Zimbabwe GNU: The Dysfunctional, Functional option

By IndepthAfrica
In Article
Feb 7th, 2013

Kevin Mupungu
The violent 2008 general elections failed to produce a single party majority government in Zimbabwe. Resultantly, political and economic paralysis triggered the formation of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) and a Government of National Unity (GNU) under the three main political parties. Today the GNU resembles a child publicly dishonoured by both parents and yet seen as a lovable child.

PM Tsvangirai dubs it a marriage of convenience which is no longer needed by both Zanu (PF) and MDC. By 2011 President Mugabe claimed that the GNU was not working well. Both parties in this GNU seemed tied against their will and could not wait to split. Besides their noted concerns, even voters cannot freely express themselves under a GNU and expect to get get specific wishes.
To the contrary, both Zanu (PF) and MDC-T actually need GNU set up that has harbingered peace and stability while curtailing the historic economic meltdown. For that reprieve, all citizens wished it could last longer. This GNU has realized harmony and stamped out political violence. Yesterday’s political enemies now co-exist peacefully and no one wants to return to the pre-2008 political violence, economic downturn and disease scourge. For that reason, the GNU could be perceived as the ideal option for Zimbabwe.
Zanu (PF)
According to various analysts, the GNU was an option for Zanu (PF) to re-organise and remove sanctions. To date, the revolutionary party has managed to tick all boxes. The failed 2009 UN Commission for Human Rights Draft Bill was intended to express deep concern at the continuing Human Rights violations listed as politically motivated violence, torture, sexual assaults and other infringements. Crucially President Mugabe would be urged to comply and ensure measures to ensure that Human Rights were protected and promoted. Courtesy of South Africa, Cuba and China among other countries, the draft bill failed. The message got to President Mugabe though that EU, USA & the rest of the world were now closing in on setting conditions which he was certain to fail leading them to declare him an international outlaw. At that moment, Mbeki’s offer of GNU was a welcome way out. Mugabe lost the election and instead of him exiting the political arena, the option was to join the GNU. That was a humiliation he could lendure. He actually needed the GNU more than MDC formations. GNU gave him breathing space and marginal legitimacy causing the UN to set aside their plan on his exit.
Mugabe and Zanu (PF) continue to threaten to go it alone. Rugare Gumbo recently, declared that there would be bloodbath if the MDC-T were to win forthcoming polls. All these are echoes of a frustrated fading party still living in the past. Zanu (PF) owes a lot to South Africa. Mugabe is still in power because Mbeki did not trust MDC enough in 2008. South Africa has waived full blown economic sanctions from being applied on Harare. Evidence shows that President Zuma is not at all prepared to allow Harare to descend into anarchy because 2008 crisis flooded refugees in South Africa. SADC has flexed its muscle by publicly calling on Mugabe to implement GNU terms and conditions ahead of elections. He has also been reminded that he does not run government single-handedly as there is a GNU. To earn credibility from the region, he has towed the GNU line.
Single Party Majority
On the domestic front, Zanu (PF) still hopes to command single party majority rule again but they are unsure because previously they have secured victory through rigging and violence. They have failed to modernise because they cannot address succession issues and continue to reward failure as non-performing stalwarts are preferred to young talent.All polls from 1980 have been marred by political violence as Zanu (PF) cherry-picks election observers. National voters’ roll has never passed international standards. Mugabe has routinely picked the boards of the Electoral Commission and Registrar General. These are some of the matters which the upcoming Charter hopes to address. The current Charter invested a billion volts of power in President Mugabe virtually declaring him to be dictator. It’s the system which he presides on which needs changing. He simply has been exercising executive prerogatives as the Charter requires.
Never Again
Zanu (PF) already knows the securing of a majority rule will be an uphill struggle. The Gukurahundi massacre, 2008 violence, 2008 economic meltdown and wanton corruption will cost the party the vote. Zimbabwe does not want a government dominated by MDC-T as it will marginalise people of Mashonaland Central Province who historically vote Zanu (PF) or some parts of Matabeleland who would vote MDC-N. In the last 30 years, Zanu (PF)  has punished people of Matabeleland for crimes committed during the liberation struggle.
Urban Councils Study
Ministries allocated to Zanu (PF) have seen political retribution as spearheaded by Minister Chombo who has sought to punish urbanites for voting supporting the MDC-T. Losing the entire urban councils to MDC formations was a vote of no confidence. He is fighting back by grabbing powers from Mayors and councillors countrywide by accusing them of corruption, maladministration, incompetency and fraud thereby suspending them in the process.
Chombo Abuses Power
