Understanding the true construction and meaning of the inclusive government – By Mutumwa Mawere

COLUMNST – On 25 March 2009, in his maiden speech to the parliament of Zimbabwe under the theme: “Understanding and Embracing the new dispensation in Zimbabwe”, the Deputy Prime Minister, Professor Arthur Mutambara responded to President Mugabe’s

rebuke about his utterances on Gono’s future, by clarifying his own understanding of the constitutional distribution of power in the context of the inclusive government.

Change is the only constant thing in human existence. Each day presents opportunities and challenges. Sometimes when change takes place it is difficult to appreciate its magnitude and significance.

Zimbabweans are not alone in living in a change environment but what is significant is that after so many years of no change it is often useful for one to be reminded of its form and substance especially given the complex history that has brought it about.

There mere fact that Professor Mutambara is a Deputy Prime Minister in an administration headed by President Mugabe must account for a lot in any conversation of hope and change in Zimbabwe. As he said, only the naïve including President Mugabe will behave as if it is business as usual.

Zimbabwe will never be the same. History already has a special place for Mugabe, Mutambara, and Tsvangirai and it would be wrong to argue that the inclusive government does not represent a transition from exclusionary to an involuntary inclusive dispensation characterized by what should ideally be a give and take approach to governance, a phenomenon that hitherto has regrettably not characterized the post-colonial experience.

It is not just the state actors who need a paradigm shift in the way they think and operate but all of us have to step up to the challenge by responding with a commensurate shift of approach and tactics.

The cynics who believe that Mugabe’s presence in an inclusive dispensation is toxic and counterproductive to the change agenda must draw comfort from what Professor Mutambara said in parliament last week.

Although other lesser beings continue to be daily subjected to harassment and intimidation, Professor Mutambara is still a free man, suggesting that a shift is taking place, albeit in slow motion, that points to a new dispensation in which the state can be unilaterally deployed to pursue partisan interests and agendas.

If Mutambara had used the same words that he used in parliament, I have no doubt that he would have been an excellent candidate for Chikurubi prison.

If anyone had doubts that the days of a unitary government driven by one party and one man are on the way out, the speech by Mutambara must rank as one of the most significant in helping clarify the limits and possibilities of change in Zimbabwe. He was blunt and direct but now needs to be supported by all the forces of change. It is these kinds of words that help shape the future and there can be no wrong time to say the right things especially when the present and future are clouded by the past.

We are all entitled to be skeptical and yet we must realize that the formation of the inclusive government was not informed by the benevolence of the state actors but by a sheer necessity to convert the message of the voters into some workable arrangement.

The people of Zimbabwe wanted change but the kind of change that they will get will depend on all including external partners to put flesh into what is at this stage a mere skeleton whose head is still the same as the one who presided over the systematic removal of the flesh that independence was meant to guarantee.

The kind of change people want to see cannot be a derivative of what President Mugabe and ZANU-PF want to see. We already know that the three partners who now have to lead Zimbabwe to a better address of hope and opportunity do not share the same vision and values. This is as it should be and it is now important that we assist President Mugabe in appreciating that there are better ways of reducing poverty and ignorance than his preferred model.

What is significant is that there is no provision for any unilateralism in the GPA framework compelling all the players to rethink about their approach to change. Things had fallen apart and it was evident that the centre could no longer hold requiring SADC/AU to intervene.

As Professor Mutambara remarked, the days of a monolithic centre of executive power are fading and Cabinet is and should be the new address of power rather than the incumbent in statehouse.

Gono’s wings have been clipped and in so doing the role of parliament as the vehicle of allocating national resources have been restored. However, this is work in progress and is contingent on all to counter the propaganda that Zimbabwe’s perilous economic state is solely a result of the impact of the externally imposed sanctions regime.

Professor Mutambara was right on the mark that executive authority now clearly resides in three locations: Presidency (ZANU-PF), Premiership (MDC) and Cabinet (MDC & ZANU-PF). The President’s powers have been reduced sufficiently to give comfort to many skeptics that change can come in baby steps but the direction of such change can be better understood in the design, architecture and foundation of the new structure.

