Power sharing and progress: Does Mugabe take us for fools?

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe met with the main U.S. envoy to Africa, Johnnie Carson, during the recently concluded AU summit in Libya.

The meeting was brief, as reported by the BBC, and Zimbabwe’s Herald newspaper confirmed that the parties were in disagreement on most issues.

Mugabe’s disappointment in the outcome may have been mutual (he stated that ‘nothing came out of his talks with Mr. Carson’), but it’s unlikely that his next quote was consentual: "You would not speak to an idiot of that nature,” he exclaimed.

“I was very angry with him, and he thinks he could dictate to us what to do and what not to do." He then claimed that because the Southern African Development Community (SADC) supports the Zimbabwean government, Carson’s criticisms of it are rendered irrelevant.

Zimbabwe’s power-sharing government, an alliance of Mugabe’s Zanu PF party and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), was formed in February to appease the then-opposition MDC, who accused the incumbent of vote rigging in the previous year’s election. They’ve since settled into a fragile coalition, and been unified by a desperate need to revive an ailing economy, if nothing else.

Last month, the Prime Minister traveled to several Western countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, in an attempt to raise funds. He hadn’t been away for more than a few weeks, as reported by the BBC, before the MDC chose to boycott a cabinet meeting; the meeting had been rescheduled to accommodate Mugabe’s trip to the AU summit, a move perceived by many as contemptuous and disrespectful. “[Zanu PF] has not welcomed MDC as an equal,” Thokozani Khupe, Vice President of the MDC, complained.
 


Prime Minister Tsvangirai at his office in
Harare. President Mugabe appears in 
picture on the wall. (AP Photo)
 
 

Earlier this week, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa, which itself heads a “tripartite alliance,” attempted to strengthen its electoral base by inviting the opposition Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) to join its ranks.

The IFP not only grew out of the ANC in the 1970s, it was also entrusted with its mandate when the latter was banned by South Africa’s Apartheid regime. The parties then went on to become violently competitive, after the IFP was accused of colluding with the country’s white minority.

More recently, the IFP, once a dominant force in Kwazulu Natal province, has seen a thinning of its base. This year it was defeated by the ANC in its supposed stronghold, which was in no small part due to the formidable presence of South African and ANC President Jacob Zuma, originally from Kwazulu Natal, himself.

The ANC is rooted in socialism, if not tribalism, as attested to by its clear agenda on the redistribution of wealth, and by its choice of partners in the tripartite alliance: the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the South African Communist Party (SACP).

The ANC’s foundational principles are entailed in the National Democratic Revolution (NDR), a process described on the party’s website as a series of “concentric circles or a hierarchy of involvement,” that leads to the empowerment of underrepresented and deprived segments of society. In South Africa, the central circle is occupied by the black working class.

The IFP rejected President Zuma’s merger request, with its general secretary Musa Zondi, as reported by the World News Network, saying, "The SACP is in alliance with the ANC but it retains its constitution and it has its own leaders.

So why in our case does Zuma want us to be swallowed?" The BBC’s Richard Hamilton suggests why Zuma’s appetite for power is growing; it may have to do with the fact that a merger would weaken South Africa’s main opposition party, the majority-white Democratic Alliance.
 


President Obama and Prime Minister
Tsvangirai in the Oval Office of the White
House (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari) 

Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party also has its roots in socialism, and was originally formed as a revolutionary organization to overthrow the colonial British and Rhodesian governments. Mugabe, branded as a terrorist by the world’s media in the 1970s, never considered sharing power with what he viewed as an oppressive and misguided regime.

Of his recent meeting with U.S. envoy Johnnie Carson, the Herald quotes Zimbabwe’s president as saying "We have the whole of SADC working with us, and you have the likes of little fellows like Carson, you see, wanting to say: ‘You do this, you do that.’
"Who is he?
"I hope he was not speaking for Obama. I told him he was a shame, a great shame, being an African American."

Mugabe, in one sweeping statement, consigned the bemused Carson to the furthest reaches of the NDR’s concentric circles, expecting him to know, by virtue of his ‘African Americaness,’ that African politics isn’t so straightforward, while at the same time valuing his opinion as worthless by dint of his lowly position in the hierarchy.

So Mugabe, product of a brutal colonial regime, and the only president Zimbabwe has ever known, is attempting to share power. The alliance might be falling apart, and it may not be as straightforward as it seems, but anything is possible, and we’d be foolish not to hope so.