Source: Ibbo Mandaza and Tony Reeler, Zimbabwe Independent
Since we convened the Platform for Concerned Citizens (PCC) in July, we have worked hard to make clear both the rationale behind and the rationality for a National Transitional Authority (NTA). From the time of publication of the PCC position paper on the NTA on 23rd July, we have engaged as wide a spectrum of political parties, citizen groups and citizens as possible within our limited power. We have convened both a national and a regional consultation on the NTA. We have engaged as many of the foreign missions as we could. We are strongly encouraged by the recent meeting of 13 political parties in South Africa, and hope that the NTA idea was part of their discussions.
In the process, we have had to deal with a consistent set of questions about the NTA, and these are probably obvious. The first has always been about our motives, despite publicly and frequently pointing out that our only motive is in seeking a solution to the deepening crisis in our country. This has been disappointing as it implies that few believe that anyone entering the political discourse does this without a motive to seek political power, and illustrates the deep mistrust that Zimbabweans now have in political processes.
To deal with the critics that claim the NTA would subvert elections. This is the exact opposite of what has been proposed. The PCC position paper states quite clearly that what is envisaged is a reform process to lead up to genuine elections, and we proposed this based on experience of all the contested elections since 2000 at least. We believe in free and democratic election, we just don’t believe that the current state-regime conflation will allow this. We believe that when the current regime has no power in the state, and when the state is appropriately reformed, then we can have decent elections. We made this point in detail in October in an article published in the Zimbabwe Independent, “Looking for keys under streetlights”.
But we are even more convinced after all our consultations that the manner in which the major opposition parties are approaching the elections in 2018 is a strategy based on little more than “kick and hope”. We say this because it is not evident that these parties’ demands for reforms are neither broad enough nor focused enough to create any pressure on the government for reform. Furthermore, it is not clear what position these political parties will take when reforms do not materialise and there is no clarity about what time scale they will impose for the reforms. We remain convinced that there will only be minimal and narrow reforms allowed by the government, that the process will take us to the gates of the poll in 2018, that political parties will participate (and lose) in 2018, and that they will be unable to demonstrate that their loss was illegitimate.
And we also remain mindful that a previous election was lost by ZANU PF in 2008, and still political power did not pass to the winner. So what do the opposition political parties have to offer that will forestall this? In our consultations there seems to be a naïve hope that the so-called grand alliance will result in such overwhelming support that they will win the election whether reforms take place or not. On past history this seems unlikely.
In our view, and if the major opposition political parties, and especially MDC-T and Zimbabwe People First, are determined that an election, and not an NTA, is the solution to the country’s crisis of legitimacy, then they must make explicit and time-bound demands of the government for the full range of reforms necessary for genuine elections. And they must impose a consequence for the failure to implement these reforms.
Actually, there are a large number of reforms that the government can make right now, and they do not need money. We offer an example of such a list of reforms.
- Demand that all service chiefs make a public statement to the effect that they will obey the constitution and their enabling legislation, and will not support any individual political party (as the constitution requires). Furthermore, they will disband JOC, and only engage the government through the channel of the National Security Council (as the constitution requires). Additionally, the government will invite the leader of the opposition to sit on the NSC as a confidence-building measure, since Zimbabwe is not in a state of war;
- Demand that the Council of Chiefs make a public statement that they too will obey the constitution and their enabling legislation, and will not support any individual political party;
- Demand that the state radio and television are de-politicised through the institution of a new management board, and that this board is constituted of independent persons without political affiliation;
- Demand that all the powers under the constitution are accorded to ZEC, and no government minister can have any say over any aspect of elections;
- Demand that the electoral act is amended in order to allow proportional representation and hence the diaspora vote.
All of these could be done within a matter of months, say by March next year, and a full year before elections in 2018. None of these require money, merely political will, and the political will to ensure genuine elections. They can all be done in a very short space of time, all are evidence of constitutionalism, and all are conditions that could be found in virtually all SADC states.
When we have raised this argument with political parties, civics and citizens, they, almost without exception, state that the government will not do any of these, and hence why bother? Indeed, why bother, and instead just march along to another election and whine at a loss.
The point is that, if you cannot have a genuine election, why participate at all? Unless the back-up strategy is that you participate and show where and how it is irregular in order to make the claim that the election was rigged. History suggests that opposition political parties have continually failed in adopting this strategy, and the best that can happen is that you will put a dent in the winner’s claim to legitimacy. This latter too did not seem to work very well in 2013.
So, we believe that the strategy going forward can only be based on demands for serious reform of state institutions, and that any election to be genuine and convey legitimacy to the government requires reforms such as those suggested above.
If opposition political parties, and their international supporters, are serious in pushing the election agenda, then we believe that they must make the reform demands clear, specific and time-bound. And, as is probably the case, when all the demands are rejected, then opposition political parties will need to have a strategy in consequence of the rejection. And is this when they will see the value of an NTA?
Or is it the other position that we have heard repeatedly? The one that says nothing will work until collapse of the economy forces everyone to a national indaba, brokered by SADC and producing a government of national unity again. Or the other one that says nothing will happen till the president steps down or dies?
Our position from the outset was to point out that the fractured position of the regime has led to a government incapable of reform, and that it was time that citizens took responsibility for solving the problems. After all our meetings and discussions, we remain even more strongly convinced than we were in July that elections under the present regime, a solution to the succession within ZANU PF, or another elite pact such as the GNU, have any capacity to overcome the crisis. We may be wrong, and history will certainly show this, but in the absence of any other coherent solution to the crisis, we remain convinced that only an NTA will put us on the road to recovery and to the election of a government that was genuinely put there by the citizens.
Source: Ibbo Mandaza and Tony Reeler, Zimbabwe Independent