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Mugabe should facilitate a peaceful political transition in Zimbabwe

By Tendai Kwari

Political transition is the process or a period of change from one state or condition to another. Political reform is a change in governance aimed to bring improvement.

Tendai Kwari
Tendai Kwari

Zimbabwe needs a peaceful political reform, based on the formation of a coalition of social groups interested in having an efficient, incorrupt government. Underlying the formation of such a coalition is the process of socioeconomic modernisation.

As it is, these new social actors should form a coalition which has no strong stake in the existing corrupt system. In other words, social mobilisation, driven by economic modernisation will create conditions for the elimination of patronage and clientilism [a social order which depends on relations of patronage]. In the long term, we will also curb corruption.

The coalition will have to change the rules by which the current system has been operating. A coalition of progressive social groups will eliminate one particular form of clientelism, the ability of political parties to secure support through the distribution of jobs.

What should President Mugabe of Zimbabwe do in order to avoid a bloody transition after his departure from the political arena? The president should facilitate a peaceful political transition while in office. This should be done in the most transparent and democratic way possible.

My fear is that time when Mugabe leaves office either through natural causes or retirement. We may go through a short period of chaos, if not a bloody political transition, until, like a phoenix arising from the ashes – a national leader emerges.

The future leader of Zimbabwe could be someone out of the leadership picture at this juncture, especially if social groups work together and select a capable leader from their various multi-party groups.

However, looking at the Zimbabwe scenario and the political stranglehold President Mugabe holds over the country, it would be premature to talk of political reform before a peaceful political transition. Why?

Currently, any coalition in Zimbabwe will struggle to make headway, especially when faced with brutal state machinery and an uneven electoral field; hence my argument that President Mugabe is a key ingredient to a successful political transition, followed with political reform.

My view is also supported by Samuel Huntington in Political Order in Changing Societies – that societies need order before they need democracy, and that they are better off making an authoritarian transition to a fully modernised political and economic system rather than jumping directly into democracy.

Some of my readers here may argue that what is the point of putting off democratisation, in favour of a ruthless and/or corrupt and incompetent government. After all, reform requires dislodging the current corrupt and incompetent political actors.

Instead, I urge we work around the corrupt and incompetent system and organise new social forces that will benefit from the creation of a cleaner and more capable form of government. We will have a peaceful transition if we follow such a sequence.

Of course, the coalition will face resistance from the current crop of politicians as they are the ones benefitting from the status quo. At the same time, we cannot have a smooth and peaceful transition without involving one of the key political players.

President Mugabe is part of the solution. He is a key player in our politics and it is a fact. He has to allow a free and fair election in 2018. To avoid chaos after his departure, he should facilitate the selection of new leader, presumably from within his own party.

The new heir apparent will face the coalition in free and fair elections.  If beaten in the elections, his political party should concede defeat and allow the winner to form the next government. This strategy will also afford Mugabe his overdue exit from the political arena.

Meanwhile, a coalition of social groups should form a strong opposition and start working towards engagement of all stakeholders, gearing for transition and finally transformation. It would be interesting to have a coalition of social groups interested in having an efficient and incorrupt government.

However, the opposition political parties should learn to work together. Splitting of opposition political parties in Zimbabwe is not serving any purpose other than strengthening ZANU (PF).

It is possible to imagine civil society groups and opposition political leaders organising reformist coalitions that press for public-sector reforms, an end to gross corruption and the implementation of a free and fair 2018 election.

Meanwhile, the prolonged stay of President Mugabe at the helm of Zimbabwe politics is holding back any political, social or economic progress.

You can follow Tendai Kwari on twitter @tendaikwari