Zimbabwe will have to traverse the un-trodden path with no compass and guiding aides. The President has to operate within the box and his former adversaries are acutely aware of the dangers of sleeping in a car driven by a person who has a 29-year record with known outcomes. Will it be easy for President Mugabe to change? It will never be easy but institutionally the options of pretending that yesterday is the same as today are no longer available.

Mutambara and Tsvangirai are real factors that have to be incorporated in any decisions that are made in the name of the government of Zimbabwe.

While Zimbabweans fasten their seatbelts for the turbulent journey in motion, they must be comforted that their voices count in as much as the parliament of Zimbabwe has an opportunity to transcend the limitations imposed by partisan politics to begin to address the peoples’ agenda while critically reviewing the unacceptable policies of the past.

The views expressed by Professor Mutambara on sanctions resonate with my own views that it is critically important for an honest and frank discussion on this complex subject to begin to inform policy options and choices including the proposed SADC rescue fund.

President Mugabe and Gono hold the view that has been accepted and endorsed by ZANU-PF that external sanctions are to blame for the state of the economy. Over the last 29 years, degrees of individual freedom have been reduced by the state to the extent that citizens have discounted the state as their organ to advance any collective interests.

Through corruption, poor governance, incompetence, mismanagement, fraudulent elections, political violence, the politicization and privatization of the state, and measures taken to undermine the democratic constitutional order the state has been discredited more by the conduct of its actors than by sanctions. Unless such conduct stops and the approach to governance that says the end justifies any means is changed, it is unlikely that any form of external assistance will add value to the process of change.

Notwithstanding the unresolved issues, the inclusive government has enough checks and balances built into it. However, if parliament, the judiciary and civil society surrender their power to the executive branch of government then the outcome will not be any different from the experience of the last 29 years.

Parliamentarians have no choice but to act decisively and the first stage is for them to empower citizens who have been marginalized and terrorized by their own servants for too long that they may not have any confidence to use the window of change to better advantage. The state has been operating outside the box and it is important that citizens get a better understanding of how the state was operating because in doing so it will be possible to make informed choices on who should remain in the state or who should be asked to leave.

President Mugabe has no alternative but to work with his new partners. He has made the case that his interpretation of the GPA is that he is still the custodian of change but Professor Mutambara has eloquently put a compelling counter argument.

Who is right? I think any jury will have to agree with Professor Mutambara that the winds of change have and are blowing in Zimbabwe.

The inclusive government was informed by a mutual recognition that Zimbabweans wanted change and the parties that they elected into parliament could transitionally manage such change.

The inclusive government is, therefore, a constitutional necessity and a reality. There is simply no better game plan in place. The issues that Professor Mutambara identified as outstanding i.e. the distribution of power at provincial governor level, permanent secretaries, ambassadors, and the unilateral re-appointment of the controversial RBZ governor and the appointment of the Attorney General will not to be addressed urgently.

The credibility of the inclusive government is at stake and these issues have to be solved to build confidence that the spirit of the inclusive government is informed by a Zimbabwe First agenda.

In the eighties, the Sandura Commission was able to change President Mugabe in a unique manner. If President Mugabe had been approached, for instance, for the removal of former Minister Enos Nkala from cabinet, I have no doubt that his attitude would have been the same as he has on not only Gono but many other state actors.

However, through a Commission of Inquiry, President Mugabe was not left with any choice but to accept the findings and consequences. Equally, if people did not vote for change last year, President Mugabe will still have been accommodative of what he has previously described as "deadwood".

It may be useful for Professor Mutambara to convert his wise words into concrete proposals of how citizens can be made to believe in the inclusive government. One such proposal could be the setting up of a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the alleged misconduct of not only Gono but also other state actors. This will help in better informing the kind of change that people can begin to believe in.

A danger exists that the new state actors may already have been or are being compromised by Gono’s generosity using the state machinery to induce the kind of behavior that has limited the voices of dissent to the extent that President Mugabe may now believe that no change is good change.

Professor Mutambara should be rest assured that evidence does exist confirming the criminality that people have alleged against many of the state actors who remain part of the inclusive government.

I have no doubt that President Mugabe will be a supporter of such a proposal as he evidently continues to hold the view that his administration has discharged its obligations with honor and sincerity.

Mutumwa Mawere’s weekly column is published on The Zimbabwemail.com every Monday. You can contact him at: mmawere@global.co.za