Solidarity Peace Trust

Solidarity Peace Trust

By Brian Raftopoulos

Viewing the broad spectrum of the political landscape in Zimbabwe at the
end of 2011, one is left with the distinct impression that all the
political forces are caught under a spell of indecision. The dilemmas of
leadership renewal, electoral strategy and a broad vision for the future
are all inducing a sense of hesitancy, that in the case of Zanu PF,
manifests itself in renewed aggression and political hubris. Moreover if
the Wikileaks reports have any validity this sense of uncertainty is not
new, as all parties have, over the last decade,sought out the father
confessor of the American Embassy to vent their fears and schizophrenic
party psyches, none more so than the outwardly macho Zanu PF.

To start with Zanu PF, it is clear that the decision at the recent
Bulawayo conference of the party to nominate Mugabe once again as the
presidential candidate for the next election tells us a great deal about a
party that is simply unable, at this stage, to visualise a regenerative
strategy outside of its octogenarian leader. The lack of trust in an open
discussion over the succession issue, is based on a party that fears its
own internal contradictions and history as much as it does the judgement
of an open and fair plebiscite. Zanu PF is also a party that assumes that
the Zimbabwean state is its private property and therefore finds it
difficult to understand any other means to secure its ill- gotten gains
except through the continued stranglehold over the military- security
apparatus. For all these reasons and more Mugabe and his party remain the
major obstacle to political progress in Zimbabwe. Yet Mugabe and his party
are not about to disappear and their future, even if it may not be a long
one for the President, must be a part of any longer term settlement in the

Tsvangirai's MDC have their own set of doubts. A popularly elected party
that was denied the fruits of victory, the party has had to confront the
challenges of learning statecraft in an inclusive government with a
ruthless, violent and wily 'partner'. This challenge has had to be
undertaken with a party apparatus that requires a huge amount of
organisational strengthening and capacity building, and which has had its
fair share of problems with internal accountability and intra-party
violence. The recent personal problems of Morgan Tsvangirai have added to
the leadership struggles that have also emerged in the MDC-T.

The smaller MDC formation led by Welshman Ncube faces an even greater
sense of uncertainty about its future, as a result of an ongoing legal
battle over the leadership, continued defection of its membership, and the
knowledge that its current survival depends on its capacity to manoeuvre
between the two major parties. Added to this is the constant vilification
that this formation and its leader have had to face from all sides in

For their part the regional and international players in Zimbabwean
politics confront their own uncertainties. After the more critical
position taken on the Mugabe regime in Livingstone in March this year,
SADC followed this up with resolutions in Sandton and Luanda that endorsed
this position, even if in less critical language. However there has been a
lull in the SA mediation in the last quarter of 2011 with President Zuma,
confronted with his own set of problems in the ANC, slow to take up some
key outstanding issues in the GPA. Foremost amongst these challenges is
the problem of the role of the security sector in the next election. This
is an issue that the negotiators have been unable to resolve and have
therefore determined that the matter can only be taken up by Zuma and the
Principals in Zimbabwe. Zuma's hesitation around this issue echoes Mbeki's
unwillingness to deal with it in the discussions leading to the GPA, but
it remains the central problem in the political equation.

SADC's work has been made more difficult by its differences with the EU
and the US over the continued sanctions policy of these countries, and the
often mixed messages that have been sent out on this issue by the MDCs and
the civic movement. For their part it appears that the EU, in particular,
are aware of the limited and even counter-productive effects of the
sanctions policy, but are more concerned about saving face with their own
domestic constituencies, than with the problematic effects of this policy
on the politics of the Inclusive Government. Moreover the global politics
of human rights has too often been associated with a politics of regime
change, making it difficult for human rights defenders in Zimbabwe to
articulate this discourse in the face of nationalist pronouncements.

It is clear therefore that if there is indecision in Zimbabwean politics
it is based on the growing complexity of the problem and the increasing
need for a more assertive mediation process. In the current politics of
Southern Africa this mediation can only be led effectively by SADC, with
all its weaknesses, with both the EU and the US finding ways to strengthen
rather than undermine this process. The central objective of the SADC
mediation leading to the GPA was to establish the conditions for a free
and fair election. That objective remains to be fulfilled and it is the
processes leading to the next election, more than the timing of it, that
are the most important factors to keep in focus.

For further information, please contact Selvan Chetty - Deputy Director,
Solidarity Peace Trust
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