Zimbabwe: Political and Security Challenges to the Transition

Posted on March 4, 2010 | Category: Politics; Business, Sport



As Zimbabwe enters its second year under a unity government, the challenges
to democratic transformation have come into sharp focus. Despite reasonable
progress in restoring political and social stability, ending widespread
repression and stabilising the economy since February 2009, major threats
could still derail the reform process. In particular, resistance of
intransigent and still powerful security sector leaders and fractious
in-fighting between and within the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU PF)
and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) must be addressed now. South
Africa and other countries in southern Africa – who monitor the accord that
guides the transition – must press the parties, and particularly President
Robert Mugabe, to see the transition through to a successful conclusion.
Donors should back their efforts.

The unity government, created under the Global Political Agreement (GPA)
signed by Mugabe and MDC factional leaders Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur
Mutambara, was born under a cloud of scepticism. Most observers gave it
little chance, predicting that, even as prime minister, Tsvangirai would
fall prey to Mugabe’s “divide, rule, co-opt and destroy” strategy. Against
the odds, the government started well: schools and hospitals re-opened;
civil servants were paid and returned to work; the Zimbabwe dollar was
shelved; goods returned to store shelves; and a cholera epidemic was
controlled. Human rights activists reported a significant drop in abuses.
Donors generally received well an ambitious yet pragmatic reconstruction
programme calling for $8.5 billion in foreign aid and investment.

But major concerns undermining the transition process have come to the fore.
Hardline generals and other Mugabe loyalists in ZANU PF are refusing to
implement the government’s decisions, boycotting the new national security
organ and showing public disdain for Tsvangirai. Farm seizures have
continued virtually unabated. Most attention has focused on completing the
GPA, but ZANU PF has delayed or ignored important commitments in that
document, while stalling constitutional reforms by insisting on preserving
broad executive privileges. Key blocked steps include a land audit,
appointment of MDC governors, an end of arbitrary detentions and arrests,
regular functioning of the National Security Council in place of the
infamous Joint Operations Command, public consultations on a new
constitution and preparation for elections.

These delays reflect the two deeper challenges on which this briefing
concentrates. First, a mature political system must develop, so that ZANU PF
and MDC engage as both competitors in the political arena and partners in
the inclusive government. This will be difficult, especially under the
divisive Mugabe, but other ZANU PF leaders, including the factions led by
Vice President Joice Mujuru, and Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, know
that their party has lost much popular support and needs a generational
shift. For its part, the MDC must keep faith and engaged with its broad
following in the transition process, including trade unions, human rights
groups and women’s organisations. It must also show the country as a whole
that it is a viable custodian of the state – competent, transparent, and
capable of preserving social change since independence.

Equally challenging are security issues. A relatively small number of
“securocrats” use their positions and symbiotic relationship with Mugabe to
exercise veto power over the transition. They are motivated by differing
factors: fear of losing power and its financial benefits, fear of
prosecution for political or financial abuses, and a belief that they guard
the liberation heritage against Tsvangirai and the MDC, which they view as
fronts for white and Western interests. Zimbabweans across the political
spectrum are quietly considering how to ease these officers into retirement,
even at the cost of allowing them to keep their assets and providing them a
degree of impunity from domestic prosecution, while simultaneously
professionalising security forces respectful of human rights and a
democratically elected government.

While the primary tasks ahead rest with Zimbabweans, the Southern African
Development Community (SADC) must take seriously its GPA guarantor role.
South African President Jacob Zuma’s activism as mediator must convey the
message that the region will abide no alternative to the GPA. His recent
actions, including appointment of three respected advisers to oversee the
Zimbabwe account, are welcome indications he will be tougher vis-à-vis
Mugabe on GPA obligations and respect for rule of law.

The broader international community, especially the UK, US, EU and China,
should support and complement SADC’s efforts through careful calibration of
trade, aid, and investment to encourage progress; maintenance of targeted
sanctions on those thwarting the transition; and lifting of sanctions on
entities key to economic recovery. Donors should provide new recovery and
development assistance – including for rural development, health and
education and strengthening of the judiciary, legislature and civil
society – through transparent mechanisms, such as the Multi-Donor Trust

This briefing focuses on political party and security issues, as well as
South Africa’s mediation. Subsequent reporting will analyse other topics
vital to the transition, including constitutional and legal reform, justice
and reconciliation, sanctions policies and security sector reform.


Ten months after the violent and disputed 29 March 2008 elections that led
to political stalemate with the long-time ruling ZANU PF party of President
Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai’s wing of the opposition Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC-T) announced it would enter the government alongside ZANU PF and
the splinter MDC-Mutambara (MDC-M) faction. This followed an extraordinary
summit of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) on 26 January
2009, whose final communiqué called for Tsvangirai to be sworn in as the
prime minister by 11 February and the remainder of the government two days

The unity government was formed under the auspices of the Global Political
Agreement (GPA), which had been hammered out with SADC assistance during
lengthy negotiations. The GPA spelled out a specific continuing role for the
regional mediators in monitoring and supporting its implementation. This was
especially important, since most observers believed that the agreement was
essentially unworkable, having established two centres of power within a
single government but leaving most real political and military authority
with Mugabe, his party and the hardline security establishment. Many
considered that the African Union (AU), SADC, and the primary mediator, the
then South African President Thabo Mbeki, had been too accommodating and
respectful of Mugabe during the negotiation process. Additional concerns
emerged after the GPA was signed, as Mugabe was allowed to ignore deadlines
and otherwise repeatedly undermined the agreement without consequence.

Now into its second year, however, the inclusive government is making
discernible, if slow and painful progress in a number of areas, bringing a
degree of stability and predictability to a country that twelve months
earlier was on the brink of collapse. Most notably, schools and hospitals
have reopened, multi-million per cent inflation has come down to single
digits, government revenue has begun to pick up and shops are fully stocked
with food and other commodities.

Key Western donors have been slow to embrace the new government largely
because of its failure to fully implement the GPA and their continuing
antipathy toward Mugabe. For much of 2009, donors provided welcome expansion
of humanitarian assistance, but generally adopted a wait-and-see posture on
longer-term financial support for recovery and reconstruction. This risked
thwarting the very changes the international community is seeking, both by
weakening the hand of relative moderates in ZANU PF and more generally by
undercutting popular support for the reform process. More recently, the US,
UK and European Union (EU), among others, have expanded the definition of
“humanitarian assistance” to cover many important social and economic
sectors, such as agriculture, health, sanitation and education.


