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July-August 2010
Vol. 35, No. 4


Zimbabwe: Still struggling

Zimbabwe’s inclusive government continues to be the subject of intense scrutiny, particularly by those Zimbabweans who are still waiting to see badly needed improvements in their quality of life and capacity to meet daily needs. (The national housing backlog is estimated at more than one million, with the Harare city council saying the capital alone had more than 500,000 families on the waiting list for decent housing.) The international community is also watching closely. The Zimbabwe Transition to Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (S. 3297), which opens the debate about U.S. policy towards Zimbabwe, was introduced into the Senate recently. According to Africa Action, the bill will be an important catalyst to the process of reviewing and realigning U.S. policy with democratic and reconstruction aspirations. We shall see.

In May, several faith-based organizations, including the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC), along with civil society partners, met to deliberate on the progress made by the inclusive government. In a joint statement released at the meeting’s conclusion, they wrote, “It is … our prayer and demand that the ... government must create a conducive environment to ensure that all citizens of Zimbabwe enjoy life in its abundance and fullness.”

While acknowledging implementation of parts of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) that led to partial stabilization of the economy, they expressed concern that the GPA has not been fully applied. Signed in September 2008, the GPA includes provisions for a land audit, a commitment to economic stabilization and growth, and a call for the removal of sanctions, as well as the promotion of national healing, Constitutional reform, and a fostering of democratic spaces through the introduction of various commissions on elections, media and human rights.

At their meeting, the ZCC and the others identified these urgent concerns: deepening and widening poverty; food inaccessibility for a majority of Zimbabweans due to lack of income; high unemployment (over 90 percent) and the failure to create new jobs; the discouragement of investment and (by some political authorities) of humanitarian assistance; continued problems within the education sector, with increasing illiteracy and a 60+ percent drop out rate due to high costs; slow recovery within the health sector; poor service delivery eroding the people’s confidence in public institutions; the re-emergence of political violence and intimidation in certain areas; the curtailment of freedom of worship, e.g. the burning down of churches and disruption of services; the seven-month delay in the Constitutional process and apparent lack of commitment and transparency in the selection of the outreach teams, the rapporteurs and the development of the talking points; failure of the Organ for National Healing and Integration to function effectively in a tension ridden country; violence against human rights defenders; and the marginalization of Zimbabwean citizens and the monopolization of the processes for national healing and Constitution by the three political parties.

Noting that all human beings are created equal before God, they called upon the three principals to apply political will to ensure the full implementation of the GPA; respect the God-given rights, security and dignity of persons; dismantle all structures that perpetuate political violence; reform the security sector as a critical component of creating a peaceful transition; create the relevant mechanisms to enable the independent commissions to function effectively; and ensure that the current chairperson of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) is Zimbabwe-based and readily available.

They also called for free and fair elections by the end of 2011 with church and civic society monitoring; international and regional supervision; a new and clean voters’ roll; a new ZEC Secretariat with an adequate budget allocation; a conducive environment for a free media, voter education and transparency; and the creation of a Constitutional and Electoral court – and urged the Southern African Development Community, which will meet in August 2010 in Namibia, to prioritize “these concerns from the people of Zimbabwe.”

Faith in action:

According to Africa Action, U.S. policy should  focus on supporting equitable economic recovery, democratic constitutional reform, national healing and a full transition to a democratic order. Read its analysis of the Zimbabwe Transition to Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (S. 3297) at the Africa Action website.

 

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