Saturday, 13 September 2008

The MDC-ZANU PF Deal:Herald of a Bright Future?

Thank you guys for the comments you are sending me, unfortunately I am not able to reply to you all by way of e-mails. First of all let me point out that I am not a political scientist nor am I an academic as many of you presumed. I am just an ordinary person who is pretty much interested in the events that take place in my beloved little country which hitherto has been held hostage by a bankrupt political class and has never known even a spectre of the democratic notions of government dating to the precolonial era. However I must hasten to say that I am aspiring to be an academic so that one day I will find myself contributing in no small measure to the entrenchment of democratic values in my society. So much for that, that is not my intention today to preach to you my aspirations in the future to come under the new political dispensation beginning Monday the 15th of September 2008

Thursday the 11th of September 2008 is a historic day in the political history of Zimbabwe in the past dacade. The day saw the signing of a pact to form a government of National Unity between the two major political players in the country, Zanu PF (the ruling party) and the opposition MDC. However the contents of the pact are not yet in the public domain as the official signing will take place on Monday the 15th of September 2008, presumably in the prsence of other African leaders. Whether the government to be formed is the answer to a litany of the woes that hound Zimbabwe today remains a key question. The power-sharing deal faces a tough credibility test to determine whether it is enough to kick start the country's emergence from catastrophic economic collapse.

There is a labyrinth of key questions that have to be examined with regards the deal. It is an open secret that the military junta is not happy with the whole arrangement especially when one goes down the memory lane to the history just before the first round of the harmonised elections. The chefs in the security forces publicly professed that they will not just allow Tsvangirai to take the thrones at the State house. Could they have changed their minds over this aspect, no one knows what they are really up to. If they still maintain such a hard line of thinking it will be a mammoth task to the government to be formed

The more contentious issue is the sustenance of the Cabinet to be formed. From the concessions that culminated in the signing of the agreement it was pointed out that the new Cabinet will comprise of 31 ministers: 15 from Zanu Pf, 13 from MDC Tsvangirai and the other 3 from MDC Mutambara faction. It is ironic that Tsvangirai who, for the past years was against Mugabe over this big Cabinet would find himself as a party to that same Cabinet which in addition would include four Deputy Vice Presidents! This is an unfortunate aberration representing his surrender or mollification in the face of Zanu PF's unpreparedness to relinguish power to the opposition. This has been viewed by political analysts as an indication of Tsvangirai's cunning for power. One will wonder how such a huge Cabinet will be financed especially in view of the fact that there are more pressing needs that have to be addressed as a matter of urgency: the food crisis being the major issue requiring urgent intervetion.

Political analysits have exprssed dismay in the whole process that led to the signing of the agreement. The non-inclusive character of the negotiation process has been hightlighted as a serious departure from the tenets of democratic governance. Various political actors and the citizenry as a whole were excluded from the whole process and in the final analysis they are not in a position to ascribe legitimacy to the whole process. It is now trite and banal that the success and legitimacy of any governmental process is a product of a participatory approach by a cross section of the society.

More important is the issue of bringing back the economy to a recovery path. The problems that are bedevilling Zimbabwe are of an economic character and therefore require an economic solution. It will be a Herculian task for the new goverment to be to convince and instill investor confidence that Zimbabwe will be palatable for business operations taking into account the fact that Zanu PF elements will still be part of the new government.

Corruption which is now endemic in the country will be another aspect that will have to be confronted by the new government. It is generally accepted the world over that the stemming out of corruption in a country is the fulcrum of any successful economy. The Zimbabwean populace is now generally corrupt, both in public and private sectors and including the generality of the population. It will be a daunting task for the new government to come up with successful initiatives that will invariably reduce the incidence of corruption.

So in a nutshell it is too premature I presume for Zimbabweans to celebrate the signing of the pact as this will not in any way turn around the economy in in moment. There is a lot of vapour that has to cleared so as to chat a clear and defined way otherwise we might find ourselves in a more precarious position than before after the realisation that this may be only the transfer of political power without concomitent developments beneficial to the ordinary persons in the street.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

No to Power Sharing, Yes to a Government that Works.

Bev Clek has some interesting thoughts on Zimbabwe's Global Political Agreement (GPA) that was signed between Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change and Robert Mugabe's ZANU PF party. The GPA was signed as a peace agreement following the March 2008 harmonized elections that were characterized by unprecedented violence that left many people dead and  others physically handicapped and traumatized. Bev has the following to say:
I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Eddie Cross. Much of the time I find his optimism entirely frustrating. However this week he lays bare the litany of abuse that Zimbabwe is experiencing courtesy of Mugabe and his cabal and reminds us that “what we need is not power sharing – that is the least of our worries, its simply a government that will work and start to get the country stable and onto the pathway to recovery.

