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16.10.2008 Feature Article

Inclusive Gov't: How it will not work in Zimbabwe

Let it be stated clear and plain: the so-called current impasse on the formation of an inclusive government has nothing to do with the poor, the hungry, the unemployed, the black, in short, nothing to do with the plight of all those writhing under the MDC-courted illegal Western sanctions. So let no politician posture, pretending a duplicitous humanitarian cast calculated to improve his or her political appeal.

It has everything to do with the growing discomfiture in the MDC-T constituency that their principals under-negotiated vis-à-vis the lofty expectations deriving from their propaganda postulates. Without proper regard to the real situation on the ground, the MDC-T primed its own constituency to expect its leadership to take over Government principally on the strength of a penultimate result of March 29, about which their propagandists have made much ado, from, by and for nothing.

With their principals in the saddle, their young and largely unemployed constituency saw itself already in uniform, summarily absorbed within security structures as politically glorified privates.

Medley motives in one boat

But there was also a white and foreign constituency, which expected MDC principals to achieve a seismic power transfer, albeit within a Zanu-fied form. Then you have little but ambitious and vengeful autocrats in their midst who tested the agreement solely in terms of its ability to grant them access to instruments of vengeful coercion against those they blame for their chequered opposition days.

Still others — well within this vengeful mode — would only find satiety if certain heads rolled, metaphorically if not literally. This is the wide gallery of expectations that burden implementation, made wider by one furiously ambitious member within the MDC-T executive who would have killed to become the second Deputy Prime Minister, or if he could not, killed to become Justice or Home Affairs minister.

Now, all these concerns are a far cry from recovering the economy or feeding the drought stricken, both of which require one simple intervention by the MDC, namely an appeal to its Western principals to drop illegal sanctions against this country, against this People.

You do not need to have Biti in this or that Ministry for MDC to tell Brown to reverse sanctions so the children can begin to eat, to receive treatment and go to school.

Redeeming stubbornness

So, we are dealing with a leadership which cannot sell an agreement it signed; a leadership which is fighting to improve its estimate in the eyes of its disenchanted constituency by demonstrating a redeeming stubbornness. But it is also a leadership which is so fond of boxing itself into a corner to an extent that movement on any matter, has to involve a face-saving intervention of external facilitator.

For all the pessimism in the media, the fact that Tsvangirai has now called for the intervention of the facilitator, clearly indicates his readiness to compromise, but without losing face.

It is also a major step forward that he is outgrowing his state of eternal denial by acknowledging — as he did two days ago — that sanctions are hurting all Zimbabweans, regardless of political side.

We are getting closer, and all those trained to read things at face value, may miss the huge desire within the MDC to join in Government at any cost, in some cases. That is what belies Chamisa's boyish bellicosity which no one in Zanu-PF regards or fear. But of course you also had the meeting of the EU ministers this week whose decision on sanctions the MDC wanted to determine its way forward.

At the UN you had Britain, its principal handler, trying to persuade the Chinese and South Africans for another mission to Zimbabwe, followed by another briefing in the Security Council. In a way, the MDC ambivalence owed to its having flung several irons into the fire, none of which was hotting up fast enough.

Apprenticing the MDC

What is most urgent is to get MDC — particularly MDC-T — to understand how Government functions. Even more important, how Government does not function. While the so-called impasse owed to matters quite extraneous to actual governance, it also revealed a disturbing ignorance on the part of both MDCs on how the Government they are about to join will work.

But I grant it to them: the leader of MDC-T a few weeks back and before the signing openly admitted to the facilitator he does not know or understand how government functions or is run, having only run a labour center, even then badly.

I suspect his Western sponsors knew as much, which is why they pushed hard for what they term a “transitional arrangement” which really is meant to be an apprenticeship phase for MDC under Zanu-PF, hoping for a Zanu-PF ouster or voluntary abdication.

Indeed, President Mbeki arranged for a tutorial for the MDC leader. Judging by the current discourse from the MDC-T, either President Mbeki was a very bad teacher, or Tsvangirai was a very poor student. The party hierarchy does not seem to show much grasp of the workings of Government, let alone the role and powers of ministers, once appointed.

Men of small, bad things

And they seem to be badly grasping fast the small things which follow — never begin — in Government. Such as touting titles before swearing-in while at the same time being legally fastidious about the status of current ministers as they go about exercising lawful powers (eg Minister Chombo and his responsibility over local councils). Such as demanding Press accreditation cards to the very media they would have invited for a Press conference at their leader's home.

