Implications of the MDC withdrawal from Government

The MDC has formally announced a partial withdrawal from government business until all our standing issues are addressed. There have been numerous disagreements within the government of national unity (GNU) over some outstanding issues.

Foremost is the unilateral appointment of the central bank governor Dr. Gideon Gono and the attorney general Mr. Johannes Tomana. There is also the continued harassment of MDC ministerial nominee Mr. Roy Bennet under the guise of charging with terrorism and insurgency. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has said he will not swear in Roy Bennet unless he is cleared of those charges by the court of law.

In addition, there are many other violations which have been occurring over time including new farm invasions, arbitrary arrest of MDC Legislators, members and supporters and the re-establishment of militia bases presumably in preparation for a violent election which is expected to take place within the next twenty four months.

These are obviously very disturbing political developments especially in view of the situation which prevailed before the formation of the inclusive government. The greatest concern is with the destabilization of the economic stabilization efforts which the MDC had been undertaking.

Since coming to office, the MDC has relied on its economic trump card to show its worth in the GNU. This had worked very well for the MDC, having managed to arrest run away inflation, reopen schools and hospitals, and revitalize the civil service among other notable improvements. There are genuine fears that the situation could slide back to desperation. The country had been gradually moving towards stimulating investor confidence but these latest developments will have a devastatingly negative effect on the so-much needed foreign investment.

On the political front, a brutal reaction by ZANU PF hardliners cannot be ruled out. The arrest and re-detention of Roy Bennet this week speaks to something a mere naked eye can see. The MDC is dealing with a brutal regime determined to sacrifice the entire nation to sustain its client-patronage system.

There are many members of parliament from the former opposition who are still under indictment who could be easily nabbed by the ZANU PF cabal masquerading in the courts of law as law enforcement officials. The militia bases which have been re-established countrywide are meant to deal with the anticipated elections but might as well tackle unforeseen developments like the pulling out of the MDC.

Robert Mugabe desperately needs the MDC in government and this can be substantiated in various ways. First, ZANU PF failed to go ahead and form a government on its own after the June 2008 election sham. Secondly, they desperately need the economic and investor confidence which the MDC had begun to stimulate. Linked to the above, the notion of being blamed by all Zimbabweans for the slide back as a result of the withdrawal of the MDC sounds to me as an unforgivable sin to Robert Mugabe.

So do not rule out or be surprised if and when the marauding youth militias are let loose like hungry lions to devour on innocent Zimbabweans until they all say yes Mugabe is our dearest leader. White farmers are also likely to be targets due to the fact that Bennet happens to be white and to have been a successful commercial farmer before the controversial farm invasions began.

So much for the situation, let’s now look at the actors in and outside the country and how they are likely to take this. Internally, Dr. Lovemore Madhuku, chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly a radical assembly of pro-democracy organizations that are opposed to the current constitutional process has come out gun blazing: accusing the MDC of being unclear on strategy and policking with Zimbabweans. He has proposed a black and white approach where by he says the MDC cannot claim to disassociate with ZANU PF when they are still in government.

Dr. Madhuku has previously publicly differed with the MDC on the constitutional strategy which has result in a rift within the democratic forces. The civic groups which support the current constitutional process led by National Association of Non-governmental Organizations and the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition will likely take a mild cautious approach, towing the line of the MDC and emphasizing the need to follow the spirit of the GNU to the latter.

On the international front, we are likely to see varying reactions. As expected, Botswana President Col Ian Khama has come out strong in defense of democracy, charging that his country will not recognize Robert Mugabe if the MDC were to pull out. This in not likely to become a uniform pattern for the other SADC and even AU leaders. For the most part, they are likely to remain mum and at best secretly ask former South African President Mr. Thabo Mbeki to make discreet phone calls to the Zimbabwean leaders to put their house in order.

Most likely, even pressure the MDC to return to government under the pretext that the SADC organ on defense, politics and security is addressing the issue. However, the pull out of the MDC is at the same time an issue which SADC can not afford to ignore. From the international community, the US has come out strong urging President Mugabe to uphold law and order and stop persecuting his political opponents.

This same reaction might come from the European Union however in their typically measured and diplomatic language. China will probably just search for another opportunity to extract resources in return for cheap or even recycled products.

The long and short of it is that the MDC has begun a new strategy where they are asserting their political legitimacy and showing that they are a huge party-a crucial element of the GNU which provides for its legitimacy. In that case, they are saying we cannot be bullied; we are the largest political party in Zimbabwe. The ball is now on the court of ZANU PF to offer a response. Next week we will review the situation and make new predictions based on the events that will have occurred.