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The yellow paper - A civil society position paper that sets out the conditions and objectives of any talks today, tomorrow or in future
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
July 2003

Following the Zimbabwe presidential poll held between 9 and 11 March 2002, there has been a flurry of diplomatic activity, to seek a solution to the Zimbabwe crisis. It is clear that ZANU PF "stole" victory in this election, and Robert Mugabe was installed as President. Countries in the SADC region, with South Africa leading them, have repeatedly called for "reconciliation, working together, and national unity in Zimbabwe." The central vehicle through which this is to be achieved is Government of National Unity, (GNU).

In a sense, they reduce the very complex national crisis to dispute between MDC and Zanu-PF political elites. This paper seeks to do three things namely:

  • Outline the crisis Coalition position on the process and content of achieving an amicable solution
  • Expose the weakness of the current process led by Mbeki, Obasanjo and Muluzi and;
  • Suggest a way forward that will be sustainable in the long run.

What is a government of national unity?
At a very basic level GNU is a coalition government, designed specifically to accommodate all participating political players in governmental structures. This includes, the civil service, cabinet, diplomatic posts, the judiciary and in other instances, army, police and the intelligence arms. The logic behind this is that equitable participation will diminish the potential for conflict and enhance prospects for national, stability, integration and development. The assumption behind this logic is that conflict arises from mere exclusion of key political players in structures and processes of national governance. This position does not take into account other dynamics such as ideological differences and relational questions. It also does not take into account the fact that exclusion is not merely on the grounds of race or ethnicity. Issues of class, gender, age and other factors are crucial, yet they are also often very elusive because they straddle the obvious divides such as race and ethnicity. So mere inclusion as a solution becomes problematic. Primarily because of its short-term nature and the failure or refusal to address fundamental issues that would have resulted in the exclusion in the first place.

What is national unity?
National unity assumes the achievement of national consensus on broad national issues and vision. It further assumes the active recognition, participation and inclusion of the broader spectrum of the nation’s political opinion. The product of this is an integrated approach to national questions. The process deals with the relational issues – how groups and sectors relate to one another in search of national development. The product relates more to the stake, which each group controls or owns within the process. For example it is one thing to say MDC is participating in the talks with Zanu

PF reform exercise, but it is another to have it finally participating in all levels of national governance. The assumption behind national unity is that it must arise out of internal processes, based on mutual respect and equitable participation. Of necessity therefore, is the need to deal with issues of truth, justice and reconciliation. It is impossible to achieve inclusion of the broad spectrum of society, without altering the structural framework of an unjust society. Questions around economic disparity, social marginalisation, must therefore be dealt with as a prerequisite to the attainment of national unity. As must issues of constitutional reform, repeal of all repressive legislation and opening up of political space.

Lessons from history
Zimbabwe has had several experiences with coalition governments intended to achieve national unity. These include: The 1978 Muzorewa/Smith Zimbabwe-Rhodesia coalition, the 1980 independence government, and the 1987 ZANU/PF-ZAPU unity government.

The peculiar feature of these three examples they succeeded periods of severe conflict, and were thus aimed at "buying peace at any cost". It is critical to note that all three ultimately failed, in their espoused objective. The 1978 arrangement faltered because it was state driven and not people driven. It failed to reflect any sensitivity to the fundamental grievances of the black populace. The 1980 arrangement also failed in that some of the key structural issues that had led to the liberation struggle remained unresolved; chief among them being the land question, and economic marginalisation of the black majority.

The 1987 arrangement simply integrated the "vanquished" into the status quo, without altering the structural and relational causes of the conflict between ZANU and ZAPU. Zimbabwe subsequent degeneration is testimony of the sterility of this arrangement which ended conflict but failed to build a true democracy based on tolerance, peace truth and justice.

These examples demonstrate the limitations of a parochially defined government of national unity as well as its dangers. Fundamentally, all of these processes failed to build durable peace. Unity is not just about accommodation of the interests of political elites. For unity to succeed it must grow upwards, from the people on the ground. It must deal with the structural barriers to people’s economic and political participation.

The state of the nation: Zimbabwe in 2002
The Zimbabwean crisis is typified by pervasive constitutional and institutional collapse:

  • The judiciary has been politicised and subordinated to the Executive.
  • The bi-partisan parliament still functions as a rubber-stamp of the Executive’s whims and policies.
  • The army, police and intelligence are clearly partisan and have played a key role in serious human rights violations.
  • Traditional leaders have been co-opted into ruling party structures and psyche.
  • Senior civil servants have been manipulated to serve as handmaids of the system.
  • Religious leadership has either cases identified itself with ZANU PF policies and positions and has failed to exercise its prophetic and guardianship role in the nation. Where the leadership has dared to differ it has been met with scorn from the highest office in the land
  • Black business is largely an extension of ZANU PF’s primitive accumulation tendencies in as much as white business was the sanitized face of Rhodesian fascism.
  • Militarisation of sections of unemployed youths under the guise of national service programme
  • Public electronic and print media is used as propaganda machinery for the ruling party.
  • The ruling party has at its disposal a highly defective constitution, and an array of repressive laws, which it habitually uses to stifle dissent.

These factors have resulted in a highly polarized society. Conflicts generated hereby, play themselves out in the arena of politics.

