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  • New Constitution-making process - Index of articles

  • The constitutional reform process, elections and predictions for Zimbabwe - Interview with Professor John Makumbe
    Upenyu Makoni-Muchemwa,
    April 08, 2011

    Read Inside/Out with John Makumbe

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    John MakumbeProfessor John Makumbe is a well respected political scientist with the University of Zimbabwe. An influential commentator on the political situation in Zimbabwe, he co-authored Behind the Smokescreen: The Politics of Zimbabwe's 1995 General Elections (2000). Makumbe is actively involved in civic action and is a human rights campaigner of international reputation

    COPAC recently announced that the Constitutional process should be concluded by September 30 of this year. What kind of constitution do you feel will come from this process?
    I think it's going to be a compromise Constitution because there were virtually three groups of campaigners. ZANU PF have campaigned for a constitution, which is more status quo, oriented, than change oriented. MDC were campaigning largely for a change oriented constitution and then there's the middle group that was campaigning for either side; a few things were new, a few were old.

    COPAC also said that it would be possible to have elections before the end of the year. In your opinion is this likely?
    We might be able to have a referendum by the end of the year. But to have elections this year is very unlikely because even if COPAC completes the work and we have a successful referendum - successful in the sense that the constitution will be adopted - there are a lot of things in the Global Political Agreement, which have not yet been implemented. The SADC Troika last week was very emphatic that those things need to be implemented especially the 24, which have already been agreed upon by the three political parties. There are other things like reforms to the security sector, and reforms to, for example, the youth training programme. It's not likely that they will be done as speedily as will enable us to have elections in 2011. Listen

    Do you think the recommendations of the SADC Troika will change anything on the ground in Zimbabwe?
    I think this time it's quite different. In the past the warnings we have had were along the lines of quiet diplomacy. They have been using kid gloves to handle Robert Mugabe particularly, and ZANU PF in general. This time the Livingstone meeting was quite robust, the communiqué is robust. I think it will change things on the ground; it will result in some movement towards the goal of implementing the GPA. After a while I think we will stall as ZANU PF will again apply the brakes screaming that sanctions have still not been removed which is now a quite a boring song. Listen

    In relation to the Troika, do you think Jacob Zuma's tougher stance as a mediator is more likely to push the process towards a conclusion?
    I think Jacob Zuma's approach, which is informed by the developments in North Africa where dictatorships are tumbling down is likely to result in some compliance on the part of the parties in the Government of National Unity. Zuma is essentially saying 'look if you want to play it dirty, let's go.' I don't think Mugabe and ZANU PF are quite willing to be embarrassed within SADC, because that is where it will all end up; with embarrassment, isolated, ostracized and effectively hamstrung because we are a land locked country. If Zimbabwe alienates itself from the rest of SADC we are in big trouble and I know that Mugabe is very unlikely to do that because then he will really be standing alone and it's not a comfortable position. We are going to see movement, we are going to see progress. Whether it will be meaningful enough to enable the country to say it is transition to democracy still remains to be seen. Listen

    What do you make of speculation over Mugabe's health and is it significance when you consider the stalling by ZANU PF of the transitional process?
    Mugabe's health is of concern because ZANU PF is well aware that if Mugabe should fail to go through this period until the elections are held in 2012 or 2013 for that matter, they will not have a candidate who can stand shoulder to shoulder with Tsvangirai in an election and win. They don't have such a person, so they want Mugabe badly. Because his health is noticeably failing they are concerned that the election should be held as soon as possible with or without a new Constitution. SADC, the MDC formations, the people of Zimbabwe and the international community are saying without a new and democratic constitution, without the reforms spelt out in the Global Political Agreement, no elections (whose results will be disputed should be held). So Mugabe's health is really a major concern mainly to ZANU PF. Listen

    There are also concerns within elements of ZANU PF itself. There are members of parliament in ZANU PF who are very much aware that if elections are held this year they will be swept out of parliament. ZANU PF now hardly has any grassroots structures, so who is going to vote for ZANU PF? The soldiers are mobilising for them but they are only a few, even if they all vote for ZANU PF they will not be able to overwhelm the three plus million voters who are now largely opposed to Mugabe.

    What do you think the future holds for ZANU PF after Mugabe?
    I think they will not even be the official opposition. They are likely to take the place currently occupied by MDC-Ncube, which itself will be completely swept out of the legislature. The situation in Zimbabwe is so polarised that you are either ZANU PF or MDC, there is nothing in-between.

    Several people have tried to organise a popular revolt in Zimbabwe via Facebook and social media. There was one, which was supposed to happen at Harare Gardens, but only 20 people went. Why do you think this has failed?
    It failed because everybody knew it was organised from the Diaspora, and the Diaspora has no business organising people in Zimbabwe. It is when people organise through cyberspace in Zimbabwe so that the cyberspace communication is reinforced by clandestine on the ground assurance that things will happen. People are very keen to do it, but they will not do it without knowing someone who is going to be part of it, or someone who is organising it, or someone to whom they will cry if things don't go well. And it must be someone local. Not someone toying with cyberspace in the Diaspora from the comfort of one bedroom with a large screen television in the hope that they can mobilise the poor people to hit the streets. From there no!

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