By: Obert Gutu
In the case of Libya –
A National Transitional Council (NTC) was created and for a period of ten months between 2011 and 2012 it played a key role in the country regaining peace, following the era of Muammar Gaddafi.
It was the de facto government of Libya for that period and was recognised internationally. The Council ensured that the citizens of the country were safe from harm as well as attempting to liberate the rest of Libya pending the holding of free and fair elections.
In August 2012, the National Transitional Council was officially dissolved following transfer of power to the General Congress, who had victoriously won the elections. It is important to note that indeed a National Transitional Government was a success in Libya because there was no any other democratically elected government that was in place and also the country was in a serious political turmoil.
In the case of Somalia
The Transitional Federal Government (TFG) was the internationally recognized government of the Republic of Somalia until 20 August 2012, when its tenure officially ended and the Federal Government of Somalia was inaugurated. The TFG was established as one of the Transitional Federal Insitutions (TFIs) of government as defined in the Transitional Fderal Charter (TFC). This transitional government was prompted by the fact that Somalia had descended into a state of anarchy and there was serious social unrest.
From the above – mentioned case studies, that is, one of Libya, and the other of Somalia, it seems that there was serious political and social unrest. Both states were in serious turmoil at the time. It seemed there was no other way to address the political and social catastrophes other than that of a transitional government which would act as a national “peace – keeper”.
The Case of Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is currently facing a multiplicity of political and socio-economic challenges. Never in the history of the country have political, economic and social crises converged with such devastating consequences for the generality of the population.
The country’s economy suffers from sluggish growth, illiquidity, deflation and unpredictable policies, which have resulted in dysfunctional markets, massive de -industrialization, unemployment and a crumbling infrastructure.
A group of prominent Zimbabweans calling themselves “concerned citizens” have proposed a non-political National Transitional Authority to take over the running of the country from the current government until ‘’ free and fair” elections can be held. The concerned citizens are of the opinion that no election in the current political climate, can resolve the deep structural deficits in the country. In the context of the above, Zimbabwe needs a soft landing to avoid a catastrophe.
The National Transitional Authority (NTA) is just a transitional mechanism to allow an orderly transition from an extractive predatory status quo to a more democratic sustainable Zimbabwe. The pioneers of this idea argue that without the soft landing of the National Transitional Authority an overnight transition of hand over of State power is not possible in Zimbabwe. Indeed, the idea is not bad if the people of Zimbabwe would surely benefit from the transitional process as a rest haven away from the vicious contestation associated with Zimbabwe’s electoral process.
The other issue is that the notion of a National Transitional Authority is not provided for in the Constitution of Zimbabwe. The new Constitution (Amendment No. 20 of 2013) has no provision for a transitional government in order to alleviate political and social unrest. Hence, the idea of setting up in place a transitional government is unconstitutional. It would then call for an amendment of the Constitution itself in order to make the issue of the transitional government constitutional. This would also entail that various other legislative provisions would have to be amended in order to cater for the transitional government, for example, the Electoral Act. Indeed, it may even call for entirely new legislative provisions. This would prove to be practically difficult.
The other challenge would be that of the composition or make – up of the transitional government. Questions would arise as to how the members of the National Transitional Authority would be selected. Would they be selected by the political parties, or by other civic groups? The selection process, in and of itself, may even cause social and political turbulence. This is because every political party and/or civil rights movement would want to be members of the National Transitional Authority. This interest may stir up further conflict and unrest. The other question or issue which would arise is that even if the National Transitional Authority is made of persons of no political inclinations, would it not end up having external political influences and pressure? These are some of the questions which may arise in terms of the composition and the selection criteria.
The other issue which tends to be a major challenge is that the Zanu PF government is both the de facto and de jure constitutionally elected government; notwithstanding the apparent rigging of the harmonised elections that took place on July 31,2013. The fact of the matter is that the Zanu PF government led by President Robert Mugabe is, according to both constitutional and public international law, the lawful governing authority of the Republic of Zimbabwe. Hence, the idea of a National Transitional Authority would be difficult to implement. It would be practically impossible to have two governments ruling a state at the same time. This would end up causing many political problems. As a result, this would not benefit the simple men and women on the streets.
From the above – mentioned submissions it seems that the idea and notion of a National Transitional Authority, though academically appealing; it is virtually practically difficult, if not impossible, to implement. The best way forward would be to have other methods of safe transition such as engaging various International Human Rights Groups and international election observers which will arrive at least a year before elections and then depart six months after the elections to ensure and enforce a safe environment pre and post elections. Should there be any human rights violations citizens are still free to approach the courts in terms of Section 85 of the Constitution in order to have their rights enforced.
The other alternative is dialogue between civic society, opposition parties as well as the government in order to map the way forward and create a level playing field in preparation for the elections other than playing a blame game. Investors need confidence before they can invest their money in any country, hence the need to speak with one voice when it comes to national issues. Issues of national interest are above party politics hence the need for all stakeholders to work together for the betterment of the country, Zimbabwe. Any development that is sustainable must be from within and not from without. Foreign players must come in as complementary.
Obert Chaurura Gutu presented this paper at the Mass Public Opinion Institute discussion forum held at the New Ambassador Hotel, Harare, on Thursday, August 25, 2016.