Rebuilding a devastated economy with a 90 percent unemployment rate is a
daunting challenge for the inclusive government. Finance Minister Tendai
Biti has won praise for his steps to restore a degree of confidence and
fiscal stability, but the prospects for rapid recovery are weak, not least
because the fragile inclusive government and incomplete GPA have caused
investors to shy away. Recently, government workers have gone on strike to
demand a pay increase beyond the $160 monthly stipend they are generally now
receiving, which they point out is insufficient to cover even basic costs of
living in Harare and other urban centres.

Nevertheless, there are some signs of recovery. GDP grew 4.7 percent in
2009, the first positive totals in a decade. The 2010 budget aims for 7
percent GDP growth, underpinned by 10 percent growth in agriculture, as was
already achieved the previous year, and 40 percent growth in mining. Since
the Zimbabwe dollar was suspended and the US dollar and South African rand
adopted as legal tender, inflation has fallen from an official 231 million
percent in July 2008 to a 6 percent average in 2009 and is forecast at 5.1
percent in 2010. The International Monetary Fund extended $510 million to
Zimbabwe as its share under an expansion of the Special Drawing Rights (SDR)
facility that was authorised as a response to the global economic crisis.
This has been earmarked for debt clearance, support of the budget and
productive sectors, and water and sanitation, health and education needs.

The improved economy and donor pledges to cover half the $718 million
required to cope with disease and hunger have been reflected in a lessening
of the formerly dire humanitarian situation. Cholera, which had become
rampant in late 2008, was brought under control in 2009, but there are
warnings of a potentially new serious outbreak during the current rainy


Ultimately, the economy cannot be restored to health through technical
measures alone. The political reforms envisaged in the GPA are needed.
Helped by the regional re-engagement that resulted from the SADC Maputo
summit in November 2009, there has been some gradual progress on
implementation since the MDC-T briefly suspended participation in the unity
government the previous month to protest ZANU-PF’s intransigence in
discussions to move forward on GPA requirements.

Independent commissions have now been formed to address media, human rights
and election issues. Notwithstanding statements to the contrary by senior
ZANU-PF officials, a land audit may soon begin that would not just be a
survey but rather an attempt to lay the groundwork for addressing this most
sensitive reform area, including multiple farm ownership, production by new
farmers, compensation for former white commercial farmers and an end to farm
invasions. Arbitrary and politically motivated detentions and arrests have
declined, though they have not ceased entirely, and the repressive Public
Order Security and Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Acts
(POSA and AIPPA) remain on the books.

The challenges of completing the GPA, crafting a new constitution and moving
toward elections could yet cause the inclusive government to collapse. A
number of issues are still outstanding in the protracted negotiations over
GPA implementation. Indeed, the six on the original agenda have ballooned to
27, as the MDC-T, MDC-M and ZANU PF have brought in additional topics they
considered had either been overlooked when the mediation began or had gained
prominence during the course of the negotiations.

The negotiators have agreed to postpone to the end the especially
contentious appointment of MDC-T’s Roy Bennett as deputy agriculture
minister as well as the status of Mugabe stalwarts, Reserve Bank Governor
Gideon Gono and Attorney General Johannes Tomana, whom the MDC believe were
re-appointed to their positions unilaterally by Mugabe in violation of GPA
provisions requiring consultations. Agreement has been reached on sharing
provincial governors, though the dates of their appointments have not yet
been determined. How the new National Security Council (NSC) is to function
as a successor to the infamous Joint Operations Command (JOC) is still
sharply contested.

Controversial matters introduced by the MDC-T and remaining open include
security sector reform and compliance with the National Security Act, a
framework for government operations (including procedures for chairing of
the Cabinet when the president is not present) and rule of law topics such
as freedom of assembly and association.

ZANU PF has put forward for consideration such issues as removal of
sanctions, donor-funded parallel government structures, the role and funding
of non-governmental organisations, selective funding of ministries and other
entities by donors and the functions of the Multi-Donor Trust Fund, a basket
fund coordinated by the international community to support the inclusive

The constitutional reform outreach programme intended to lead to a new
constitution kicked off on 7 January 2010 but needs greater impetus. There
is a growing recognition that this process cannot be the exclusive preserve
of government and legislative committees, but rather must be a national
exercise with full participation of civil society groups. This is especially
essential for the MDC, since there are concerns that the party is losing
contact with its popular base. Civil society activists and unions have
complained, however, that the process is being driven by political elites
for their own purposes, and some have even called for the international
community to withdraw support for the transition until a credible
consultation process has been adopted.

It is positive, nevertheless, that there is increasing acceptance across the
political divide that the “Kariba Draft” – agreed by the inclusive
government’s three parties under Mbeki’s mediation – cannot be the only
reference for the new constitution, since it incorporates a number of
potentially anti-democratic principles, most notably further enhancement of
executive powers at the expense of legislative or judicial authority.

While many political figures believe a broadly acceptable compromise draft
is likely by the end of the year, sharp differences remain between the
parties. A blueprint written by ZANU PF strategists linked to the hardline
camp around Emmerson Mnangagwa suggests that the party remains committed to
an all-powerful presidency. While the 41-page document – a comparative
analysis of ZANU PF and MDC-T constitutional positions – gives an insight
into the long-time ruling party’s intention to preserve an authoritarian
centralist government, the notion of an imperial presidency is not shared by
the party wing around Vice President Joice Mujuru and her husband,
ex-general, now prominent businessman Solomon Mujuru. The MDC-T wants
executive authority to be shared between president, prime minister and
Cabinet, with internal checks and balances within the executive.

ZANU PF – arguing that the past year has shown two centres of power are
unworkable – supports a presidential system of government. The ZANU PF
document states:

The experience of the people of Zimbabwe with the inclusive government since
February 2009 has shown that sharing of executive power by the President and
Prime Minister will result in . . . always a fight for power rather than
progress. If there has to be a Prime Minister, he [should] not have
executive authority. He is only a senior minister appointed and accountable
to the President. In the SADC region, the prevalent arrangement is Head of
State and leader of government.

