Building vibrant and tolerant democracies
On the 8th of February, Zimbabwe’s political principals - President Mugabe, Prime Minister Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara - met to discuss outstanding issues in the Global Political Agreement (GPA) ahead of a planned visit by SADC facilitator, President Zuma of South Africa. And the story that was given to the media after the lengthy discussion seemed very positive - on a host of issues from the constitution to elections to media reform to a land audit.
Indeed, at face value, the agreements made by the political principals represent significant progress. However, the key challenge in Zimbabwe has long been how to get 'agreements' implemented. The GPA, signed in September 2008, has several clauses to that have not been implemented due to the lack of political will, particularly on the part of President Mugabe and ZANU-PF, and the significant political power of the partisan and politicised security forces. This latest round of agreements between the political principals may also fall victim to non-implementation - as the security chiefs are likely to resist these proposed measures.
The agreement on the need for a land audit is not new at all. It is contained in the GPA but no progress has been made due to resistance from ZANU-PF. The positions taken on media reforms and the need to reconstitute the various boards and revoke licenses that have already been issued are welcome but they must be followed through urgently.
In addition to ensuring free and fair elections, the principals must also place a special emphasis on mechanisms to prevent violence or intimidation and to ensure that those who commit violence and other human rights abuses are held accountable. The timing for the next elections should be informed by the institution of critical reforms, including mechanisms to reign in the security chiefs, who interfere in political and electoral affairs.
A significant weakness of the agreements by principals is the conspicuous lack of watertight timeframes for implementation. The principals must ensure that their agreements have clear time frames and undertakings so that their political party structures will not reverse or resist the implementation of the agreements. There is a real fear that ZANU-PF structures and their allies may reject these agreements.
Indeed, the position of ZANU-PF and its allies, including the so-called war veterans, is that elections must be held in 2012 with or without critical reforms and that the constitutional reform process must be abandoned in favour of rushed elections contrary to the agreement by the principals. The challenge is for President Mugabe to reign in his party and security chiefs so that they submit to the agreements reached at the highest level of political authority by the principals.
SADC must also closely monitor the situation in Zimbabwe as there is a danger that the hardliners in ZANU-PF and the security establishment may turn against Mugabe for embracing reforms - if this agreement is a genuine gesture of sincerity on his part. Zimbabwe is at serious risk of a violent military takeover if Mugabe softens without carrying the politically entrenched securocrats along with him. A visible SADC monitoring presence in Zimbabwe would help to diffuse tensions and keep the securocrats in check. Even though these agreements seem to send a positive signal, SADC and the AU ought to be on high alert now - because in Zimbabwe hopes of genunie progress can quickly precipitate a violent backlash.
Dewa Mavhinga, Regional Coordinator, Crisis in Zimbabwe CoalitionShareThis