THE year 2013 marked the fourth anniversary of the Government of National Unity (GNU) whose tenure ended with the July 31 general elections which ushered in a Zanu PF government which is enjoying a two-thirds parliamentary majority.
Report by Owen Gagare/Hebert Moyo
But the year began as it is ending under a cloud of uncertainty as the uneasy bedfellows — Zanu PF and the two MDC parties — did not have the political will to complete the constitution-making exercise which was one of the pre-requisites for elections to end the GNU.
At the beginning of the year, the Parliamentary Constitutional Select Committee (Copac), in charge of the constitution-making process, struggled to come up with a draft constitution acceptable to the triumvirate. The incessant squabbling over provisions in the draft, including devolution of power and presidential powers, among other things, ensured the process, which began in 2009, would spill over into 2013.
Such was the nature of the stalemate that it took a decision by President Robert Mugabe to cut short his annual holiday in the Far East to come back to negotiate with then GNU co-principals, former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai (MDC-T), ex-deputy premier Arthur Mutambara and Welshman Ncube (MDC) to break the impasse and reach a deal to move the process forward. This effectively meant the principals hijacked a process that was meant to be driven by parliament.
Criticised by civil society organisations for retaining strong executive powers and for the short notice that denied Zimbabweans enough time to read the document, the draft constitution was finally put to the vote on March 15 ending a four-year-old process which gobbled over US$50 million.
While there were spirited court challenges by the Lovemore Madhuku-led National Constitutional Assembly to derail the referendum, the outcome was an overwhelming endorsement for the draft constitution.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) released figures showing 3 079 966 people voted “Yes”, 179 489 voted “No”, while 56 627 ballots were spoilt in a largely peaceful poll.
The total figure of 3 316 082 — though less than half of the country’s citizens above 18 years who were eligible to vote — was far more than the approximately 1,3 million who voted in the rejected 2000 referendum when the opposition and civil society groups’ “No” campaign prevailed over the Zanu PF regime’s “Yes” campaign.
With the referendum done, focus moved to the elections. The country had been in election mode since the beginning of the year as Mugabe and Zanu PF were keen to hold elections as early as possible without fully implementing the Global Political Agreement (GPA) — the precursor to the GNU — or following the electoral roadmap crafted by the partners in the inclusive government with the assistance of Sadc. Zanu PF, accused of intimidation, violence and rigging in most of the previous elections, was deemed afraid of a free and fair poll.
In fact, after his bid to stampede the country into early polls were blocked by the MDC formations and Sadc leaders, Mugabe vowed to have elections by March 31. His bid, however, failed.
Mugabe then sought to take advantage of a court application on by-elections by three former MDC legislators to secure an order declaring polls should be held by June 29, after asking to be excused from fulfilling Judge President Justice George Chiweshe’s directive that he should proclaim dates of polls in those constituencies by March 31.
The Attorney-General’s Office, however, dropped the case after Tsvangirai challenged Mugabe’s push to hold general elections on June 29 through the backdoor.
In April, serious clashes erupted in cabinet over the voter registration process after thousands of people countrywide were turned away from registering. Uniformed forces were accused of bussing in potential voters to registration centres in Zanu PF strongholds where they were registered without hassles, while in MDC strongholds the exercise proceeded at a snail’s pace.
Cabinet came up with a number of resolutions to facilitate the voter registration programme, among them not making it mandatory for one to have proof of residence, but thousands were still turned away.
Then a godsend for Mugabe came: A Harare man, Jealous Mawarire, filed an application at the Constitutional Court (Concourt) on May 3 seeking an order compelling Mugabe and his coalition partners to immediately proclaim election dates.
Mawarire argued there was a possibility that after the automatic dissolution of parliament on June 29, the country would effectively be governed by decree thereby creating a constitutional crisis. So on May 31 Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku ruled that polls should be held by July 31 amid suspicious the issue was contrived by Zanu PF and state security agencies.
Despite protestations from the MDCs and concerns from Sadc over readiness to hold elections, on June 13 Mugabe issued a proclamation fixing July 31 as the date for elections and June 28 as the date for nomination of candidates using Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act, thus bypassing parliament.
In the wake of Mugabe’s unilateral declaration, Tsvangirai and Ncube joined hands with other parties to fight the ruling. They wrote to Sadc facilitator, South African President Jacob Zuma outlining how Mugabe had violated the constitution in his move.
Sadc convened an extra-ordinary summit in Maputo, Mozambique, on June 15 where regional leaders cornered Mugabe, ordering him to go back to the Concourt to seek an extension of the election date, something then Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa later scuttled. The court upheld its earlier ruling.
A seemingly weary Sadc leadership allowed Mugabe to have his way and elections were held on July 31. Mugabe crushed his main opponent, Tsvangirai, getting 61% of the vote compared to his 34%. Zanu-PF also claimed a two-thirds majority in parliament winning 158 of the 210 contested seats.
Tsvangirai immediately rejected and declared the results null and void, but he was dealt a blow when Sadc and AU observer missions declared the elections reflected the will of the people although they refused to say they were free, fair and credible.
Tsvangirai subsequently challenged the results in the Concourt before withdrawing the case, but the court insisted he could not withdraw and thus confirmed Mugabe winner.
Mugabe was later sworn in at the National Sports Stadium on August 22 where only a handful of African leaders attended. He then appointed his 26-member cabinet on September 10.
With a cast of 23 men, some of whom have been there for 33 years and others for at least two decades, Mugabe’s cabinet came out as old wine in new bottles and failed thus to meet expectations of a lean, performance-driven team with a healthy mix of young technocrats and experience.
As the year drew to an end, it became clear Mugabe’s cabinet had no clue on how to tackle economic issues even if it had come up with yet another blueprint, the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation. So capital flight (at least US$1 billion was lost before and after elections due to capital flight), company closures and liquidity crunch became rampant. Depositors are now besieging banks demanding their money.
MPs also appeared equally clueless on how to tackle the myriad of challenges, instead concentrating on demands for allowances and other privileges.
After the elections, factional clashes erupted in Zanu PF during provincial elections ahead of the party’s annual conference held last week and its elective congress next year.
The provincial elections last month saw the faction controlled by Vice-President Joice Mujuru seizing nine out of 10 provinces amid all-too-familiar allegations of disenfranchisement, voter register manipulation, vote-buying and ballot rigging.
The faction controlled by Justice minister Emerson Mnangagwa only managed to win in Matabeleland North.
The Zanu PF conference proved to be just another damp squib, with nothing significant coming out of it except Mugabe’s usual and tedious anti-West ramblings. Nothing concrete came out of it to deal with the economic malaise gripping Zimbabwe.
As the year closes, the main question remains: who will take over from Mugabe, either at the end of his five-year tenure or if he goes in-between for whatever reason and where will the country be heading in 2014?