A Big Step Forward
After so many disappointments and delays we should not be surprised when we
get very little response to developments that take place in the long drawn
out saga that is meant to resolve the political crisis in Zimbabwe. Also,
because of the complexities and the secrecy that always surrounds such
developments, the media does not always pick up its significance.
What happened this past week is that the negotiators resumed discussions on
Wednesday in Harare and after two days settled on a draft of constitutional
amendment number 19. It was then printed in the Government Gazette on
Saturday and will now face 30 days of debate at national level before going
to Parliament in mid January for possible acceptance and adoption by a two
Few of us expected such a smooth passage of this significant and substantive
change to the constitution and it seems clear that it was achieved only
because the South African government - at last - grasped the nettle and told
Zanu PF to get on with the task and stop any procrastination. I have always
argued that the only government in the world that Zanu cannot say no to is
South Africa and I think this view was again confirmed by these events.
The amendments proposed are far reaching. They will restore citizenship to
many thousands who were stripped of their citizenship for political reasons.
They make it possible to hold dual citizenship. They create the post of
Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers and make this new structure
responsible for government. They stipulate that the President will remain
Head of State and in charge of the security Ministries but it also creates a
National Security Council to replace the JOC and gives the MDC a major role
in the Council and the ability to block any unlawful activity.
The amendments also provide for the President to make senior appointments
only after he has consulted and agreed on those appointments with the Prime
Minister. Best of all the deal includes a specific time table to be followed
in the drafting of a new constitution that in two years time, will replace
the existing one and permit the first truly free and fair democratic
elections in 30 years.
We still have a few things to get out of the way before the new legislation
can be passed into law. MDC is demanding that these be dealt with before the
new legislation comes before Parliament in January. These are the legal
basis of the National Security Council to be agreed and drafted for
consideration by Parliament in January at the same time as the
constitutional amendments; the equitable allocation of Ministerial
portfolios between the three Parties; the rescinding of the appointment of
Governors and their replacement by new appointments representing the Party
that holds a majority of Members of Parliament in each Province; and, the
return to Zimbabwe of all Diplomats and their replacement by new
appointments agreed in terms of the GPA.
These are not minor issues and we would have wanted them out of the way
first but we are quite happy to see them resolved while the main legislation
goes through the process required by the constitution. This should not be
difficult if the South Africans remain engaged and involved. Mbeki, even if
he notionally remains the formal facilitator, will not play a significant
role. The major player is the new State President in South Africa.
South Africa called for the swearing in as soon as possible for the new
Prime Minister. MDC is not enthusiastic about that proposal because it does
not trust the incumbent administration in any way. We want all the aspects
of the Global Political Agreement set in concrete before we go into the
MDC is already working behind the scenes to address the immediate
emergency - it is working on food supplies, water systems and needs, the
health crisis and is trying to put many aspects of the stabilisation and
recovery programme into a form that will allow swift action once the new
government is in place. But there are limits to what we can do before being
sworn in and this is a problem which concerns the South Africans.
The South Africans have always been the key to this process and recent
experience has given us more confidence. It's such a pity that Mbeki wasted
all these intervening years when at any time he could have ended the
Zimbabwe nightmare and saved thousands, maybe millions of lives. Perhaps we
were just victims of the same idiosyncrasy that gave rise to the myopic
views that he held on the Aids crisis. Anyway, its water under the bridge
and there is little to be gained by mourning the lost opportunities.
While all of this goes on, the crisis in Zimbabwe deepens. Inflation has now
broken all historical records - we are the worst case of hyper inflation in
history. Its consequences are visible everywhere - destitute people, closed
factories, empty shops and silent cities and towns. I drove into Harare of
Thursday at 16.30 hrs - peak traffic time. Rotten Row was empty; no signs of
any traffic build up.
The health crisis has grown in intensity - Cholera joins the epidemics of
Aids and Tuberculosis and perhaps 1,7 million cases of Malaria a year. Its
visibility and the transmission to our neighbours have suddenly concentrated
minds. The schools are closed - all State schools and all Universities and
Colleges show no sign of being able to reopen in mid January as scheduled.
What teachers remained on duty to the end of term in December, are saying
they will not return to school in January.
I think that any country that cannot feed its population, cannot provide
basic security of person and property and cannot provide even the most
rudimentary health services or education for its children, is, by
definition, a failed State. Not even the most ardent supporter of Zanu PF
can deny that today and they resort to blaming every one else for our ills.
The best we saw of this syndrome was this week when the water crisis in our
cities was blamed on Ian Smith and the British were accused of infecting our
people with Cholera in a form of biological and chemical warfare! And these
guys think they should be taken seriously!
Harare 15th December 2008