Finally, preparations need to be made for presidential and parliamentary
elections. There is much discussion of delaying these for several years,
perhaps until 2013, so as to put electoral politics aside while the country
copes with massive economic and social tasks. Many in Tsvangirai’s camp
believe their party has not yet built a strong record in government and are
equally concerned over how the military would react to a potential MDC-T
victory.  Meanwhile, many ZANU PF stalwarts believe their party would be
convincingly defeated, since recent polls indicate its support is now less
than 20 percent.

Though it is still possible that Mugabe might dissolve the government in an
attempt to catch the opposition off-guard with a rigged snap election as
early as 2011, this seems unlikely at present, partly because of increased
international scrutiny and engagement.


Despite the current stalemate on outstanding GPA issues, there is some
prospect that compromises can eventually be reached, though only with the
help of intense mediation. However, security sector reform – firmly rejected
by Mugabe – has emerged as a key challenge. Failure to initiate this process
could unravel the inclusive government, prevent a smooth transition to the
post-Mugabe era and raise real prospects of a coup, with accompanying
instability that would affect the whole region. A dozen or so
“securocrats” – senior military and intelligence figures – are widely
considered to hold de facto veto power over any real transition. A cabal of
powerful generals, with the support of elements in ZANU PF, still believes
that Tsvangirai should not be permitted to lead the country, even if he wins
an election. The MDC-T leadership has raised this implicit threat with SADC
leaders. The issue is so sensitive that it was not addressed in the
Mbeki-led GPA negotiations, but it has become a key agenda item for the new
mediation team appointed by Jacob Zuma, his successor as South African

Moreover, even if the inclusive government completes the GPA, achieves a new
democratic constitution and addresses the electoral process, the transition
will not be assured unless a broader challenge is met, namely development of
the political system to ensure that ZANU PF and the MDC-T balance political
competition with cooperation in governance. This will be particularly
difficult as long as the divisive Mugabe is at the helm. At the December
2009 ZANU PF congress, he retained his party presidency unchallenged for an
additional five-year term, thus positioning himself to contest another
national election.


The three principal parties to the GPA went into the inclusive government
with a stated objective of securing political stability, initiating economic
recovery and holding fresh elections under a new constitution within
eighteen months, that is, by March 2010.

While that date is no longer realistic, the government’s perceived successes
and failures have emerged as the key battleground between the parties as
they position themselves for an eventual electoral test.

ZANU PF – divided along factional lines on strategy, still seized with its
Mugabe succession problem and battling to retain power that it has only
reluctantly shared in the inclusive arrangement – comes close to unity only
in its intent to frustrate reforms whose benefits would accrue primarily to
the MDC-T. The MDC-T believes that success for the inclusive government in
instituting political reforms and economic recovery would pave the way for
it to win the right to form the next government after elections. MDC-M
leaders, recognising their party lacks a solid base, are hedging their bets,
seeking to keep the inclusive government functioning, while searching for an
advantageous alliance ahead of a national vote.


1. The Mnangagwa camp’s hard line

ZANU PF’s overall objective in the inclusive government is to undercut any
major political and economic reforms associated with the MDC-T and Prime
Minister Tsvangirai. Under Emmerson Mnangagwa, the defence minister and
presidential hopeful, and with the support of military leaders, ZANU PF’s
participants in the unity government want to neutralise Tsvangirai and his
party’s ministers, while taking advantage of the former opposition’s
presence in government to push for the removal of targeted travel and
related international sanctions on Mugabe and his party’s ministers.

This approach has Mugabe’s backing but, for reasons related to ZANU PF’s
ongoing internal power struggle, not that of the Mujuru faction. Mnangagwa
allies control the state bureaucracy, while Mujuru allies control what
remains of grassroots support in those provinces the party dominates.
Mugabe, conscious that neither faction commands overwhelming support within
the party or sufficient national popularity to ascend to power on its own,
plays them against each other in order to maintain his grip on the divided
movement. While he has tended to side with Mnangagwa in dealings with the
MDC-T, he has mostly favoured the Mujurus on internal ZANU PF decisions.

The attempt to frustrate the MDC-T includes at the national level:

.         securing a five-year term for the inclusive government (to 2013),
with Mugabe at the helm until then or he decides to retire, while making
both it and the parliament dysfunctional; steps in this regard continue,
including acts of lawlessness such as continued farm invasions, violations
of property and investment rights, and resistance to political and economic
reforms so as to discredit the MDC-T both nationally and internationally as
an effective political force;

.         retaining control of key state institutions and reducing
Tsvangirai to a ceremonial prime minister, while discrediting, compromising
and corrupting him and his party’s ministers;

.         derailing the pace of the constitutional reform process; and

.         inducing fears of a military coup should Tsvangirai win the
election and attempt to take over from Mugabe.

The plan is executed at government level by ZANU PF permanent secretaries,
whose appointments Tsvangirai accepted in the misguided belief that they
would act as professional civil servants.

All these ZANU PF loyalists selected by Mugabe were first recommended by
Misheck Sibanda, chief secretary to the Cabinet and a key Mnangagwa ally. In
general, the permanent secretaries have taken advantage of the inexperience
of MDC-T ministers to acquire free rein in determining the pace and
implementation of government decisions and policies.

Permanent secretaries in education and public service ministries, for
example, have in effect overturned decisions by their ministers with regard
to new school fees structures and a manpower audit of the civil service, on
whose payrolls ZANU PF has placed more than 20 000 youth militia members.

George Charamba, the influential permanent secretary in the information and
publicity ministry, who doubles as Mugabe’s spokesperson, has denigrated the
work of the government in which he serves, saying, “I am in the kitchen;
there’s lots of smoke but hardly much cooking going on”.

This characterisation suits those in ZANU PF who fear that the electorate
would credit successes primarily to Tsvangirai and the MDC-T.

Likewise, strategists aligned with Mnangagwa calculate, failures of the
inclusive government are more likely to cast doubt on Tsvangirai’s capacity
to provide effective national leadership.

Tsvangirai is also being prevented from demonstrating authority. He has not
been able to chair a single Cabinet session, even though the GPA makes him
deputy chairman of Cabinet as well as prime minister and leader of
government business in Parliament. He should normally exercise the chair
function in the president’s absence, but ZANU PF argues at the GPA
negotiations that allowing him to do so would make the two vice presidents,
Joice Mujuru and John Nkomo, redundant, causing further tension in the
already fractious party.

Consequently, those senior ZANU PF members alternate in chairing the Cabinet
when Mugabe is absent. On 25 January, Mugabe issued a written order for all
ministers to report to the vice presidents and their permanent secretaries,
not to Tsvangirai, on the execution of government business. While the order
was subsequently withdrawn, the MDC-T considered it a blatant attempt to
neuter the prime minister’s office.

In addition to frustrating the constitutional reform process so as to extend
the lifespan of the inclusive government, a second strand of the strategy
involves ensuring that parliament does not pass laws that would affect ZANU
PF control of state institutions.  Even though the two MDC parties together
constitute a small majority in the legislature, only eight bills have been
passed in more than a year, two of which were meant to facilitate formation
of the inclusive government, and the parliament has limited its work days
due to inadequate funding.

While ZANU PF’s bloc has used parliamentary procedures to stall movement,
this meagre legislative record is also partly the result of the MDC-T’s own
failings (see below).

Mnangagwa supporters believe that despite its problems, the inclusive
government could well limp on for a full term until 2013, with Mugabe at the
helm, as the constituent parties have no better alternative. They consider
that this would give their camp time to regroup from its failure to tilt the
balance of power at the ZANU PF December 2009 congress, when it supported
the unsuccessful candidacy of ZANU PF Women’s League chair Oppah Muchinguri
to oust incumbent Vice President Joice Mujuru. They hope also that, after
elections, they can dominate a new coalition government through alliance
with MDC-M and perhaps even some MDC-T elements.

The Mnangagwa camp and its military allies, led by Defence Forces Commander
General Constantine Chiwenga, was behind the resolution at the December
congress instructing Mugabe to make no further concessions on outstanding
GPA issues until the MDC-T provides satisfaction on a number of ZANU PF
demands, including the removal of targeted Western sanctions against party

2.         The Mujuru camp’s pragmatism

The Mujuru camp believes the successes the inclusive government has achieved
and its ability to put a crimp in Mnangagwa’s presidential ambitions at the
December congress have strengthened its chances to control the party and
retain significant national power when Mugabe eventually retires or dies.
Its dominance in the new politburo announced on 10 February 2010 by Mugabe
confirmed that it is tightening its grip on the party leadership.

Mujuru supporters no longer call for Mugabe’s early exit, instead supporting
him to stay until a moment of his own choosing. This shift results from a
conclusion that he is too strong to be forced out at present and that his
continued prominence provides cover for their largely behind-the-scenes
manoeuvres to consolidate their position for the eventual showdown with
Mnangagwa. Consequently, the Mujurus seek to promote further achievements
for the inclusive government and building lines to Tsvangirai and the MDC-T
that could eventually result in a coalition. They realise that it would be
difficult in the immediate term for any ZANU PF candidate to beat Tsvangirai
and the MDC-T in reasonably free and fair elections but conclude that
Zimbabwe is likely to need an inclusive government for at least the next
decade regardless of which party does best in a national vote.

This strategy requires Joice Mujuru, 54, to retain the country’s senior vice
presidency, a position that gives her the inside track to ascend to the
presidency if Mugabe retires or dies before the end of his term. The current
constitution provides that in such a contingency the senior vice president
acts as head of state for a 90-day period followed by elections. The GPA
stipulates that ZANU PF would appoint a successor for the remainder of
Mugabe’s term. Because of her seniority, that would also favour Joice

In either event, the Mujuru camp considers that an alliance with Tsvangirai
would be necessary to solidify Joice’s position. She herself has privately
told supporters she would have no problem working with Tsvangirai in the
post-Mugabe period, though in public she talks tough about the MDC-T leader.
A senior ally in the ZANU PF politiburo said, “she recognises Tsvangirai as
an undeniable key player in Zimbabwe politics and in any future arrangement,
hence strategic political relations are being cultivated across the party
divide using the platform of the inclusive government”.

Cabinet ministers linked to the Mujurus have established a degree of
confidential collaboration with their MDC-T counterparts and Tsvangirai to
promote the reform agenda. This is still mainly preparatory and has not yet
produced concrete legislative achievements, however, because the Mujurus
rightly fear that to come into the open now would leave them vulnerable to
criticism from the hawks within their own party.

The Mujuru camp advocates a constitution providing for an executive prime
minister and a president with considerably less power than at present. Its
assessment is that there will need to be a second inclusive government of
some kind after Mugabe leaves the scene and that such a constitutional
arrangement would be advantageous under the two likeliest scenarios – both
of which acknowledge that it may have to be content with the junior role in
a partnership with Tsvangirai and the MDC-T. If the Mujurus lose the
internal party battle to Mnangagwa, they might throw their support behind
MDC-T in the elections and Tsvangirai as a strong prime minister in exchange
for the backing of Joice as a relatively weak president. Even if the Mujurus
win control of ZANU PF, however, they doubt they could defeat Tsvangirai
nationally, so the presidential post would be a reasonable second best in a
political settlement to which they would bring their presumed ability to
placate a critical mass of the military.

A close Mujuru adviser summed up: “Tsvangirai and MDC-T would be key in any
future dispensation, and our political strategies are alive to that reality”.

3.         Clan politics and the Mugabe succession – the “Zezuru mafia”

The December congress that retained Mugabe at the helm of the party for
another five years appeared to confirm the view that the octogenarian wants
to die in office rather than face an uncertain future in retirement. Barring
any major midstream leadership changes, Mugabe, who turned 86 on 21 February
2010, now seems likely to stand for re-election. However, clan and regional
fault lines that will influence the question of his eventual successor as
party leader were also highlighted at the congress.

While Mugabe has kept his authority in the party in part by skilfully
playing the Mujuru and Mnangagwa factions against each other, he has also
relied heavily on the fact that the presidium – the party president, two
vice presidents and the national chairman – is dominated by members of his
Zezuru clan. He used that connection again in December 2009 to keep his
position unassailable. In particular, the Zezuru line-up in both the
presidium and politburo beat back relatively marginalised clans, mainly the
Karangas led by Emmerson Mnangagwa, who believe it is their turn to have
more power. A key consequence of this latest round of clan politics was,
therefore, the strengthening of the Mujurus’ position vis-a-vis Mnangagwa.

The Zezuru dominance results from the 1980 division of Zimbabwe into ten
provinces. Mashonaland (Zezuru) was cut up into four provinces: West, East,
Central and Harare; Matebeleland (Ndebele) into three: North, South and
Bulawayo; and Masvingo (Karanga) into only two, Masvingo and Midlands, while
Manicaland (Manyika) remained undivided.

On any decision in ZANU PF, the Zezuru grouping, now headed by the Mujuru
camp, has a virtual veto and needs only two other provinces to carry the
day. Moreover, the strength of the Mashonaland East and Central vote for
ZANU PF in past national elections has increased the leverage of the Zezurus
generally and the Mujuru camp specifically.

The Karangas, who are 35 percent of the national population to the Zezurus’
25 percent, received none of the top five party posts at the 2004 congress
and were determined to do better in December 2009. By the eve of the
congress, however, it was apparent they would fail. Basil Nyabadza resigned
as party chairman for Manicaland in protest at what he described as a flawed
nomination process and told Crisis Group: “Some leaders are like UN
permanent Security Council members”, a reference to Mugabe’s rigid
allocation of presidium positions based on the ZANU/ZAPU 1987 unity accord.
While the congress’s rejection of the Karanga-Mnangagwa initiative and
confirmation of Zezuru dominance within the party gave the Mujuru camp an
edge in the succession struggle, it at the same time exacerbated clan
tensions that risk erupting into conflict at the national level in the
post-Mugabe era.

4.         Tsholotsho II

Mnangagwa, 65, has the support of the ZANU PF leadership in Manicaland,
Midlands, Masvingo and Matebeleland South, but these provinces have been
MDC-T strongholds in recent elections. This suggests that he starts well
behind in any three-way national contest against Tsvangirai and Joice
Mujuru. He is a resilient politician, however. Despite a series of setbacks
in the past ten years, he continues to marshal support and remains a serious
contender for power. Having been thwarted in the campaign to bring down
Joice Mujuru at the December congress, his camp is having more success in
its current campaign, called Tsholotsho II,  to return key allies –
suspended or marginalised in the aftermath of the 2004 congress defeat – to
influence in party structures.

A Mnangagwa supporter in the ZANU PF politburo said, “we are creating our
party within the main party – it’s one of the strategies which we are
crafting to ready ourselves for the challenges ahead to win the presidency”.
Mnangagwa is also using his defence minister portfolio to strengthen ties to
the security establishment, and his emissaries have even begun to explore
possible alliances with Tsvangirai and the MDC-T, or at least some elements
of that party.

Nothing is impossible in politics. There are no permanent friends or
enemies. All options are open for consideration. Our Plan A is for our
preferred candidate to ascend to power on his own. Our Plan B is to consider
how we can forge an alliance with MDC-T and Tsvangirai, though this is still
a remote possibility at this juncture.

B.         MDC-T

1.         Advancing the inclusive government

The MDC-T leadership believes that it will ultimately be judged by the
electorate on its record in office. As a result, it has been focused over
the past year on pushing implementation of the GPA and making the inclusive
government functional. Thus, it has given relatively little attention to
growing the party by building alliances and to shoring up its structures
countrywide. Tsvangirai considers that a successful inclusive government
would pave the way for the MDC-T to take responsibilities more firmly into
its hands after fresh elections, since it can prove to sceptics that it is
competent and can be entrusted with stewardship of the country. He told
Crisis Group:

We are in this inclusive government to restore political and economic
stability and give Zimbabwe hope for a better tomorrow and a chance for a
fresh beginning, and we believe, besides the setbacks and frustration, we
have managed to do that in the past year . . . Zimbabweans have seen a
modest peace dividend and want more. Our challenge is to deliver on that

The decision to enter government was driven by a pragmatic assessment that
Mugabe, ZANU PF hardliners and the security forces held a monopoly of force,
were willing to use it against opponents and were favoured by Mbeki, the
SADC mediator. The MDC-T calculated that in those circumstances, its
capacity to effect change would be greater inside than outside government,
and it believes that events are proving it correct.

The party is proudest of the inclusive government’s ability to overcome
obstacles put up by the ZANU PF hardliners and its limited financial
resources to record some impressive economic gains. Finance Minister Tendai
Biti said the MDC-T had managed “to stop the bleeding and to bring sanity to
the governance of economic affairs under very difficult circumstances . . .
An economy works on the basis of predictability and trust, and what we have
done in the past ten months is to bring predictability, consistency and
therefore some legitimacy”.

Though Biti added that the recovery is fragile, and more donor support is
needed to sustain the momentum for change and avoid a relapse, economic
stability has caused Tsvangirai’s popularity to rise. A poll by the
reputable Harare-based Mass Public Opinion Institute (MPOI) in September
found that 57 percent would vote for Tsvangirai, 10 percent for Mugabe in
new elections.

Tsvangirai believes that the international community should reward progress
by extending aid for reconstruction and development. “There is no dispute in
everyone’s assessment that there is, indeed, progress being made in
Zimbabwe, and how do you reward that progress? By moving away from just
humanitarian aid to economic growth, development aid and ensuring that any
existing restrictions are removed”.

Attempting to walk a tightrope with its ZANU PF partners in the inclusive
government, the MDC-T wants the lifting of “non-personal sanctions” – those
impacting government entities vital to economic recovery, such as the
Agricultural Bank of Zimbabwe – but targeted measures retained on
individuals who continue to block meaningful political reforms.

Tsvangirai has written to EU leaders, including UK Prime Minister Gordon
Brown, urging a general review of restrictive measures, while Biti requested
the EU to free eight government companies from its sanctions. On 15
February, the EU responded by renewing the sanctions regime for a year,
while dropping nine companies from the list.

