Zimbabweans seem to put too much trust in tripartite negotiations

OPINION – When he realized that his regime was under pressure from SADC’s Troika, Robert Mugabe immediately seized the opportunity to convene negotiations on the election roadmap which he knew would go nowhere except to give him a breathing space.

Suddenly, there was a positive mood all round in the civil society that SADC had finally put pressure on Mugabe’s regime to reform. That optimism was very short lived.

Wrangling

As the week drew to a close, the truth dawned that actually nothing of substance was achieved in the weeklong negotiations or wrangling by the three parties in Zimbabwe’s coalition government. Reading between the lines, one can immediately tell that the only winner was Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-pf and the securocrats who knew very well from the start that the talks were going nowhere but were necessary to silence SADC’s disquiet about political violence, hate speech, selective arrests and denial of civil liberties. The talks were just a ceasefire.

What is disappointing is not the lack of details of the progress review of the GPA but the fact that the public was not expecting the negotiations to dwell on what they already know and that is there is no progress in the GPA. Instead people expected discussions to focus on the election roadmap. Ironically, after three days of talks, all that was achieved was a deadlock as we earlier predicted.

Security sector reforms

In the absence of security sector reforms what election roadmap can there be? Was it worthwhile for SADC to waste it’s time sending facilitators to Zimbabwe only to be kept out of fruitless talks by their hosts? Will SADC continue to watch the regime in Harare play games of hide and seek? Will Jacob Zuma be amused by the waste of his facilitators’ time in addition to the hostility he endured from the Zanu-pf press championed by Jonathan Moyo?

If the negotiations hit a snag on the election roadmap what else did they achieve which they have not disclosed? What is clear is that rather than the SADC having pulled the rug under Mugabe’s feet, it was Mugabe who actually pulled the rug from SADC’s feet by rescuing his sinking ship on false assurances that Zimbabweans would rather be left alone to take care of their own business without any foreign interference.

Happy but disappointed

The contradictory statement by the facilitation team that it was encouraged by the progress made during its visit but was unhappy and left the country frustrated on Friday 8th April is unhelpful diplomatic stuff. You cannot be happy but disappointed at the same time. Equally, the negotiators should start to take Zimbabweans seriously by giving full press briefings on what would have transpired during their talks rather than leave people guessing while the situation remains the same.

Fire-fighting tactic

One important observation of the week is that Zimbabweans seem to have put too much trust in the tripartite negotiations not realizing that it was just a fire-fighting tactic used that proved handy for Robert Mugabe’s regime. Elsewhere dictators we thought were on their way out still remain in power after adopting similar tactical maneuvers. Whoever thought that Ivory Coast’s Gbagbo would last until the weekend when he was said to be negotiating his surrender?

Clifford Chitupa Mashiri, Political Analyst, London, zimanalysis2009@gmail.com