News / Africa

Zimbabwe’s Inclusive Government Stalls

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, right, chats to Prime Minister Morgan Tsavangirai during their end of year press conference at State House in Harare, saying they were dispelling rumors of disunity in the Government of National Unity, December 20, 2010
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, right, chats to Prime Minister Morgan Tsavangirai during their end of year press conference at State House in Harare, saying they were dispelling rumors of disunity in the Government of National Unity, December 20, 2010

When Zimbabwe’s inclusive government came into being two years ago - the anniversary is  February 11 - after tough negotiations many Zimbabweans greeted its arrival with enthusiasm and had high hopes for political reform they believed would rebuild the shattered economy, get education back on track, reopen closed hospitals, bring products back to largely empty supermarket shelves, a new constitution and eventually, free and fair elections.

Key supporters of Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai, were critical when he signed the political agreement which lead to formation of the inclusive government in February, 2009; and saw him become prime minster of Zimbabwe.

Analysts say he easily won the first round of the presidential poll in general elections held in March 2008. But after five weeks election officials appointed by President Robert Mugabe announced a result that forced a run-off.

During the five-week delay and after the result was announced there was widespread violence, overwhelmingly perpetrated against people who had voted for Mr. Tsvangirai. Independent human rights groups said supporters of Mr. Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party were responsible, and that hundreds were killed and thousands injured.

After several weeks, Mr. Tsvangirai pulled out of the run-off, saying he could not allow the violence against his supporters to continue. Mr. Mugabe won an uncontested poll, and was hastily sworn into office - but for the first time not a single African leader turned up to support him.

Negotiations for an inclusive government followed this stalemate.

Now two years later, experts and civil society organizations say the inclusive government is bogged down. Even some who wholeheartedly supported its establishment - mostly because political violence eased and hyper-inflation disappeared - are disappointed.

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, from which the MDC emerged in 1999, was particularly critical. Congress president Lovemore Matombo said the labor movement warned Mr. Tsvangirai and his party not to go into the unity government as he said it was impossible to do honorable deals with ZANU-PF. He said before the inclusive government came to power, ZANU-PF had no money, and even its supporters were angry as the party could not keep schools and hospitals open.

"They misjudged ZANU-PF. Then they rescued ZANU-PF," said Matombo.

In terms of the political agreement which established the inclusive government, one of its tasks was to reform many repressive laws imposed by Mr. Mugabe and ZANU-PF following independence in 1980. In 2010, Zimbabwe passed fewer laws through parliament than in any legislative year since independence.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights has been at the forefront of the campaign to promote democracy and protect those who are politically persecuted.

Irene Petras, director of the lawyers group, said those who had high hopes for the inclusive government were particularly disappointed with parliament’s failure to reform repressive laws or write new laws for future elections.

"We had a legislative agenda which was outlined by the president. And if you look at that legislative agenda almost none of the laws that were going to be either amended or repealed or new laws that were going to be brought in, none of those have gone through," said Petras.

She said expectations for quick reforms by the inclusive government were high, and many were disappointed when they realized how long reform would take.

She says one of the group’s main concerns is continued partisan policing and warrants of arrest issued by ZANU-PF Attorney General, Johannes Tomana.

She said many MDC supporters arrested during the last two years, regularly gave the lawyers group the same message - that the police are wholly controlled by ZANU-PF.

"[They say] we are not being protected, police are not helping us, they are not making sure there is order and that the real perpetrators are being arrested. So when you have that loss of public confidence in the police you have a very dangerous situation," said Petras.

But Petras also tells VOA the last two years have  been useful for MDC cabinet minister members as they were able to learn how the government worked and how it had evolved under 30 years of Mr. Mugabe’s rule.

Leading up to this anniversary, Mr. Mugabe says that the inclusive government would expire on its second anniversary and that fresh elections should be held soon.

Human rights groups say this election talk has produced sporadic small-scale ZANU-PF violence against MDC supporters.

ZANU-PF spokesman Rugaro Gumbo said this week his party is gearing up for elections this year. He told journalists in Harare Thursday, ZANU-PF is "fed up" with the inclusive government.

The political agreement gives no deadline for elections but does now require a review of progress of the inclusive government with the Southern African Development Community which has guaranteed the multi-party political agreement.

Tendai Biti, secretary-general of the MDC says new elections cannot be held now. He says voters feel insecure their vote will reflect their political choice, the voters roll is inaccurate and contains two million deceased people, and that the agreed reforms to electoral laws are still outstanding.

"The starting point is, is this country ready for an election at the present moment - and I think that is the critical thing? And quite clearly this country is not ready for an election," said Biti.

Biti, who is also finance minister in the inclusive government, says political violence has subsided since the high point of 2008, and hyper-inflation disappeared when Zimbabwe abandoned its currency in favor of the United States dollar and South African Rand.

But he says it will be South African mediators, who report directly to President Jacob Zuma, who will produce a road map for fresh elections which will end the inclusive government.

"So the fate of the next election, how credible it is, any omissions, any deficiencies any commissions clearly lies in the road map that is being drafted by President Zuma right now," he said.

Tensions have been growing within the inclusive government since late last year. In addition to failure of legislative reform, many top jobs within the civil service which, in terms of the political agreement, should have gone to the MDC have been given to individuals known to be close to Mr. Mugabe.

The country’s state-owned broadcast media, both radio and television, continue under the control of Mr Mugabe’s ZANU-PF in contravention of the agreement. Independent media monitors say coverage is biased toward Mr. Mugabe and ZANU-PF and denigrates Mr. Tsvangirai and the MDC.

Some analysts believe that the MDC has not been sufficiently energetic or strategic enough to stop ZANU-PF from hindering political reform.

Eldred Masunungure, senior political scientist at the University of Zimbabwe believes that some in the MDC have become comfortable with some of the trappings of political power.

He also says Mr. Tsvangirai should not have deployed both his party’s secretary-general and deputy secretary-general to cabinet jobs as this had weakened the party.

"You can do that when you have arrived. Not when you are in a heavily compromised position. To me it displays a lack of strategic direction, and that has been the major weakness of the MDC," said Masunungure.

Although the inclusive government has made progress in education and health, as well as price stability, most businessmen, and ordinary people, are disappointed with the inclusive government. Many wonder if Mr. Mugabe is trying to provoke prime minister Tsvangirai into quitting the unity government.

But unionist Matombo said it is impossible for the MDC to walk away now.

"What is likely to happen is they are going to be arrested. They are going to die there in prison. And the MDC is aware about that," said Matombo.

Political observers say the only chance of moving political reform along will come through President Zuma’s mediation team when it unblocks resistance to reforming repressive laws.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs