Deal? No deal!

The national consensus for a political deal for the ANC president Jacob Zuma (also the likely next state president) is growing. This outcome would mean that he dodges the corruption, fraud and racketeering charges due to be heard in April next year.

The ruling tripartite alliance is lobbying hard against Zuma going to trial and for a political deal to ensure that he is installed in the Union Buildings next year.
All contrary voices are being purged from Cosatu and the SACP.

Business is likely to tacitly back such an outcome. Key private sector leaders believe that the current conflicts about the Scorpions and the broader attacks on the judiciary are too harmful to political stability.

That makes it two large sectors of society where consensus on a deal is coalescing. What about civil society?

If one accepts that the unions are part of civil society, then it’s clear that Zuma has that support too. Cosatu is still the largest federation of organised labour.

The punditocracy, the ranks of analysts and journalists who shape national opinion, is also divided. The respected Sipho Seepe is now on board the Zuma project and key editors and columnists are also calling for a general amnesty for all crimes committed in the course of the arms deal (which would cover Zuma). It’s clear which way the political wind is blowing.

It is a consensus, but a manufactured one, to get the ruling ANC and its president out of the tightest spot it’s ever been in. Since when have we been a nation that bows to pragmatism rather than sticks to principle?

A political deal asks us to sacrifice the rule of law for an inchoate political deal; to carve an unspecified amnesty to ensure the unity of a political party that is best split for the longevity of our democracy.

And make no mistake: we will sacrifice the rule of law for it will be impossible to undertake any politically sensitive prosecution hereafter. Already the judiciary is weakened and the prosecutorial service under-confident in the face of sustained political attack. In that sense the rule of law has already been damaged. A deal will be the nail in the coffin of essential institutions of democracy and ultimately even of democracy itself.

It’s too easy to climb aboard the “strike a deal” bandwagon with its tantalising hope that in this way we can make all our pain go away. But it’s a chimera, a band-aid. If Jacob Zuma loves his country, he must have his day in court. If he walks away innocent, as he proclaims he is, then he will deserve to be our president.

Why Morgan is right to say no

Spare a thought for Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai. He wins an election in near-impossible conditions, has it stolen from him by the thugs of Zanu-PF and in subsequent talks is offered a subordinate position in a Robert Mugabe-led “government of national unity”. Then, when he refuses the offer, President Thabo Mbeki and other feeble-minded leaders of the Southern African Development Community accuse him of being a stumbling block.

Mbeki wants to parade his brilliant diplomacy and the SADC wants the whole messy Zimbabwean saga to disappear. But Tsvangirai is right to say no. Why should he play second fiddle to the man who polled 100 000 fewer votes in the first round of the presidential elections? Why should the MDC be the junior partner in government when the majority of ordinary Zimbabweans see it as their representative?

Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba makes it clear in this edition of the Mail & Guardian that he does not even think the MDC has the right to independent existence. Like Zapu, it should be swallowed up by Zanu-PF, the sole legtimate expression of Zimbabwean nationhood.

But there is more at issue than justice, a multiparty system and other democratic norms. Under the proposed settlement deal, Mugabe would remain head of state with the sole right to hire and fire ministers and a veto over all policy and legislation. In other words he would continue to exercise a stranglehold over government.

His power hunger and lunatic policies—including unconstitutional land grabs, price controls and the wanton printing of money as an inflation “remedy”—are the direct cause of Zimbabwe’s political and economic implosion. With the vulture still ruling the roost, how can a lasting solution to the country’s profound crisis be found?

Tsvangirai holds the key to Western aid and, as the economy under Mugabe’s rule continues spiralling downwards, his bargaining position will strengthen. He must continue hanging tough. As we argued some weeks ago, a settlement that fails to lay the foundation for Zimbabwe’s long-term recovery is not worth the paper it is printed on.

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