Chombo has used excessive powers in interfering with Urban councils. This has riled all sides of the power sharing agreement causing some finger pointing as his interventions in urban councils are perceived as anti-progressive and undemocratic. Even Minister Mangwana pointed that Urban Councils Act is outdated and had given Chombo too much power which he is abusing. Former Mutare Mayor Misheck Kagurabadza (now Mutasa South MP) thinks that Cholera could have been avoided in cities where Mayors were suspended as they would always monitor and report such developments. Judge Patel while delivering a verdict exonerating fired elected councillors implied that Chombo by declaring a guilty verdict on the councillors was so grossly irrational in his defiance of logic that no reasonable human being could make such a decision.
MDC Formations
To the contrary, MDC-T has been auditing performance by councils under its leadership and Policy Director Eddie Cross recently remarked that out of the ten councils only Bulawayo, Gokwe and Chinhoyi had clean bills of health. Expelling 12 councillors, the statement pointed that they had been found guilty of power abuse and corruption. Still Chombo is seen as a handful in Urban Councils business. He even blocked the investigation of his cousin Phillip Chiyangwa’s activities while acquiring properties in Harare city. Chombo has been a pain, a know-it-all and a careless leader in not following rules and the law. Through power hunger acts, his actions resonate with those of his boss. Many are shocked that Mugabe allows Chombo to tarnish his party image through such extremities of unprofessional conduct.
Warming to Power
The two formations have been accused of warming to power. The PM has shown that he can live up to power by reshuffling his cabinet and dropping dead wood, a move other parties have failed to do. The Zimbabwe cabinet resembles a country run by twin governments. Both Zanu (PF) and MDC operate completely different policies. From this coalition MDC-T dreamt of trimming Zanu PF power of 30 years of absolute reign. MDC-T has managed to frustrate President Mugabe into adjusting to some fundamental democratic reforms through accountability as demanded by the GNU. Other players in the GNU continue to warm up to power in various categories despite their internal party squabbles.
Just like any strategy, success depends on implementation. In Zimbabwe GNU success rests on two men’s commitment to the agreement or it falls to obvious short life and uncertainties of such a precarious existence. The PM nearly walked out in 2010 while President Mugabe has promised to walk it alone on a million times. There still exist many sticking points to the successful implementation of the coalition strategy as Zanu(PF) continue to frustrate the MDC formations who want to wrestle and grab power slowly from Mugabe. Credit to MDC  formations, one party system has been eliminated. That has removed chances of the government collapsing despite it being shaky.
The GNU stands chances to make fundamental changes. One big stain is the Gukurahundi scourge. Many wish the Gukurahundi issue could be tabled to establish a truth commission and compensate surviving victims of the massacre. People of Matabeleland would feel they are not part of the country until these dark spots are cleaned. The same bill would compensate any such citizens who have been wronged by the state including commercial farmers and all victims of political violence. Such are results of one party majority led governments as there are no practical checks and balance factors. Does the nation need one more?
Coalition Government, the functional option
As an example in in West European states coalition governments have been the norm. The trend has been growing strong in the last 20 years for executive power to share between two or more parties. Currently 17 of the thirty OECD countries are being governed by multi party coalition. In African history, there has been coalition set ups in various states including  Kenya,Mali, Senegal and now Zimbabwe. Single party majority is a common feature in UK which now has had only two coalitions in the last 24 governments. UK’s first-past-the-post electoral system has been credited with producing manufactured single party majority system. One party majority is legalised dictatorship in my view as it ignores views of the minority.
Coalition agreement is the functional option everybody would like to call dysfunction because it came by chance. No one votes for power sharing governments but parties in Zimbabwe are very committed to the stability of the country. The economy has stabilised but has had less sustained growth. Confidence is still low as lawlessness still persists on the farms. A foreign direct investment is still coming from China only but at least there is a platform for progress. Principals are frustrated but they are still in it. Talk of elections and referendum pose a new challenge but definitely the nation has learnt tough lessons and would not make the mistake of giving majority vote to either of the main parties. Learning from lessons this far, the nation may want to set up a strong apolitical civil service who will run business of the government as politicians scratch each other. This has been the cornerstone to many nations susceptible to coalition set up. Yes, coalition set up is the best and only option for years to come in Zimbabwe as democracy comes of age.

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