For the first or second time, at least known publicly, the two main political parties agreed on constitutional amendments supposedly meant to resolve the crisis in the country. The Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment Bill, No 18 was unanimously passed by, “amid thunderous applause from both Zanu –PF and MDC legislators.” The Bill harmonises presidential, parliamentary and local authority elections next year to be done in one day, increases the number of MPs and a few other cosmetic changes. 111 MPs voted for the Bill and none voted against. Speakers from ZANU PF and MDC spoke vociferously, applauding the coming together of the enemies for a decade. The ZANU PF chief Whip Joram Gumbo had this to say,
“We from this side of the House want to say the chickens have come home to roost. We realise now that we are Zimbabweans. We, as Zimbabweans, are able to come together and solve our issues."
The MDC (Tsvangirai) deputy president, Thoko Khupe stated:
"We supported the Bill because we do not want to see Zimbabwe burning.. It does not mean we have abandoned our demand for a new people-driven Constitution. It is our understanding that this will be delivered in due course."
Welshman Ncube, of the MDC (Mutambara) was even more forthright …
"Zimbabweans are faced with a national crisis. We may differ, but we agree there is a crisis. Some where along the way we lost each other. This is our attempt to find each other.”
Another opposition leader stated - “Today is the beginning of a historic moment in this house....We are in the process of making history and finding solutions to the crisis."
Quiet stunning from viciously warring parties in the last few years, including in the opposition. Tuesday the 18th of September was the outcome of the secret ongoing Mbeki talks between the two MDC's and ZANU PF led by Chinamasa and Goche for ZANU PF and Tendai Biti and Welshmen Ncube for the two MDC's.
“Treachery” – varombo kuvarombo vapfumi kuvapfumi
This deal is not for the poor and oppressed who have bravely withstood the hard times we have been going through and have been the necessary fuel to the existence of the MDC. Now the last decade of inspiring work by labour, civic society and social movements has been sacrificed by leaders only interested in getting into power and accumulating wealth. Indeed on that Tuesday 18 September 2007, while ‘they’ took Zimbabwe through this ‘historic moment’, labour and students activists were in police cells over the ZCTU stayaway. Truly the moment was historic. A turn in the direction of where the struggle for liberation is going. Yesterday showed us that "varombo kuvarombo, vafumi kuvafumi," must now be the slogan of the day and that the opposition leaders have accepted Mugabe’s invitation at the tractor feast that “Nyaya yekudya inyaya yedu tose … kana toita politics tinenge taguta.” The ideological mist that masked a false unity of purpose in the opposition forces has now been blown away.
Virtually all key civic society groups and the ZCTU have rightly denounced it. Arnold Tsunga, the chairman of Crisis Zimbabwe Coalition and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights director said – “We think the MDC has sold out, and it will be very difficulty to work with them in future, taking into perspective the minor adjustment they and ZANU PF have agreed to.”
Lovemore Madhuku and the NCA were even more blistering in their attack:
We are disgusted by the MDC. I don’t see myself sitting under the same tent with both Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara discussing the future of this country. We are severing ties with the MDC over their going into bed with ZANU PF... The MDC’s decision to abandon the principle of a people driven Constitution and opting for a process driven by political parties in Parliament is an act of treachery.”
The NCA gave other reasons to reject the deal, including that: (1) it allows Mugabe to appoint his own successor through Parliament, instead of there being elections; (2) the size of parliament has been massively increased beyond the capacity of the country and economy, from 150 to 210 MPs and Senate from 66 to 93 – all these will be given brand new 4 x 4 double cabs! (3) it does not provide Zimbabweans in the Diaspora with the right to vote as in other SADC countries; (4) the appointment of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission remains under the control of Mugabe, who also retains his massive executive presidency powers and control of the state, courts, security arms and media; (5) the Bill of Rights remains the same not guaranteeing the rights of workers, the poor and oppressed or effective freedoms of movement, association and expression. There can be no free and fair elections under such conditions.
As some have already commented, this is a sick deal in which the MDC has got even less than Muzorewa got from Smith! Like Smith, Mugabe is today in a tight corner as the economy collapses, and instead of escalating resistance with other forces as the Patriotic Front did in 1978, the MDC is giving the Mugabe regime a life-saving boat!