2.         The Tsvangirai/Mujuru axis

The MDC-T originally anticipated that the inclusive government would last at
most two years, during which rapid political and economic reforms would be
followed by fresh elections. This expectation has been modified by political
realities, and a senior Tsvangirai aide summed up the frustration: “You
really wonder whether Mugabe is in charge. Maybe we should have directly
negotiated with the military during the mediation, because they appear to be
the ones calling the shots”.

Tsvangirai has suggested publicly that an early election might be necessary
to break the impasse, but this appears to be a tactic to put pressure on
ZANU PF. He realises that more time is required to democratise state
institutions and put a new constitution in place, so the MDC-T may be
prepared to stay in uneasy harness with ZANU PF in the inclusive government
for a full five-year term.

Tsvangirai and his team are consequently taking a two-pronged approach,
pushing for incremental gains on political reforms through the negotiation
process, while seeking to take full charge of the economy through Biti’s
finance ministry. Jameson Timba, the MDC-T deputy information and publicity
minister, told Crisis Group:

We have ring-fenced the ZANU PF economic tsar, Reserve Bank Governor Gideon
Gono, and our minister, Biti, is in control. On that front, we have made
huge strides because the treasury has reclaimed its power, which was not the
case before. Now we are going to pitch the fight to expedite political

Party strategists worry that if the inclusive government collapses before
meaningful political reforms are implemented, elections would be held under
the current constitution in an even more hostile environment conducive to
ZANU PF rigging than March 2008.

 ZANU-PF hawks are mainly responsible for frustrating reforms, but the MDC-T
shares blame for failing to lead in parliament, where it has not used the
speakership and its plurality to initiate progressive legislation to open
political space. It has not moved aggressively, for example, against
restrictive laws like AIPPA and POSA. The MDC-M leadership has threatened
its legislators with party expulsion if they get too close to the Tsvangirai
wing of the once unified movement, and, as noted above, the Mujuru camp of
ZANU-PF is not yet prepared to cooperate openly. But some MDC-T leaders in
government and parliament appear satisfied with the temporary arrangement
and the accompanying perks it provides. There are also allegations, as yet
unproven, of corruption involving ministers and local councils the party

The MDC-T constitutional proposal – an executive prime minister and a weaker
president – is similar to what the Mujuru camp supports, and Tsvangirai,
like Joice Mujuru, has privately indicated to confidantes a willingness to
work together. However, Tsvangirai seeks to maximise his leverage by keeping
options open, since both ZANU PF factions are privately reaching out to him
about possible post-Mugabe alliances.

MDC-T insiders told Crisis Group the past year has convinced Tsvangirai he
would still need to work with some ZANU PF elements after an electoral
victory “to complete the transition and neutralise hawks in ZANU PF and some
elements in the securocrats who still control most key institutions”.

A close adviser said, “we would need to form a second inclusive government
with some elements in ZANU PF out of our own magnanimity to complete the
transition and soft-land the crisis, even if we were to win outright in the
next election”.

But worry about a military coup explains much of the MDC-T leadership’s
interest in exploring a second inclusive government, in particular with the
Mujuru camp, which commands loyalty from some influential generals.

C.         MDC-M

The MDC-M faction, which has ten members of parliament, exercises limited
influence and recognises that its very survival is heavily dependent on the
durability of the inclusive government. While publicly stating that an early
election would favour ZANU PF, its leader, Deputy Prime Minister Arthur
Mutambara, acknowledges that he needs the full five-year term to raise his
political standing and give the splinter party time to forge new alliances
that might allow it to stay relevant in the post-Mugabe era. Mutambara’s
claim that he and the party play a critical unifying role in the GPA and
keeping the government functional despite Mugabe’s and Tsvangirai’s often
tense relationship is less than fully persuasive in view of their unhelpful
role in parliament.

 Without solid grassroots support, it is most likely that the MDC-M will
eventually collapse, with some leaders rejoining the larger MDC-T, a revived
ZAPU  or ZANU PF, depending on which faction gains control of the old ruling
party. Industry and Commerce Minster Welshman Ncube, the MDC-M power broker,
would favour collaboration and an inclusive government pact with the
Mnangagwa camp.



After almost a year in the inclusive government, senior MDC-T officials told
Crisis Group that they believe the greatest threat to the power-sharing
coalition and to the country’s stability will come from leaders of the
national security services who are refusing to accept the new dispensation.
One said:

We can implement the GPA to the last line, but if we don’t deal with the
contentious issue of the security leadership in this country, we will be
haunted by it at the next elections. We will have a Madagascar-like
situation if the military is left with free rein to dictate and influence
key decisions with regards to political developments in the country,
including national leadership.

In private discussions in South Africa, Tsvangirai and other senior MDC-T
officials highlighted the issue of “phased security sector reform” as his
principal concern in the run-up to new elections.

Most observers believe that up to 20 high-ranking security officials (the
“securocrats”) maintain a de facto veto over the transition process. Among
those frequently cited as hardliners are Defence Forces Commander General
Constantine Chiwenga, Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri and Central
Intelligence Organisation Deputy Director General Maynard Muzariri.

In hushed conversations, MDC-T officials and civil society activists express
fears that a coup could come shortly after an MDC-T electoral victory or
should Mugabe die in office. Mugabe has fully backed the military
leadership, his last remaining line of loyal support given his fractious
party, in part by ruling out attempts to carry out a security reform
programme. He left no doubts about this symbiotic relationship in his
closing remarks to the ZANU PF congress on 19 December 2009:

ZANU PF as the party of the revolution and the people’s vanguard shall not
allow the security forces of Zimbabwe to be the subject of any negotiations
for the so-called security sector reforms . . . That is the most dependable
force we could ever have, it shall not be tampered with”.

The issue of the military command was not specifically addressed in the GPA
negotiations. Still, the parties agreed to establish a new coordinating body
for defence and security policy, the National Security Council (NSC), that
would include Tsvangirai and his two deputy prime ministers and replace the
ZANU PF-dominated, secretive and abusive Joint Operations Command (JOC).

Over the past decade, the JOC has been behind the strategy of repression to
keep Mugabe and ZANU PF in power. It is the instrument through which Mugabe
has masterminded the rigging of elections and the continuing wave of violent
farm seizures. The fact that the NSC has met only once in the past year
while the supposedly defunct JOC holds numerous weekly sessions with no
MDC-T participation is deeply worrying. Most recently, the JOC was
reportedly behind the January decision by the ZANU PF politburo to make no
further concessions to implement the GPA until sanctions are lifted.

