Amendment Number 19
The actual events of this past week are still shrouded in secrecy. The
negotiation teams are sworn to silence and the press has had to subsist on
rumor and the odd leaks, none of which are that accurate. If you are
watching the media as we are - skimming the daily press from across the
globe for anything on Zimbabwe, you can however get a picture of what
possibly transpired last week.
It started of course with the visit of the Elders, Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan
and Graca Machel. They had planned their visit some weeks before and
although the American Embassy tried to keep a low profile on the visit, when
a American Secret Service detail arrived in Harare to prepare for the visit
(Carter gets protection for life) the game was on. They were coming to
assess the humanitarian crisis, they stated - did not have anything to do
with the talks on the future or the political crisis.
Terrified of their own shadows, Zanu PF reacted in a panic by denying them
entry visas and what would otherwise have been a low profile visit by three
elder statesmen turned into a political circus. It was the best thing that
could have happened as far as Zimbabwe was concerned. The media gathered and
the human rights fraternity in Zimbabwe traveled south. In South Africa the
powerful human rights movement - honed by years of opposition to apartheid,
swung into action.
As a consequence the visit not only achieved all they had set out to do but
also focused attention on the tyrannical regime in Harare and the linkages
between the political crisis and the humanitarian crisis, the very fact that
the one has created the other. Another aspect that I only appreciated later,
was that having three such experienced leaders on tap, meant that they very
quickly grasped the core issues and were able to elucidate these in later
interviews and opinion pieces. Jimmy Carter in particular, was very clear.
It helped of course that the credentials of the trio could not be
challenged. Zanu PF would have been better advised to have welcomed the team
and afforded them every facility - except the presence of the pesky media
who then get into the dark corners where an official delegation cannot go on
their guided tours.
Then the US slapped further personal sanctions on four individuals who have
had extensive dealings with the Mugabe regime. Two were local and two were
Asian. The most important aspect of this action was the message it sent to
all those who are doing deals with the regime - I can think of a few, who
must have shivered in their shoes at the thought that they might be next! I
especially appreciated Carters clear statement on this issue on television -
Zimbabwe faced no sanctions of any kind, he stated, the sanctions were all
personal and aimed at those responsible for the economic and political
The impact of this flood of media attention and the new information gathered
and released on the South African mediated talks are not known, but it must
have been significant. Perhaps this explains why the South Africans threw
such a blanket of silence and secrecy around the talks.
The two teams arrived on Monday evening and exchanged documents. On Tuesday
they made no progress and on Wednesday, Morgan Tsvangirai issued a statement
that the talks were going nowhere and he felt that the MDC should leave the
process until a new mediator was appointed.
This threat seems to have brought in the South African government who up to
then had been preoccupied with the ongoing political struggles taking place
in South Africa ahead of the 2009 elections. There was a brief flurry of
statements from the leadership on the talks and Miranda Strydom - often a
spokesperson for the ANC on SABC 3, made several disclosures. What annoys me
about her interventions are her persistent remarks to the effect that MDC is
holding up progress by 'squabbling' over power. As if that is what this is
Then came the astonishing news - not made public by the participants or the
mediator that agreement had been reached on the wording of Amendment number
19. The news just slipped out, first a whisper and then more open
disclosure. Nothing more. MDC had clearly stated in advance that this was
not the whole subject of these discussions - we wanted to settle the many
other issues still outstanding.
But it was not to be - Zanu PF was not mandated to talk about such matters,
was the argument behind closed doors - the mediator simply gave in and
closed the session and the teams returned home. What next?
Mugabe in the meantime went off to the Middle East where he attended a UN
sponsored meeting on development finance - The UN trying to maintain focus
on the Millennium Development Goals that have been much neglected of late in
the middle of the global financial meltdown and the American elections.
There he trundled out his old mantra - the melt down in my country is due to
the fact that I can no longer shop at Harrods or send my children to fancy
schools and Universities in the West. That explains 10 years of negative
growth and the total collapse of the country's social system.
He did not say it quite like that - but what he did say meant just that.
In the struggle to establish a transitional government that might just work,
under near impossible conditions, the next step should be for the two
parties to agree on an official version of Amendment number 19 and to then
publish this in the Government Gazette - possibly next Friday. Then the
people of Zimbabwe have a month to study this and to analyse its
implications and content.
In the second week of January, Parliament will convene to debate the
amendment and agree on its contents and pass it into law. On paper then, at
least, the Global Political Agreement signed by the parties on the 11th
September will be law. In Zimbabwe that may not be very much as the law is
seldom observed or upheld where politics is concerned. But still, it will
become the law of the land.
On paper this will mean that now we can form a new government - Mr. Mugabe
can be sworn in as President, Mr Tsvangirai as Prime Minister. But most
significantly, the Junta that has run Zimbabwe into the ground in the past
decade, will be replaced by a democratically elected Council of Ministers,
who will have responsibility for government. This new government will run
the country until a new constitution is agreed and adopted and fresh
elections held under free and fair conditions - perhaps in mid 2011. That is
what is possible - on paper. Turning it into reality is another thing
Bulawayo, 1st December 2008