SWRA ‘Hot Seat’ interview: SADC Troika Summit on Zimbabwe

HOT SEAT INTERVIEW: Violet Gonda speaks to Professor Brian Raftopoulos and Brian Kagoro

VIOLET GONDA: My guests on the programme Hot Seat are political commentators Professor Brian Raftopoulos and Brian Kagoro, with their analysis of the outcome of the SADC Troika Summit on Zimbabwe – which urged the political parties to engage in a dialogue to find a lasting solution to the outstanding issues in the implementation of the Global Political Agreement. Morgan Tsvangirai said he was rejoining the unity government and that Robert Mugabe had been given 30 days to comply with the ‘pertinent’ issues they had agreed to, but which had not been implemented. Let me start with Prof Raftopoulos. Are you surprised with the outcome of the SADC TROIKA Summit?

BRIAN RAFTOPOLOS: Not at all. I think it was predictable that they would take this course, which is to continue to engage and continue to ensure that the various parties stay in the Agreement. It was always likely they weren’t going to take any stronger position given that the issues that are there have been known for the past year and that the position would be that they would just want the national players to continue to engage – but of course with greater urgency given that these problems have been there for some time and that they need a very serious resolution.

GONDA: So does this actually resolve the crisis for the benefit of the nation or does it just defer the crisis for another 30 days?

RAFTOPOULOS: Look what it does – it gives an extra impetus to problems that have to be resolved within, within the country of course with the assistance of the guarantors and these are all problems around political questions of the way to move forward, of the way to remove obstacles and the way to deal with the kind of issues that were there from the time of the Agreement. I still think the best way is for the MDC to go back into this and to try and get the thing moving because I think outside of the GPA, there are very little alternatives for the MDC .

GONDA: But Professor, why 30 days and not now because many are asking what have they been doing all this time if it wasn’t talking, if it wasn’t dialogue, what will really change in 30 days?

RAFTOPOULOS: Look, I’m not sure that that’s important. What’s important is that there is a time line. There are 15 days in which they should meet and then 30 days in which some of these issues, I think where there is some agreement on some issues but not on others, can be dealt with. So it’s not so much the exact nature of the time but that there is a time frame in which these things need to be resolved.

GONDA: And of course, Morgan Tsvangirai had said he would not rejoin the coalition until all the outstanding issues had been resolved but it seems he has backtracked. So is he credible if he can’t set deadlines that he can live up to?

RAFTOPOULOS: Look I think he is still credible. I think it was a rash decision of his to make, understandable considering the frustration that he’s been through but rash in the sense that one always knew that the MDC would go back into this Agreement. For the simple reason as I’ve said often enough, the alternatives outside of the GPA are just minimal. So I think that was more a sign of the growing frustration from within the Agreement than a determination to pull out. The suspension, remember was never with the threat of pulling out of the Agreement. It was only as a means of pressure to get the Agreement going. I doubt there was ever any seriousness about pulling out of the Agreement completely and that’s an important distinction to make.

GONDA: And Brian Kagoro, what are your thoughts on this? What does it mean? What are the implications in your view?

BRIAN KAGORO: There are several things that perhaps we need to keep in mind – that there was a review mechanism under the original Agreement of certain aspects. The first was the co-chairing or co-sharing of the Ministry of Home Affairs. SADC had said after the expiration of six months, I think that was the period, if this arrangement was not working it should be brought back to SADC. And then there were of course the usual issues around political appointments. My own sense, I’m not as optimistic as Brian, is that Zanu is moving towards a congress so the political stakes for Zanu are much higher than perhaps we have imagined. It will be important in order to ameliorate the hawkish element in Zanu, for Zanu to seem to be totally in charge and in control within the political accord or this present arrangement. And because the appointments that are an issue essentially represent the interests of two different strong factions in Zanu, I’m doubtful that the establishment is going to recant on those appointments.

Which raises now a small question – if by the end of the 30 days, on the issue of the Reserve Bank governor and on the issue of the Attorney General and there’s no concession, what minimum movement will be agreeable to the MDC and remember the MDC has raised political stakes for itself. It has gone through this countrywide consultation, saying to people – what do you think we should do given the following?