Reasons behind Betrayal
However, progressive Social Movements, Labour and Civil Society, must celebrate this event as a refreshing moment which has vindicated a whole decade of ideological analysis of how to deal with the Mugabe dictatorship. Since at least 2001, we in the ISO have warned about how the opposition MDC has been hijacked by elitist capitalist forces and the need to construct an autonomous alternative anti-neoliberal united front to carry on the struggle, with the MDC, but independent of it if need be. We argued – “Thus any strategy of fighting the dictatorship based on a movement dominated or controlled by the MDC will remain prisoner to the glaring ideological and strategic confusion it has shown since 2000 and is bound to fail… its primary preoccupation is towards reaching a sell –out settlement with the Zanu PF dictatorship that will not benefit the poor and working people… The possibility of an elite political settlement between the ruling party and opposition around a western supported full neo-liberal programme is thus real. This will be centred around the neo-liberal economic turn-around programme of ESAP 2 that has been spearheaded by Gono since 2003. The drive towards a settlement is driven by several factors including the ruling classes’ fear of an economic-social implosion because of the worsening economic crisis with unforeseeable political implications, and the fact that both parties are now dominated by elites who subscribe to neo-liberalism and are exhausted and fearful of the crisis of the last decade…. (ZANU PF) elites now want the peace to grow and launder the wealth acquired in the last decade but cannot do so in the context of a crisis ridden state under siege from the west. But to ensure that Zanu PF elites do not relapse as they did in 1997, the forces of global neo-liberalism demand a political guarantee in the form of co-option in government of their trusted agents in Zimbabwe, the MDC and (the exit of Mugabe). On the other hand, the opposition is dominated by the petite bourgeois elite, who long ago prostrated themselves before western neo-liberal political and economic forces and are now eager to get into state power, even as junior partners, and accumulate property as a neo-colonial dependent capitalist class”
It is such elitist settlement to pre-empt social-revolution, that the Mbeki Talks and Const Amendment 18 are designed to achieve supported by Mbeki and the west, with, as Mukundu of MISA aptly puts it - Tsvangirai likely to be “the unwilling sacrificial lamb, sacrificed at the altar of quiet diplomacy and the quest for power by those inside his ‘cabinet,” and as a price for Mugabe to agree to retire – a price not only the opportunist elites in MDC will be willing to pay but also the west, who have always seen Tsvangirai as naïve and dispensable. The West’s interests in Zimbabwe may be summarised simply - Re-launch of the Free Market dictatorship in Zimbabwe. The West would want to be vindicated that the SAP's under the IMF work but were mismanaged in Zimbabwe, besides banishing forever the “bad precedent” set by Mugabe on the land question. Mbeki wants to ensure that Tsvangirai does not set an example for COSATU/SACP to follow as Chiluba did in Zambia. So they will be prepared to ooze from all their financial tanks into the "New Zimbabwe" as soon as the new deal succeeds. SAP's have had a history of dismal failure and in the Latin Americas they have been shoved off by resurgent anti-neoliberal forces. It will only be wise to sanctify them with a Zimbabwe renewed and re-engaged. This explains the ICG, EU and McKinnons of the Commonwealth now wanting dialogue with Mugabe.
Working People Convention and Jambanja now!
But the elites in power and in opposition may not have it all their way. Now that the talks have been lubricated by the Number 18 Amendment, and vice versa, the driving seat seems to have been secured. But the major question remains the destination. Number 18 represents a political crisis and storm coming down. This is however still veiled by an unpredictable Mugabe trajectory, momentarily shrouded in speculation. It remains to be seen how Mugabe will manage his political campaign for the coming elections. The economic crisis that has threatened Mugabe's political power is still pending. Price hikes may be well on their way back to madness. So the economic crisis resolution is yet to be propounded. Neither is it all clear in MDC (Tsvangirai). There are stirrings of serious opposition, with reports that the youths, the women section, key provinces like Harare and Bulawayo, the Diaspora and other radicals are opposing the sell – out deal, with support coming mainly from the self-seeking MPs. Indeed over the week-end, Mugabe’s spokesperson, George Charamba, had revealed such stirrings and predicted that whilst the MDC (Mutambara) executive would easily support the deal, it was going to face stiff and insurmountable resistance in the Tsvangirai one, sending Biti into oblivion.
The above provides a historic moment for the progressives in labour, civic society, revolutionary socialists and MDC radicals to reclaim the initiative, smash this sell –out neoliberal elitist deal and re-launch the struggle to smash the dictatorship and the attempts at accelerating ESAP. These forces must urgently convene a 2nd Working People’s Convention which will discuss the treacherous Mbeki Talks and Amendment 18 and the way forward. Central will be that harmonised elections be done in 2008 but only under a democratic, people driven and anti-ESAP constitution. If the regime rejects this, then the struggle must be shifted to all out mass action – jambanja or civil disobedience in which there is no co-operation whatsoever with the regime but a determined struggle to throw it out as has happened elsewhere. The ZCTU has already started the ball rolling, but to succeed we need united action of labour and civic society. Like Smith in 1978, the regime is now cornered, which is why its making concessions. History teaches us that success is possible. For instance the March 1961 Zhii – Zhanda strikes forced Nkomo to abandon the sell –out constitutional deal he had made with the British giving blacks 15 out of 65 parliamentary seats. In 1978, after ZANU refused to accept the Internal Settlement deal, Nkomo also withdrew from any further deals with the Smith- Muzorewa regime and opted for continuing with the struggle under the Patriotic Front. In 2005 Tsvangirai gave in to pressure not to go into the Senate elections. The same can happen today if we are resolute! Jambanja Ndizvo!