National healing -- key to Zimbabwe's future

18:57, January 29, 2010      

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Zimbabwe's inclusive government should ensure that the process of national healing is not derailed, in the same manner the negotiations to iron out differences in the implementation of the power sharing agreement have been affected.

At present, the inclusive government, a product of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) of September 2008, appears to be in mortal danger following irreconcilable differences and continued bickering between the two main principals – President Robert Mugabe of Zanu-PF and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of the larger of the two MDC factions.

Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara of the other MDC faction has largely remained a mere spectator, although he spices up Mugabe and Tsvangirai's rivalry with occasional comments.

The position taken by Mugabe's party this week, the re- emergence of violence in some parts of the country, and declaration by Tsvangirai's party of a deadlock in the GPA negotiations point the way to the possible re-ignition of full- scale political violence, unless the principals manage the situation carefully.

Mugabe's party decided this week that it would no longer make any concessions with Tsvangirai's party on outstanding issues until the West lifted sanctions imposed specifically on its members and Zimbabwe in general are lifted.

Tsvangirai's party has in turn denied that it has any influence on the West lifting the sanctions, insisting, however, that Mugabe should reverse some appointments he made after the signing of the GPA and shed more power in Tsvangirai and the MDC's favor.

This has left the inclusive government treading on very thin ice, as hardline positions from any of the sides will render the transitional arrangement untenable.

Zimbabweans still have vivid memories of the violence that characterized the 2008 general and presidential elections - especially the period preceding the June presidential run-off - when many people suffered at the hands of political rivals.

Tsvangirai had to withdraw from the elections citing unprecedented violence, leaving Mugabe to win the one-horse race.

The current political bickering between Mugabe and Tsvangirai is likely to cascade down to the grass-roots where pockets of resistance to the inclusive government have always existed. A complete breakdown of relations between the two principals, therefore, has the danger of opening old wounds, leading to anarchy.

Experiences in the constitution-making process already point out to a shaky arrangement where party loyalties take precedence over reasoned thought and national interest.

Mugabe last July declared national peace days to inculcate the spirit of forgiveness and tolerance among people of different political persuasions, but lack of tolerance still exists, 11 months after the formation of the inclusive government.

However, social discord still prevails and people are still throwing stones at each other and burning properties of rival parties.

There were reports this week of homesteads being destroyed in political violence in Tsvangirai's rural home of Buhera, while in other parts of the country, some teachers have allegedly stayed away from their workplaces fearing victimization.

Most of the violence, however, is taking place in the rural areas where generally the less sophisticated members of society live and are easily used by selfish politicians.

The Organ on National Healing established at the formation of the inclusive government and co-led by three ministers from the three political parties started off well, but now appears to have lost its zeal and direction.

Zanu-PF now has to appoint a new co-minister in the organ following the elevation of John Nkomo to vice president of the country.

This has left Sekai Holland from Tsvangirai's party as the only minister in the organ. Gibson Sibanda from the Mutambara-led MDC faction remains in the organ as a consultant following his failure to secure either a parliamentary or senatorial seat.

However, whatever its composition, this organ remains the most central to Zimbabwe achieving a peaceful resolution of its problems.

Therefore, it has to come up with strategies to contain the anger, hatred and acrimony among many Zimbabweans.

The Southern African Development Community, which is the guarantor of the GPA, can only do enough to persuade the principals to operate in a certain manner. But ultimate decisions, responsibility and accountability lie with the people who put their signatures on the accord.

Source: Xinhua
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