The Big Question: Has power-sharing done anything to end the crisis in Zimbabwe?
Wednesday 10 June 2009
Why are we asking this now?
Morgan Tsvangirai arrives in London today on the UK leg of a tour of Europe and the US in an effort to convince Western leaders that Zimbabwe has turned the corner. The former opposition leader and now prime minister has insisted that he's not trawling the rich world with a "begging bowl" but the reality is scarcely different. The once prosperous Southern African nation is bankrupt and without development aid to go with the humanitarian assistance already being supplied there can be no recovery. As the acceptable face of Harare's power-sharing, Mr Mugabe's worst political enemy is now his most effective emissary.
What were the terms of the agreement that brought about power-sharing?
The unlikely photo opportunity in Harare, in February, which launched the new administration, was the result of months of often farcical negotiations, led by South Africa. Under the terms drawn up by former president Thabo Mbeki the opposition were to be offered half of the cabinet posts including a say in the security services, with ministers answerable to an executive prime minister, Mr Tsvangirai. Political prisoners were to be released while regional governorships were to be split again between the opposition MDC and Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party. The key finance ministry was to be turned over to the MDC with the expectation that the governorship of the central bank would follow.
Why did Tsvangirai and the Movement for Democratic Change sign up?
A number of factors drove the clearly exhausted opposition leader into a pact with his main enemy. The impossibility of holding free and fair elections had been amply demonstrated. The security forces had come close to smashing the grass roots network of his party. South Africa had failed to act as a fair broker and was putting intense pressure on Mr Tsvangirai to sign.
The MDC breakaway led by Arthur Mutambara allowed itself to be used as a wedge to split the opposition. Western governments offered warm words and cautious support but were in no position to deliver regime change. Added to this were the mundane ambitions of his own lieutenants, almost all of whom have taken quickly to a new life of chauffeur-driven Mercedes provided by the state. Several leading MDC figures were worried that their own chance to be in government was fading.
Have the original terms been fulfilled?
No. Most but far from all political prisoners have been released, and the impotence of the MDC faction in government has been revealed as police and courts have ignored the prime minister. Several high-profile prisoners, including Mr Tsvangirai's own head of security Chris Dhlamini, are still facing charges despite providing evidence that they were tortured by state officers.
The regional governors have taken more than six months to be installed. But worst of all Gideon Gono, the central bank governor and architect of Zimbabwe's hyperinflation which eventually killed the currency, is still in his job. The fate of the man who used state coffers and international deposits to bankroll Mr Mugabe's cronies and pay for state-led putsches is the most accurate weather vane of progress. So far he is untouched.
Who or what is blocking reforms?
Controversy continues to rage over who is the stumbling block to meaningful progress. Recently a number of leading MDC figures, including the respected finance minister, Tendai Biti, have had warm words for the schoolteacher turned autocrat. Others have suggested that at 85, Mr Mugabe was being used as a figurehead by the military men behind the Joint Operations Command, the cartel of generals and Zanu grandees that have long been the country's real powerbrokers. However, the tactic of co-opting, discrediting and demoralising political rivals was patented by Mr Mugabe as far back as the 1980s when he swallowed up and spat out Joshua Nkomo. As he sat in Victoria Falls this week taking the leadership of Africa's largest trading bloc, COMESA, preaching self-reliance and welcoming President of Sudan Omar al-Bashir who is wanted by the ICC, it was hard to believe much had changed.
What does the rest of Zimbabwe think of the two main parties?
While some people regard the unity government as the last chance for progress others see it as a betrayal of the people. Women's rights activist Jenni Williams, who has been arrested repeatedly, calls it a "government for politicians, not people". Respected lawyer and human rights campaigner Lovemore Madhuku has criticised the failure to progress on a new constitution which was supposed to be the main task of the MDC once in a unity government. Meanwhile thousands of ordinary Zimbabweans have continued register their objections by walking out on the country, in many cases literally, by crossing into South Africa and other neighbouring countries. Zimbabwe's large and well-educated diaspora has given its verdict by staying away in droves.
But are there any signs of progress in Zimbabwe?
Zimbabwe's schools are reopening as teachers have received basic salaries. The cholera crisis that highlighted the collapse of healthcare has been brought under some kind of control with international donor help. And hyperinflation has ended with the switch to the US dollar.
There is a darker side to each of these green shoots though. In schools there are no pens, paper or textbooks to teach with. Controlling cholera – more normally associated with disaster areas or war zones – cannot conceal the flight of most of the country's doctors and nurses. And while dollarisation has made life easier for those with hard currency, in parts of Harare it has pushed anyone without remittance money into poverty. Agriculture, once the mainstay of the economy, is still in a dire state, with farm invasions intensifying under the unity government. The MDC has denounced the takeover of commercial farms but been ignored.
Why is Tsvangirai raising funds for such a dysfunctional government?
From the moment that the opposition leader agreed to share power he had no choice but to try and make it succeed. By contrast Mr Mugabe is under little or no pressure to change course. The octogenarian's faction has retained control of the instruments of hard power and coercion and in the shape of Mr Gono the means to pay for their upkeep.
They have handed Mr Tsvangirai the thankless task of bailing out the devastated economy and atrophied public services knowing that should he fail it will be seen as his failure. The MDC has admitted that they must show Zimbabweans that they can "make a difference" while their government colleagues either stand idly by or actively sabotage their efforts. Mr Tsvangirai needs to his Western supporters to stomach their distaste for Mr Mugabe and invest in his potential leadership and he can provide them with scant evidence that it would be a winning bet.
So is the new alliance working?
* The former opposition has declared that the country is on an upward trajectory
* Strikes have ended and teachers have gone back to work with schools reopening
* The crippling hyperinflation is over and Zimbabwe is now stable with the US dollarisation
* Unemployment is nearly total, with only fractionally more than five per cent of people in paid work
* The United Nations is feeding more than half of the population through the WFP
* Robert Mugabe and his inner circle have retained the hard power in Zimbabwe
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