A number of generals are now contemplating moving into full-time politics in
ZANU PF, including Chiwenga, who is eyeing a leadership position in the
party’s campaign in the new elections. This pattern underlines their
determination to remain at the centre of national political and economic


The motives driving the senior security leaders to undermine the transition
process and the inclusive government are diverse. In the past, they have
reportedly benefited from packages administered by Reserve Bank Governor
Gono through so-called “quasi-fiscal measures”, as well as largesse
channelled through Mugabe’s wife, Grace, and Chiwenga.

A number of generals have reportedly built up substantial landholdings,
either personally or through family members and other proxies, as a result
of farm seizures ostensibly designed to assist the rural poor. Their desire
to protect these holdings is a key reason ZANU PF is opposing implementation
of the GPA requirement to conduct a comprehensive land audit, since that
exercise would expose these ownership patterns. Mugabe is reportedly still
sustaining the livelihoods and patronage network of a small group of
generals, mainly through proceeds from the controversial private sale of
diamonds being mined in abusive conditions from the Marange fields in
eastern Zimbabwe and through loans extended to the military by the Chinese

Some senior security officials fear prosecution for gross human rights
abuses committed in recent repression campaigns, especially those associated
with the 2008 presidential and parliamentary elections, as well as
decades-old abuses, such as the killing of over 20,000 mainly
Ndebele-speaking people in Matebeleland in the 1980s in a campaign known as
Gukurahundi. Amnesties have been granted frequently in the post-independence
period, including in 1980, 1985, 1988, 1990, 1995 and 2000. The amnesty
provision in 1990 provided a full pardon for security force members for any
offense committed during “anti-dissident” operations “if that offence was
committed in good faith for the purpose of or in connection with the
restoration or maintenance of good order and public safety in Zimbabwe”.

Still, a number of senior security officials have quietly expressed concerns
that such amnesties could be revoked under an MDC-controlled government and
legislature and that these provisions do not afford protection from
international prosecution.

Others generals are motivated by a continuing sense of ideological fervour,
viewing their acts of repression against “dissidents” and white farmers over
the past three decades as simply a continuation of the liberation struggle
of the pre-independence period. In the extreme, they believe that Tsvangirai
and the MDC-T are mere puppets for white farmers and business interests, as
well as foreign interests, especially British. They see themselves as the
bulwark and Praetorian Guard of the revolutionary struggle, and thus handing
over power to Tsvangirai, who has no liberation war record, would amount to
selling out. One implication of this attitude is that these security
officials would be loath to appear before anything resembling a truth and
reconciliation commission and acknowledge their abuses, since they believe
that their acts were not crimes but heroic feats to protect Zimbabwe from
its enemies.

Zimbabweans across the political spectrum are increasingly debating the
question of how to secure the retirement of these security officials during
the life of the inclusive government. Many are highly reluctant to consider
any concessions to the officials, viewing them as rewards for past abuses
and undercutting rule of law in a future Zimbabwe. While even these
individuals see the threat from the generals, they also believe that the
threat can be minimised by playing on the growing divisions between senior
security officials and the rank-and-file military and police, who have
themselves suffered under the economic implosion brought about by Mugabe and
his cronies. Further, they doubt that concessions would have the desired
effect, given the varied motivations of the generals and their scepticism
regarding the permanence and utility of past amnesties.

Some suggest that security sector reform, leading to higher salaries,
improved housing and educational benefits and a greater sense of pride in a
professional security service, would better undercut the capacity of senior
officers to use troops against a democratically-elected government.

Expanded international pressure on Mugabe and ZANU PF to ensure the full
functioning of the National Security Council, truly disband the Joint
Operations Centre and proceed with the land audit to settle issues of
ownership and compensation, if necessary, would go a long way toward
diminishing the threat of the security officials.

At the same time, a number of MDC-T and MDC-M officials and human rights
activists, including some who have suffered the worst of the abuses, have
raised the possibility of arranging “soft landings” for the securocrats.

Persuading them to retire peacefully will not be easy, given their fears of
the post-Mugabe era. Among the ideas being discussed is a new domestic
amnesty for acts committed since the last amnesty in 2000, in exchange for
the retirement of the officials, but revocable should they be found to be
engaging in actions to thwart the transition to democratic governance. In
keeping with past Zimbabwean practice, such an amnesty would not apply to
so-called “specified offences”, such as murder, rape and theft of public
property, nor would it protect the officials from international prosecution
for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide.

Another idea being discussed is to allow the generals to keep their assets,
including perhaps even their farmlands, by arranging legal transfer to them
as retirement compensation, but also providing compensation to those
illegally dispossessed. The US, EU and others could sweeten the deal by
removing targeted sanctions on those who comply with its terms, since they
would no longer be thwarting the transition.

It is unclear whether these measures, even in combination, would be
sufficient to remove the threat posed by many of the incumbent leaders of
the security forces. Having always associated the exercise of power with the
use of force, they may never be satisfied that their economic interest and
personal security could be adequately protected after they surrender their


Zimbabwe’s economic implosion and Mugabe’s increasingly authoritarian rule
have had wide regional implications. The country traditionally was Southern
Africa’s bread-basket, and its relatively modern infrastructure, extensive
mining and manufacturing sectors, prosperous tourism and well-trained labour
force helped anchor the region. With the end of apartheid in the early
1990s, many envisaged South Africa and Zimbabwe driving a broad regional
market, complete with extensive energy and transport links. Instead, Harare
has become a regional crisis and embarrassment. Up to four million
Zimbabweans – roughly a third of the population – have flooded across
national borders due to political repression and absence of economic
opportunities, affecting the stability of particularly South Africa and
prompting xenophobic attacks by those fearing loss of jobs or a drain on
social spending.

Similarly, South African business grew deeply concerned over the collapse of
Zimbabwe’s mining, manufacturing, tourism and agriculture sectors and
infrastructure, in all of which it has major investments.