And that in itself perhaps complicates in a way, I mean it creates a new credibility test if you like. If MDC had taken the decision as Professor Raftopoulos has rightly said, rushed or not, and had not then gone the extra step, if they’d taken the strategic decision simply to say – because we are unhappy with the progress, we feel we are being short changed, we are going to disengage temporarily as a way of ensuring that we pressure a movement on the other partner in the Global Political Agreement. Then the move that they’ve made to suspend that disengagement would be an indication first, that their faith that SADC will produce a result; secondly that even if it is not a total result, there’ll be some nominal movement that is positive. The other issue is the Roy Bennett issue and we’ve seen in various ways how the Roy Bennett issue has become a fairly important plank for the MDC negotiation strategy. So in my view, SADC was predictable as Professor Raftopoulos says but what is even I think more interesting is SADC is not going to take between now and its next Summit , any other decision different from what it has taken.

GONDA: You know Brian I will come back to the issue of SADC because I also wanted to ask what’s Plan B for SADC if this thing doesn’t work? But I wanted to go back to the issue of Morgan Tsvangirai’s decision to rejoin the coalition – is this decision by the MDC a capitulation or strategic?

KAGORO: From my perspective?

GONDA: Yes

KAGORO: You know it’s a bit of both. It shows a tension within the MDC , between, I mean let’s be realistic what has happened to date. The party, party functionaries have gotten so deeply immersed in the current governmental structure that pulling out seems a much harder thing to do than to stay in. Apart from handing back the cars, apart from vacating all sorts of privileges that they’ve attained, they still have to contend with a fairly vicious State. So there is that broad reality and the second reality, the second objective reality is they will have to explain to the rest of the world and the nation which has begun to anticipate that things can only and should only get better whether that the decision to pull out does not precipitate a return to the dark days that we saw towards the end of last year.

So they would have a greater degree of explanation to do to the generality of the public, especially those who are not considered your party faithful. So they will not occupy the moral high ground at that stage. So if you look at it that way, it is strategic for them to remain in, at least see a minimum measure of reforms. Pulling out without any reforms will simply confirm the sort of things that people like myself said, that they did not give it sufficient thought before they got in, so they got a bad deal, they were not strategic. But if they hold the fort, they stay the course and at least get, whether it’s a new constitution, some reforms somewhere, if they were to pull out later on, they would be able to at least say, apart from seeing some improvements within the economy, we did get the minimum platform required for us to move toward a democratic election. So I think it’s more strategic than capitulation. A lot of fairly strong statements were made at the point of pullout but those statements I think were merely an expression of frustration. On a more fundamental level though, MDC must ask itself is it clear about what it will take to pull out, what sort of things are required to happen or not to happen for it to objectively say we are pulling out, this is it, we are not going back in.

GONDA: Let me just go back to Professor Raftopoulos on the issue of SADC, what happens if Zanu-PF does not implement all these things within 30 days, what will SADC do?

RAFTOPOULOS: Well they’ll do what they have been doing which is to continue to drag out the discussions, to continue to put their diplomatic pressure in, there’ll be nothing more than the kind of continued pressure from the Summits that we’ve seen all along because for SADC there is no option to this GPA and they will keep the parties involved in the GPA. And more than that, they don’t want this to move, the Zimbabwe question to move out of SADC beyond say toward the UN for example. They are determined that this should remain within the African regional body and so I think they will merely continue to have the kind of pressure that they have and do what they can within those limitations. SADC is a body with grave limitations in terms of its capacity to move its members into certain positions. But certainly in terms of Mugabe’s own position, it’s clear that he’s not going to allow, also he’s not going to move unless he’s working within a SADC framework.

GONDA: Yes, and I noticed that in the SADC communiqué, it says all parties must adhere to the GPA, the Global Political Agreement, but isn’t it just one party that is not adhering to the GPA?

RAFTOPOULOS: Well certainly Zanu-PF is the major culprit in this issue. There’s no doubt it’s been the one that has dragged its feet and the one that has been most problematic. Having said that, it is also clear that the question that has continuously come up is the sanctions question remains an issue to be resolved. It is part of the GPA, it is an issue that is supposed to be resolved within the context of the GPA and at the same time or in the same context in which the other issues are being resolved and it’s an issue that will continue to come up and so it is a question that some decisions are going to have to be made, both from the side of the MDC who have already indicated they want this removed, at least at an official level but more importantly on the side of the west for whom this remains a key issue in terms of leverage within the discussion on Zimbabwe.

