Two years of GNU – Stormy weather ahead...

Zimbabwe’s Government of National Unity

Zimbabwe’s Government of National Unity

Zimbabwe’s Government of National Unity (GNU) will celebrate its second birthday tomorrow. Although the coalition government can indeed celebrate the achievement of economic stability in the country, the political reforms implemented in the past two years have been largely cosmetic.

Zimbabwe’s Government of National Unity (GNU) will celebrate its second birthday tomorrow. Although the coalition government can indeed celebrate the achievement of economic stability in the country, the political reforms implemented in the past two years have been largely cosmetic. Analysts agree that the GNU has failed to distribute power evenly, with Mugabe’s ZANU-PF being unwilling to surrender a meaningful share of executive and military power.

After the disputed 2008 presidential elections the country’s three major political parties signed the Global Political Agreement (GPA), which was meant to lay the foundations for a democratic Zimbabwe, with elections free from violence. Among other things, the GPA enjoins the parties who formed the GNU on 11 February 2009 to restore the rule of law, human rights, media freedom and many other democratic aspirations.

However, since the GNU took office there has been much tension and disagreement between the parties on the outstanding issues preventing the full implementation of the GPA. These relate to the contestation over senior political agreements (most notably Attorney General Tomana, Reserve Bank Governor Gono, and Deputy Agriculture Minister Bennett) and key reforms in the sectors mentioned above. Restrictive statutes such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) for example, are yet to be repealed in spite of the GPA's stated commitment to a free and independent media. Furthermore, most state institutions remain militarised, leading to continued impunity for human rights abusers and a partisan military and police force.

The mutual distrust led to threats from both sides to withdraw from the GNU. ZANU-PF leaders, including Vice-President John Nkomo and President Mugabe often outrightly denounced the institution of the GNU as ‘a regrettable formation which both wished their party would disengage from.’ It seems the lifespan of the GNU is coming to an end and elections are looming on the horizon.

Given Zimbabwe’s violent history with elections, the recent acts of violence in Harare are a worrying signal. Zanu PF youths disrupted businesses in the capital on Monday, demanding an immediate takeover of foreign-owned companies while at the same time protesting against so-called sanctions, threatening to beat up any person opposing their ‘anti-sanctions campaign’. The attacks followed last weekends wave of violence which saw gangs of ZANU youths rampaging through the capital injuring dozens of MDC-T supporters. An MDC-T statement said 400 ZANU PF youths besieged the MDC district office in Mbare and assaulted 24 of its youth who guard the premises. Both acts seemed well orchestrated.

Zimbabwe Watch believes the violence vindicates the position of civil society organizations that without reforms there can not be a free and fair election in Zimbabwe. The violence occurs in the wake of the EU decision on the extensions of the targeted measures.