Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Why MDC may end up covered in slime

*From The East African (Kenya), 21 February****

*By Terence Ranger

Now that a Government of National Unity has been formed in Zimbabwe,commentators are harking back to the Unity agreement of 1987. This wasbetween Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF and Joshua Nkomo’s Zimbabwe African PeoplesUnion. Unity Day has been celebrated every year to commemorate it. Butsurvivors - and revivers - of Zapu are now warning Mugabe’s new partners ofthe dangers of a Unity agreement. Their own experience was that Zapu wasswallowed up in the belly of the Zanu PF python and many people are sayingthat the same thing will happen to Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change. But while it is certainly true that the MDC cannot yetprotect its own supporters against the Central Intelligence Organisation,the police and the army, there are important differences between the two Unity agreements.Put simply, the 1987 event was a fusion of two parties into one. The 2009 event is a coalition of two parties. Some of the same dramatic transformations have happened on both occasions. After 1987, for instance,Dumiso Dabengwa - Zapu’s intelligence chief - went from being imprisoned ona charge of treason to appointment as Minister of Home Affairs. After theagreement of 2009, Tendai Biti has gone from facing a charge of treason incourt to become Minister of Finance. So far, so similar. But the recentagreement is nothing like so much of a triumph for Mugabe as 1987 when,after years of military and police pressure on his supporters, in which some 20,000 people died, Nkomo had no alternative but concede dominance to Mugabe.
A supposedly new party emerged from the Unity agreement but it was still called Zanu PF and it still used the same symbols of the clenched fistand the cockerel. Nkomo was allowed ceremonial status and ex-Zapu men were
allowed to dominate local government in western Zimbabwe, but Mugabecontrolled the central state. An amnesty was declared for all those who hadcommitted political violence.The emergence of the single party was supposed to portend the creation of a one-party state and Zanu PF totted up the percentages of its combined votersupport. "We worship the majority as Christians worship Christ," saidEddison Zvogbo.
This time round, it is very different. This is a coalition government: There is an agreed statement of principles, in which Zanu PFtries to bind the MDC to its doctrines of sovereignty and the MDC seeks torestrain Zanu PF by commitments to human rights. Nevertheless, the twoparties remain quite distinct. And both have made it clear that they lookforward to competing against each other in an election as soon as possible.
In September 2008, when the agreement was first signed, Mugabe called upon his party to revive itself so that it could achieve a smashing electoralvictory and he would never again have to suffer the "humiliation" of workingwith Tsvangirai. During the long delay between the agreement and itsimplementation, Tsvangirai called for internationally supervised electionsas an alternative to coalition.Those who worship the majority are torn between the parliamentary majoritywon by the MDC in March 2008 or the claimed presidential majority won byMugabe in the uncontested election in June. There is no amnesty this timeround, which is why police are still able to arrest a nominated MDC deputyminister - Roy Bennett - and why many in Zanu PF fear prosecution for crimesagainst humanity. When there is another election the old Zapu will contestit. If the 1987 agreement was designed to usher in a one-party state, thisagreement seems designed to usher in intense competitive multiparty"democracy." The MDC will not be swallowed up and digested by the python.

But it may emerge covered with slime. It is part of the largest and mostexpensive cabinet in Zimbabwe’s history. Now in charge of the economicministries, it may be blamed for failure to bring about recovery. So,everything will be done with an eye to electoral advantage. And the mostimportant thing of all is to seek to create conditions in which a fairelection can be held.

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