Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Waiting for the Mugabe-Tsvangirai Dividend: The future of Government of National Unity in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe has been delirious with excitement and great expectations following the recent formation of a government of national unity between the major political parties-ZANU PF and the two MDC formations- after almost a decade of sharp antagonism. But the celebrations are now giving way to the hard realities of political normalcy. Many observers from within and without Zimbabwe wonder what the unity government will bring to Zimbabweans beyond the hope and pride, whether there will be any positive significant changes in the socio-economic and political conditions in the country.

For many Zimbabweans, the unity government is a milestone because it has forced Zimbabweans to graduate from mere political jargon, wounded pride, emotional shock and trauma into rationally confronting the details of the problems that were (and still are) bedeviling the country for the past decade and also what they actually did to each other in the aftermath of the 29 March 2008 harmonised elections running past the second elections of 27 June 2008.

While it is laudable that these conflicting political parties have finally agreed to form a unity government, the devil is in the details, in the implementation. The rhetoric is compromised by the weight of history and the inherent problems of the security sector, the persistent incongruence of MDC and ZANU PF interests. The Mugabe-Tsvangirai administration would go a long way in transforming the socio-economic and political environment in Zimbabwe if the following is agenda is adopted:

First the newly formed government needs to set up a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to look into and investigate the various gross human rights violations, torture, rape and the murders that occurred during the past three decades and which intensified in the last ten years. The recent wave of violent conflicts that occurred in some parts of the country, in Bindura and Mutoko districts, notwithstanding the calls for forgiveness by the new unity government indicates that there are inherent and deep rooted problems that require the need to set up TRC to look into the issues and bring to book all the perpetrators of these crimes and where possible prosecutions to be initiated. These conflicts clearly indicate that if this transition process is not handled properly, the country can easily degenerate into conflict due to the lingering problems carried on into the new government and unresolved and these may set new sources for future conflicts.

Secondly, the overhaul of all government structures and systems has to be implemented as a priority. It cannot be assailed that ZANU PF has permeated all segments of government institutions to the extent that it is now difficult to draw a demarcation between government and ZANU PF. Consequently it becomes difficult for the newly formed government to work properly, effectively and efficiently outside party politics.

Thirdly, there is need to look into security sector reform of all public institutions. The Mugabe administration was, during the last decade, preoccupied with militarisation of government institutions. Recall that at one time the Attorney General’s Office was hit with a mass exodus of personnel after it emerged that the Mugabe government was filling all high offices with retired personnel much to the chagrin of many civilian officers. This is the position that is still obtaining in many government departments. This also has a negative impact on the functioning of the new unity government hence the need to revamp these institutions so that they become public service oriented. It must be noted that militarisation has been the bane of African politics in general and Zimbabwe in particular and development and policies predicated on more militarisation, whatever justification, are counterproductive.

Fourthly, the government must embark on educational programmes to educate security sectors, i.e., the police, army and intelligence personnel of their proper roles and functions in democratic regimes and especially on issues relating to human rights respect. This follows as a logical corollary from the banal and trite fact that a litany of the human rights atrocities in Zimbabwe especially in the last decade were instigated at the hands of the security forces.

Fifthly, the constitution making process ought to be put into motion as a matter of urgency. The debate on this subject has been on the wall for quite some time now and it is the aspiration of many Zimbabweans that for Zimbabwe to graduate into a full democracy, there is need for a constitution that guarantees the civil liberties and human rights of all Zimbabweans-some form of document that identifies with their aspirations and not the archaic, anachronistic, obsolete and transitional Lancaster House Transitional document. A home-grown Constitution is therefore a priority.

These are some of the issues that the new government should take cognisant of if it were to make a positive impact on the political landscape in Zimbabwe. However, this list is by no means exhaustive as there are so many important other areas that need to be addressed.