Nelson Chamisa’s MDC Alliance has maintained its refusal to accept the legitimacy of Mnangagwa’s presidential election victory. In pursuing this objective, the opposition has adopted a dual strategy: a combination of protests and the hope of international pressure.
The thinking behind this strategy is that the cumulative economic crisis and international constraints will force the Mnangagwa regime into conceding to their demands for a renegotiation of power. There are several problems with this approach.
Firstly, as we have seen in other parts of the continents crisis authoritarian states can maintain their rule for long periods of time through minimalist state forms of rule that combine a control of certain extractive forms of revenue with command over the central means of coercion.
Moreover as Paul Nugent points out such states can combine coercive, productive and permissive forms of rule involving varying relations of coercion and consent and different episodes of negotiations and conflict between states and citizens.
The reductionist view that economic crisis will deliver what the election could not is extremely precarious.
Secondly, the social base of the opposition, particularly in the now largely informalised urban sector, is likely to be further weakened by a deepening economic crisis. This is unlikely to result in more protests and a strengthening of the opposition presence in the public sphere.
It could lead to a further retreat into individualised forms of survival and already well supported religious structures and their more optimistic ethereal futures.
Thirdly, the international pressure that the opposition is counting will not take the forms of more open political conditionality in favour of the opposition.
At present, key players in the international community are more concerned with keeping ZANU- PF on the reform agenda than with any more open or surrogate support for the opposition as in the past.
For many countries in the EU the stabilisation agenda in countries like Zimbabwe remains a key factor in the face of all the changes in European politics, particularly around the massive migration issue that is currently dominating European politics.
Moving forward, there is clearly a need for a new national dialogue, including but not just limited to, the major political parties. It should also include a broad range of civic interests.
In the recent past, there have been calls for such a dialogue from Concerned Citizens and Churches. Even if ZANU-PF is not yet ready for such an initiative, the need for it is increasingly clear.
While there are clear differences between ZANU-PF and the MDC Alliance, the parties have moved closer together on their neo-liberal economic agendas.
The TINA (there is no alternative narrative) position of the Thatcher/Reagan years has become the common sense of both parties. As it stands, it is the terms of this macro-economic stabilisation programme as well as political reforms that could be the start of such a national discussion.
Hopefully, this could also lead to a serious critique of this currently shared economic policy.- Brian Raftopoulos