GNU: Leaders win, people lose
By Edna Machirori
FRUSTRATED and battle-weary Zimbabweans will readily agree with co-president of the joint African Pacific Carribean and European Union (ACP-EU) Parliament, David Matongo, when he asserts that ‘governments of national unity crafted hurriedly after disputed elections are unacceptable and undemocratic…’
Matongo, a Zambian Member of Parliament, was quoted in a story published in the July 9 issue of the Daily News as saying bluntly among many other things; “As the ACP-EU joint parliament president let me clearly state that we do not support unity governments after someone loses elections.
If you lose elections get out. We want democracy and respect of the will of the people in Africa.”
The Zambian legislator, who was speaking at the 26th ACP-EU social and economic meeting in Belgium and referred to the situation in Zimbabwe specifically, expressed dismay over the fact that losers rejected election results and used violence to “force the formation of useless and unworkable coalition governments”.
After more than two years of the charade called the coalition government in this country, Zimbabweans know what Matongo is talking about.
They know from painful experience that a process that exacerbates and prolongs the problem, leading to more suffering where it must bring relief, cannot be regarded as a viable solution.
And yet, to all intents and purposes, the unfortunate impact of the formation of the government of national unity (GNU) more than two years ago has been to escalate political tensions, polarisation, violence and harassment of the perceived opponents of the erstwhile ruling party.
The coalition government was formed at the recommendation of the African Union as a way to resolve the conflict over the disputed 2008 election outcome in which the expressed will of the people of Zimbabwe was thwarted.
Regrettably, since then, the people seem to have been removed from the equation altogether and the crisis rages on because of self-serving political leaders’ unwillingness to fully implement the Global Political Agreement (GPA) which they jointly signed.
The Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) has expended enormous energy, resources and time in organising endless summits and setting up teams to tackle the endless twists and turns, to no avail.
Zimbabweans cringe each time these summits are held because displayed there for all the world to see is a lack of statesmanship that is crucial in a situation where parties must negotiate in the spirit of give and take.
Instead of a dialogue, what is going on within the coalition government is a monologue in which one party sees itself as having all the virtues and the other partners all the faults. It will not back down no matter how implausible and illogical its assertions are.
How long can this soap opera be allowed to continue?
Conventional wisdom would indicate that it is pointless to continue along the same fruitless path and thereby losing sight of the original goal for establishing the coalition government in the first place.
That goal should be to have a transitional government in place that prioritises the people’s interests, welfare and aspirations as reflected in the way they voted in the last parliamentary and presidential elections.
This dispensation should have been an opportunity for the country to move forward from dictatorial and repressive rule towards democratic change.
Alas, the ex-ruling party, Zanu PF appears to regard the GNU as a platform to re-assert its hegemony.
The former ruling party’s belief that it has the upper hand despite having lost the last elections continues to polarise positions within the GNU, leading to endless deadlocks over issues such as reforms, which they should be anxious to implement if they had the interests of the people and the nation at heart.
The question Sadc, as the guarantors of the GPA, should ask itself is not just whether the Zimbabwean problem can be solved but whether all the parties to the agreement genuinely want a resolution to be achieved.
A review of events since the advent of the GNU will show that there has been stagnation because one of the signatories to the agreement has persistently blocked and resisted the implementation of the provisions of the GPA.
This party wants the impasse to continue for as long as possible.
Sadc and AU leaders do not need to be rocket scientists to figure out the motives for this intransigence.
It is incredible that these bodies do not have effective contingencies for dealing with this deliberate time-wasting, which they should have anticipated before recommending the formation of a unity government.
The tenacity with which long-standing rulers will cling to power at any cost is being amply demonstrated in North Africa and the Middle East.
With virtually entire populations out on the streets every day for the last three months in Yemen, Bahrain and Syria baying for regime change, the concerned dictators continue to stuff their ears with cotton wool.
The brutal crackdowns they have responded with leave no one in any doubt that they would be perfectly comfortable to see the entire populace wiped out as long as that would ensure that they could remain at the helm.
This is frightening not just for the people of the Arab world but for oppressed people in other parts of the world such as Libya where trying to end the 42-year one-man rule of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has made citizens endangered species.
Sadc and the AU should learn some lessons from the insatiability of these men’s vanity and love of power. Nothing short of omnipotence can satisfy them.
The shocking images being shown on television of the president of Yemen, Mohammed Abdulla Saleh, who was wounded in a bomb attack on his palace about a month ago are a testimony to this fact.
Swathed in bandages and with a blackened face that makes him look like a ghost of his former self, the man who has ruled Yemen for 33 years sits up in a hospital bed in Saudi Arabia where he is being treated and with laboured breath asserts his authority and indispensability.
Would he have to die before seeing the writing on the wall?
The proponents of unity governments such as the one in Zimbabwe which pairs an election-losing party that has been in power for three decades with partners entering government for the first time since independence should draw some lessons from this
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