The Beginning

Watching the media in recent days has convinced me that the press does not appreciate just what has happened over the past week. Unheralded, there has been a sea change in the approach by South Africa to the Zimbabwe crisis. It has been coming for some time, delayed by the Mbeki influence, but once that was swept away by the ANC, it has gathered momentum.

You can see it in the way the SABC is reporting the Zimbabwe situation, the comments in public by senior figures and the growing chorus of African leaders who are calling for Mugabe to step down. Most international media are concluding that the Global Political Agreement is a dead letter and that it simply could not work.

In fact events are slowly pushing Zanu PF towards acceptance of a deal that will effectively end their monopoly of power in Zimbabwe. The GPA is by no means perfect - but it is based on a reasonable democratic process and gives the winners of that process (the MDC) control of the main levers of government.

Zanu PF only appreciated this after they had signed the deal on the 15th of September. How much trouble they are in, only became apparent when MDC discovered that Chinamasa and others in the negotiation process had surreptitiously altered the final version of the GPA that had been agreed at the meeting on the 11th of September.

Since then they have been desperately fighting a rearguard action to try and limit the damage and claw back some of the power and authority they in fact surrendered on the 11th September. For the military Junta that has run the country for the past decade and remains substantively in control, they are fighting the deal with every weapon in their armory.

MDC, for its part has simply stuck to its game plan. In March 2006, at the second Congress of the Party in Harare, nearly 20 000 delegates agreed to adopt what they called a 'road map' to a new Zimbabwe. This was a peaceful, legal programme of democratic resistance to the regime leading to negotiations. The negotiations leading us to a transitional government and the transitional government producing a new 'people driven' constitution. Once this was enacted, new elections - perhaps the first really free and fair elections with all qualified citizens voting and that would then give rise to a new government - perhaps the first MDC government.

Its now two years and 3 months since that Congress - not a long time when you think about it, and the MDC is close to securing its first goal - a transitional government brought about by negotiations. What we have also done since the negotiations were concluded on the 11th September is to insist, against all pressures from all sides, that the deal stands as it is and is implemented in full.

The significance of the events in South Africa last Thursday is that the two parties agreed to a draft legal expression of the September 11th agreement. The MDC being satisfied that the draft reflected the content and meaning of the GPA. We wanted to go on and wrap up all outstanding issues but Zanu PF asked for some time out to consult their principals in Harare. This request was granted - but on the proviso that they get on with the task of preparing the draft legislation for publication in the Government Gazette.

It is Saturday today - they failed to publish the draft last night in the Gazette as would normally be the practice and I think we can assume that Zanu PF did not want this document in the public domain in advance of their annual Conference which starts of Tuesday. Once this is over - by next Friday, I would expect the draft to emerge into the public domain and for the statutory 30 days period required by the present Constitution to start. This means of course that the changes to the Constitution will only come to Parliament next year - in mid January.

We are totally distrustful of the present regime and want to see the changes to the constitution effected before a new government is formed. But the one thing that we should all recognise - is that once the draft is published in the Gazette - the clock is ticking for this regime and all its cohorts. It is the formal and legal start of the transition to a Transitional Government in which Morgan Tsvangirai will be the new Prime Minister and head of the new, powerful and democratically elected Council of Ministers who will assume full control of the affairs of government in late January 2009.

The Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers will be responsible for government policy and for execution of all government decisions. The Prime Minister will also have what is effectively a veto on all senior appointments by the President. In any normal democracy MDC would have assumed unfettered control of the State in the first week of April 2008. But this is not a normal democracy - it is in fact an autocratic regime, headed by an unelected President and controlled by a civilian/military Junta.

In other countries the overthrow of this regime would have required physical violence in one form or another. The remarkable thing about this particular transfer of power is that it has been achieved without violence, by the oppressed. The State has employed violence against its opponents and continues to do so - on a huge scale, but this has not evoked a violent response even though that is exactly what the regime intended. It only understands that 'power comes through the barrel of a gun' - in their case that is how they have tried to protect the power that was already in their hands as a result of the civil war in the 70's.

Just as in America where Obama is managing the transition into government and where Bush is accepted as a lame duck, Morgan Tsvangirai is the new Prime Minister and next Friday could be the start of his formal and legal transition into government. Just like Obama, Tsvangirai will face unprecedented challenges - rampant inflation and a collapsed economy. A dispirited and tired people suffering from food shortages and widespread epidemics and an administration that is really at the end of their tether. No money in the Bank - only debts, courtesy of Gono, the Gundwane.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 6th December 2008