Africa, Politics

Zimbabwe’s MDC waits on SADC Santa to make it all better

By Branko Brkic 9 February 2010

The Movement for Democratic Change says Zimbabwe urgently needs fresh elections. It won’t participate in those elections until the country has a new constitution, however. And it can’t do anything to prevent Zanu-PF from indefinitely blocking the creation of a new constitution. So it is somehow still counting on the body that has proven itself incapable to change, you know, anything.

If you believe the MDC – and don’t believe that the Southern African Development Community has superpowers – then there is no possibility of Zimbabwe’s political problems ever being solved.

Negotiations between Zanu-PF and the two MDC factions restarted in Harare this week, with President Jacob Zuma’s team effectively mediating the whole thing. The talks will revolve around many outstanding issues in the supposed power-sharing government structure, such as the appointment of Gideon Gono to run the country’s Reserve Bank and the fact that the MDC’s Roy Bennett has still not been sword in as a minister.

But the whole negotiation will remain stuck in the quagmire of details, its seems. The MDC is calling for new elections (while sticking to its claim of having won the last set) as soon as possible, but says there will be no point in having any until a new constitution is in place. Doing so “would be handing ourselves over to Zanu-PF,” Austin Moyo, the party’s representative in Johannesburg told a media conference on Tuesday. The process of creating a new constitution, he subsequently said, was being prevented from going ahead by Zanu-PF. Which is why the party is relying on SADC negotiators to… And that is where things get a little vague. The official position is that SADC should “read the riot act to Zanu-PF aggressors” and “call a spade a spade and not a big spoon.” Given that SADC has a long history of convincing nobody of anything in Zimbabwe, that’s probably as good is it could get anyway.

On the one piece of leverage that SADC and the MDC has, international sanctions, the party refused to take a stance. Through a set of contortions that would do a circus acrobat proud, Moyo said that sanctions should be lifted if they impact on ordinary Zimbabweans, that ordinary Zimbabweans are not even aware that the sanctions are in place and that the MDC can not be held responsible for what sovereign governments do or don’t do. The official position, of course, is that the MDC won the elections, graciously allowed Robert Mugabe and his party to be part of the subsequent government, and that sanctions are therefor inappropriate. Except, perhaps, where they apply strictly to individuals, but even there the party is unable to articulate a clear position.

Aside from its mystical belief in SADC, the MDC also seems to be mesmerised by the supposed power of such a new constitution. Once it is in place, Moyo implied, police and soldiers would not engage in violence to influence the outcome of elections because there would be “no Act to back them when they do acts of violence.”

May we offer some investment advice? Stay well clear of Zimbabwe, no matter how cheap it looks these days. Mugabe, who appears to only become a more accomplished politician as he grows older, clearly still has the MDC tied up in knots. Until that changes, the country has no future.

By Phillip de Wet

Photo: Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister and main opposition Movement For Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo


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