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Zimbabwe: A `power-sharing' deal for whom?

By Shawn Hattingh

Negotiations between the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) over the political future of Zimbabwe have reached a zenith in the past few weeks. It now seems almost inevitable that some sort of deal will be attained by the political masters of the MDC and ZANU-PF and that power sharing will become a reality. The mediator in the negotiation process, the South African government, has claimed that the outcome of the negotiations between these parties will lead to a new dawn in Zimbabwe. As part of this, we are assured that the corner has been turned and that democracy and freedom will be a reality in the beleaguered country in the near future.

South Africa's role as the mediator in Zimbabwe's elite negotiations has, however, not been without controversy. The MDC has even accused the South African state of not being an honest broker. This is because the South African government has defended ZANU-PF on various occasions in the past. For example, it has used its power within the United Nations to block that body from taking any punitive steps against the Zimbabwean government. It has also fought tooth and nail to try and ensure that economic sanctions were not imposed on Zimbabwe. Conventional wisdom is that the South African state took these actions because it shares a pan-Africanist ideology with ZANU-PF. The reality is far more mundane. The South African government did not want sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe because South African companies with economic interests in the country would have been severely harmed by sanctions. Many South African-registered companies also have long-standing, and lucrative, links to the ZANU-PF government, which the South African state was and is loath to undermine.

South African companies are major players in every sector of the Zimbabwean economy. Companies like Impala Platinum, Metallon and Mmakau Mining control almost all of Zimbabwe's mining industry. Similarly, South African corporations like Standard Bank and Shoprite dominate the country's banking and retail sectors. SASOL and the South African arms company, Armscor, are major exporters to Zimbabwe. The likes of First National Bank (FNB) even have direct business relations with the ZANU-PF government through lending arrangements. Likewise, Barloworld supplied the ZANU-PF with the bulldozers that it used during Operation Murambatsvina. The truth is that these companies, along with the South African government, resisted sanctions because their business arrangements and profits in Zimbabwe would have been damaged.

Events this year, however, have overtaken the South African state and ZANU-PF. With the victory of the MDC in both the presidential and parliamentary elections, massive pressure has been placed on ZANU-PF by the US and the European Union (EU) to relinquish power. Linked to this, South Africa has also come under pressure from the US and EU to ensure that some deal is reached in Zimbabwe. The economic situation in Zimbabwe has also worsened markedly and many South African companies in the country now desperately desire economic stability, whether it is under ZANU-PF or the MDC. With this, the South African state shifted its position and began in earnest to push for a power-sharing deal between the MDC and ZANU-PF. The South African state now seems to want economic and political stability in Zimbabwe so that capital accumulation can recommence -- a government of national unity seems to offer the best possibility for that. Indeed, the South African-mediated negotiations are about ensuring the future of the Zimbabwean economy for foreign investors, rather than creating true democracy or freedom for the people of the country.

The reason for this is that multinational companies stand to be the real beneficiaries of a deal in Zimbabwe. Already, corporate investors from South Africa, the EU and the US have been investing heavily in the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE) in the last few months. They are snapping up assets in Zimbabwe for very cheap prices and stand to make massive profits once there is a degree of political stability and some sort of economic recovery. The financial support that has been offered by the EU, as part of a political solution, will also inevitably have neoliberal conditions attached, which would benefit corporations. In fact, multinational corporations from the EU are poised to make a massive thrust into countries in sub-Saharan Africa over the next few years, including into Zimbabwe. This year, the ZANU-PF government initialed a free trade agreement with the EU in the form of an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) -- putting a lie to the notion that ZANU-PF is some kind of anti-imperial champion. The EPA is not merely aimed at creating free trade in goods between Zimbabwe and the EU; it is also aimed at opening up Zimbabwe's service sectors to European corporations and ensuring total investment liberalisation in the country. The few remaining public services that Zimbabweans have, such as healthcare and education, will come under severe pressure to be totally privatised. For EU corporations, political stability in Zimbabwe would be an important link to the EPA.

