Four years with a vampire State

HARARE - The Global Political Agreement (GPA) was signed between the MDC formations and Zanu PF in September 2008 after an internationally condemned and bastardised presidential election run-off in June of that year that was accompanied by colossal pre and post-election human rights violations targeted against suspected regime opponents.

In my understanding the GPA was a stop-gap measure meant to bring sanity to Zimbabwe’s political, economic and social spheres. It was meant to rescue the country from being a failed state.

It has a clear mandate to deliver constitutional, media, security service sector and law reforms as well as bringing socio-economic stability after almost a decade of recession.

The parties to the GPA also agreed to bring law and order in the country as well as justice to victims of human rights violations associated with the prior regime.

In this regard, the inclusive government of Zimbabwe is a transitory arrangement.

It’s not permanent. Zimbabweans have been facing unjust persecutions, human rights violations, hunger, unemployment and poverty due to poor governance.

In my view, in order to interrogate the work of the inclusive government as a transitory agent, there is need to understand what a transition entails, the types of transition and the one currently in place in Zimbabwe.

This will assist to appreciate why this kind of transition is failing or succeeding.

A transition refers to a regime change or simply a change of governance.

A regime change is a change in the institutional structure of a given country.

It is the formal and informal organisation of political power, and of its relations with the broader society.

A regime determines who has access to political power, and how those who are in power deal with those who are not.

It should be a government of and with citizens and not a government without citizens as was the case with the Zanu PF regime.

That’s why there was need to change that regime so that it could be a regime of and with citizens.

There is nothing criminal about citizens working towards regime change.

Regimes should be periodically changed using lawful means.

There are basically three types of transitions.

Transition through transaction — this happens when the authoritarian regime initiates the process of democratisation of its body politic but remains a decisive political actor throughout the transition although opposition political parties and other players are part of the process.

The second one is transition via extrication — scholars of transitions point out that this type of transition occurs when the authoritarian regime is weakened but not as significantly as is the case in the transition by defeat.

However, in this situation, the authoritarian regime has less power to negotiate as in transition by transaction.

Transition via regime defeat involves a decisive defeat of the authoritarian government leading to the end of authoritarian rule and the establishment of a democratic government.
From these three types of transitions Zimbabwe is experiencing transition by transaction where the three MDC formations and President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU PF party are in a compromise agreement following the signing of the GPA.

The prior regime led by Mugabe has more comparative power in relation to its partners.

As a result of the kind of transition currently in place where Zanu PF controls the State through the Central Intelligence Organisation, the army, the police and the prison services, the reforms necessary to make sure that there is a transition to democratic rule in Zimbabwe can only happen at the pleasure of Zanu PF and its autocratic system which has not been decisively shaken.

A proper transition to democratic rule should come up with new values, new democratic institutions and a fundamentally new political culture premised on the rule of law and the protection of citizens’ civil and political liberties.

For the past four years, Zanu PF has successfully fought hard to entrench its totalitarian and corrupt political culture and in the area of State security, its surrogates have become the greatest obstacle to a peaceful transition by constantly making statements that are an affront to democratic norms.

Civilian hardliners in Zanu PF have constantly reminded Zimbabweans through seductive and inciting statements meant to encourage the military hardliners to trash democratic political processes in the country.

Their message is that the military are the princes of power whose undemocratic support and endorsement one needs in order to govern Zimbabwe.

As a result of this poisonous and retrogressive mentality and political culture, Zimbabwe is yet to realise democratic institutional reforms in the media, security service, constitutional and the general governance framework since the consummation of the inclusive government.

Zimbabweans, therefore, need to appreciate that the inclusive government born out of the compromise agreement by the political parties involved can virtually stall the transition and compromise the democratisation agenda relative to transitional justice issues and other broader human rights issues such as the exercise of civil and political liberties as well as social, cultural and economic rights

It is, therefore, critical for civil society organisations and the reform wing of the inclusive government to concentrate on democratic consolidation and broaden democratic struggles and refuse to be blinded by the constitutional reform process as the only avenue of democratising Zimbabwe.

The democratic net and stratagems must be cast wide.

The process of consolidating democracy entails strengthening democratic institutions especially the rule of law and protection of civil and political liberties, extending democratic processes and preventing democratic reversals.

Political institutions and civil society need to be infused with democratic practices, for example by the empowerment of civil society organisations to increase popular participation and make it more difficult for elites to manipulate democratic institutions.

Authoritarian political discourses need to be rejected and authoritarian political actors need to be neutralised by profiling democratic intellectuals and political activists.

There is need to have restrictions on the scope of policy making powers for example advocate for the exclusion of authoritarian lawmakers from the defence and police budgets to make sure that the taxpayer dollars are not used to fund oppression and abuse of human rights by security forces.

It is, therefore, important to consolidate the limited gains of the past four years as the country struggles holding free and fair elections. Consolidation means that democracy has become routinised and internalised in political behaviour.

In this regard, groups should not be allowed to  pursue unconstitutional, illegal or undemocratic means to achieve their aims such as threats of coups by the military associated with the Zanu PF regimes and their civilian handlers in that regime.

 Democratic consolidation also means that elites and the wider public accept democracy as the preferred means of governance and deciding on political succession.

Civic actors and other democratic players should intensify the struggle to see the emergence of a democratic political culture in which trust, tolerance and compromise are the dominant political forms.

Democratic consolidation also requires having civic and political players prepared for broader democratisation agenda not piecemeal reforms.

They should work to ensure that the values associated with the stability of a democracy such as moderation, cooperation, bargaining and accommodation exist among the political players.

Moderation and accommodation simply imply toleration, pragmatism, and willingness to compromise as well as civility in political discourses. - Pedzisai Ruhanya

*Pedzisai Ruhanya is a PhD candidate and Director of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute

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