Zanu-PF's narrowing options

Eddie Cross on what the recent SADC summit means for Zimbabwe

The Situation in Zimbabwe

The SADC summit held in Sandton last weekend delivered more than was anticipated. Although the propaganda machine is trying to muddy the waters, the basic facts are that the summit endorsed the report of the President of South Africa and the findings of the Troika Summit held two months ago in Zambia.

In addition, the summit urged the Zimbabwean leadership to conclude talks on the road map in the next month and to attach time lines to all aspects. This final version will then be considered at the next summit now scheduled for Angola in August.

One of the main issues was the decision to locate a SADC team in Zimbabwe to support JOMIC (the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee) in their function of trying to monitor the implementation of agreements and to curb political violence. This is being resisted by the Zanu PF elements in government but will probably be implemented shortly. The South African Facilitation Team is also increasing the frequency of visits to Zimbabwe and heightening their profile.

What does this all mean? It means that SADC has now exhibited a solid front towards the Zimbabwe crisis and in addition has demanded the full implementation of an amended 'Road Map' designed to deliver a free and fair election. The solidarity shown is critical as this now precludes action by the hard liners in Zimbabwe who favor repudiating the GPA and going it alone without the MDC and in defiance of the South Africans. In effect a thinly disguised military coup. It would appear that this threat has now been dealt with and will not reappear as a real possibility unless the hard liners throw caution to the winds and go ahead. In which case the situation in Zimbabwe will unravel swiftly.

The second option of the Zanu PF elements in the Transitional Government - that of launching a full-scale democratic war against the MDC has also suffered a serious setback. Such a strategy was already well on the way to being implemented with the deployment of militia and security elements to all Districts and the launch of a renewed campaign of terror and intimidation using all the considerable resources at their disposal.

However it must be understood that the SADC decisions present Zanu PF with a very serious situation. They are well aware that they now only command residual support in all areas of the country and can no longer rely on the traditional and conservative voters in the Tribal areas for some sort of an electoral victory.

If followed through, the SADC road map to an election would almost certainly see both Zanu PF and the smaller MDC factions eliminated with the MDC under Morgan Tsvangirai achieving an overwhelming majority - tantamount to a one Party State.

Clearly this is unacceptable to the other players and in fact to many external observers and the problem now confronting all of those involved is what to do next? There is not going to be any discarding of the GPA process and the time table is likely to be confirmed and therefore the only alternative for the Parties likely to be affected by an electoral avalanche is to initiate talks with the major beneficiary of the SADC summit, the MDC (T).

There are signs that this is being actively considered with the deteriorating health of the President, Robert Mugabe being an added concern. If he was to die in office or become significantly disabled, then the procedure would be for the two Houses of Parliament to sit as an Electoral College under the Chairmanship of the Speaker and elect an interim President who would run Government until a Presidential election could be held in three months. In such a situation, while Zanu PF would be entitled (under the GPA) to nominate the candidates, they could not control who won and it is likely that only one possible candidate has any chance of a majority and that would be Vice President Mujuru.

Under these circumstances it would appear that the options for Zanu PF decision makers have narrowed down significantly. If they cannot wage electoral war against the MDC and cannot control the succession then the only realistic course open to them is to adopt the MDC proposal (made public in December 2010) to opt for a Presidential election in 2011/12 rather than a harmonized election. This would leave them with a significant number of seats in both Houses of Parliament and control of the majority of Rural District Councils.

Once this core decision was made they would then negotiate agreements in the following areas:

- A new national constitution which will reduce the powers of the President (in anticipation of losing the election) and transfer them to Parliament, provide for devolution of power to the Provinces and reduced numbers of Provinces;

- Agreement to form a National Government after the Presidential election which will include provision for all minority parties with representatives in the House of Assembly; and

- Agreement on the retirement of the President Mugabe and a selected number of hardliners who would demand protection in return for 'allowing' a transfer of power.

If this were to occur, then the new government would probably be given a five-year term to allow the new President to have a full term in office and to give the minority Parties time to rebuild themselves before the next elections in 2016 or 2017. Such an arrangement would bring much needed stability and would also maintain a democratic situation in the country with a new leadership that could start to the process to rebuild confidence and the economy.

One other thing that has emerged from the summit is that the center of power in Zimbabwe is moving steadily away from Zanu PF. This has significant implications for the immediate future.

Eddie Cross is MDC MP for Bulawayo South. This article first appeared on his website www.eddiecross.africanherd.com

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