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This article participates on the following special index pages:

  • Constitutional Amendment 18 of 2007 - Index of articles, opinion and anaylsis

  • Amendment Number 18: Evidence of a transition in crisis
    Sydney Chisi
    September 25, 2007

    Visit the special index of articles, analysis and opinion on Constitutional Amendment 18

    The events of last week in the august House of Zimbabwe shocked a lot of general people in the streets of Zimbabwe and a lot of things ranging from mistrust, perceived collapse of the people-s struggle, and elitist agenda being promoted so that Mugabe will have a dignified exist whilst for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) this might be the chance to at least get into a ZANU(PF) donated fringe power. These speculations might be all correct given that ever since the talks between these two political parties and mediated by Thabo Mbeki, they have been under high secrecy even to some of the sitting members of Parliament, to an extend that it might not be surprising that some of these MPs can not objectively justify why they supported Amendment 18 to the Lancaster House Constitution. The only public information that those with access to information have heard so far is that so and so has left for Pretoria, or that talks are progressing on well. And if the definition of progress is what was evidenced in the last week, then there is a need of looking back and reflect on the basis to which MDC was formed. The party was formed under a very progressive, participatory and consultative process that brought the voice of all suffering people of Zimbabwe together and as such it should be the spirit to which it must continue.

    The change in the strategic direction to which the party is supposed to take should be informed by the people especially in the context of amendments that are made in the 'nicodimus- of economic collapse. Going back to the last elections of 2000, 2002, 2005 and the multiple by-elections, history has taught us that certain fundamentals have to be dealt with if the process of electioneering is supposed to be free and fair. The president of MDC, Morgan Tsvangirai during the memorial service of Gift Tandare highlighted that there was no need of participating in an election that is pre determined because of the lack of instruments that ensure that elections are a true reflection of a vibrant democracy. This kind of strategic opinion should have been fundamental to the whole discussion process rather than focusing on power sharing. I would bet my last cent (even in their absence) that he looked beyond the greed for power, but an everlasting process that will safeguard not only the current crop of those fighting for democracy, but even for generations to come. This could only mean that a new people driven constitution is paramount to the building up of a new Zimbabwe. and as ordinary person I thought that the mediation process from an MDC-s perspective was to build that new Zimbabwe, unlike Zanu(PF) who definitely would want to retain power and power is all they are concerned about.

    But we have to sympathize with the MDC, and really understand what kind of a creature they are dealing with as well as the conditions to which they ended up agreeing to this. However it should not be forgiven for failing to go to the people.

    Going into the agreed agenda for the talks between the two parties which have been driving the mediation process, one can easily see that the MDC was the weaker end of the knot. The Zanu(PF) agenda mentions. Sovereignty, that MDC has to acknowledge the legitimacy of the current leadership as from 2002, Constitutional amendments which do not treat Zanu(PF) as former colonizers and the issue of removal sanctions both targeted and broadly as far as isolation of Zimbabwe and accessing foreign aid . This process also tasked the two to define what Zimbabwe is all about, from the emblem, flag etc. their view on the constitution is that there is no need for a new constitution because they wouldn-t want be treated as former colonizers. These points of view would engulf, the need for a new constitution, the leveling of political field, and the current crisis of legitimacy and all what the MDC will get out of it are other processes that will ensure that they remain in the periphery of leadership.

    Agreeing to 210 constituencies should be viewed not from a Zanu(PF)-s obvious strategy to retain power by subdividing rural areas, but about what the two formations of MDC are agreeing to. It is public knowledge that operation murambatsvina displaced a lot of people from urban areas to rural areas and are going to use this as a justification for subdividing rural areas and lumping up urban areas together. It wont be a surprise anyone to find a small district like Bikita East, Central and West! However the biggest shortlived winner in a losing game is MDC. There is no way that Welshman Ncube would have allowed to retain 120 seats and find his corhots being challenged by both Zanu(PF) and Morgan Tsvangirai formation. So for any agreement, the Welshman faction would side with Zanu(PF) as the strategy to weaken Morgan becomes real and evident.

