Monday 21, July 2008 will go down in history. The leaders of the two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formations and ZANU-PF signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) paving the way for negotiations for a political settlement. They even met in person and shook hands, after a decade. The Talks are set to start on July 22 in Pretoria under the facilitation of President Mbeki of South Africa.
For ordinary people the news was greeted with mixed feelings. There is excitement that finally the impasse has been broken, without a full scale civil war. There is hope emanating from the promises- such as the end of the hate laungage, increased tolerance, commitment to a lasting solution (from Mr. Tsvangirai), a new vision for Zimbabwe (from Prof. Mutambara) and a commitment to ’ chart a new way, a new way of political interaction’ from Mr Mugabe of ZANU PF.
There is, however, also anxiety because of the contraditions in the messages. President Mbeki says no party has put forward any conditionalities, but such conditionalities are evident in the Zimbabwean leaders´ speeches. What chances does this process have to succeed in such a case? The allegations of violence continue. State resources like the farm equipment and the basic goods purchased by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe continue to be used as ’thank you tokens’ to ZANU PF members for voting for President Mugabe. This is especially being done Mrs Grace Mugabe who has been to various parts of Zimbabwe, in full party colours, making donations in fulfilment of ZANU PF campaign promises. One wonders if a MDC supporter in his party’s colours could be welcomed? Worse still would the MDC leaders be allowed to address a rally in Zimbabwe today? If we are working towards a negotiated settlement it is fundamental that everyone, particularly the leadership should focus on unifying factors rather than fostering further division.
Finally, it is not clear so far what role the civil society and the ordinary people within and outside the different party structures would play in this process. The people who voted the political leaders are the key stakeholders, in whose interests, and with whom a lasting solution must be found.
In the meantime there exist a policy vacuum in Zimbabwe- since the last parliament was dissolved the credibility of policy announcements is questionable. The implications are dire in social, economic and political terms, but the greatest losers in all this will be the Zimbabweans already in severe poverty.
Zimbabweans are anxious to reach a turning point in their lives. It hinges on the talks between the leaders and unfortunately not on their votes. What a mockery of democracy!
by Ntando Ndlovu