Zimbabwe: time to go to the polls

Zimbabwe: time to go to the polls

by / Comments Off / 34 View / 2nd December 2009

Zimbabwe’s power-share arrangement was put under further strain when the President of Botswana Ian Khama spoke out criticising it.

Khama argues that the current arrangement is failing and that the only political solution for Zimbabwe is to have a fresh election.

President Robert Mugabe (ZANU-PF) and opposition leader Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (Movement for Democratic Change – MDC) formed a unity government in September 2008, but many have been critical of the progress of the government. The power-sharing deal was underwritten by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) but it still has not been fully implemented.

Khama is laying the blame for Zimbabwe’s political problems firmly at the feet of Mugabe. He said: ‘I must here however express concern at the continued failure of ZANU-PF in that country to fully honour the spirit of the power-sharing agreement.’

He went on to say that: ‘In the absence of genuine partnership, it would be better for all parties to go back to the people, for they are the ultimate authority to determine who should form the government of Zimbabwe.’

Khama is right in his assertion that the current political deadlock cannot continue. Indeed, the most recent SADC meeting in Mozambique gave Mugabe and Tsvangirai 15 days to resolve the issues threatening the unity government.

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office recently acknowledged that Zimbabwe’s political arrangement is unstable. They admitted that progress made over the last year is fragile and that recent reports of increased violence and intimidation against MDC members and civil society activists are worrying. However, in contrast to Khama, Heads of Government at the recent CHOGM expressed the hope that the Global Political Agreement on power-sharing would be implemented faithfully and effectively.

Putting pressure on Mugabe to implement the Global Political Agreement, to foster democracy and respect human rights, is seen by many as the solution to Zimbabwe’s problems. This is understandable; however, with Mugabe refusing to admit that he has violated any requirements, this is likely to be a fruitless battle.

Mugabe’s failure to honour the terms of the government reached last year recently led to Tsvangirai and his ministers temporarily disengaging from the Cabinet and Council of Ministers. This, among other things, has created serious doubts over the likelihood of the current government ever working.

Furthermore, with the pending court case of MDC activists shedding a dark cloud over the government, feelings of anger and resentment are likely to be revived. As a source for SW Radio Africa has asserted, perhaps this is the time for change: ‘We’ve entered a period in the country where human rights violations cannot be ignored anymore.’

In addition, other issues facing the government include that of the Reserve Bank Governor, Gideon Gono, and Attorney General, Johannes Tomana, whom the MDC claim are both guilty of corruption. Despite this, Mugabe continues to say that both will stay where they are.

Expressing fears that Mugabe – who has been in power for three decades – will never change, Sydney Chisi, spokesperson for the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition said: ‘Mugabe’s party controls the police, the army, the intelligence service, the courts and the people of Zimbabwe continue to be brutalised by this matrimony which doesn’t produce children, rather kills those it was intended to protect’.

Indeed, both the police and security has been the constant subject of criticism as neither are seen as willing to comply with the new order.

It is certainly true that Mugabe’s government have had their chance to prove their ability to co-operate with the unity government. That unity government has failed. Developments in the last year have been slow at times, and non-existent at others. Startlingly, we have allowed a corrupt and brutal dictator to remain in control of Zimbabwe. His lack of commitment to change makes it all the more startling that he is allowed to remain in that position.

Now is the time for an election. As Khama suggested, the people should decide. And provided that the election is free, fair and credible, it seems to be the only absolute resolution to Zimbabwe’s ongoing political problems.

That being said, Khama has not been without his critics. A writer for The Herald in Harare has argued that Khama should leave Zimbabwe to: ‘settle its internal problems the best way it sees fit.’

That may be true, but at the moment, Mugabe is Zimbabwe, and Zimbabwe’s internal problem is Mugabe. To allow Mugabe to continue unhinged is to leave Zimbabwe with a grim future ahead of it. Whatever his faults, in this instance Khama is right, the only way out of Zimbabwe’s perennial crisis is to allow the true voice of Zimbabwe to be heard through elections.