The worsening crisis in Zimbabwe: what is to be done?

By Ibbo Mandaza

Academic and publisher, Dr Ibbo Mandaza.

We have stated this, a year before in April 2016, and within hours of the coup in November, 2017: here is a Zimbabwean state incapable of political and economic reform; virtually on the inexorable path of self-destruction and far from any hope of recovery, let alone restoration.

So, now, intensifies the demise of the Mugabe/Mnangagwa/Chiwenga regime. There is an urgent need for a contingency plan through which to rescue the country.

But at what cost to the mass of the people of Zimbabwe, and for how much longer before a truly new dispensation emerges?

The only positive indication so far, as to the possibilities of a better tomorrow, is the growing (national) consensus – and even (national) consciousness – that it was naïve for anyone to have expected miracles from these coup guys of November 2017.

Sad, therefore, that the nation had almost been distracted, for several months since the coup of November 2017, from this realization by a combination of internal and external factors, helping to project the myth that Mnangagwa was some enlightened reformist.

On the one hand, the comprador class that operates as a cartel, hand-in-glove with their counterparts in the state and its securocracy; and, on the other, an external factor, as demonstrated by regional and global representatives who thereby not only supported and/or blessed the coup, but also continue to lend the benefit of the doubt to a bankrupt and blood-thirsty regime.

And so it is that things have descended to unprecedented levels in Zimbabwe: the economic hardships have never been so palpable for the urban masses in particular; likewise, the anger the likes of which we have not seen till the beginning of the protests this week; and, above all, the loss of at least another seven citizens, making a total of 13 since the 2 August 2018 massacre, and scores injured on the back of a ruthless military apparatus.

By all accounts, the Zimbabwean state is a besieged one: at war with itself, as contradictions persist and intensify between and within sections of the securocracy, not to mention the standoff between Mnangagwa and Chiwenga; confronted by the burden of illegitimacy, exacerbated by a stolen election about which the chorus is growing louder, even within its own ranks, that Mnangagwa lost to Chamisa by a wide margin; now eyeball to eyeball with a growing opposition, fuelled by the scourge of unemployment, the collapse of health, education and social services, a diaspora which accounts for nearly 70% of all professional and skilled Zimbabweans; and a regional and global environment in which there are fewer and fewer friends, let alone those willing or able to assist as the economy grinds to a virtual halt.

We have already stated that this is a state lacking any capacity to reform – neither politically nor economically; it cannot do so without reforming itself out of existence. Therefore, only the inherent capacity to fight on relentlessly, at whatever cost, regardless of the consequences and for fear of the unknown. A regime on the path to self-destruction, as inevitable as history itself.

What is to be done?

Almost three years ago, I published the Political Economy of the State in Zimbabwe and, together with Tony Reeler and other members of the Platform of Concerned Citizens (PCC), contributed variously through these pages, in a debate around the future of Zimbabwe.

Central to our proposition was the National Transitional Authority (NTA); the establishment of an 18 member team of non-partisan (to exclude even those of us proposing such a body) but skilled Zimbabweans, to replace Cabinet, institute a programme of political and economic reforms over a period of two years before elections are held, but reporting to Parliament throughout the period, and dissolving as soon as elections are held and none of its members competing for political office for at least 5 years thereafter.

This was the “soft landing” that we proposed for a Zimbabwe already on the ropes in June 2016: it included “safe passage” for Mugabe, his family, the hardliners like the current coup leaders, and all those whose departure from the scene would facilitate and expedite a favourable transition from securocracy to genuine democracy and the requisite separation of powers – i.e. an accountable executive, a vibrant legislature, and a fiercely independent judiciary; and it provided for an economic recovery programme, on the back of the repatriation of stolen assets, engagement of the international financial institutions towards debt relief and a Recovery Fund, and projects – including privatization of public enterprises – designed to attract the Zimbabwean diaspora, as both investors and prospective participants in the New Dispensation.

Regrettably, neither the formal opposition nor ZANU-PF would buy into the NTA proposal, even though there were individuals on both sides of the political spectrum who engaged in the discussion.

We had even proposed a regional and global team of intermediaries who included Kgalema Mothlante, Emeka Anyaoku and other senior statespersons from the Scandinavian and Commonwealth countries.

In retrospect, the MDC under Tsvangirai was opposed to the NTA, in favour of a forthcoming poll (2018) in which they were confident of winning and thereby assuming power; and ZANU-PF was at war with itself already in 2016, and, as events soon bore testimony, the coup of November 2017 was already in the making.

So, has the landing been hard enough so far to provoke the interest in a National Transitional Authority or something similar? Is the burden of failure so evident on the part of Mnangagwa and his team that the latter might seek refuge and security in such an arrangement?

Is there any leader in SADC – Cyril Ramaphosa? – confident and courageous enough to offer mediation even though the regional body, unlike its counterpart ECOWAS, has so far been so bereft of a backbone? What about the AU? Will the global factor – the USA, Russia, China, the EU and the Commonwealth – stand by and watch as things descend into anarchy in Zimbabwe?

The ball is firmly in our court as Zimbabweans; we cannot hope to have all others assist us until our own agenda for national restoration is put in place. The question is whether the Zimbabwean situation has so deteriorated sufficiently, and self-evidently, to provoke such a requisite programme of recovery and restoration.

Surely, the events of this week, not to mention the lives lost and the many injured and left homeless and devastated, render it imperative that we begin, now, to discuss some form of a Transitional Framework.

Ibbo Mandaza is a Zimbabwean academic, author and publisher; executive chairperson of the Sapes Trust where he is the Convenor of the Policy Dialogue Forum; and a member of the Platform for Concerned Citizens (PCC).

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