Betrayed by Africa

I think the most significant contribution to the Zimbabwe debate came from a South Africa ANC stalwart, Kamal, last week. In a speech delivered in South Africa, he stated that the democrats who have struggled so long to secure democratic rights and practices in Zimbabwe and who clearly won the last election despite irregularities, must not be abandoned. He called on other countries, including his own, to support the struggle for democracy in Zimbabwe.

A careful review of all that has gone on in the past 10 days will show that Mr. Mbeki constructed a trap for Morgan Tsvangirai, working in the final throws of the negotiations with both Mugabe and Mutambara in the process. On Tuesday last week Morgan walked into the final negotiating session in Harare and was presented with an agreement that had already been approved by both Mugabe and Mutambara. He was asked to sign and was told that the deal offered an end to the long nightmare of struggle and suffering for himself, his family and his country.

He asked for time out to discuss it with his colleagues and after a period brought back to the gathering a counter proposal. The changes were small but made all the difference. In the first document Mbeki and the others offered Tsvangirai the post of Prime Minister, but to be appointed by the President (Mugabe) and not allowed to chair cabinet - taking responsibility for all the ministries that Mugabe could not give a damn about - finance, education, health, labour and social welfare. It not only recognised Mugabe’s election on the 27th June under appalling conditions but also left him in power with all his current privileges and rights. MDC would hold 13 of a 31-seat cabinet; Mutambara and Welshman Ncube, both heavily defeated in the March 29th election would be rewarded with non-elected posts and a significant role.

The MDC counter proposal was totally consistent with the Parties position from day one. It said that the results of the March 29th election had to be respected in all aspects. That Parliament should appoint both the President and the Prime Minister. It established a system that allowed Mugabe to remain as President but with diminished power and responsibility. He would still be Commander in Chief of the Armed forces. The Prime Minister would have all the powers and responsibilities that are normally associated with such a post in other countries.

The trap lay in what Mugabe then expected to happen; he had always known that this was the key issue and that the MDC would never accept such a proposal. So he carefully plotted with Mutambara to go for a deal that excluded Tsvangirai and his Party, forming a Government with the Mutambara faction of the MDC based on the deal negotiated over the past 18 months with both the MDC groups but with the variation outlined above.

When the MDC rejected the deal and demanded that it be amended to reflect the changes suggested, they fully expected Mbeki to go along with the subterfuge. In fact he did not immediately do so - he advised them that a deal that was not signed by Tsvangirai would have little weight in international and African circles and that he would take the final areas of dispute to the SADC for arbitration.

First stop in that process was Angola, that haven of democratic process' that is yet to hold an election for its own leadership. Angola held the Chair of the SADC organ on Security and Politics. Then he returned to South Africa to prepare for the SADC summit due to take place in Johannesburg that weekend.

At the summit the South Africans gave all participants a full written report on the discussions that had taken place since March 2007. This included the draft constitution crafted in the discussions and signed by all parties at the Kariba meeting in September. You should know that we, the people of Zimbabwe, who are most affected by all this, have yet to see these same documents.

Mr. Mbeki, acting as the new Chairman of the SADC and as the official mediator, told the grouping that the agreements reached represented a 'power sharing deal' that was fair to all parties and should be signed. Although the MDC was represented at the meeting by a high powered delegation, they were not allowed to address the leadership of the SADC and Mugabe was allowed to sit in his allotted seat as President of Zimbabwe, even though he has no right to do so and his election in June is not recognised by the great majority of the SADC and other African States. Only Botswana said they would not attend if he were given recognition.

At the conclusion of the SADC meeting Mugabe had just about all he could have wanted - the majority of the SADC had accepted him as President, they had told the MDC that their refusal to sign the power sharing deal was unreasonable, and left it to a weak and indecisive Mbeki to carry on with his mediation. Tsvangirai, in a desperate attempt to rescue the talks visited a number of countries in the immediate aftermath and then returned to South Africa. To no avail. No substantive help or support has emerged for a final agreement.

Mugabe, encouraged by a call by Mbeki for Parliament to be convened and by the lack luster approach of the SADC leadership, has set about doing just that. Mutambara has reiterated his stance that the deal is reasonable and declared they are going to cooperate in Parliament. Zanu and the Mutambara leadership have selected a candidate for Speaker - Paul Temba Nyathi, who will stand for this post on Monday. Threats have been made against any Mutambara people who might vote against him and for the MDC candidate.

It is a dangerous move - if Mbeki fails to endorse the arrangements then Mugabe and Mutambara are acting alone and without the formal endorsement of the SADC. If they lose the Speaker battle (and they could) then we are in for a period when they might not be able to pass legislation and budgets to run the government. They are also running the risk of total alienation from the electorate and if they cannot pay the armed forces at the end of the month (and I cannot see how they can) then they run the risk that the armed forces might take matters into their own hands.

We in the MDC have said since 2000, that we want a peaceful, orderly, legal and democratic transfer of power in Zimbabwe. We have fought 4 elections on this premise, been subjected to campaigns of terror and abuse on a massive scale, seen hundreds of our leaders murdered and thousands beaten and tortured. We have been subjected to continuous propaganda, have campaigned under grossly unequal conditions and voted in a system that has been manipulated and distorted by a corrupt and totalitarian regime.

Yet despite all the provocation we have not raised a finger in support of violence. When our members have demanded a violent response, we have restrained them. When an armed struggle has been proposed, we have rejected the proposals and repudiated the people who made them. Despite all of this we won the March 29th election - because we were able to secure minimal improvements in the way they were conducted. We still believe that 60 per cent of the Zanu seats were won by means of rigging.

Now - at the final hurdle, we are told that we are being unreasonable in demanding recognition for what we are - a Party that has won the right to govern. We are prepared for the sake of a peaceful transition to work together with Zanu on a transition back to democracy in two years and to share power in the transition even though Zanu does not deserve this. South Africa will pay a high price for this dereliction of duty when it mattered most.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 23rd August 2008