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Constitutional Amendment 18 of 2007 - Index of articles, opinion and anaylsis
opposition caught between a rock and hard place
Justin Muponda, ZimOnline
September 24, 2007
the special index of articles, analysis and opinion on Constitutional
HARARE - Zimbabwe's
main opposition party last week carved out concessions from President
Robert Mugabe in an effort to ensure free and fair elections in
2008 but could have trapped itself between a rock and a hard place
in the process while the veteran leader solidifies his grip on power,
for Democratic Change (MDC) agreed to the ruling ZANU-PF party's
amendments it had initially vowed to fight, after the bill was
watered down to clip Mugabe's powers to appoint members of
the lower house of parliament and limit presidential appointees
in the upper senate to five.
The bill also merged
presidential, parliamentary and council elections, a key opposition
demand, and will see parliament sitting as an electoral college
to elect a president if an incumbent failed to serve a full
There is growing speculation
that Mugabe could use that provision to resolve the contentious
succession puzzle in ZANU-PF by stepping down in future and anoint
a loyalist who would be endorsed by parliament, long dominated by
the ruling party.
But so far, there is
no sign the veteran leader will leave office despite a collapsing
economy and growing calls locally and abroad for him to quit.
Instead, Mugabe, who at 83 years looks fit for his age, is consolidating
power and seeking re-election for a five-year term in elections
scheduled for 2008.
looks like capitulation by any word. The so-called concessions Mugabe
has agreed to are clearly insignificant," John Makumbe, senior
political lecturer at the University
of Zimbabwe said.
"In trying to get
something out of these talks, the MDC has put itself into a tight
corner on one hand and on the other it would seem Mugabe is actually
consolidating power with the help of the MDC," Makumbe said.
But the MDC says it is
pursuing a parallel political process and has not abandoned its
demand for a new constitution and the repealing of harsh press and
security laws it says have hamstrung its capacity to organise politically.
A Southern African Development
Community initiative requiring ZANU-PF and the MDC to negotiate
a political settlement to end Zimbabwe's crisis has seen the
two parties meeting 20 times in Pretoria and Harare.
The two have agreed to
discuss parameters for a new constitution, review of controversial
media and security legislation and the issue of sanctions, which
ZANU-PF blames for the economic crisis.
Critics say while Mugabe
appeared to play ball for now, there are doubts the veteran leader
would walk all the way to implement these key demands as this would
mean negotiating himself out of power.
Analysts also say even
if Mugabe and ZANU PF were to agree to the MDC demands for a new
constitution and to scrap restrictive media and security laws, these
were most likely to be implemented after the 2008 elections which
the former guerrilla leader looks set to win under the prevailing
political climate. Some sources in ZANU-PF say this could be Mugabe's
last election, given his old age.
The issue of political
violence, gerrymandering and use of state machinery by ZANU-PF in
elections are some key issues that remain unresolved ahead of the
elections but critics say the opposition's acquiescence could
make it difficult to pull out of future elections on the basis of
an uneven political field.
In addition, there is
already a wide split between the MDC and its allies in the civic
society movement over the latest constitutional amendment.
Constitutional Assembly - which is campaigning for a new
constitution and a strong MDC ally - called the agreement
on the constitutional bill a "treacherous act" while
an official in the civic movement, likened it to "kissing
a hungry hyena".
"I can understand
the feeling among our allies but this is not an end but the beginning
of a long process initiated by SADC. We are going into this with
our eyes wide open and fully cognisant of the political risks
that lie ahead," an MDC official said.
Mugabe has managed to
hang on to power since 2000 when the MDC posed the most potent threat
to sweep him from power.
But today the MDC is
severely weakened by personality clashes and infighting over strategy
to tackle Mugabe and a vicious government campaign on its structures.
Analysts said the opposition
movement was headed for further split after angry allies slammed
the MDC for acquiescing to ZANU-PF, bad news for supporters who
are growing weary over a deepening recession that has left Zimbabwe
burdened with the world's highest inflation rate of over 6
600 percent, shortages of food, foreign currency and fuel and surging
At the same time international
pressure, which at best has been sporadic, has failed to move Mugabe
whose assertion that Western sanctions are responsible for the crisis
resonate with many supporters at home and Africans who still hail
Mugabe as a liberation hero fighting white hegemony.
leader has outwitted rivals both in ZANU-PF and the MDC.
have been outthought in terms of strategy and vision," Eldred
Masunungure, a leading political commentator said.
"It has again showed
in these talks because Mugabe has not lost much by agreeing to the
constitutional changes. If anything it is naïve for the MDC
to think they can make a deal with Mugabe," he added.
The opposition, clearly
looking out of sorts and depth on how to confront Mugabe, had little
room to manoeuvre and would still have been unable to block the
passing of the bill given ZANU-PF's parliamentary majority,
MDC allies are
also weakening, showed by a failed job boycott called by the Zimbabwe
Congress of Trade Unions last week to protest a government wage
freeze and the deteriorating economy.
Civic group organisations
have resorted to condemning Mugabe through the media or at best
press conferences held in Western capitals, far away from where
the political and economic crisis is unfolding.
Yet, there could still
be hope for the opposition. Analysts say an organised MDC could
pose a strong challenge to Mugabe at the polls, taking advantage
of the discontent over the economic meltdown.
"I think this (economy)
is one area where the government has no answers and obviously it's
a window for the opposition to exploit. It could be an ace in the
sleeve depending with how it is used," Masunungure said.
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