All the debates taking place regarding the SADC sponsored talks to bring about an agreement to resolve the crisis in Zimbabwe center on the issue of political power. In fact that may be the most important issue to some, but its not the main issue at all. The main point of the talks is to secure a workable solution to our economic, political and social crisis.

The basic facts that underlie the crisis is that we have a military Junta running the country that cannot be overthrown by violence or armed insurrection, the political leadership has lost control of the State to this Junta and is now totally discredited, was in fact defeated at the last election but refuses to leave office, spurred on by the Junta.
The regime has totally mismanaged the economy and now it teeters on the edge of disintegration and collapse. This morning the RTGS rate for the local currency was hovering about 10 000 to 1USD. This dramatic collapse in a few days points to a number of other forces at work – the flight of capital, the reckless creation of money by the Reserve Bank and the severe shortage of cash with which to make daily transactions.
The collapse of the dollar by 700 per cent since the new currency was issued a month ago, means that while there might have been enough cash to meet needs at that time, the availability of cash notes has simply been decimated by inflation – I would guess that we probably only have the equivalent of US$5 million in cash in circulation in new notes – a drop in the ocean when we probably need US$3 billion. When you think that the new currency cost us Euro 35 million to print – now it has a face value of only US$5 million and next week probably half that again.

Our economy is literally teetering on the edge of collapse – the major retail stores are empty and unable to finance their operations. Parastatals cannot pay their staff let alone other costs. The urban councils are without fuel, chemicals, spares and tyres for vehicles. Their administrations are no longer able to produce accounts or manage their finances. The basic needs of life are not available or unaffordable – the great majority of the population is seriously considering flight to the nearest country they can go to under any conditions.

The government must be in dire straights – they can create money by simply passing credits from the Reserve Bank to local financial institutions that will then pay out salaries to the civil service and the armed forces – if they can get in the door of a bank and then along a queue perhaps 500 to a 1000 people long. When they get there they are paid out in small amounts(maximum Z$500 worth US10 cents today) and in coins, old bank notes and bearer bonds.

The parallel market – always an immediate and accurate indicator of real market conditions will no longer accept the old currencies for their deals – only the new notes and these are now as scarce as hen’s teeth. In December the regime is committed to withdrawing the old notes from circulation – and then what? No wonder the Reserve Bank Governor, Gono, wants to retire when his contract comes up for renewal in November.

And then there is the social and humanitarian crisis. Half our population has no food and no means of earning a living. They must be given their entire requirements for survival. Our hospitals and clinics are run down and dirty, they have no drugs and no blankets and few staff. If you are admitted to a State run facility you must provide everything you need, even food and any medical supplies you might require.

Our State run schools have just opened – 70 000 teachers short of their establishment. Hostels have no food, students no books or writing materials. Teachers cannot even pay for transport to school. Buildings are dilapidated and in most school rooms there are no lights. Children come to school hungry and cannot study because they simply do not get enough food at home.

I was at a meeting of our City Council yesterday – the head of the Cities medical services told us she couldn’t dig graves fast enough to bury the dead. She said they could not get labour to clean the streets or handle waste or dig graves. This situation is repeated across the whole country – the City Engineer said they have 4 days chlorine left in stock, after that, we drink unpurified water, 1,3 million people at risk.

We have the shortest life expectancy in the world, the highest ratio of orphans to population in the world, staggering infant and maternal mortality rates. In a country where we once had one of the fastest growing populations in the world – our death rates from all causes is now so high that our population is shrinking rapidly. In line with this, our economy has also shrunk – every year since 1998 and will decline again this year by at least 10 per cent.

So what we need is not power sharing – that is the least of our worries, its simply a government that will work and start to get the country stable and onto the pathway to recovery. For that we need the following: -
-A return to a democratic government that is accountable to the people.
-New leadership that is honest, capable and caring.
-A government team that will work together and put the country first.
-A basic agreement to bring about these conditions that is acceptable to our development partners who are essential to the stabilisation and recovery process.

Any agreement that does not meet the simple criteria listed above will simply not work. It will not be worth the paper it is written on. Mbeki must know this; it may not be acceptable to the Mugabe group or to Mutambara but it is the only way forward.