Biti’s National Transition Authority a pointless idea for a fruitless exercise

By Whitlaw Mugwiji

The so much hyped American election has come and gone. Who would have known that the people were so much dissatisfied with the American establishment? They voted for Donald Trump showing their contempt for the establishment. The raised middle finger was unambiguously clear for the whole world to see.

One cannot disregard the people’s concerns, take their lives for granted for over a very long time and expect the people not to react.

This should have been the message the Zimbabwean opposition got from the American election. Unfortunately, our opposition and civic organisations are far more concerned about their funding which is threatened by a Trump presidency.

We must rephrase this anti-establishment rhetoric to suit our local context and re-energise our support base. We can and we must win elections against the Zanu PF rigging machinery. It’s not like we have never been there before, we beat them hands down in 2008.

Zanu PF is vulnerable and it knows it. There is too much infighting and a glaring lack of cohesion within the party and its hierarchy. We must utilise this moment, 2018 is not far, elections are upon us and boycotting is not an option. We boycotted all the by-elections and neither did that stop the sun from rising nor did the AU or SADC lose any sleep over it.  

We must wake up and make hay whilst the sun shines. Zanu PF is already preparing for 2018 elections. It has realised the impact and implications of its fight with the war veterans, which is why it is now frantically trying to woo them back by splashing $20 million on new vehicles.

Contrast this with the opposition which is still in disarray. It’s less than two years before the next elections and the opposition does not have a plan. Instead of concentrating on making the coalition a reality which is supported by nearly everyone, some members within the opposition are throwing new ideas up for discussion. This proposed National Transitional Authority (NTA) has become nothing but a distraction to the opposition. I have no doubt whatsoever that Tendai Biti and his party have good intentions but we must not forget the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Since this idea is already in the public domain the sooner we can conclude this discussion the sooner we can start concentrating our energies on the creation of the coalition.   

What is NTA?

For the Benefit of those who may not be aware of what this National Transitional Authority is I will recap just a few pointers so that we can be on the same page. Tendai Biti, his party and a few other intellectuals are saying that Zanu PF cannot be defeated through elections under the current conditions. They also think that the opposition is too weak to demand electoral reforms or to mount a credible challenge against Zanu PF 2018. Thus, in their view the only viable way to ensure free and fair elections in the future, is for all political players and civic actors to negotiate and create an authority that can manage the economy and the transitional period. The NTA is to be comprised of apolitical technocrats and guaranteed by AU and SADC.

Why would Zanu PF Give Up and Accept this Transitional Authority?

This whole proposal hinges on Zanu PF’s willingness to give up power and capitulate to this new authority. Forgive my ignorance but I have tried and failed to understand what magic trick would be used to force Zanu to agree to this arrangement.

I have asked leading and prominent members of PDP the very same question but no answers were forthcoming. How then do they expect ordinary citizens to buy into this idea when they cannot answer this primary question?

AU and SADC are the Guarantors of this NTA

Expecting the AU and SADC to play a significant role in this NTA is contrary to reason. I thought Tendai Biti at least learned something during the Global Political Agreement negotiations which were facilitated by AU.

Let me put it bluntly, the AU and SADC are neither interested in democracy nor in regime change. Their philosophy is plain and simple ‘they believe in the sovereignty of each individual state and in the case of conflict within the state they believe in peace at whatever cost’.

As far as they are concerned, Mugabe won democratic and peaceful elections in 2013. The AU and SADC no longer have the will nor the desire to take on Mugabe on this issue. Mind you South Africa which is one of the most influential countries within both the AU and SADC is facing its own challenges. There is massive social unrest in South Africa and Zuma is battling for his own survival in the ANC.

I so much doubt that the South Africa government would want to add anything on its plate at the moment.  

The legitimacy of the TNA

Tendai Biti attempted to answer this question in some video that was posted online. In his view, this question was a non-issue, he said the NTA could be treated in the same way the Global Political Agreement (GPA) was treated in 2008.

I find this response quite surprising coming from a democrat, how can the issue of legitimacy be a non-issue in any political discussion? Is he forgetting that the political parties that negotiated the GPA derived their legitimacy from the March 2008 elections which were deemed free and fair by everyone?

So, if we are not going to have elections in 2018, where would those who are going to negotiate this NTA derive their mandate from? If the mandate is to be derived from the 2013 election, then Zanu PF has got almost all the political bargaining chips in its hand. In any case, this presents legitimacy issues since the parliament’s term of office will be coming to an end.

Mugabe will not be negotiated out of power

To visualise Zimbabwe’s present day dilemma we must borrow from Antonio Gramsci who said ‘Our crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born’.

We are all in agreement that Mugabe and Zanu PF are an impediment to Zimbabwe’s progress and development yet we have never been able to force them out of power.

Mugabe will not be negotiated out of power, he is so much preoccupied with a strong desire to die in power. He is not even prepared to hand over the reins to one of his lieutenants. When are, we going to wake up and smell the coffee?

If the opposition is serious in its quest to remove Mugabe and Zanu PF from power, then it must come together without fail. They must sign a memorandum of understanding with one another and start organising protests, demanding clearly stated electoral reforms. A united opposition must go into Zanu PF stronghold campaigning mainly on Zanu PF corruption and exposing the lavish lifestyles they are living at the expense of the rural folk.

Let no one be fooled, removing Mugabe and Zanu PF from power is not be a stroll in the park. But this is not a fight we can afford to shy away.




 

  • Whitlaw Mugwiji is a political analyst for Khuluma Afrika – a center for political analysis, commentary and investigative journalism