Chamisa has no need to negotiate, Mbeki visit signals the end is near

Chamisa has no need to negotiate, Mbeki visit signals the end is near

The opposition MDC has had two romances with Zanu PF – it regrets both.

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In both instances, the 2009 Government of National Unity (GNU) and the 2017 endorsement of the military coup, the regret is born of hindsight where the MDC realizes that it was in a much stronger position than it realized at the time of joining hands with Zanu PF.

Robert Mugabe was cornered after the discredited 2008 run-off election, where over 200 opposition supporters were killed in a campaign to intimidate the population into voting for Mugabe who had held onto the results for two months after losing to Morgan Tsvangirai.

While Mugabe had violently stolen the presidency, the opposition now had majority control of Parliament. Mugabe had no way of governing without Parliament as the opposition would simply refuse to pass the budget and collapse the government. Mugabe was well aware of this problem and realised the need to negotiate.

The November 2017 coup brought Mugabe into a humiliating confrontation with the Zanu PF-military complex that had for so long propped up his rule. The strategic move for the opposition was to ensure a complete breakdown of this complex by refusing to endorse the coup.

This would have left the military exposed and Zanu PF fatally divided. Without the legitimacy conferred by the MDC, the coup would have failed and resulted in a Zanu PF-military complex bloodbath. Vaipedzana.

The military was well aware of the dangers that lay ahead if the coup failed which is why they misled the opposition into believing that there would be a GNU after the coup succeeded. It was essential that the coup appear like a popular uprising and this could not be achieved without the cooperation of the opposition.

The opposition rescued the generals.

A pattern emerges: Zanu PF only negotiates with the opposition when it is facing an existential crisis.

Former South African president Thabo Mbeki has not come to Zimbabwe at the invitation of the MDC. He was either invited by Mnangagwa or has come at the request of the South African government or SADC. In either scenario, the question is why? If Mnangagwa was elected legitimately and the economy is on a path to recovery, as he claims, why would he bother negotiating with anyone?

The first reason is the inevitability of economic collapse. Zimbabwe’s economy, measured by any metric, is headed for a Venezuela-style collapse and government does not have any tools to stop that collapse. It has lost international credibility and the expected economic aid and investment have not materialised.

The growing social and political pressure will force the authorities to switch on the printing press, not so much because they do not know the inflationary consequences but because they recognise their desperate political circumstances and the need to buy time, even if only a few months.

The second reason is the volatile security situation. The greatest threat to Mnangagwa’s rule is from the security apparatus which could choose to save itself by sacrificing Zanu PF and backing protestors. Indeed, there is evidence to suggest that an operation of that nature was attempted in January 2019.

At the time, Zanu PF MP Justice Mayor Wadyajena took to Twitter to suggest that the protests were being coordinated by elements in the military. The comments were echoed by another Mnangagwa loyalist, former deputy Finance minister Terrence Mukupe.

This explains why deputy Defence minister Victor Matemadanda has repeatedly warned protestors that the authorities will deploy the military, which he says is trained to kill, to crush any uprising.

This public threat to kill protestors by a government minister is unprecedented and betrays insecurity. The real threat is not so much the MDC but the risk that elements within the Zanu PF-military complex, equivalent to the 2008 Bhora Musango campaign, will covertly join the protests and overwhelm the police.

Securing a deal with Chamisa would weaken Mnangagwa’s Zanu PF-military complex rivals that could otherwise support protests against him.

Further, a deal with Chamisa would result in the responsibility and political blame for the economy being shared with the opposition. Finally, the inevitable economic collapse could be halted, as it was in 2009 after the MDC entered the GNU, giving Zanu PF a chance to recover in 2023 as it did in 2013.

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