    We are also told that they have agreed to have 93 senators. Of these 60 are going to be contested, and the rest are all presidential appointees. These are 10 governors, president and vice president of the chief-s council, 16 chiefs two from each province serve for metropolitan provinces, and 5 presidential appointees! The president appoints governors, has a firm grip on the chiefs and still appoints his own favourite five, which might include those from MDC to appease and thank them for supporting the amendment to sail through and hoodwink the international community. This expression exposes how Zimbabwe is run under a presidential centralism concept. This could have been the point to deal effectively with executive powers to which Welsh and Biti advocated and risked their lives for, together with many Zimbabweans who rejected the Zanu(PF) draft constitution for a people driven NCA draft constitution. Alas this was a power defining moment rather a people centred process of transition and shift of power, and they would rather keep it that way.

    Both Morgan Tsvangirai and Aurthur Mutambara (when he later joined politics) agreed that the decision for participating in the previous senatorial election was ill conceived and uninformed because there were more 'pressing issues- than holding of illegitimate elections. The question from the electorate and the general public is what has changed, are current economic, social and political conditions now better than they were then? This position brings the weakest link in MDC as it has been known all these years that it should be focusing on the livelihood of people brought about by a people driven consensus against a backdrop of a collapsing economy. The choice of focusing on power struggles without having a community impulse in making of those decisions is an unfortunate perfect substitute of a system that we are currently facing as a people.

    The other point agreed during the moment of 'history-, was that Zimbabwe Electoral commission (ZEC) will from now on be responsible for delimitation of constituencies. It comes from the grape vine that the process will be now include an equal number of MDC comrades. Cosmetically it sounds very noble. The question that is critical to that decision is what template is going to be used and what form will the ruminants of the previous structures and mapping process take as the new team comes in. What influence in terms of total disintegration of the old system can be brought in by the new, unexposed and few members from the opposition? What forms of institutional reform processes will be put into place to make sure that those individuals who were employed on Zanu(PF) ticket, to serve the party and not a citizen centred process like elections? What form of organizational and partisan interest is Tobaiwa Mudede amongst others, willing to shed?

    To suggest that ZEC should be constituted by people from both parties is likely to have come from MDC rather than Zanu(PF). This is not new because such demands amongst others which Zanu(PF) was willing to give in were also made in 2005 and Zanu(PF) gave MDC what it thought may bring a free and fair election. Remember the issue of politically motivated violence, translucent ballot boxes, the one day voting process, and the increase in number of polling stations. Zanu(PF) later on responded and countered that through intimidation of polling agents, votes being sent to the constituency centres by phone, such that the results and the number of those who voted could not tally. This should therefore be a reminder to the MDC that it is Zanu(PF)-s strategy and old trick to make sure that MDC will end up participating in a losing game.

    To agree that that all the four elections be held at the same time is likely to have been pushed again by MDC because it could not allow the local government elections to be held in January because it would send stimuli to Zanu(PF) on the general voting trend before it unleashes violence before the 'watershed- elections later. And Zanu(PF) would counter that by emphasizing on one day vote. Zanu(PF) has always had systematic ways of disenfranchising voters. This comes from fabricated myth about illiteracy levels in the rural areas especially to maneuver four ballot papers. This will see a lot of assisted voters, a process always known to be accompanied by intimidation. This might delay the voting process as well as high chances of spoilt papers likely to be made by the two MDC supporters rather than a clear cut and distinct Zanu(PF) symbol or name.

