fact is not new, and even the great Kofi Olomide could not escape the gloom and fear arresting the motherland. 

FED UP: Tendai Biti
Tendai Biti

As expected, the circus was in town in full glory. Men and women from all walks of life came to witness a coronation. They were there for all different reasons but they were there all the same.

I wonder what was going on in each of their minds as the dear leader read a speech that they all had heard before, and will hear it again in yet another platform.

I saw former South African President Thabo Mbeki there, in a very pensive mood. Almost like he was not there and I really wonder what was going on his head. That this indeed is a cursed country, if not worse, perhaps? That indeed we have gone a full circle but at the end of it, the country is back where it came from – namely square zero?

The Global Political Agreement [GPA] which Mbeki negotiated was intended to carry the country forward to another level. It was meant to be a bridging transition to democracy. In that sense, it was a delicate compromise between stability and democracy but with one certainty: the country was in genuine motion.

Yet nearly five years after it was executed, the government of national unity has not achieved its purpose. The transition is a stolen one. The transition has been hijacked.

So, four and half years has been a wasteland, where hopes have been wrecked and a lot people and institutions have come up with ruined reputations, and tattered credibility.

One institution that must critically examine itself is SADC and those that control it. Only on June 15, 2013, a summit was held in Maputo wherein the strong clear and unambiguous resolutions were made, that there had to be reforms in Zimbabwe before the election and that the court determined date of July 31 had to be moved.

Six weeks later a different song is being sung. An unrecognisable litany of discord that is a mixture of some endorsement and some abandonment.

What explains this Jerkil and Hyde conundrum? Whilst the reasons are many and varied, three stick out. The first is obvious fatigue. The Zimbabwean crisis has too long been on the agenda of SADC meetings. It has detained these leaders for endless hours deep into the early throes of a morning.

Second is the self evident fact that in a few of these SADC countries, critical elections will be held next year.

Third may have been the lack of desire to pursue a process of confrontation, so appeasement becomes the softer option.

Whatever the reasons, and they are many, the consequences are clear as a pike staff. That is, the Zimbabwe crisis is undermining the credibility of Africans to resolve their own problems. One of the reasons why Mbeki’s GPA was applauded had less to do with its content, but the fact that some African solution had been found to a malignant African problem.

Not only that, the crisis is undermining public international law. Public International is a body of international law based on international morality and restraint. In the case if SADC, it has developed as part of its corpus a set of rules known as the SADC Guidelines on Elections that were adopted in Mauritius in August 2006.

These rules have been flagrantly breached in the context of the Zimbabwean election, and yet the body itself has been unable to protect its rules.

Thirdly, if Zimbabwe could get away with it, then potentially every rigged election will fly in the region.

More importantly SADC has not acquitted itself sufficiently as to remove the tag that it is but a bad boys’ club. It must be noted that all that has been pronounced has been done without the final observer reports being tabled.

SADC, therefore, has a small window of redeeming itself when it considers the full reports from the observer missions. As submitted in earlier posts, this is a crisis that is far from over.

The original SADC resolution of March 2007 in Dar es Salaam was clear: let’s restore legitimacy and credibility to Zimbabwe. To the extent that this has not been accomplished, with great respect it would be wrong for SADC or anyone else to claim that the SADC mandate terminated on July 31. This is a country mired in crisis and its challenges will not go away.

But of course SADC is also right in implying, very obviously, that Zimbabweans must resolve their problems amongst themselves. How do they do this? That is the million dollar question.

In the present mood of artificial triumphalism, a solution does not appear likely. All avenues of democratic redress including the courts are being shut. This is most unfortunate in that history teaches us that illegality always breeds illegality.

It follows that the stolen transition will in effect be a delayed transition. But history is very funny. It is like a game of cricket. Betting collapses occur so dramatically and unexpectedly. We saw this in the Fourth Ashes test. The Aussies grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory.

In this critical juncture in our history, one thing is clear: illegality is unsustainable. Illegality will put a premium on the people.

Any return to the past is not on. Five years of chaos are unimaginable and therefore a return to legality is critical. That I suspect is what was so obvious to any who was part of the coronation on Thursday. That I suspect is what poor old Enos Nkala may be carrying to his grave. May his soul rest in peace!

Tendai Biti is the MP for Harare East and MDC-T secretary general.