13 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Last Toast for Inclusive Govt

THE inclusive government marks its fourth and final anniversary this week ahead of fresh polls likely to be held in June this year.

But there are concerns the coalition has lacked a robust self-review and evaluation mechanism during its four-year lifespan.

With the coalition marking its fourth anniversary this week, analysts are agreed that this could well be the end for the acrimonious coalition government.

Elections are likely to be held in June this year, effectively bringing closure to the Global Political Agreement (GPA) signed in September 2008.

Despite the signing of the GPA in 2008, the coalition government was only inaugurated in February 2009 after about six months of haggling over ministerial and other top government positions.

The coalition has had mixed fortunes as it navigated numerous political minefields that threatened its existence.

There were many areas that could be highlighted as failures and successes of the coalition government. One of the biggest failures has been the absence a self-review and evaluation mechanism of the GPA.

The coalition has simply failed to review its performance for the past four years serve for populist and rhetoric statements.

Article XXIII of the GPA instructs that there be annual periodic reviews of the GPA.

"This has not been done and I believe when an agreement fails to self-evaluate then it lacks broader accountability to the citizenry of the country," said Trevor Maisiri, a political analyst.

Although the GPA directed the establishment of the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC), the body has been rendered comatose since the formation of the inclusive government, with critics labelling it a toothless bulldog.

JOMIC has appeared very much focussed on community processes as it has had no power to contain or address issues of non compliance at the political leadership level.

It is actually a surprise that the coalition managed to hold together for the last four years despite the political acrimony and tensions experienced within it.

Twice in the past four years, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai threatened to disengage from the coalition, citing President Robert Mugabe's alleged insincerity to the letter and spirit of the GPA.

Many such agreements in Africa tended to crumble and fail as other parties withdraw before their tenure is finished.

But this was not to be for the coalition as it now trudges ahead for new elections.

Consensus on the constitutional process, though it has taken long, is seen as one of the main successes of the coalition government. The constitution was endorsed last week by both the senate and the House of Assembly and is expected to sail through the referendum likely to be held at the end of next month. The inclusive government has generally had an incremental approach to media reform which has led to a quantitative but inadequate expansion of the media in difficult and controversial circumstances.

The Zimbabwe Media Commission licenced more than 20 media houses while the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe licenced two "independent" radio stations under controversial circumstances.

In the four years it has existed, the coalition government has shown that it views media freedom as a privilege and not a fundamental right through the retention of criminal defamation laws against the media such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and Public Order and Security Act.

These statutes, among others, undermine freedom of expression and access to information not just for the media but also for ordinary citizens.

"Furthermore, the inclusive government and the Constitution Parliamentary Select Committee have continued to demonstrate a lack of understanding of the democratic importance of media freedom through their draft constitution which wrongly retains a media commission to not only police but also seek to institute criminal charges against the media," said Takura Zhangazha, director of the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe.

"This is a development and proposal that is patently undemocratic in intent and cannot be viewed as emanating from leaders with the best interests of the country or the media at heart," he added.

There has been concern that democratic space continues to be curtailed even under the coalition government, evidenced by the arrest and jailing of a number of citizens for allegedly undermining the authority of the President.

The latest crackdown on civil society organisations and leaders ahead of polls has been another cause of concern as the life of the unity government comes to an end.

Police on Monday intensified what civil society organisations perceived as a systematic crackdown on civil society organisations by raiding the offices of the Zimbabwe Peace Project. They seized several documents and other materials.

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