Making Progress

I once described to the Canadian Ambassador the situation in Zimbabwean politics as being like a battle scene 1000 AD in Europe. The two adversaries gather on opposing hillsides and the struggle is joined. For the first few hours all that is visible from the heights is dust and smoke and the clash of steel. Then gradually a pattern emerges and eventually victory for one side or the other and finally both sides, victor and vanquished, pick through the debris of the battle to recover bodies and the wounded.

The struggle in Zimbabwe is somewhere in the middle - tending towards the end, clearly the democratic forces here are slowly forcing their opponents back and gaining ascendency. The non-democrats are fighting amongst themselves and forcing rearguard actions in a desperate attempt to rescue something from the fight.

The context for this battle goes back to December 2006. Zanu PF was holding their annual conference. Mugabe made a statement that they were going to harmonize elections and postpone them from March 2008 to June 2010. This brought South Africa into the situation; Mbeki met Mugabe urgently and said that this was unacceptable. The result was the GPA process.

Talks started with the MDC culminating in the Kariba Agreement in September 2007. This led to electoral reforms and the March 2008 elections when Zanu PF was defeated. Tsvangirai won that election hands down - he got 54 per cent of the vote, Mugabe 27 and Makone 18. Mbeki then made a serious error of judgment - he allowed the Zimbabweans to falsify the results and forced a run off.

Mugabe managed the run off so violently and with such blatant rigging on a massive scale, that no one - not even the AU and the SADC would accept his election - Zanu PF was forced back into negotiations. These led to the GPA in September 2008 and finally the GNU in February 2009. During this final phase, Mbeki was removed from office and eventually replaced by Zuma.

In the Zuma phase of the struggle, he first had to settle in, during this period he realised how serious the conflicts were in Zimbabwe and took the decision to treat the Zimbabwean crisis as a domestic issue for South Africa, rather than a foreign policy issue. Under this mantle he stripped the GPA of its non electoral aspects and constructed a regional and continental consensus around the revised package. In 2011 this emerged in a series of summits - Livingstone in May, Mid Rand in July and finally in the Luanda SADC summit and the AU summit in February 2012. In all these diplomatic arenas he was able to hold the 54 countries of Africa together in support of the GPA process and the need for reforms in Zimbabwe before any further elections.

While this was going on Zanu PF was fighting back. Mbeki had conducted the 2007 and 2008 round of negotiations in conditions of complete secrecy - the first time anyone outside the process saw the GPA was when it was signed in Harare in September 2008. Zanu immediately appreciated that if this agreement was fully implemented, they were finished, metaphorically and politically.

The result was form of guerilla war. They procrastinated, forced delays and fought back against Zuma in the region and the continent. Diplomats were instructed to try and negate Zuma's efforts. Zuma quietly constructed an intelligence network inside and outside Zimbabwe that fed him timely and accurate information of what was happening. In a sense these were the preliminary skirmishes prior to the battle that is now raging in Harare.

Knowing full well that if the battle was joined on the ground that was available and no help was forthcoming from allies on the heights above the battle ground, they faced defeat, Zanu has used every ploy in the book. They funded the opposition in Zambia leading to the victory for Sarte; they funded the opposition in Botswana in an effort to unseat their opponents there with less success. They funded their allies in Malawi only to have their gains pulled out from under their feet by the death of the President. They funded Zuma opponents in South Africa.

Well funded in the battle in Harare by diamond money, they simply had no defense against the numbers of their opponents; they were out manned and isolated. Their friends and allies in the region stood aloof, dismayed by the behavior of the Zanu leadership and no longer convinced that entry to the battle on the side of the losers was in their interest.

More serious was the fact that on the battle field they were no longer a united force. Moderates called for a resumption of talks to ensure that they could leave the battlefield with their dignity and forces intact and prepare to fight again at a later stage. Hardliners called for a suicidal frontal attack that would involve the use of unacceptable means to ensure victory - accepting that this would give them a chance to stay in power and protect their privilege but at the cost of recognition and acceptance by the region and the global community.

In the mean time the forces on the heights above the battle, led by South Africa who is watching closely at events in the valley below, are adamant that they will not allow any changes to the rules for the struggle from those agreed and signed in the GPA. Today, the Zanu forces in the battle appreciate that this is a struggle they cannot win like this. They will have to appeal to those on the heights above the battle to call a halt and reopen the negotiations.

Zuma, having spent three years getting the ingredients together has put them all in a pot and turned on the heat. He is now waiting for the mix to cook and when it's done will take it out of the pot and serve up to the players. Like the Kariba Agreement in 2007 and the GPA in 2008, the players and observers will have little choice but to eat what it is that South Africa finally dishes up.

Almost certainly it will be another GNU - but this time led by Tsvangirai as State President and the leader of a defeated Zanu PF as first Vice President. Tsvangirai will inherit the powers of President Mugabe, modified by the new Constitution and will appoint and control the Executive. The remnants of Zanu PF will sit in the House of Assembly and the Senate and try to rebuild what is left of their Party to try and face an election in five years time.

The observers on the hills overlooking the battle will approve and return home, glad to see sanity and common sense prevail in what was otherwise a totally unacceptable situation.

Eddie Cross
Harare, 12th May 2012