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Zimbabwe Briefing Issue 57
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (SA Regional Office)
January 17, 2012

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2012: Zimbabwe's Year of 'Politicized Deception?'

Predicting future events in Zimbabwe's general cultural practice is usually the preserve of spirit mediums, prophets and scientists. Political predictions are more difficult even for 'specialists' in that line of work. In Zimbabwe's case it is necessary to attempt at outlining potential key political developments for the year 2012, bearing in mind that in some quarters there is talk of a harmonized election while in others there is fear, foreboding as well as calls for electoral reform before any elections can be held. Further to this, there is also excitement in elite economic circles about the Community Share Ownership Trusts, Youth Funds and diamond sales, all of which indicate that these are issues that will take center stage as 2012 unfolds.

Whereas the Chinese have their own animal titled lunar calendar years (for example, the year of the 'boar' or even the year of the 'rat'), I think that the next twelve months in Zimbabwe should be referred to as the year of 'the people's politicised deception'. This is because the leaders of the inclusive government will once again individually try and hoodwink the people of Zimbabwe that they are serving their best interests while they slug it out in Cabinet and Parliament over elections, SADC mediation, diamonds and allowances. In order for this to be acceptable to their supporters, they will mix the personal with the political and the political with the economic.

The personal will be in relation to issues to do with the social and private lives of various leaders that will be made public by an eager media, while the economic will be through the partisan distribution of resources either via the Youth Fund or the community trusts that are being established via the indigenization programme. In both, there will be the cajoling of party supporters to tow the official party line on all issues as well to try and make sure that party supporters get a piece of the economic pie. In short, it will be a political party fest that will seek to undertake, on behalf of itself, the continuation of a partisan but non-people centered political narrative in Zimbabwe.

It is for this reason that 2012 will be characterized by a number of specific events that are easy to predict. The first such event is that there will be another big political dispute next year over the issue of elections which will once again involve SADC. As in March 2011, the parties will try and influence SADC on the matter of the election roadmap, security sector reform and sanctions. In doing so, the end result will be similar to the Livingstone SADC Troika Summit whose resolutions ended up being disputed as well as unimplemented. At best however SADC will probably seek a compromise that will lead to the holding elections at end of the five year term of Parliament, which is 2013.

In the midst of the SADC lobbying, the political parties are going to continue arguing about the contents of the Parliamentary Select Committee (COPAC) draft constitution. Whoever wins on the contentious issues of the same draft will also take comfort in the knowledge that all of the member parties to COPAC will still campaign for a 'yes' vote to the draft in order to save face and to continue with the contested argument that the whole process was 'people-driven'. There shall be a well funded 'yes' vote campaign that will be used to test the electoral waters by the three antagonists in the inclusive government. Whatever the result of the referendum, it will be used more for partisan political interests than for broad national legitimizing of the supreme law of the land.

There shall also be serious political competition as to issues of 'economic development' or community economic beneficiation by the three political parties particularly due to the establishment of the various support funds to the youth, small-scale business, 'rural women'. A number of projects will be competed over and the youth ministry will be at the forefront of the greater majority of them in what will be a concerted effort to lure young peoples' votes.

The national economy will continue to be characterized by the dictum, 'availability of goods (foreign) and services without accessibility' for the majority of our country's citizens. While social services will become more expensive due to the lack of a central government plan to avail these consistently and to all. The safety and security of citizens will continue to be under threat from repressive laws and security forces habits that inhibit the enjoyment of particularly freedoms of assembly, association and expression.

So as it is, 2012 is a year in which our political leaders will appear as though they are very busy trying to resolve national problems when in fact they are resolving their own. It is up to the people of Zimbabwe to seek to bring them to account on concrete matters that cover the broad spectrum of challenges the country is facing. In doing so, we must be wary of being co-opted into false realities that appear urgent when instead they are the stuff of momentary political flashes in the pan.

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