Mugabe's zero sum game

Mugabe seems little constrained by the 2008 Global Political Agreement which established the coalition with the Movement for Democratic Change
Clifford Chitupa
25 August 2010

A zero-sum game may be defined as a contest in which one player’s loss is equal to the other player’s gain. A player benefits only at the equal expense of others. A common example given for a zero-sum game is chess. The other one is politics and it’s in the latter context that we are going to analyse Zimbabwe’s ongoing Global Political Agreement (GPA) saga. 

Prior to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit held on Monday 16/08/10 in Windhoek, Namibia, Mugabe scored a strategic goal by leaving his coalition partners in MDC to announce that an agreement had been reached by the so-called principals on 24 of the 27 outstanding issues although details remain a secret. Immediately there was another announcement that an agreement had been reached on the issue of provincial governors.

This augured very well for Mugabe in winning the hearts and minds of his counterparts at the summit. His latest goal has been the announcement on Saturday 21/08/10 that the coalition government has agreed to retain George Charamba who is widely believed to be the author of Nathaniel Manheru’s nauseating column as Mugabe’s spokesman. One could argue that the MDC should reveal what it was offered by Zanu-pf in return for compromising press freedom like that. Meanwhile, Zanu-pf politburo member Patrick Chinamasa announced on Friday 20/08/10 that there would be no appointment of governors until sanctions were lifted – a move that stalls the GPA indefinitely. 

Another goal scored by Mugabe at home was being able to use Tsvangirai to "wash” the Chiadzwa “blood” diamonds by presiding at an auction held at Harare Airport in his absence possibly fearing negative publicity due to reports that Grace Mugabe is a board member of one of the diamond mining companies at the controversial site where there has been reported a cholera outbreak. 

Despite raising £29 million (and not £46 million as announced by Zanu-pf Mines Minister Obert Mpofu), there are no indications that any of the proceeds will be used to fight the cholera outbreak as that task is usually reserved for Western donor agencies. This just exposes the greed of those multinational companies and their indigenous fronts who are so mean that they cannot afford to at least build health and other community facilities for the villagers who discovered the diamonds in the first place. Zimbabwe’s zero-sum game has also been played away from home.

Analysts seem to agree that Mugabe managed to “dribble Tsvangirai and Mutambara” in Windhoek. He managed to outflank his coalition partners by insisting that the two could not attend the 30th Sadc Summit because they were not heads of state like him. This is synonymous with the Shona saying “kuvhiyiswa mbudzi” meaning assigning juniors petty chores like skinning a slaughtered beast while the seniors deliberate on serious issues undisturbed! As the Prime Minister and his Deputy were transiting through Johannesburg on their way home, an Air Zimbabwe Boeing 767 long haul was parked for three days at Windhoek’s Hosea Kutako International Airport waiting for Robert Mugabe at a time when the country is facing starvation, HIV AIDS and retrenching teachers due to lack of funds. In an introduction to Edgar Tekere’s biography, “A Lifetime of Struggle” Ibbo Mandaza laments Zimbabwe’s inability to establish a national economy due to, inter alia “rampant mediocrity and corruption and leaders including the head of state most of whom are not conversant with economic and financial issues while simultaneously reckless and extravagant in the management of resources, including money…”(2007:11). 

During the talks leading to the GPA, Mugabe managed to attend the Sadc's 28th summit held in Johannesburg in August 2008 while Tsvangirai and Mutambara were excluded (Pretoria News 16/08/08). Therefore, there are no prizes for guessing who the winner is in Zimbabwe’s “zero sum game” in this GPA saga. 

Tsvangirai’s high hopes of getting a road map for elections from the summit were dashed despite his lobbying trip to South Africa prior to Windhoek. It looks like the MDC had underestimated Mugabe’s strategic, timely and unilateral deployment of Phelekezela Mphoko to Pretoria last month just in time for the summit, which Professor John Makumbe rightly predicted would achieve very little.

Although he failed to remove Zimbabwe from the Sadc agenda, Mugabe succeeded  in having the Zimbabwe issue to be downplayed to less than an hour of Troika’s discussion thus enabling him to escape any probing questions from his counterparts about the stalled implementation of GPA in the presence of Tsvangirai and Mutambara. He also managed to score another goal in having the Sadc Tribunal suspended for 6 months although this was later denied by the secretariat.

In his address to the 30th Sadc summit, Mugabe reportedly wondered about the continent's inability to add value to its exports: "How can we fail even to manufacture one chocolate ourselves today?" he was quoted as saying by Inter Press Service (18/08/10). Paradoxically, workers at Mugabe family’s Gushungo Dairy Farm who are said to earn an average US$40 per month recently accused their employer of unfair dismissal, hostile working conditions  and sending 50 workers on forced indefinite unpaid leave a fortnight ago (The Zimbabwean, 18/08/10).

While his captive audience in Windhoek rallied around him, this was in contrast to the pressure exerted on him and the late Joshua Nkomo by the Frontline States to reach a negotiated settlement with the Rhodesian Front leader Ian Smith at Lancaster House in December 1979. Unfortunately, 30 years after Zimbabwe’s independence the struggle continues at home and away!

Professor Goran Hyden of the University of Florida gives a very precise summation in his paper entitled “Between State and Community: Challenges to redesigning governance in Africa” by saying:

“Recent deliberations over what to do with the problematic forms of governance in Zimbabwe shows that the rule that you are either with me or against me continues to be a powerful force in deciding relations between African heads of state and the rest of the world” (2006:16).




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