It is elementary that when you have brought an ant-infested log into the kitchen, you must expect a lizard! You cannot turn your bedroom into a Press conference venue and still expect journalists not to see an undergarment by your headboard. It is silly.

Where the hub is

These guys badly need to know how Government operates; what they can and cannot do; indeed what they will and will not be able to do, once sworn in. The center of government is and remains Cabinet. Nothing happens outside, beyond, beside, above, it. It is the hub from which all ministerial spokes start.

One can have as many consultative meetings outside of it — as indeed Tsvangirai has been doing — but until and unless those consultations and views are brought to Cabinet through its well-written and well-tried systems, those consultations have no effect on the institution of Government. They cannot be entertained by Government, let alone command its executive attention. And until the substance of these consultations have been adopted by Cabinet after debate and consensus, they will not become policy. So what all those who have met with Tsvangirai have sought to do in those meetings, is merely to influence him ahead of debates in Cabinet, debates in which he shall be but a number, an opinion, pitted against many. One hopes he will be a cogent opinion, indeed one shared, not one too weird, sorry too idiosyncratic, to be roundly rejected. I pray for those who have thus invested.

No Zanu ministries, no MDC ministries

What will not happen is to have fifteen ministries which will run themselves the Zanu-PF way; another thirteen which will run themselves the MDC-T-way; and yet another three that shall be run the Mutambara way.

Yes, the Mutambara way only in the narrow sense of style of management, but never in the sense of policy direction, implementation direction and the resources from the Fiscus. From that perspective, this fetish around who has what Ministries is needless, indeed immaterial. What underlies it is the deep mistrust between the parties, made deeper by the obvious dependency of some in the agreement, on hostile external powers. After 1987, Zanu did not hesitate to cede Home Affairs to Zapu.

In fact that had happened in 1980 after the watershed elections which completed the decolonisation process. But that decision was based on the credentials of Zapu as a party of national liberation. That same offer could not have gone to Muzorewa or to the Rhodesia Front.

It could not. But Finance did. It went to David Smith, himself a Rhodesian of Ian Smith's Front. What gave the Patriotic Front the courage to cede such a powerful post to a hard-core Rhodesian was a recognition of strictures built within the Cabinet system of Government.

More important, all the parties to the agreement swore in and by that agreement that institutions of Government would remain non-partisan, which means they cannot be the first ones to infract their own agreement, while hoping for compliance from all of us.

The P/S headache

Then you have the office of the permanent secretary in Government ministries. This is an office that receives Cabinet minutes and that superintends over the implementation of Government decisions through Cabinet. It is a constitutional office, which controls the tempo in a ministry. It is not created by a Minister.

It is not abolished by a Minister. All a minister can do is to love or hate it; motivate or de-motivate it. Yes, use it but never abuse it. In it inhere all the rules, the goals, the resources available to the Ministry and Minister who could very well come from Mars.

The MDC will find this echelon possibly useful, but invariably decisive and rule-driven, rule-governed. It is an echelon that is incurably wedded to Cabinet minutes, strictly guided by them. It is an echelon which has the memory and the central processing unity of Government, through respective Ministries. It needs to be respected; it will not be overrun by partisans from whichever quarter.

Dear Mr. Prime Minister

The Prime Minister will come to realise he is a cog in a wheel, never the hub of the wheel that has cogs. He will have a higher echelon of Vice Presidents to deal with and the highest one of President, which must be persuaded for his views to become the views of Government.

And both levels will show huge experience, intellect and composure arising from many trials of what does and can't. There will be many moons of learning, Honourable Prime Minister, believe you me! More shockingly, you will realise, Sir, much as you may interact with your foreign friends as before, play golf with them even, you may not do it on behalf of Government anyhow, as you please.

You may not. Such as, for argument's sake, writing the World Bank or UNDP, and inviting their missions here, outside of a collective Government decision. That will not happen, as indeed you have noticed it cannot happen. Only the responsible ministry can do that and even then, within set parameters.

The world in your one palm?

Above all Mr Prime Minister, Honourable Deputy Prime Ministers, you will soon find out that Government is faceless, nameless and very collective.

There are no heroes who stand out, no Herculeses or some such cosmic characters carrying the whole globe in one palm. None Sirs, none madame. We are all small, all big; we are all good, all bad; we are all failures, or successful, depending of course on how this whole bureaucratic monster moves and does not move in the direction of people's aspirations.

That is the test. Around that test are many headaches, heartaches and other numberless aches in places you do not want me to name, Mr Prime Minister. Welcome aboard, sit back, tie yourself in and, hey, enjoy the cruise.

The Chronicle
The Chronicle, © 2008

This author has authored 68 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: TheChronicle

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