Why the opposition failed to make any reforms in the inclusive government


The Movement for Democratic Change failed to make any meaningful reforms during the four years it was part of the inclusive government because the opposition were always outsiders, “like distant relatives at a wealthy cousin’s wedding”

“I know they tried but they were facing a well-drilled and stubborn system,” said Alex Magaisa, former advisor to MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai who was the country’s Prime Minister from February 2009 to July 2013.

In an interview with The Herald, Magaisa said: “Looking back, failing to have electoral reforms during the GNU era was a big failing but having been close to the action I know they tried but they were facing a well-drilled and stubborn system.

“When the GNU came, I was one of its biggest supporters because I believed it was an opportunity for the opposition to bring some influence into government and to promote reforms from within the system. But the opposition remained the opposition. They were always outsiders, like distant relatives at a wealthy cousin’s wedding.

“It was a difficult experience, partly because the Global Political Agreement was not very well negotiated and it left ZANU-PF with a lot more power than the results of the 2008 elections allowed.

“The result was that constrained by the protocol of office and comforted by the luxuries of office, the MDC was not able to use its vantage position to influence many reforms. It is very hard, now that they are out of Government, to see how these reforms can be achieved to full satisfaction.”

Magaisa said it therefore did not make much sense to boycott elections now unless the MDC-T had a back-up plan. The MDC-T has said it will not participate in any elections until there are electoral reforms.

“In politics, the principle of majority rule has to be respected and boycotting elections is a decision that was taken by the party’s congress in October 2014. For that reason, it deserves respect. They have given out their reasons for that decision.

“The only point I would say is that no rule in politics is immutable and for that reason, the election boycott decision should never be regarded as immutable. You have to be dynamic. If you have immutable rules, you become predictable and easy for your opponents.

“Having been close to the scene of action in the July 31 elections, I understand and have sympathy for the party’s decision to boycott, although I also believe that the decision was two years too late. That decision would have made more sense in 2013, when it was clear that we were going into a rushed election without reforms.

“Further, I also believe that when you take a position such as a boycott, it makes sense only if you have a back-up plan. You have to say, you are boycotting but you are also doing A, B, C, D, to ensure that your demands for reforms are met. Otherwise you will remain in a perpetual state of boycott.

“Or if you eventually change your mind after many boycotts, people will say, but why did you waste all those opportunities boycotting elections? Knowing ZANU-PF, I think it’s hoping for too much to expect it to ignite reforms simply because of a boycott without more. You have to apply pressure and to do more to bring about the needed reforms.”


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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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