The reality is that the corporate vultures are descending on Zimbabwe. Considering that both the MDC and ZANU are neoliberal in orientation, a power-sharing deal won't alter this; it would speed it up. Far from achieving true democracy and freedom for the people of Zimbabwe, a power-sharing deal stands to open up Zimbabwe's economy to foreign corporations from South Africa, the EU and the US. As with any elite transition, it is not the people's needs that are the main priority but rather the interests of big players in the economy. Of course, the people of Zimbabwe will suffer the consequences of this. For this reason, the best hope that Zimbabwe and its people have is for the people themselves to start building a truly anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian and democratic movement. Through this, the people themselves can begin to work towards creating a better country and world in which the economy serves the people's needs rather than those of foreign corporations.

[Shawn Hattingh is a research and education officer at the International Labour Research and Information Group (ILRIG) in Cape Town. Posted with the author's permission.]

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ZIMBABWE: Civil Society Demands More From Talks

By Stanley Kwenda

JOHANNESBURG, Aug 16 (IPS) - A barrage of banners denouncing Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe greeted passersby in the well-manicured gardens of Johannesburg's Sandton Convention Centre, where that country's political crisis is high on the agenda of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit.

"Mugabe must go. Red card for Mugabe. The world stands with Zimbabwe's people," read some of the banners carried by protesters who swarmed the environs of the convention centre on Friday before marching through the streets of Sandton.

The march was meant to send a message to SADC leaders that they must act decisively on the Zimbabwean crisis which has pushed several million Zimbabweans to seek sanctuary in neighbouring countries. As many as 3 million fleeing state violence and a collapsing economy are believed to have sought refuge in South Africa alone.

The march, organised by the Congress of South African Trade Unions, was attended by hundreds of Zimbabweans living in Johannesburg and others who came in busloads from other South African cities. But it was the huge army of Zimbabwean civil society organisations at the march which was most striking.

"We are here to let the SADC leaders know that any negotiations without the wishes of the people will not succeed and that's what we are here for," Jenni Williams, the leader of the Women of Zimbabwe Arise told IPS. "We don't want elite talks aimed at parceling out power we want talks that will benefit all the people and as women we are pushing for our recognition, it's not too late."

Zimbabwean civil society organizations have been pushing to be included in the SADC-mediated talks between the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Talks were deadlocked last week, the sticking point believed to be disagreements over power-sharing.

"The differences are irreparable, both parties want power but they are not prepared to share it. We now have to take the matter away from politicians and establish a government of national unity to run the country for two years then we can have fresh elections," said Lovemore Madhuku, from Zimbabwe's National Constitutional Assembly.

He said Zimbabwe does not need the SADC-mandated talks but an inclusive solution that can only come through a change of the governance system. "SADC and AU must put a timeline to these talks, they cannot drag on like this, if they fail then a transitional authority headed by neither Mugabe nor Tsvangirai should be put in place."

But Elinor Sisulu, the head of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition office in South Africa, said it was encouraging that the talks are taking place.

"Yes, the talks have been problematic, but we have to acknowledge that they are offering an alternative. The only problem is that they are being held in secrecy and they are elitist. They are sort of alienating political leaders from their constituencies. The people's voice is not visible," Sisulu told IPS. She added that any outcome of the talks should reflect the will of the people and recognise the results of the March 29 election which is widely believed to have been won by the MDC.

"If this is not the case the MDC should return to its constituency and consult the people on further action," Sisulu said.

Thomas Deve, policy analyst for Africa at the United Nations Millennium Campaign office in Nairobi, Kenya, was in agreement with Sisulu, saying that despite the failure to reach an agreement so far the talks have provided a relief for the suffering masses in Zimbabwe.

"The most important thing is that the talks have offered ordinary Zimbabweans a chance to breathe after being choked by violence and given political parties time to reflect on what is going wrong in Zimbabwe."

He said SADC should not be satisfied merely by the fact that the rival political parties are talking.

"It's time for SADC to rein in Mugabe because democracy is being subverted when the person with the least votes determines how the talks should go. It's a fraud. If they are failing to agree then they should try something (else). A transitional authority is the way to go," said Deve.

