19 December 2012

Zimbabwe: 2013 - GNU's Last Rites

IN 2013, Zimbabweans will have to choose between continuity and breaking with the past when they head to polling booths to elect those who shall preside over their affairs for another five years.

One thing is certain though; there are some within the inclusive government who are having their last dance with power although some analysts caution that another coalition could be in the offing.

During the subsistance of the inclusive government, Prime Minister (PM) Morgan Tsvangirai's formation of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) showed uncomforting signs that for sure power corrupts.

The past four years of the unity government have seen some of the MDC-T officials amassing obscene wealth under unclear circumstances, in typical from rags to riches story.

In the year under review, ZANU-PF also missed an opportunity to renew or reform itself. This has resulted in a situation whereby some of the characters that were present at the party's inaugural congress in 1963 in Gweru still commanding the last say in ZANU-PF, 49 years on.

While opinion polls predict a ZANU-PF victory, the situation on the ground has remained fluid so much such that it would be difficult to tell with certainty which of the main political parties would emerge victorious come next year's plebiscite.

The constitution-making exercise, which has now entered the homestretch, marks the inclusive government's last rites.

The process, the most important milestone for the coalition, was supposed to take 18 months to complete, but has dragged on for more than three years.

The exercise has proved to be the most difficult for the three parties in the inclusive government -- ZANU-PF and the MDC formations. It has also proved to be a divisive one for the parties themselves.

Recently, Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana, ZANU-PF's co-chairperson to the Parliamentary Constitution Select Committee, ploughed into his colleagues over the manner they have interfered with the constitution-making process -- an indication of the internal divisions spawned by the supreme law-making process.

"These two (Jonathan Moyo and Goodwills Masimirembwa) are angels of the devil. They have been serving the devil and they have not changed. It is wrong for any journalist to call Jonathan Moyo an expert in law; he might be an expert in other things but not law. Also Masimirembwa is not an expert in law. As far as we know he was blacklisted and can't practice law, so what kind of an expert is that?" said Mangwana.

Apart from the constitutional drama, 2012 had a lot more in terms of twists and turns. Here are some of the highlights:

The legal calendar

Results of an inquest into the death of the late general Solomon Mujuru released in March this year left more questions than answers. In the end, the outcome did not end conspiracy theories in the minds of Zimbabweans regarding how Mujuru met his death as has been the case following the deaths of other liberators such as the late Herbert Chitepo. Despite a declaration by the Attorney General's Office that the inquest had brought Mujuru's case to a close, in the court of public opinion circumstances surrounding the late general's death remain inconclusive. In another matter, the Supreme Court -- the highest court in the land, brought finality to the Anglican Church saga last month. Disgraced bishop Nolbert Kunonga lost the five-year battle for the control of the Church of the Province of Central Africa's assets to bishop Chad Gandiya and his followers. Despite the Supreme Court having the final say in all legal matters, Kunonga, who has since invoked politics to cloud matters, is still fighting in the courts in what legal experts feel could be the last misdirected kicks of a dying horse. Kunonga's rivals had all along maintained that the former was a political animal. Another high stakes legal case pitted two professors, Welshman Ncube and Arthur Mutambara, over the leadership of the MDC party with the later appealing to the Supreme Court after losing in the lower court. Fears abound that due to the delays, the judgment in this matter might end up being an academic exercise as the life of the inclusive government comes to an end.

Central government

In 2012, as in previous years since its formation in 2009, the inclusive government proved to be a dump squib with its leaders yet again going into the New Year none the wiser. President Robert Mugabe and PM Tsvangirai held an anti-violence indaba in November 2011 and pledged to hold joint peace rallies this year, but events on the ground have proved that they were not sincere. Also, most of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) milestones that the governing parties had agreed to implement during the course of the inclusive government remain outstanding, raising the possibility of another disputed poll. Important commissions that the agreement gave rise to have also remained ineffective. The Registrar General's Office still registers voters, even though the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is supposed to deal with all electoral matters in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission has been crippled by underfunding, while the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission is proving to be yet another toothless bulldog. To underline how the so-called fight against graft is a mere smokescreen, President Mugabe recently revealed that former South African president Thabo Mbeki had told him that some ministers had demanded bribes from South African investors, but up to now no one has been arrested. If ever there was an award for a mampara of the year in Cabinet, the premier was a good candidate for his sexual escapades that soiled his image ahead of crucial elections.

Parliament

Parliament remained a victim of the whip system to steamroll the wishes of the three governing powers, with the absence of an opposition party in the legislative assembly exacerbating things. For the better half of 2012, lawmakers were in a deep slumber, only flexing their muscles in October this year, through a motion in which they resolved to establish a committee that would track promises made by ministers, with mechanism for punishing those who fail to deliver. However, coming as it does a few months into general polls, their actions might in the end amount to closing the stable door when the horse has already bolted. With elections beckoning, most lawmakers have nothing to show for their term of office. Crucially, the Members of Parliament failed to agitate for the fulfilment of the government's legislative agenda and were forced to pass piecemeal amendments to a number of legislation, including the electoral law, despite noting a number of defects. Ten years have since passed since the passage of the Public Order and Security Act with nothing being done to repeal this draconian piece of legislation. Despite widespread agitation for reforms, the ZANU-PF side of government ensured that the law remains operational.

Local government

More rot surfaced in the country's municipalities, raising questions as to whether the MDC-T is ready to govern. The mayors of Kariba and Gweru, Nicholas Hwindiri and Tedious Chimombe defected from the premier's party and Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo continued with his suspension of city fathers notably the mayor of Gwanda Lionel De Necker. But to show that Chombo is part of the problem and not the solution, the Auditor and Comptroller General Mildred Chiri criticised him for huge payouts he gave to committees that he appointed to probe local authorities. "The amount paid varied between US$5 000 paid to interpreters to US$52 720 paid to some chairperson of committees. The fees paid were in all cases far in excess of those authorised by the Treasury circular on fees payable to members of boards and committees," said Chiri.

The economy

The country's economy continued to underperform with the Prime Minister warning that 2013 would be a tough year. Treasury would be under pressure to fund the referendum as well as elections in the coming year, in addition to salary increases for civil servants. The secrecy, mistrusts and conflicting statements from ministers on the issue of diamonds sales continued to manifest in the country. Parastatals continued to be a drain on the fiscus and corruption continued to wreak havoc on the economy.

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