GONDA: But Professor Raftopoulos, should the sanctions issue have been part of the GPA? Is this something that the MDC is responsible for? Even the issue of the external radio stations because Robert Mugabe keeps bringing these two issues up. Should this have been part of the GPA and is this something that the MDC can do anything about?

RAFTOPOULOS: No it’s not something they can do anything about. It is something that was brought onto the agenda and into the GPA by Zanu-PF and the MDC as part of the negotiations had to agree to those issues being part of this. So while it wasn’t something that they had wanted or agreed to, this was a key issue coming from the side of Zanu-PF and as I said, which became part of the final Agreement. And which now has to be resolved as part of the other issues in the Agreement. It’s not going to go away anymore than the other issues are going to go away and so some hard decisions are going to be made. At what point are these issues removed in order to have progress or do they remain and additional pressure brought on? The problem of course is we know at this stage that the sanctions in their current form are not bringing anymore any additional pressure, they’re not bringing about the changes we would like them to have and its unclear at this stage what more kind of international pressure could be brought on the region than is the case at the moment.

GONDA: And you know if the SADC fails to resolve this issue within the 30 days and takes this issue up to the African Union, if it does leave southern Africa and goes to the African Union, will this be a positive step?

RAFTOPOULOS: Well I don’t think it will leave Southern Africa and it’s not likely to go to the AU because the AU also has been part of these discussions from the beginning, it knows what the issues are – so it’s unlikely to move there because already the AU know the questions. And I don’t think that they are also going to want it to come out of the region because they know the problems that will be involved taking it any further. So they I think are also going to put pressure to try and keep it in the region and try and move things along within the region.

GONDA: Brian Kagoro, has SADC put itself in a tight position here because it has now become part of the deadline?

KAGORO: No, it has always functioned with deadlines. When this one expires it will set a new deadline. It’s the nature of diplomacy. The question that is more fundamental is whether the resolution of the present political impasse rests at all with the external interlocutors; whether there are any of the external agents, whether it be the west, SADC or the African Union that actually have the wherewithal and the political focus and will to have this resolved?

SADC is battling with little Madagascar and failing to resolve that small problem. It seems to me that as a number of SADC leaders also face elections within the period 2011-2012 that Zanu may have done its calculations – stall for a sufficiently long enough period; remember the MDC went into this saying we will have an election in two years time. The two years will run out very soon, that’s one. Number two, SADC cannot do anything more forceful than what it has done – send a Troika, after the Troika, send a Commission of Enquiry of sorts, make statements commending progress and regretting where there’s been no progress.

The real issue I can tell you from a strategic perspective is within the African Union and even SADC itself, the estimation is that because Zanu controls the coercive arms of state – the military, the intelligence and the police force – that SADC thinks and feels that keeping Zanu happy is a much bigger priority to regional peace and security than upsetting the MDC or at least some level of inconvenience to the MDC . And this is the major consideration, this is the thing that nobody is saying – that the MDC ’s own narrative, and a lot of the liberal press’ narrative, has been that the military generals are totally in control in Harare or in Zimbabwe, no-one can do anything about, not even Robert Mugabe. The minute you have portrayed this as the situation, if you are sitting at the African Union and at the SADC level you ask yourself a simple question – do you want to upset the soldiers and if so at what risk? Is there a greater risk of social instability? So you read the analysis that will be done from an intelligence perspective and even a security perspective and say well there were these things stolen from Pomona, the weapons, all sorts of rumours and hearsay propagated within the State media and elsewhere and also the non public historical statement that the generals will not salute anyone else but Mugabe, it is these things that determine what SADC or the AU will do or decide. Not the usual objective factors on the ground that there is a problem of democracy, that there is one party reneging on the deal.

So for me there’s a much larger question to answer – will this problem be resolved at all by SADC? There’ll be a lot of hotelling, air travelling and stuff to talk to people who will not be able to deliver a solution, who cannot and who are not willing to. I’ve discounted previously the west and its ability to play a positive role in this particular situation. So we must answer the hard question – is there a solution at all and if there is a solution what is that solution? It will have to be internal.