    It is said that the voters- roll will now be based on wards and no longer be at constituency level. A voter can only vote in a ward in which one is registered and resident as a voter. This is a suggestion that eliminates all that MDC had put on the table on issues of elections and the major source of rigging. This is because, if one looks at the way the two parties are structured in communities, it evident that Zanu(PF) has stronger community presence which starts from a level called a 'cell- an equivalent to 'street committees-. This means that Zanu(PF), can mobilize from a street level and making sure that the voters- roll responses to Zanu (PF)-s political presence. As the economic situation in Zimbabwe is likely to deteriorate as we move towards elections, there are going to be massive involuntary emigration to the rural areas. Not only will the ruling party-s strong presence at ward level be critical, but the role of the chiefs will once again be called to task as they openly declared in Victoria Falls that they were going to mobilize people to vote for Zanu (PF). So the tactical deficiency on the part of MDC is that shift of power back to the people, from the current regime-s pillars of support, should also be cross sectional of each pillar of support. MDC can not deal with the ZEC as a body, but to look at the Registrar General, the Sekeramaiz and Silaigwanaz of the day.

    What is equally shocking is the short memory that has been indicated by the MDC. This is around the role of all the people who have left the country because of persecution or because of economic decline. Whilst Zanu(PF), which knows that of all those people very few people will vote for them, MDC failed to make sure that those in diaspora can vote, yet we thought that some of these people have over the years tirelessly worked for change and in the name of MDC. The ruling party has over the years allowed only those on diplomatic mission to vote, whose vote needs no one to guess, yet the opposition fails to see this through.

    Over the past 27 years, the ruling party has been on the warpath with the people especially those opposed to it. This history of violence and a track record of misgovernance and human rights abuse could not be swept under the carpet by endorsing an amendment that allows the appointment of an 'independent- Human Rights Commission. This is so because as we speak, in the current Lancaster constitution to which the MDC has now endorsed as the Bill of Rights has not been improved, justice has not been done to all the atrocities that this nation has seen over the years and even beyond given that Zanu(PF) will win next years- elections.

    Whoever is informing the opposition that if they agree with Zanu(PF) to these terms then the opposition will win an election is fantasizing, or belongs to a conspiracy of elimination. The sole reason that the people will not be able to elect a president of their own choice in the event that Mugabe wins (obviously), the he dies (not soon!), or retires(most likely), should be an eye opener that that they will definitely not choose Mutambara or Tsvangirai. Rather, Zanu (PF) will rig elections on behalf of Mutambara-s faction so that they win a reasonable number of seats and be included in a government of national unit, excluding Tsvangirai-s faction. So for a period of not more than five years till the next election, Zimbabwe will be governed by an elitist, or another Swiss bank socialist kleptocrat. This agreement makes it difficult for people like Morgan to remain and retain relevance in the political chess game. Amendment 18 might be the epitaph of his political career, which we so much cherish.

    To say that the Welshman faction has always been an appendage is here nor there, but it becomes more visible as the drama of talks begins to unfold. The questions that comes to mind first are; how come the two factions tend to agree what the MDC (collectively) wants for Zimbabwe yet as they cross Limpopo back home, they do not agree? Is Tendai Biti being out numbered given that it is alleged the Mutambara faction has been negotiating with Zanu(PF) for over a year, resulting in such moves as pulling out of processes such as Save Zimbabwe? Is Welsh getting back on Tendai Biti after he let them down as their faction-s president before they settled Arthur? If people failed to agree on 66 Senator in 2005, does it mean that it is now necessary to have 93, if the senate elections were their point of departure? How come the people are no longer relevant, yet back then they were consulted? Who would imagine Patrick Chinamasa and Nicholas Goche, going down in history as the people who destroyed Mugabe and the role that Chinamasa and Ncube played in the previous 'mediation- and Welsh being Thabo-s favourite to Morgan? Why did Zanu(PF) bring an amendment before they dealt with issues such as POSA, AIPPA amongst a host of other unjust laws? The list goes on.

    It is against this background and political risk that MDC should go back to the people, be accountable platforms such as Save Zimbabwe where they meet with civic society some of which have played even a significant grassroot role in keeping the party intact and the hopes of people alive for a new Zimbabwe. The civic society should help the situation by not escalating the rift between itself and the opposition because their mandate is different even if they feed into each other. Whilst political transition requires a new constitution, it also requires political decisions, and this is one of them, and as a people from here we seek direction

    I rest my case, and hopping that the ideals of people before power are still real within MDC.

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