After almost six months of unrest and the death of dozens of protesters, Sudan’s military leaders announced on Wednesday 15th May an agreement with the opposition alliance for a 3-year transition period to a civilian administration. This is the tendentious compromise between, on the one hand, the military which, having inescapably sacrificed Omar al-Bashir a few months ago on the back of unprecedented civil unrest in the country, sought to sustain its decades-old hold on power; and, on the other, the opposition alliance which wanted the restoration of civilian rule forthwith.
The main elements of the Agreement are as follows:
- An eleven-member Sovereign/Supreme Council which will rule the country until elections.
- A Transitional Legislative Council of 300 members: the opposition alliance (the Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces – DFCF) will hold two-thirds of the seats while the rest would be taken by parties not members of the alliance.
While the composition of the Sovereign/Supreme council is yet to be agreed upon within the next few days, it is likely to have eight civilians and three from the military.
Nevertheless, the agreement for a three-year transitional administration, including a parliament dominated by opposition groups, is indeed a major step towards civilian rule. Significantly, The DFCF (Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces) will appoint the Cabinet. And protesters remain on the streets, to guarantee that a real and lasting change will come with the new transitional agreement.
SIMILARITIES WITH ZIMBABWE
There are obvious similarities between the Sudan crisis and that of Zimbabwe. But here is to highlight the current balance of forces which render imperative a Transitional Administration in Zimbabwe.
- The Legitimacy Question: Not only a disputed election in 2018, but also the absence of aconstitutional government in which there should be an accountable executive, a vibrant legislature and a fiercely independent judiciary.
- An opposition alliance– the MDC Alliance- which is growing stronger and is likely toemerge the key political factor come Congress next week; and, conversely, a ZANU PF/State conflation which is in demise, increasingly amorphous, and lacking the capacity to reform nor arrest the economic decline and growing social crisis.
- An economic crisis likely to be exacerbated in the next few months by the following:relentless financial woes characterized by an exchange rate likely to hit the 10 to 1 rate by end of May 2019; spiralling prices of basic commodities, not to mention fuel and electricity; a
drought which will require at least 800,000 tonnes of imported maize by year end; and the enduring effects of Cyclone Idai.
- The threat of organized protests, led by the MDC Alliance but involving a cross-sectionof labour and civic society organizations; eyeball-to-eyeball with a state establishment which is afflicted by internecine conflict (mainly between Mnangagwa and Chiwenga, and their respective military/security and ethnic camps); a military-security apparatus which is more given to pre-emptive strikes and unlikely to hold out in the face of protracted mass protests.
At the end of it all, the nation will have witnessed another bloodbath, an acrimonious peace-building process, and the real possibility of external (including South Africa in particular, with all the indications that Ramaphosa’s government is becoming increasingly weary at the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe).
So, the most likely outcome is precisely what has happened in Sudan: a transitional government of some sort – but at a high cost and with enormous ramifications.
THE WAY FORWARD
The question some of us have posed ever since April 2016 when the issue of the National Transitional Authority was flagged in the pages of this newspaper, is this: Do Zimbabweans have to endure any more suffering – including senseless violence and death – before the imperative of a political solution is realized?
Let’s learn from Sudan and add impetus to what the Zimbabwe Council of Churches resolved last week in Bulawayo: a concerted process towards the Transitional Authority should begin immediately. This could begin with the following steps:
- A National Dialogue: to be led by the Zimbabwe Council of Churches and involving an interface between Emmerson Mnangagwa and Nelson Chamisa, together with their respective lieutenants.
- The institution of an Executive Council/Cabinet co-chaired by Emmerson Mnangagwa and Nelson Chamisa.
- The Existing Parliament
- A Political and Economic Reform Agenda: the restoration of constitutional rule;
- The restoration of National institutions, including the return of the soldiers to the barracks, reform of the public service, and the clean-up of the judiciary.
- Regional and International Scaffolding of the 3-year Transitional Authority: on the back of an International Rescue Plan, namely, the establishment of a US$ 5 billion Sovereign/Rescue Fund, to be held in London or New York, but with the objective of stabilizing the economy, engendering international confidence and investment, and securing a national currency.
- A Social Development Fund: to attend to the urgent needs in education and healthcare; revival of agriculture, industry, and employment creation; and the establishment of programmes designed to rescue the population from the scourge of poverty, as well as the re-institution of rural development.
- The engagement of the Diaspora, as both investors (in such programmes as the privatisation of parastatals) and joint venture partners with external factors.
Both the Sovereign/Rescue and Social Development Funds could be mobilized internationally and repaid mainly from the proceeds from the export of mineral resources, mainly gold, diamonds and chrome.
Amnesty Arrangements: to guard against revenge and vengeance for acts of commission or omission of the past; a negotiated process through which to ensure the repatriation of externalized resources and/or loot; and the institution of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
This indeed is a tall order, but with the requisite political will, it can be accomplished.
Ibbo Mandaza is a member of the Platform for Concerned Citizens (PCC); and Convenor of the SAPES Trust Policy Dialogue Forum.