Despite divergent opinions on the way forward among the Zimbabwean civil society groups, they seem to be in agreement on one point: the formation of a transitional authority.

"We would rather prefer a transitional authority for two years at most. We will not be under any illusion that SADC will provide an answer to the Zimbabwean crisis, the deal that SADC is negotiating for is elitist for us its aluta continua," Munyaradzi Gwisai, the leader of the Zimbabwe Socialist Movement, told IPS.

Meanwhile, power sharing talks between Zimbabwe's political rivals continued on the sidelines of the summit with rumours that a deal is on the horizon. All parties attended the SADC summit with Mugabe taking his place among regional leaders while the two MDC leaders sat in the observer gallery.

South African president Thabo Mbeki, mandated by SADC to mediate talks, said he was confident of a deal and urged other regional leaders to help Zimbabwe achieve stability as he assumed the chairmanship of regional body. Sources close to the negotiations told IPS that SADC leaders have proposed that the two political parties should share power equally.

But by the time the regional leaders sat down for the heads of state dinner at the Sandton Convention Centre on Saturday night, no deal had been inked.

Statement by Youth Organisations in Zimbabwe

Statement by Youth Organisations in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe National Students Union, 27 August 2008

This is a statement by youth formations in Zimbabwe on the political

transition in the country, facilitated by ZINASU:


Recognizing the importance and indispensable role that youths play in

nation building and in particular the role they could play in the

troubled socio-eco political transition facing Zimbabwe, which is

characterized by political polarization, violence, impunity, social

service delivery collapse and economic malaise.


Acknowledging the importance of inclusive national dialogue to resolve

the Zimbabwean crisis, and the role SADC and the AU are playing to

assist the Zimbabwean polical parties to reach an agreement.


Disturbed by the intransigence of Zanu PF to allow for the expression

of the will of the people as expressed on the 29th of March 2008 in

the Harmonized elections, and the subsequent collapse of the

inter-party talks with the appointment of Resident Ministers that we

hoped would be part of the dialogue.


Having met and discussed our role as youths in the transitional

process: We the Youth formations in Zimbabwe resolved the following:


1. Urgently petition the SADC and the African Union to register our

discontent over the visibly collapsed talks and urge them to help

resume the talks on the following basis:

• A transitional authority with a specific timeline

• Initiating a process of a people driven constitution making

• Addressing the economic and social service delivery collapse

• Disbanding of militia bases and releasing of political detainees

2. Resolve that the talks should be driven by Parliament and the Civic

Society and other important stakeholders.

3. President Thabo Mbeki be removed from being the mediator as he has

failed to help bring a solution and since now he is the Chair of SADC,

there is a conflict of interest.

4. Hold national consultative meetings with youth formations

countrywide to chart a youth strategy and way forward on the troubled

transition of Zimbabwe.

5. Interrogate the MOU so that it is more reflective of the wishes of

the people of Zimbabwe.

6. Call for the immediate lifting of the ban on Humanitarian organizations.

7. Formulate alternative policies as we prepare for a new transition

(Education, health and economic policies)

8. The President of Zanu PF (R. Mugabe) is not a legitimate leader to

lead the nation and should relinquish power.

9. Call for mass mobilization to force the regime of Mugabe to respect

the wishes of the people.


Participating organizations:


1. Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU)

2. Student Solidarity Trust (SST)

3. Student Christian Movement of Zimbabwe (SCMZ)

4. National Movement of Catholic student (NMCS)

5. Build a Better Youth (BABY)

6. Youth Agenda

7. Artists for Democracy Zimbabwe Trust (ADZT)

8. Restoration Of Human Rights (ROHR)

9. Zimbabwe Poets For Human Rights

10. Achieve Your Goal Trust (AYGT)

11. Youth Forum

12. Young Christian Students (YCS)


Information Desk, Zimbabwe National Students Union, 353 Herbert

Chitepo Avenue, Harare, Zimbabwe

+263912471673/ +263913010369, zinasu@gmail.com, www.zinasu.org

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