The deal between president Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF party and Morgan Tsvangirai’s opposition MDC has been widely hailed as heralding the end of the crisis in Zimbabwe.
Zanu-PF lost the general election in March, but refused to give up power. Enormous levels of repression helped it win a run-off in June.
It has had to make some significant concessions to reach the current settlement.
However there are serious problems with the deal.
The democratic election result has been disregarded and no one outside the leadership of the government and opposition parties had any say in this.
All Mugabe’s draconian laws remain in place.
The country’s economy is still in ruins. Inflation is 11 million percent and unemployment 80 percent.
In such a situation it is questionable that the deal will provide any stability.
The Financial Times quotes a new United Nations report that argues “it could take more than 12 years for Zimbabwe’s economy to recover peak levels of per capita income reached in 1991”.
It doesn’t mention that 1991 was the point when the first Western-imposed economic structural adjustment programme kicked in.
This impoverished ordinary people and led to a massive fightback against Mugabe’s regime, which was implementing the programme.
Now the West is demanding precisely the same sort of neoliberal policies to end Zimbabwe’s economic crisis.
In Kenya a political stand off over a fixed election in December last year was “resolved” with a similar “grand coalition” of national unity.
After months of chaos and ethnic cleansing, opposition leader Raila Odinga took office as prime minister in April this year. President Kibaki, who had stolen the election, remained in place.
After the ethnic fighting in Kenya at the beginning of the year 300,000 people were living in refugee camps.
This figure has fallen to 25,000, but some 75,000 are now living in “transit camps” in areas where ethnic tension is still rife.
In an attempt to accommodate both sides, the Kenyan cabinet has an unwieldy 41 ministers.
Far from meaning that more things get done, the “grand coalition government” does very little as ministers from each party spend their time squabbling with other members of the government.
Any radical plans the opposition may have had to help the poor are on ice.
In Zimbabwe there is a plan for a similarly bloated cabinet of 31 ministers – with 15 earmarked for Zanu-PF, 13 for MDC, and three held by a breakaway MDC faction.
There is no reason to believe it will be any more able to act, and given the degree to which Tsvangirai has already accepted Western help, it may be even more immobilised.
In both countries a movement is needed that can push aside the crippling, neoliberal demands of the West and the moribund leadership that clings on to power.
The upsurge that created the MDC in the late 1990s was such a movement.