Hard Road to Reform

Zimbabweans have finally been given the opportunity to vote on a new Constitution but it has taken five long years since the Global Political Agreement (GPA) was signed. It really has been a Hard Road to Reform – the very apt title of a new book analysing developments since 2008.

Percy Makombe's picture

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Natural Resource Governance Programme Manager

March 17th, 2013

Zimbabweans have finally been given the opportunity to vote on a new Constitution but it has taken five long years since the Global Political Agreement (GPA) was signed. It really has been a Hard Road to Reform – the very apt title of a new book analysing developments since 2008.

Edited by Professor , the Director of Research and Advocacy at the Solidarity Peace Trust, which is an OSISA grantee, was published through Weaver Press and launched in Harare just two days before the referendum on the new constitution.

The book provides a penetrating analysis of developments since the three party principals put pen to the GPA paper back in September 2008 – forcing the former ruling party, ZANU-PF, to face the reality of sharing power for the first time since independence 28 years before.

It looks at recent political history from a range of perspectives – political, economic, social and historical – and features some of the best work by Zimbabwe’s young scholars.

Indeed, it boasts a stellar line-up, including Brian Raftopoulos’ Overview of the GPA: National Conflict, Regional Agony and International Dilemma; James Muzondidya’s Critical Review of the Politics of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Parties; Gerald Mazarire’s ZANU-PF and the Government of National Unity; Bertha Chiroro’s Responses of Civil Society to the Inclusive Government; Shari Eppel’s Repairing a Fractured Nation: Challenges and Opportunities in Post-GPA Zimbabwe; and Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni’s African Union, SADC and the GPA in Zimbabwe.

Indeed, a major strength of the book is that it has been able to provide a well-researched and sharp analysis of the national, regional and international dynamics behind the politics of the SADC mediation in Zimbabwe. A particularly outstanding feature is that it has been able to draw on primary documents from the mediation, as well as from interviews with key players in the process, including former South African president Thabo Mbeki.

The project has also sharply examined the positions of the various players and the political processes involved in their various interventions, setting out in depth the politics that informed the mediation.

According to Raftopoulos, “the book is an attempt to analyse and assess both the hopes and frustrations of the last four years and to confront the harsh challenges that lie ahead.” And it certainly does that – clearly outlining the major successes and failures of Zimbabwe’s piecemeal and painfully slow transition process.

Overall, the book argues that the Government of National Unity (GNU), which followed a few months after the GPA, was an opportunity for both parties – ZANU PF got a chance to regroup and reorganise itself while the two MDCs got an opportunity to learn statecraft. But it was also an endless battleground – where the parties fought (politically rather then bloodily) over reconstruction and reform.

And the conclusion? While the constitutional referendum and other reforms suggest that Zimbabwe has changed in many ways since the GPA was signed, the book points to long term structural problems that will not be solved by the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections alone. If anything, elections will just change the parameters of the conflict.

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