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- Interview with Professor John Makumbe
April 08, 2011
Inside/Out with John Makumbe
View audio file details
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
do you make of speculation over Mugabe's health and is it
significance when you consider the stalling by ZANU PF of the transitional
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.
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
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.
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
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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