Hindering SADC From Shaping Poll Landscape
Hindering SADC From Shaping Poll Landscape
Op-Ed / Africa 5 minutes

Hindering SADC From Shaping Poll Landscape

Zanu PF's limited commitment to the Global Political Agreement (GPA) and the resultant institutionalisation of the Government of National Unity (GNU) is why the party began to push for elections as from 2010, a strategy seen as steering the total collapse of the agreement.

However, within that scope, the party also pursued a simultaneous strategy of isolating and being intractable on those clauses and tenets of the agreement considered to be strongly urging the state reconstructivism schema. Zanu PF was therefore consumed with aborting state reconstruction as advocated by the GPA.

In 2011, after realising concerted efforts by Zanu PF for an "early" election and the party's resistance to state-reconstruction related tenets of the agreement, Sadc responded by shifting its focus. It was Sadc's toned down approach on implementation of the GPA which compelled the MDC parties to narrow their demands for the "full implementation of the GPA", a syntax that had also become common in all Sadc recommendations in the communiques of meetings where Zimbabwe was discussed.

In 2011 the MDC parties shifted their call from the "full implementation of the GPA", to the drawing up of an election roadmap, all in response to Zanu PF pressure to defeat the state reconstruction slant of the GPA. This constituted a reductionist approach to the agreement, which always tends to: isolate the tenets of the agreement and destroys interconnections of its linked demands; and leads to complications arising from breaking up issues that are supposed to otherwise be interlinked.

Although the election roadmap was signed in June 2011, there were outstanding issues in areas where the parties failed to find consensus. These areas, which Zanu PF took a reductionist approach to include those related to security sector reform or re-alignment and reforms of state institutions.

Zanu PF's resistance to concluding these election roadmap issues was driven by fear of the "back-door" re-entry of some of the state reconstitution aspects earlier rejected in the GPA, but now re-engineered through the roadmap. With an inconclusive election roadmap, Sadc and the MDCs shifted impetus to the constitution-writing process, hoping a new constitution would then provide another avenue and opportunities for state reconstruction.

Zanu PF's resistance to the final constitutional draft in August 2012 and its proposal of multiple amendments to it was again based on attempting to repeal yet another attempt of state reconstruction. Eventually, the party yielded to Sadc pressure and the constitution was adopted after a successful referendum on May 22.

On adoption of the constitution, Zanu PF argued that there was no more need to pursue election-related outstanding issues in the GPA or the roadmap as they were all now superseded by the constitution. The conjuncture of this argument was to use the immensity of the clout of the presence of the new constitution to then totally submerge the state reconstruction threats still posed by the outstanding issues of both the GPA and the election roadmap.

Collapsing the GPA and the election roadmap would have also led to the extraction of Sadc's involvement and influence on internal political developments, especially towards elections, as the mandate of the regional bloc was only guaranteed by the GPA, not the new constitution. On the other hand, the MDCs insisted that the constitution, the outstanding GPA and election roadmap issues still needed to be pursued simultaneously, this to them would assure Sadc's continued involvement in Zimbabwe until after elections. At the Sadc Maputo meeting on June 15 Sadc concurred with the MDCs' position on keeping the GPA alive as the foundational basis upon which elections would be held.

It was, however, the new constitution, at the centre of contentions, which became the mechanism through which Sadc was eventually purged from direct involvement in shaping the election environment in Zimbabwe.

On June 13, President Robert Mugabe invoked the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act, using the newly-adopted constitution to unilaterally enact some amendments, as well as proclaim July 31 as the date of elections, in response to an earlier Constitutional Court (Concourt) ruling. That Concourt was also a creation of the new constitution.

The move by Mugabe immediately transformed the political debate on election timing into a legal matter, beyond the influence of both Sadc and the MDCs.

The promulgation of the election date also dismissed earlier assertions by Sadc and MDCs that election timing would only be determined by the status of preparedness for such elections as well as prevailing electoral environment conditions, arising from reforms stated in the election roadmap and GPA.

Zanu PF was wary of the March 2008 scenario where former South African president Thabo Mbeki's 2007 mediation/facilitation process had been consequential in shaping conducive electoral conditions, which were then beneficial to the MDCs. By using a legal route to set a date for elections this also reduced Zanu PF's risks.

Zanu PF did not want to face up to an election in which conditions would have been determined by Sadc processes rather than the convalesced state of "statism" which had been sustained from the party's repulsion of state reconstruction efforts in the GPA period.

Mbeki's involvement in shaping the March 2008 election environment was a learning curve for Zanu PF and the party made all efforts to ensure the exclusion of Sadc in shaping the 2013 election environment.

The 2013 election was forced through without pre-requisite conditions outlined in the GPA, the election roadmap and the new constitution.

Ultimately, the state reconstruction ethos the GPA attempted to promote was amply defeated through Zanu PF's exertion of pressure and tactical manoeuvring which in the end led to its abortion. The five years of the GPA were a fight for state reconstruction by the MDCs and a fight to abort state reconstruction by Zanu PF, while Sadc at times played convenient spectator and in other moments a disempowered "referee".

The question now is: does Zimbabwe find itself back where it began? A Zanu PF majority in parliament creates equal opportunities for sustained or augmented "statism" or for state reconstruction. Will Zanu PF use the moment to re-create itself and dispose of its historical distaste of state reconstruction or will the temptation of the pre-2008 statist rational be overriding? Will Zanu PF perceive the new constitution as a threat or an enabler?

If the party ecstatically pursues "statism" will Zimbabwe then find itself back in the era of episodic constitutional amendments, to merely fit into conventional "statism"?

However, if Zanu PF is spirited enough to abandon "statism" and pursue state reconstruction, then it is the party that will need to amend itself to conform to the new constitution.

Ultimately, the three-phase trajectory of Sadc's mediation in Zimbabwe attempted to arrest the "statism" in the pre-2008 election phase; it then attempted to exploit the GPA as a state reconstruction conduit, but in the end the GPA phase was marked by the abortion of the state reconstruction exertions.

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