To Jump or Not to Jump

I spoke to a friend who works for one of the aid agencies in Harare and asked if we had succeeded in confusing her at last. She laughed and said that we had. Now if she is confused by Zimbabwe, with all her resources and information and the analytical capacity available to a person in her job, then the rest of us should be stumbling in the dark.

But the reality is actually quite simple in its basic elements. The GPA government is not working, economic recovery has slowed and we simply cannot go on much longer like this. That is a fact, we either resolve our differences, work together to find a solution, or we start to slide backwards into the anarchy we left behind in 2009. The second reality is that we are all out of time. Suddenly Mr. Mugabe is mortal; the implications are far reaching for all of us and especially for Zanu PF, which is hopelessly fragmented. Thirdly, we are all tied into the GPA process by our leader's signatures and the political commitment of the region and the AU as a whole. This means that whether we like it or not we either walk across the GPA Bridge or abandon the process and jump off into the gorge below.

The one thing is sure for all of us - we are on the GPA Bridge and our collective future depends on our willingness to continue the walk to the other side that we started on in February 2009. We cannot go back, none of us; this is the only way forward if the jump into the gorge is out.

The only group here that wants to risk the jump are those who know that once we get across the bridge there is no future for them there, only total uncertainty and insecurity. This group includes all the real hardliners in Zanu PF as well as key military and security figures. They want an Egypt solution - chaos on the streets, an ungovernable State, a leap off the bridge and if they survive the fall into the river below, regroup and form a new government that will be a flimsy disguise for a military Junta.

They do not give a damn about the welfare of the people, they fear and despise democracy and trust only themselves. They think that in an unholy alliance with international crooks and thugs and the rich natural resources here, they can get by very well. Those who do not like it can and will leave, eventually resulting in a tiny population governed by an oligarchy like Burma or Guinea, protected by powerful friends who profit by exploiting our isolation and resources.

As I write, the South African facilitators are in town again. They are talking about how to get this collection of arguing, infuriating people to stop quibbling and get on with the walk across the bridge. Their efforts have been complicated immeasurably by Mr. Mugabe's sudden frailty and there is a new sense of urgency. A changing of the guard is now more certain than ever and it is only a question of how and when, and perhaps, who?

Despite all our efforts we are still only about one third of the way across. The GPA road map envisaged that by now we would be over the bridge and conducting elections for new leadership for a new era. Instead we are stuck and not even in the middle.

Let's just have a quick look at what we have to do before we can say we have crossed over this Jordan. First is the issue of a new constitution to determine the shape and operations of the new State. We have consulted the people, a flawed process but nevertheless, it did clearly state certain fundamental national requirements - a devolved State, perhaps with five Provincial Governments, reduced powers for the President who will govern without a Prime Minister, a stronger, more independent Parliament and greater independence for key Commissions. I think the two main Parties can agree on most of this and a new constitution should not be difficult to negotiate - and it will be negotiated, the idea of a people driven process is simply not going to work, that is for next time. What we will almost certainly end up with is a compromise document that will form the basis of a new transitional government to be formed after an election.

By itself, the constitution will not deliver a free and fair election that is not open to dispute. This is the stated goal of the South African team and is attainable. What is needed is for the new Electoral Commission to be given full control of the process, sufficient funding for what is required and for a new staff at the Commission to replace the CIO/Military establishment that has run elections here for the past decade.

If it is decided to go for a harmonised election, then we will need a new voters roll. The present roll is totally and irrevocably compromised. The Registrar Generals Office has been playing games with the roll for so long I do not think even they know who is on the roll anymore. It has six million voters recorded - at least two million are dead (my father is still on the roll and he has been dead for 20 years) and goodness knows how many are absent from the country - we have at least 4 to 5 million Zimbabwean adults abroad or in other African States. Urban and young voters are understated and thousands of people who qualify as Citizens under the amendments to the present constitution have been deregistered.

Once we have a new roll, then we need a new delimitation exercise conducted by an independent and apolitical authority under the guidance of ZEC. I am quite sure that this will reverse the relationship in numbers between urban and rural constituencies - in my view the present ratio of rural to urban voters is one third/two thirds. Such a shift would have a profound impact on the electoral outcome as every Zanu PF leader understands.

We need peace and total control of political violence. Believe me, Zanu can turn on and off the violence in five minutes. They have done it in the past and only they have the mechanism to do so. The recent upsurge in violence is totally at the behest of Zanu PF leadership and they must be persuaded that this is not only unacceptable, but it's unproductive and not in their interests.

We need international observers in here - months before and after the elections. Then we need a decent election, observers in every polling station, a transparent ballot, counting and reporting system as laid down in new electoral regulations that are under discussion right now.

The trouble with such a road map is that it has nothing for Zanu PF after the bridge has been crossed. They would be defeated in such an election and by such a wide margin that they might cease to exist as a viable political entity. The only way to avoid that is to go for a Presidential election only. This would leave Zanu intact in the House and force a new President to work with them in the formation of a post GPA Government.

The adoption of a road map that leads to such an outcome would have many advantages - Zanu would be more prepared to work with the MDC on a new constitution that was compliant with the people's wishes. It would take less time - we would not need a new voters roll or delimitation and the interests of Zanu PF, including security, would be met by negotiation on the composition and shape of the new administration.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 25th February 2011