GONDA: That’s what I was going to ask that, can you yourself try to answer that question because just listening to the two of you it would appear that this problem is unlikely to be resolved by SADC and you know we have many people asking at what particular point does the African Union or the United Nations have to step up, given the potential for regional destabilisation. So what is the way forward here? I’m always asking this question but we don’t seem to be getting the answer. Let me start with Professor Raftopoulos and then I’ll come to Brian.

RAFTOPOULOS: Look I think Brian is correct about the importance of the military factor. That was always the issue within the quiet diplomacy strategy, it was an issue in the talks around the GPA and it continues to be an issue on the way forward. SADC I think, whatever their limitations, have a role in the sense that at least it provides a framework of accountability not withstanding the limitations. The solutions however come back to the national players and the kind of agreements that can be made within the limitations of what is there. Which means that I think it will be a slow process, slow cumulative process, there’s not going to be the kind of drastic changes that we see, they’re going to be small, slow changes because the levers of change at the national level and at the regional level are weak at the moment and therefore the prospects of change have to be also dependent on the kind of levers that are there. And that unfortunately determines the kind of slowness of pace that we’re likely to see. We’re not going to see at this stage as I said a very drastic move, we’re going to see slow movements, back and forward movements, a lot of untidiness but I think this is unfortunately the terrain on which this battle has to be fought. It is problematic of the current crisis and there’s no getting away with it, there’s no magic solution which is going to come from the African Union or the United Nations. That route has been tried already in the United Nations; we’ve seen what Mugabe did with the Special Rapporteur, they continue to have disdain for that route because they know they can be protected there at the moment at least at the Security Council level. So they’re also going to fight with their partners in SADC to keep the debate in SADC and to keep the discussions moving in terms of the limitations that are there at the moment. And unfortunately that’s the reality that we have to work with.

GONDA: And Prof can you give us your thoughts on what you may think is the Zanu-PF mindset? What game is Zanu-PF playing here, because others are asking what is it that Zanu-PF is afraid of because they seem not to want to implement the GPA?

RAFTOPOULOS: Look they know that the full implementation of the GPA will cause real problems for their capacity to hold on to power. Either whether it is a land audit, a proper constitutional review process, the opening up of the media, setting up of those Commissions – these things if they are put in play, would be a very serious threat to Zanu-PF’s future. They know that, they knew that from the beginning therefore it’s clear that they are going to try at every stage to delay, to whittle down, to undermine various processes that have been set in play by the GPA. But we knew from the beginning that this GPA would be a battle. It wasn’t going to be Zanu-PF handing over the keys to the kingdom so to speak, it’s a battle for the state so it’s going to be a very tough battle, there’s going to be movement forward, there’s going to be regress but it’s a battleground that MDC and the civics and Zimbabweans have to remain engaged in because I don’t think it’s going to move out of this terrain in the near future.

GONDA: Do you agree Brian? And what will the full implementation of the GPA mean to Zanu-PF?

KAGORO: I partly agree with Brian that if Zanu had at the inception of the GPA agreed to the GPA’s full implementation, Zanu would have effectively written the epitaph on its own grave. This would have led to a disintegration because you would have unravelled the economic, political and social structure that Zanu has constructed in order to consolidate its power in and over the State. If we have another year or two, I have said this before, Zanu would have sufficiently bought over, co-opted and or intimidated critical elements within the MDC that they will not be in a position to unravel the structure. I mean at an electoral level, you may still have some, because of the popularity of your oppositional sentiment, some form of electoral victories. But at a political level, the transformation of the political culture of intolerance, the Zanu-ish culture of doing things will not be seen.

That’s one but number two, let’s remember that political moments and processes coincide to bring about change. The level of preparation determines the quality or impact of change. My own observations, watching the MDC transact within this new arrangement is, I wondered whether they’d neglected the all important business, implied in Brian’s statement that if ultimately the battle between these entities is for the conquest of political power, the control of the State, that the vehicle through which this would happen would be of course in the limited confines of the GPA, the electoral process. Whether over the last couple of months the MDC has neglected the all important issue and let me state what that issue is – the moment of the GPA created some form of freedom that did not exist over the last nine years, freedom to organise and to constitute properly functioning structures.