This polarization, is precariously situated within a progressively disintegrating economy, characterized by:

  • Triple digit inflation
  • Unemployment upwards of 70%
  • De-industrialization
  • Over 70% of the nation lives below the poverty datum line
  • Shocking levels of corruption
  • Urban homelessness
  • A rampant HIV/AIDS infection rate

Human Rights and Justice
Zimbabwe has a dark history of impunity. Examples include:

  • Thousands of Africans were killed in cold blood by the European settlers at the inception of the colonial state. None of the murderers were ever prosecuted, nor were there reparations for the victims’ families.
  • In 1975 the Rhodesian Government passed an indemnity law excusing all past and future atrocities committed by its officials.
  • The transitional government of Lord Soames passed an indemnity statute, which pardoned, without investigation all atrocities committed by both during the war of liberation.
  • In 1990, following the Unity Accord, the Zimbabwe government passed Clemency Order 1 of 1990, pardoning all atrocities committed by its own forces and the "dissidents", in the genocide in Midlands and Matebeleland between the years 1984 and 1987
  • In October 2000, following a bloody parliamentary process election campaign, the State president issued Clemency Order 1 of 2000, pardoning the perpetrators of political violence and intimidation.
  • The just ended Presidential election was attended by serious levels of political violence and intimidation, which are yet to be prosecuted, (or pardoned?).

NB: The key question that pervades our national conversation right now is not who requires the benefit of our culture of impunity. Rather, it is whether Zimbabwe can truly move forward if this contentious question is not opened up for national debate. What guarantee is there that the gross human rights violations witnessed over the last two decades will not recur under a future government? What mechanism exists to deter future governments from violating their citizen’s rights?

The Agenda for Talks
The crisis in Zimbabwe has reached desperate proportions. The failure of the two major political parties to develop an amicable solution to the political impasse has resulted in a worsening economic and humanitarian crisis in the country. SADC member states, led by South Africa, have repeatedly called for "reconciliation, working together and national unity in Zimbabwe." The current political framework, however, is not favourable for a Government of National Unity (GNU). Given Zimbabwe’s current situation, a GNU would prove a grossly inadequate mechanism through which to resolve the national crisis.

There is, however, a need for a process of re-envisioning the political prospects of Zimbabwe, and bringing a democratically elected government to Zimbabwe. Civil society supports current efforts by the church to act as a mediator in this process. The key issues, which must be addressed in order to resolve the crisis, go beyond a discussion of power sharing. Any process to ease the multi-layered national crisis should include a participatory and comprehensive constitutional review, and a review of the electoral laws and institutions. This process must involve the full participation by civil society, political parties, the business community and church groups. This process must entail a comprehensive and equitable redistribution of resources. Through this process, preparations should begin for fresh national elections, and a truth, justice and reconciliation process that interrogates Zimbabwe’s past and present injustices.

The goals of this process include:

Short term—Immediate Concerns

  • An end to political violence and intimidation
  • A repeal of repressive legislation and unjust laws
  • The opening up of political space, including print and broadcast media access
  • Addressing the economic and humanitarian crisis
  • The development of a people-driven Constitution that entrenches democratic, just and accountable governance, as a prerequisite to new elections
  • The establishment of an electoral and legal framework that ensures free and fair electoral processes

Medium term

  • Agreed-to principles of governance and a leadership code
  • A defined process to achieve truth, justice and reconciliation
  • Adequate resolution of the humanitarian crisis, especially access to food and emergency medical care
  • The development of institutions that promote and protect human rights and transparent governance

Long term

  • A democratically governed Zimbabwe
  • Accountable and transparent governance
  • Respect for human rights and tolerance for diversity
  • Redistribution of resources and power to benefit the most marginalised sectors of the population
  • Entrenched and institutionalised values/systems that stop the abuse of power
  • National unity, peace, truth and justice
Transitional Governance
Given Zimbabwe’s current political polarisation, the only way to move towards these objectives and achieve genuine national unity is through a process whereby a Transitional Government immediately takes over the running of the country under a Transitional Constitution. The mandate of this transitional government will be:
  • To preside over a participatory process of creating a new constitution and a new electoral law.
  • To preside over the election of a new government
  • To re-engage the international community regarding economic and humanitarian support.

In addition, this Transitional Authority must prevent political violence and intimidation, ensure that the rule of law is upheld, and ensure broad access to all forms of the media. The Transitional Authority may also discuss convening a Commission where questions of Truth, Justice and Reconciliation can be addressed holistically and transparently. It is important that all these processes be broadly inclusive, transparent and participatory, as opposed to consisting of deals purely between political parties.

Performance Monitoring Mechanism
To monitor the process proposed above, a multi-stakeholder panel should be established to ensure that the process is irreversible. Guarantors could be drawn from SADC, AU, UN and the Commonwealth.

Zimbabwean participants on this panel should include representatives drawn from the broadest spectrum of actors, including:

  • Civil Society Organisations
  • Political Parties
  • Faith Based Organisations
  • Business Community
  • Women’s Organisations
  • Students/Youth Organisations

In addition, minority groups and historically under-represented constituencies (e.g. the handicapped, albinos, etc.) must be accorded specific consideration. In each case, representatives should be be identified by their respective constituencies.

Such a panel would have to set definite time frames and objectives to be met therein. The panel would be responsible for monitoring this process as well as guaranteeing its success within a specific time frame.

Unless immediate measures are taken, Zimbabwe’s crisis will continue to deepen. Everyday, it becomes increasingly difficult for the majority of Zimbabweans to meet their families’ basic needs. Economists estimate that by end of the year, 99% of the population will be living below the Poverty Datum Line (PDL). Clearly there is need for an urgent solution. Such a solution must come from the generality of Zimbabweans, and not simply from political parties. Similarly, while the support of Zimbabwe’s friends and neighbours is welcome, it is up to the people of Zimbabwe to determine their national destiny.

Visit the Crisis in Zimbabwe fact sheet

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