Once More into the Fray

The MDC Road Map for resolving the political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe was very simple - a campaign of democratic resistance to force Zanu PF into negotiations, negotiations for a transitional government, the drafting and adoption of a new constitution followed by a national election to resolve the issue of leadership of the State. This road map has been more or less achieved and ever since Zanu PF signed the GPA in September 2008 they have been fighting a rear guard action to avoid the agreed reforms.

The impression that has been created by the propaganda machine of Zanu has been to try and establish the image that they are still in control and that the only reason why the economy is in such a state and further reforms are impossible, is the 'illegal' imposition of 'sanctions' on Zimbabwe. The reality is that they know, that if the GPA is implemented in full, they are unlikely to be able to control the next elections and the consequence will be a comprehensive and humiliating defeat.

They do not believe the fiction about sanctions and they understand full well why the economy collapsed under their watch from 1997 to 2008. They have a clear understanding of the remedies as evidenced by Chinamasa's skilful presentation of the fundamental economic reforms needed to stabilise the economy a month before the swearing in of the new transitional government.

Their biggest problem is that their leader, Robert Mugabe, signed the GPA and now the region and African leadership in general, is actually demanding that they abide by that signature. In particular, the leadership in South Africa has adopted a hard stance on the issue and as Trevor Manuel said on Thursday, 'we expect African leaders who sign agreements to live up to them.'

Zanu's strategy since February 2008 has been to delay reforms and trigger a snap election under the conditions extant. They want an election held under conditions where the new Independent Electoral Commission is ring fenced and powerless, the voters roll heavily manipulated and bloated with dead and absent voters, the delimitation of constituencies remains the same with a 60:40 split between rural and urban constituencies, despite the 63:37 per cent split in the actual population - urban/rural.

They want an election where they can ring fence the former commercial farming districts as no-go areas for the MDC where they can ethnically cleanse these same areas of all elements that might be sympathetic to the MDC. They want to be able to control the media, especially radio and the print media; they want to be able to conduct a programme of political intimidation, targeted violence and assassinations behind a screen of anonymous silence. They want to use the traditional leaders to control the communal population and to use fear and patronage on a massive scale to herd people towards the Zanu PF flag.

They have the diamonds tightly controlled and this has given them new confidence and capacity. They have their campaign strategy all worked out right down to an advertising campaign and radio jingles.

Their only problem is that they signed the GPA and now, unbelievably, the region is holding their noses to the grind stone. We saw that at the SADC summit in August and there is every sign that it is happening again right now. The facilitators were here on Tuesday and Wednesday after the failure of the principals to agree to a resolution of the outstanding items in the GPA on the previous Monday.

Mr. Mugabe's statement at the Youth Congress of Zanu PF on Friday was instructive and clearly showed the influence of the discussion with the South Africans on Wednesday night. We are going to short cut the Copac process, he said, and hold the referendum on the new constitution before mid 2011, and then we are going on the hold an election before the end of the year. Nelson Chamisa's statement that the MDC is ready for an election at any time was a clear response and confirmation that this is the thinking in the highest levels of political leadership in the region and in Zimbabwe.

The first reaction of most people to such a scenario is - not again, more violence and killings, more house burnings and intimidation. In a nutshell, rape and mayhem.

I am not so sure. I think the South Africans are going to insist on compliance with the GPA and are going to force adoption of the essential reforms required for a free and fair election that is recognised by the international community. In fact recognition by the major powers in the world is so critical to the region, that they are likely to be more amenable to pressure from the US and Europe than normal on issues such as the Zimbabwe crisis.

What we have to decide is what steps lie on the road map to an acceptable electoral process? I would list the following:

- A truly independent electoral Commission with its own budget and freedom to control the whole electoral process, independently of the Registrar Generals Office

- A new voters roll conducted by a private contractor employed for this purpose

- A new delimitation based on the new voters roll and the political and institutional structures agreed in the new constitution

- Full implementation of the GPA media reforms and in particular community based radio stations and the return of the Daily News

- The dismantling of the Joint Operations Command and the appointment of all MDC Governors at Provincial levels to oversee the dismantling of the State control of all instruments of violence and intimidation and deliberate targeting

- The promulgation and implementation of the electoral reforms already negotiated and agreed

- The provision of a comprehensive system of supervision and observation of SADC and AU Monitors of the electoral process, campaign and subsequent elections

- The provision and supervision of election monitors in every polling station in the country and the secure collection of all signed polling station returns to ensure rapid tabulation of results and total transparency

- Regional guarantees that the results of the election will be respected and implemented without delay after the poll.

Is that too much to ask for? I do not think so, but it is the minimum that we need if we are to conduct a free and fair election in Zimbabwe which will finally resolve the political and the economic crisis. Does the region need it - you bet, like yesterday. Can we do it in the time allotted - of course, if we work together.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, October 2010