Power Sharing in Zimbabwe: two years on

It has been two years since Mugabe’s Zimbabwean African Nation People’s Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) agreed to share power in Zimbabwe and form a Government of National Unity. This was a result of an Election that was marred by vote rigging, beatings and intimidation by the ruling ZANU-PF. As an Election Observer during the 2000 Zimbabwean Presidential Election I have seen first-hand the brutality that Robert Mugabe is willing to use. It was in this atmosphere that the new Government was formed; with Mugabe remaining as President and Tsvangirai as Prime Minister. Many international and domestic commentators believed that this was a golden opportunity for reconciliation between the two sides, a way of bringing in moderate elements into the Government to enable real democracy and stop the political repression.This power-sharing agreement has not led to a viable Government. The agreement has not led to the end of political violence or the nepotism that benefits the few at the expense of the many. The use of political violence did not start during this election and it certainly didn’t finish. There continues to be land seizures and the detention of opposition activists. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that post-election violence in May 2008 displaced over 36,000 Zimbabweans.I can understand why a power-sharing agreement seemed like the only viable, logical solution. With both sides in power there should be, in theory, less to fight about. Both have a vested interest in making the agreement work. It is very attractive to the MDC as it gives them an access to power that they wouldn’t normally get. It is attractive to ZANU-PF whose power is waning and under pressure to at least appear democratic. By going into a coalition with an internationally respected political movement Mugabe has given himself the veneer of respectability whilst entrenching himself in a democratic institution that would never normally allow him to retain power.It is here that the fundamental problem arises – Power. Power is the only motivation Mugabe has to be President. The horror he has unleashed upon Zimbabweans is not that of ideological totalitarianism. He has created an entire system of Government based on nepotism. Agricultural land is seized from farmers to give to the security services and those loyal to him. Money raised from the Marange Diamond Fields is not invested back into public services or infrastructure but instead is siphoned off by Party Loyalists and used to fund the extravagant lifestyles of the Mugabe family. We should not confuse a willingness to sign a power-sharing pact with a genuine commitment to reconciliation. All it has done is sustain a weakened ZANU-PF and allowed it time to solidify its position. This can hardly be conducive to a lasting settlement, not whilst there is still a system of patronage that has created a clique of wealthy officials who have nothing to gain from a transparent, economically sound and democratic Zimbabwe but everything to lose.Neil Parish MP