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Constitutional Amendment 18 of 2007 - Index of articles, opinion and anaylsis
A risky adventure
Muleya, Zimbabwe Independent
September 28, 2007
the special index of articles, analysis and opinion on Constitutional
THE main opposition
MDC's decision last week to support Zanu PF's constitutional amendment
proposal designed to ensure President Robert Mugabe's political
survival has been greeted with suspicion in diplomatic circles and
outrage within civil society.
say the party has either started a slow process of committing political
suicide or has succumbed to a negotiated surrender.
Constitutional Assembly has described the MDC resolution as
an "act of treachery". Others are using abrasive terms
like sell-outs to describe the MDC leadership.
MDC leaders are scrambling to explain their decision which has not
found any purchase within its constituencies, except in Zanu PF
and Sadc circles. Zanu PF MPs have been celebrating the move. Mugabe
alluded to it in his United Nations General Assembly address on
Wednesday, expressing gratitude to South African President Thabo
Mbeki for facilitating the deal. This has raised more misgivings
about the whole process. Questions abound on whether or not Mugabe
has set a trap for the MDC or the MDC has ensnared Mugabe?
have used different phrases in their bid to justify their decision.
Morgan Tsvangirai said it was a "necessary political risk",
Arthur Mutambara said it was a "political gamble", Thokozani
Khupe said it was a "confidence building measure", Welshman
Ncube said the decision was meant "for us to find each other",
while Gibson Sibanda said "we are in the process of making
decision was particularly strange after the MDC rejected the 2000
draft constitution, now the basis of ongoing constitutional reform
willing to negotiate even though he is still strong, largely because
of irritating resistance by the MDC and civil society, but he may
well be doing so to bargain the opposition into surrender.
are tempting, but grave dangers always lurk in them. It may be that
Mugabe feels genuinely threatened by the MDC and wants talks to
salvage residual control. But the MDC cannot be seen to be helping
him to achieve his goal. The MDC must be wary of traps that may
deliberately be built into a negotiation process.
to justify themselves, MDC leaders' remarks also betray the distrust
and anxiety shown by their critics. None of them is confident about
their "step in the dark", as Ncube put it in parliament,
but they have to put on a brave face before their party to appear
as if they are providing leadership in a difficult situation. Mugabe
is also doing the same in a way as he buckles under mounting pressure
to reform or quit now. That is the art of politics, especially the
chameleon politics of deception, providing different faces to different
audiences to win them over or at least survive.
It is very easy
to understand how Zanu PF benefits from the Constitutional Amendment
(Number 18) Bill, but difficult to appreciate how the MDC gains.
Mugabe has got
what he wanted: harmonised polls in one day to ensure his re-election;
vast expansion of parliament to increase rural constituencies; appointment
of 10 provincial governors to senate and five extra senators; delineating
of constituencies by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) which
he appoints (the current ZEC chairman is retired Brigadier General
George Chiweshe, the very same person the MDC accused of gerrymandering
before the 2005 elections when he was the chair of the Delimitation
Commission) and most importantly legitimacy. The MDC has legitimised
Mugabe's self-preservation project.
the MDC is happy that Mugabe will no longer appoint MPs to the Lower
House. Currently Mugabe appoints 10 provincial governors and 12
non-constituency MPs to the Lower House. There are also eight chiefs.
This means Zanu PF effectively has 30 unelected legislators.
has really changed because Zanu PF will still have 10 governors,
five appointed senators and 18 chiefs in the senate, which is part
What is the
electoral utility of these piecemeal amendments to the MDC? How
will the amendment help the MDC to deal with gerrymandering in all
its different forms - stacking, packing and cracking? The same people
in the mould of Elbridge Gerry are still running the elections.
Nothing has changed.
The MDC has
only gained in symbolic terms, not real concessions. The talks may
eventually spin out of Zanu PF's control but Mugabe knows this and
he must be hedging his bets. The MDC is hoping that by showing good
faith in talks and supporting the Zanu PF plan, the ruling party
will reciprocate by making an array of substantial concessions on
a new constitution and repressive legislation. But there is no guarantee
at all. What is the MDC's contingency plan? Withdrawal from talks,
election boycott or what?
This is a risky
adventure. It's like navigating angry seas in a corroded and creaky
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