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

  • MDC has simply walked into the Zanu-PF lion's den
    Tendai Dumbutshena, The Zimbabwe Times
    October 02, 2007

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

    A JUDGE of South Africa's constitutional court said in a recent case that if you walk into a lion's den and meet a lion you should not complain that you met a lion. Similarly, if you participate in an election whose processes you know are thoroughly subverted, you should not complain if you lose that election.

    When an election looms in Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe with a coterie of enforcers, devises a strategy to ensure victory. Invariably, this strategy involves all manner of foul means. With the
    2008 election on the horizon, Constitutional Amendment No. 18 was crafted to achieve two main objectives. First and most important was to superficially create constituencies to bolster the number of rural seats. This is where Zanu-PF has the means to terrorise the electorate. The second objective was to give Mugabe some flexibility to manage the internal politics of succession within his own party. Other issues like the appointment of members of the House of Assembly, given the preponderance of rural constituencies, became irrelevant.

    The two factions of the MDC, despite their infinite wisdom, buckled under pressure from South Africa's President, Thabo Mbeki, to support the amendment. With eyes wide open and smiles on their faces, they are being shepherded by Mbeki along a path to political extinction. As a rule when your enemies applaud a decision you make while your friends express dismay, calamity is about to befall you.

    There were strenuous attempts by MDC leaders to justify their support for Amendment Number 18 after having rejected any piecemeal approach to constructing a new constitutional dispensation. If you sift through the waffle uttered by various officials you find two justifications. The first is that it is to generate goodwill in the hope that it will be reciprocated. The second is that Mbeki promised Zanu-PF's cooperation on issues on the agenda of mediated talks. In an interview with an external radio station, Welshman Ncube went further to argue that Zanu-PF had actually made significant concessions that justified supporting Amendment 18.

    This argument is so totally devoid of truth that it is not worth pursuing.

    This is a classical example of disinformation meant to conceal an abandonment of principle. The issue of generating goodwill is laughable. Does the MDC not realise the nature of the beast they are dealing with? A few years back the Mdc abandoned its boycott of Mugabe's opening of Parliament to create goodwill. The party's president , Morgan Tsvangirai, even attended an opening of Parliament to put an official seal to what he thought was an historic rapprochement with Zanu-PF. Today he and his senior colleagues bear physical marks of Mugabe's response to that gesture of goodwill. Mugabe loathes the MDC with every fibre in his body. He will never accommodate them. He is now manipulating the so-called mediation talks to trap the MDC into a poltically suicidal pact. In Mbeki he has a willing accomplice. No wonder he publicly thanked him for his efforts at the recent UN General Assembly meeting.

    How can the leadership of the MDC trust any commitments made by Zanu-PF, given the events of the past seven years? Do they not realise that this party honours agreements more in their breach than observance? Have they forgotten the many broken promises including the Abucha Agreement to which the then foreign affairs minister Stan Mudenge attached his signature? The MDC cannot compromise on matters of fundamental principle, especially on the basis of promises made by people who seek to destroy it.

    The MDC has occupied crucial political space in Zimbabwe. It must, therefore, provide intelligent and principled leadership, Zimbabwe needs a new dispensation that gives its people freedom and opportunities to develop the potential of all its citizens. These are the values that must drive the MDC or any serious opposition political party.

    The people of Zimbabwe want real change and not a replacement of this regime by copycats. There has been incessant propaganda by Mugabe's regime that the MDC is a puppet of western powers. There is a danger that in attempts to disprove this, the MDC succumbs to pressure from Mbeki and other African leaders to capitulate to Mugabe.

    The MDC must not be put on the defensive by leaders whose countries are dependent on Western aid for their survival - the very people they accuse of supporting the MDC.

    It is not too late for the MDC to redeem itself from the error it made in supporting this self- serving amendment. The purpose of the SADC mediation process is officially to create conditions for a free and fair election. These conditions are clearly spelt out in the SADC protocol on the conduct of elections. All the MDC should do is insist on a strict adherence to that protocol. There are issues to be addressed. The whole infrastructure of violence must be dismantled including legislation that gives it legitimacy. It is obvious there will be no new constitution before the election. It is dishonest for the MDC to say otherwise. The focus should therefore be on the electoral process. It is after all the conduct of the election that will determine their character more than the constitution.

    It is naïve of the MDC to believe it will have any contribution to make in the delimitation exercise to determine constituency boundaries. These have already been drawn and are securely locked up in a CIO vault to be released at an appropriate time as the handiwork of the electoral supervisory commission. The MDC must insist on being involved in the delimitation exercise.

    There are other equally important issues such as the Voters' Roll, and the eligibility of Zimbabweans in the Diaspora to determine the future of their country. If the objective of the mediation process is, as Mbeki stated on the onset, to create conditions for a free and fair election, all Zimbabweans must be part of that process. The MDC must stand firm on these issues and not succumb to the temptation of seeking parliamentary seats for a few of its members while the country and its majority are condemned to eternal squalor.

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