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May/June 2011
Vol. 36, No. 3


Zimbabwe: Hard road to reform

As uprisings spread through northern Africa and the Middle East, Zimbabwe's ruling party, ZANU-PF, organized its own "popular" demonstrations in Harare with ZANU-PF supporters carrying banners reading "No to foreigners controlling our economy" and "Foreigners, sanctions have destroyed our economy so we want to control our wealth." According to Solidarity Peace Trust, "the demonstrations were violent and destructive, causing enormous damage to property at the Gulf shopping mall in the city. They were also carried out on the eve of the EU meeting to review the targeted measures against key ZANU-PF figures, almost in an attempt to ensure that measures were not removed as the sanctions issue was a key message in the ZANU-PF election campaign."

ZANU-PF also stopped any incipient Egypt style demonstrations. In February, 45 people were arrested for watching a video of demonstrations in Egypt and Tunisia. They were charged with treason for plotting to overthrow the government.

A recent AfricaFocus Bulletin (April 14) quoted extensively from the April 13 report of Solidarity Peace Trust entitled "The Hard Road to Reform." The report discounts "over optimistic hopes for an 'Egypt moment' in Zimbabwe," but notes that the Global Political Agreement (GPA) still offers hope for change, despite the fact that ZANU-PF has consistently blocked its full implementation. Civil society groups noted with approval the recent sharpening of Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) criticism, but warned that it remains to be seen how much pressure will be sustained. The full report is available on the Solidarity Peace Trust website.

The report makes particular note of the recent change in the SADC approach to ZANU-PF:

[The] … seeming lethargy of the SADC facilitation took a dramatic turn at the SADC Troika summit in Zambia on March 31. Noting with "grave concern" the political polarization in Zimbabwe characterized by the "resurgence of violence, arrests and intimidation," the Summit made five resolutions on Zimbabwe:
* There must be an immediate end of violence, intimidation, hate speech, harassment, and any other form of action that contradicts the letter and spirit of the GPA [Global Political Agreement].
* All stakeholders to the GPA should implement all the provisions of the GPA and create a conducive environment for peace, security, and free political activity.
* The Inclusive Government should complete all the steps for the holding of the election including the finalization of the constitutional amendment and the referendum.
* SADC should assist Zimbabwe to formulate guidelines that will assist in holding an election that will be peaceful, free and fair, in accordance with the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.
* The Troika of the Organ shall appoint a team of officials to join the Facilitation Team and work with the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC) to ensure monitoring, evaluation and implementation of the GPA. ...

Without naming Mugabe directly, these resolutions were arguably the most forthright diplomatic criticism that SADC had issued of the Mugabe regime, with the recommendations largely echoing the demands that the MDC [Movement for Democratic Change] and the civic movement had been making since 2009. Moreover for the first time since SADC began discussing the outstanding issues of the GPA the sanctions issue was not mentioned, an issue that consistently kept the region in solidarity with Mugabe. The style of diplomatic intervention shifted significantly from Mbeki's "quiet diplomacy," which the Zuma team had largely adopted on taking over the reins of the facilitation.

At this point it might be argued that the reasons for the change in SADC's approach were the result of a combination of factors. These included: increased international pressure in the wake of events in North Africa; the growing frustration of SADC with the obstructive behavior of the Mugabe regime; and the persistent pressure of the lobbying of the MDC and civil society in both Zimbabwe and South Africa. It remains to be seen whether SADC has the united political will to follow this through.

The response to the SADC resolutions by the Mugabe regime was, to say the least, apoplectic. ...
In early March ZANU-PF also lost the Speakership in Parliament, robbing the party of control of a key position in the legislature in the event of a succession vote in Parliament should Mugabe pass on in the near future.

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