On November 16 I wrote here that the only crafty way in which the MDC may seek to withdraw would be by ensuring that Amendment No 19 is defeated in parliament by their parliamentarians. This, I thought, would be an extremely clever way in which to put pressure on Mugabe to agree to the demands being made by the MDC.
It still remains true that, legally, Mugabe has done nothing at all to breach this agreement. And that's no kind word for the dictator. Morally, it's entirely another story. Mugabe has been abysmal. Respecting the spirit of the Agreement has been most wanting in the president. But as SADC looks at this agreement, they will do so legally and technically. "The Spirit Of The Agreement" is not written in black and white and will not matter as much as the legal and legalistic provisions in it. This makes the MDC strategy of rerouting the process back to the mediation road by precipitating a new crisis (which is what voting against the agreement would achieve) very risky, perhaps even fatal.
Still, I think the MDC are determined to try their luck. If they do, I foresee chaos. SADC would then immediately declare the MDC in breach of the contract. (And please, no short memories, I don't want to get comments here about Mugabe's clear lack of respect for the spirit of the Agreement, I have addressed that above). What would be the consequences of that for the democracy project in Zimbabwe? It would mean that SADC would feel under no obligation whatsoever to put pressure on Mugabe. Put pressue on him for what, they will ask, as Mugabe is busy wailing that Tsvangirai has breached the agreement.
The disappointment for some of us is that this was an opportunity for Mugabe to be pushed to the wire. Tsvangirai had him. The dictator's back was up against the wall. But, admit it, deny it, the truth is that Mugabe has escaped yet again. The behaviour of the MDC now in trying to wiggle out of the agreement is only strengthening Mugabe's position with SADC and the AU. Gordon Brown, Desmond Tutu, Ian Khama and a few others may have the right ideas, but as things stand right now, they are shaking their fists at the wind.
To be honest, Tsvangirai hasn't given them much to work with. It will be even worse if he stymies the agreement. Yes, we would all dearly love to simply see the back of Mugabe so that we can get on with the job of saving lives and a country. But of course, Tutu's call for an armed invasion is impractical and will not happen. Reading the riot act to Mugabe as Brown called for over the weekend? On what grounds when Tsvangirai has appended his signature to an agreement that confirms Mugabe as president? Oh yes, it does. Read that agreement again. It says "this agreement shall enter into force upon its signature by the Parties...." Which means, as of now, Mugabe is president and Tsvangirai is Prime Minister. The agreement is in force, all it awaits is implementation. The "designate" surnames are only a technicality.
I get very surprised at the number of politically illiterate people who are commenting on this whole thing without having read the agreement itself. It explains a lot. Such as, for instance, why Mugabe is staying his hand with regards to the appointment of cabinet. He is an arrogant old man and would have done so in a snap. What he is waiting for is for Tsvangirai to hang himself, basically, either by voting down the amendment in parliament or by walking away finally and irreversibly from the SADC mediation as he is in the process of doing now. After that, just to ensure that there is no more talk of even more impasse-breaking talks, Mugabe will then kick his "mutiny/insurgency/Khama" plan into action. That would effectively put SADC into a corner and, whether it stands to reason or not according to our own politically illiterate "man-in-the-street" reasoning, the legalities would be the only thing that matter, the only thing left on the table. That is to say the legalities of the agreement signed in September. Based on that, SADC would feel compelled to put pressure on Tsvangirai, not Mugabe.
Remember that Tsvangirai gave away the only trump card he had: Mugabe's legitimacy. He signed an agreement which killed that argument because it recognised the fraudulent hoax of June 27 and confirmed Mugabe as president. That argument can not be reopened by Tsvangirai again at the SADC and AU level without him losing some face. Or worse. It still holds water elsewhere, yes, in London, in our own homes in Houghton Park, Harare, Klein Windhoek and Bishopscourt. But this argument is being held at SADC and AU level, which now both consider the legitimacy question closed by the consent of Tsvangirai. He saved them on that one. Even as he struggles to get an equitable deal now, do you hear him talk about Mugabe's legitimacy? Search back from the day after the signing to today and see if Tsvangirai has once, even once, brought up the legitimacy question, his biggest trump card. Why not? Exactly.