A month after the failed March 2008 elections and acting on behalf of SADC
and the African Union, Thabo Mbeki launched the mediation that produced the
GPA in September of that year. As described above, this mediation remains
essential, because of the difficulties that immediately developed with GPA
implementation and the operations of the inclusive government. Facing a
political crisis at home that eventually led to his resignation as
president, Mbeki did little further, but the advent of Jacob Zuma as his
successor has changed the situation. While Zuma carefully refrained from
challenging Mugabe or the new SADC president, the Congo’s Joseph Kabila,
during the early September 2009 Kinshasa summit, he has subsequently
displayed a refreshing engagement and toughness on the Zimbabwe account.

In a clear break with the Mbeki team, Zuma appointed three of his most
trusted and powerful advisers – international relations specialist Lindiwe
Zulu, anti-apartheid veteran Mac Maharaj and former cabinet minister Charles
Nqaqula – as his point-persons for the mediation process. Significantly, at
SADC’s special summit on Zimbabwe in Maputo in November 2009, following the
MDC-T’s suspension of its participation in the inclusive government, Zuma
was reportedly firmer with Mugabe than anyone had been during the lengthy
crisis, reaffirming that there was no alternative to the GPA and that a
tough response would be forthcoming against any party that derailed it. “He
told the three principals, including Mugabe, that with him at the helm of
the mediation, it was no longer business as usual”.

There is growing impatience among the South Africans with the slow pace of
reform. Though it looks improbable, the mediation team indicates that all
main outstanding issues should be resolved before June, when the football
World Cup begins in South Africa: “We don’t want trouble in our backyard,
especially this year when we host the World Cup, and our mediation team will
work hard to ensure that key issues are out of the way before mid-year”.
The South African intelligence leadership has reinforced this message with
all principals in the inclusive government,  and Zuma has publicly urged the
three political parties in the power-sharing arrangement to resolve
remaining issues in time for elections in 2011.

The Zuma team considers that ZANU PF and MDC-T have both been guilty of
adding peripheral items to the negotiating agenda. Zuma has called on the
principals to be more flexible and “park” a number of topics for the time
being to allow progress.

A senior ANC executive member told Crisis Group:

The heart of the crisis in Zimbabwe centres around security issues which
have closed political space and yielded disputed election outcomes for the
past ten years. That’s what should consume our time in the mediation
process. Getting Reserve Bank Governor Gono out today or arguing about the
prime minister’s residence is not going to result in a free and fair
election and a smooth transition”.

Zuma’s mediation also includes an effort to deal with the securocrat
problem. A selected group of retired generals from South Africa and other
SADC countries are to hold discussions with senior Zimbabwean officers about
the role of the military in a civilian-led government. At the same time,
Pretoria is working on issues related to a possible amnesty or other forms
of immunity for the current security leadership in the post-Mugabe era. A
senior official in the African National Congress (ANC), South Africa’s
ruling party, explained:

The way the security leadership in Zimbabwe is handled is crucial to how a
smooth transition process can be achieved. Our mediation process, as well as
the main parties to the negotiations, cannot turn a blind eye to that
critical element given Zimbabwe history. We can complete all the elements as
outlined in the GPA, but if we don’t work on and begin to engage that
sensitive issue now, it could create great instability and roll back all the
gains which we would have achieved. We are very aware that is the crux of
the matter, and we are exploring ways to delicately engage on this sensitive

In order to influence the emerging power dynamics in Zimbabwe, the Zuma
administration has also deepened its relations with Tsvangirai and the
MDC-T, while privately urging ZANU PF to consolidate and clarify its own
party succession plan.

A member of the ANC executive told Crisis Group that because his party was
doubtful there would be a smooth political settlement after another round of
elections or a Mugabe exit, it was drawing on its experience in ending
apartheid to encourage a private dialogue between moderates in ZANU PF and
the MDC-T with a view to building support for a coalition government after
the polls regardless of who wins.

SADC as an organisation has continued to defer to South Africa on Zimbabwe
policy, while calling for strict adherence to the GPA, continued
negotiations on outstanding issues, new foreign assistance and investment
and a lifting of Western sanctions. Many in Zimbabwe believe that only Zuma,
among current southern African leaders, has the mix of political stature and
revolutionary credentials to take a tough, effective line with Mugabe. While
Mugabe is reportedly surprised and angered at his treatment by Zuma, recent
progress, though slow and inconsistent, suggests the approach can work.
Aware of the impact of Zimbabwe’s continuing crisis on his own country’s
economic and social conditions, there are strong reasons for the South
African president to remain engaged once the World Cup is over and indeed to
adopt the even more assertive approach to the mediation and the parties that
may be necessary to resolve the crisis.


Zimbabwe remains at risk from the long legacy of misgovernment that produced
the interlocking political, economic and humanitarian crises of the past
decade. In addition to the challenges of governance and security highlighted
in this briefing, any of a wide range of problems, singly or in common,
could return it to the edge of collapse, particularly as long as Robert
Mugabe remains head of state and his long-time ruling ZANU PF party
maintains its intransigent stance.

The reformist MDC, split into sharply opposed factions, has performed
reasonably in government, but has not seized the impetus for reform that
seemed possible after it gained a parliamentary majority in 2008.

But despite its internal contradictions, the widely divergent ambitions of
its three participating parties and the reluctance of donors to fully
embrace it, the unity government has important achievements to its credit.
The economy has gained a degree of stability, arbitrary political violence
has been reduced, and a dialogue continues, with South African mediation, on
the major political, constitutional and electoral issues. Even a bitterly
divided ZANU PF implicitly acknowledges the need for a generational change,
and at least one of its two main contenders for Mugabe’s mantle is well into
exploration of ways to come to terms with the main MDC wing and the
transition process.

South Africa’s role remains vital, especially now that Jacob Zuma is
bringing to it a more even-handed and energetic quality of engagement.

Western governments need to offer complementary financial as well as
political assistance, including the maintenance of targeted sanctions on the
spoilers and the selective removal of corporate sanctions that stand in the
way of economic growth.

Above all, Zimbabweans themselves – both the parties in the inclusive
government and broader civil society – must put the legacy of
“divide-and-rule” politics behind them and learn basic lessons of
cooperation essential for a successful democratic transition.

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