An overview of the circumstances of the Unity Accord of 1987 in comparison to those of the Global Political Agreement of 2008

In Zimbabwe in 2008, the March Presidential election failed to produce an outright winner, although Morgan Tsvangirai won 47% of the vote to Robert Mugabe’s 43%. The ensuing state orchestrated violence reduced the June run off to an illegitimate one-man race, as Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew, citing impossible conditions for his supporters. Since then, there has been a running debate both in Zimbabwe and abroad on whether the MDC should enter into a transitional government of unity with ZANU PF, as a way of temporarily resolving the crisis of governance. On September 11th 2008, such a transitional government was agreed to – and then disputes about the modalities of operation delayed implementation until Feb 2009.

Those with reservations about the Global Political Agreement (GPA) frequently refer to the Unity Accord (UA) of 1987, in which the opposition party ZAPU was swallowed up by ZANU PF, as providing a salutary lesson to those who attempt to govern side by side with ZANU PF. While the current GPA presents a major challenge to all players, and could well fail to thrive in the months to come, the circumstances leading to the GPA and the UA have been markedly different, as have the nature and content of the agreements themselves. Furthermore, Zimbabwe’s world context has significantly changed in the last twenty years, meaning that crude parallels between the UA and the GPA may be neither particularly useful nor instructive.

In order to assess the relative circumstances prevailing for and against MDC and ZAPU various factors should be considered. These include:

  • the relative extent of the support bases of the two parties in their respective historical moment
  • the extent and nature of the repression against the two parties prior to the signing of their respective deals
  • the extent of supportive resources for ZAPU/MDC within the broader context of the nation, including general knowledge of and empathy for the repression among ordinary citizens, media coverage including access to and dissemination of information about unfolding events, and support from civil society nationally for the victimised groups in each era.
  • the extent of understanding and support for victimised groups in Zimbabwe within the neighbouring states and their ability and willingness to respond – in the 1980s compared to post 2000
  • the extent of understanding and support for the victimised groups within the broader international community, and its ability and willingness to respond, in the 1980s and post 2000
  • the power and cohesion of the ruling party in 1987 and in 2008, and the socio-economic strength of the nation in each era
  • Most importantly – the very nature of the agreements between ZAPU/ZANU PF in 1987, and MDC / ZANU PF in 2008.
An overview of the circumstances of the Unity Accord of 1987 in comparison to those of the Global Political Agreement of 2008
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Sun, February 15 2009 » Essays, Global Political Agreement, History

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