Zimbabwe Principals' Agreement Insignificant Without Implementation

On the 8th of this month Zimbabwe's political principals, namely president Mugabe, prime minister (PM) Tsvangirai and deputy prime minister (DPM) Mutambara, met for over two hours at State House to discuss outstanding issues in the Global Political Agreement (GPA) ahead of a planned visit to the country by the Facilitator president Zuma of South Africa. Following the meeting, PM Tsvangirai and DPM Mutambara addressed the media to present outcomes of their meeting.

They said, as Principals, they had agreed on the following, among other things: (1) that the Police Service Commission must be regularised so that it makes recommendations of potential candidates to Mugabe (in consultation with PM Tsvangirai) to replace Augustine Chihuri whose term of office expired on 31 January 2012. The current position is that the office is vacant and Commissioner Chihuri is serving in an acting capacity; (2) that the date for the next election will be determined by a process involving putting in place the necessary reforms that will ensure a free and fair election including a new constitution; (3) that the Minister of Media Information and Publicity, must immediately reconstitute the boards of ZBC, Mass Media Trust and the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe in line with the agreed formulae; and (4) that there must be a land audit to assess ownership and production levels at all the farms in the country.

Problems with the agreement soon came to the fore with Mugabes' spokesperson, George Charamba, gave a conflicting and contradictory statement suggesting that Mugabe had in fact unilaterally extended Chihuri's term to 2014. This contradiction reveals underlying challenges with Zimbabwe's inclusive government.

At face value, the agreements made by the political principals represent significant progress, however, the major challenge has been the non-implementation of issues agreed to. The GPA, signed in September 2008, has several clauses agreed to that have not been implemented due to absence of political will, particularly on the part of president Mugabe and Zanu PF who wield significant political power through the partisan and politicized security forces. This latest round of agreements between political principals may fall victim to non-implementation as security chiefs are likely to resist these proposed measures.

The agreement on the need for a land audit is not new at all, it is contained in the GPA signed but which has not been implemented on account of resistance from Zanu PF. The position taken on the media reforms and the need to reconstitute the various boards and revoke licenses already issued is welcome but must be followed through urgently.

In addition to ensuring free and fair elections, the principals must place special emphasis on mechanisms to prevent violence or intimidation and to ensure that those who commit violence and other human rights abuses are held accountable. The timing for the next elections should be informed by the institution of critical reforms including mechanisms to reign in the security chiefs who interfere in political and electoral affairs.

On the question of the expiry of the term of office for the current Commissioner General of Police, Augustine Chihuri, it maybe that president Mugabe may also be happy to replace Chihuri with a more loyal person. One of the top contenders for the post is deputy Commissioner General Innocent Matibiri, a nephew to president Mugabe. It is therefore critical that focus be not on individuals, but on reforming the system to ensure that the leadership of the police force is non-partisan, independent, professional and serving the interests of multi-party democracy. A better approach would have been to ask Chihuri to vacate office and have a deputy act as Commissioner General until a substantive replacement is made. As it is there is no limit to the period for which Chihuri stays as acting Commissioner General.

A significant weakness of the agreements by principals is the conspicuous lack of watertight timeframes for implementation. The principals must ensure that their agreements have clear time frames and undertakings that their political party structures will not reverse or resist the implementation of the agreements. There is a real fear that Zanu PF structures and their allies may reject these agreements.

The position from Zanu PF and their allies including the so-called war veterans is that elections must be held in 2012 with or without critical reforms and that the constitutional reform process must be abandoned in favour of rushed elections contrary to the agreement by the principals. The challenge is for president Mugabe to reign in his party and security chiefs to submit to agreements reached at the highest level of political authority by the principals.

The regional bloc - SADC should closely monitor the reforms in Zimbabwe as there is a danger that the hardliners in Zanu PF and the security establishment may turn against Mugabe for embracing reforms if this agreement is a gesture of sincerity on his part. Zimbabwe is at serious risk of a violent military takeover if Mugabe softens without carrying the politically entrenched securocrats along. The visible monitoring presence of SADC in Zimbabwe will help diffuse tensions and keep the securocrats in check. SADC and the AU ought to be on high alert now.

Dewa Mavhinga, Regional Coordinator, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition

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