If you’ve been observing clearly, Zanu-PF has been trying to resuscitate its structures, oil it, oil the structures in preparation for something else. I’ve not gotten the sense until recently that the MDC pay particular attention to dealing with something that Brian and others noted over the years was weak, which is the organisational structure of the party. To prepare it for the ultimate, for the end game, that’s number one. Number two it would also be to build the capacity, it was clear that the Herald would not be handed over, or as Brian said the keys to the kingdom would not be handed over, that the State media would not be handed over. But I did not see the same level of urgency at the level of structure in creating the alternative capacity to communicate your own message even as a player within government and not placing undue reliance on the so-called private media.

So there were certain fundamentals around internal consolidation, bringing cohesion and coherence, whether at a policy, political, strategy level within the MDC that’s one thing – because if you accept the hypothesis that Professor Raftopoulos gives that this is going to be a slow, painful and sometimes frustrating process of arriving at the Zimbabwe we all want then you must ask yourself what level of preparation needs to be put in place that is consistent with the nature of change we’re inevitably tied in to. And this for me is the solution, it’s not so much one day wonder, we all take to the streets and the regime runs away because even if the regime did run away we still would have a State to run and there are several things we would need to run that State better than the current regime.

GONDA: So is this what you meant earlier on when you said the solution to this crisis has to be internal.

KAGORO: Yes, the solution to the crisis has to be internal. It’s a political battle ultimately, this is what it is. Nobody’s going to come to Mugabe and say go home. Only the Zimbabweans have the legitimacy, the authority and the capacity to do so. Nobody’s going to say to Zanu change and only Zimbabweans can do this. Nobody’s going to say we’ve had enough, only Zimbabweans can do this and by Zimbabweans I mean all Zimbabweans. And if you need all Zimbabweans wherever they are located to participate in this process effectively then you need to organise them for participation. And this is the main business of the Change Agents in the country at the moment. Yes they should go ahead, continue to negotiate whatever revisions they can get from the status quo but ultimately they must organise themselves for a battle that will take some time. You know they will take chinks at the armour of Zanu-PF in negotiating with elements in the military and intelligence and elsewhere and if things move, the Zanu laager mentality is going to disintegrate. It will disintegrate because Zanu no longer has the capacity, with the weakening of the central bank governorship, it no longer has the capacity to dole out unless something happens to the next eight months, to dole out the sort of goodies you could dole out to various players and actors within the State. So because these are used to depending on this largesse, if they stop getting it they are going to move their loyalties elsewhere and this is the reality that Zanu itself is not invincible. It’s not beyond the sort of contradictions that we are describing for the opposition.

GONDA: And I’m afraid I’ve run out of time but before we go, a last word from Professor Raftopolous.

RAFTOPOULOS: Yah there are two things. First of all I think the big, the one thing one should fear is if this Agreement breaks down for any reason because as we’ve seen recently the resurgence of violence is always there and it can happen very quickly and I think we would move into that position very quickly and that will only be a debilitating factor. The second thing is what is happening in Zimbabwe , we see it happening in other places where authoritarian or undemocratic governments lose elections and then hold on to the State. We’ve seen it, we’ve seen it in Kenya , we have an idea of what is going on in Afghanistan , that there’s a kind of broad processes where these kind of things are taking place. so we’re in a phase where we’re having to deal now in a very complex set of processes where those struggles are going to become more difficult, more cumulative and we need to prepare for those kind of battles that lie ahead.

GONDA: OK and Brian, a last word?

KAGORO: I think ultimately let’s not judge the performance of the MDC on whether or not they are getting much out of the GPA. Let us judge it on the basis of their commitment in terms of strategy and practical political programmes to implementing or putting in place things that will make the battle for democracy or the democratisation project survive. So if they get all totally sucked up in trying to make the GPA work only as a framework and do not pay attention to the larger democratisation agenda and the sort of pillars that they need to strengthen, to consolidate to make it work, then perhaps it will be fair to say they have capitulated on that premise. And I would actually caution the MDC not to over invest their faith and effort purely at trying to get a shell to work. Yes they must operate in good faith, they must invest some effort but there must be greater effort invested in organising the broader Zimbabwean mass for the new day that MDC has always said it was fighting for.

GONDA: And I would like to thank the two Brians, Brian Raftopoulos and Brian Kagoro for their analysis on the political crisis in Zimbabwe , thank you.

RAFTOPOULOS: Thank you.

KAGORO: Thank you Violet.

Fri, November 6 2009 » Interviews

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