Africa Briefing N°82 16 Nov 2011
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Transition and reform appear stalemated in Zimbabwe. Profound deficits remain in implementation of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) signed by Zimbabwe’s three main political parties in September 2008. Prospects are remote for engaging core security and law-and-order concerns before elections that are anticipated within twenty months. Nothing significant has changed in the half year since April 2011, when the GPA’s Periodic Review Mechanism reported that most outstanding issues were unresolved; that negotiated solutions are followed by interminable delays in execution appears to have become an entrenched pattern. Opportunities to build a foundation for sustainable political and economic recovery are consistently undermined. Violence and repression are pressing concerns; the police appear unwilling or unable to provide effective deterrence or remedy and the expectation of a more proactive engagement by the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC) around issues of political violence has yet to bear fruit.
The promise that the regional organisation, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), would take a more robust stand following the 31 March communiqué of its Organ Troika on Politics, Defence and Security has not yet been adequately borne out. The two competing formations of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have largely welcomed the more proactive engagement of SADC’s facilitation team, headed by South African President Jacob Zuma. But President Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party, which retains the dominant role in the current power sharing arrangement, has frustrated it, not least because it wishes to preserve the monopoly control of the security sector it relies on as the ultimate line of defence for its hegemony.
An election endgame was implicit in the GPA. The questions were always when would the vote be held, and what reform could be achieved beforehand. SADC rejected ZANU-PF’s claim that conditions for free and fair elections have or shortly can be met and its demand for a 2011 vote, saying that reforms were needed first. ZANU-PF’s most recent call, in September, for elections in the first quarter of 2012 seems equally unrealistic; most analysts concur that the earliest the country could conceivably be ready is late that year. The likelihood of further delays around finalisation of the constitution-writing process and implementation of election and media reform, as well as the security and law-and-order considerations, suggest, however, that the first half of 2013 is much more realistic.
An upsurge in political violence and repression in late October and early November, compounded by allegations of ZANU-PF and police complicity, has been interpreted by several analysts as a renewed attempt to force collapse of the GPA and an early vote. Mugabe’s recent admission that he cannot force a 2012 date suggests the realisation is growing within the party that efforts to impose elections without consensus would be counter-productive, but powerful forces within it, especially those pushing for Mugabe’s re-election candidacy, remain committed to a vote sooner rather than later. ZANU-PF’s conference in Bulawayo on 6-10 December should clarify what it will push for.
SADC, as guarantors with the African Union of the GPA, needs to secure tangible progress on several key issues if elections are ultimately to be held in conditions that are sufficiently free and fair. The divisive security and law and order issues have essentially been ignored or avoided in the inter-party negotiations. The regional organisation needs to find a way to change this. Its strategy has been to reduce the GPA’s reform agenda to a more manageable set of priorities and to strengthen monitoring of implementation. A draft election roadmap, reflecting unresolved GPA concerns, has been drawn up, but key disagreements on political violence, security sector reform, composition of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and GPA monitoring remain unresolved. In June, SADC approved the Organ Troika’s recommendation to deploy a technical team to work with the JOMIC. Augmenting SADC’s eyes and ears is essential to its ability to facilitate agreements, but symptomatically the deployment has still not happened.
Since the signing of the GPA, Crisis Group has continually identified two major transition challenges: to develop a mature political system that enables both cooperation and responsible competition between the political parties, and to cope with security issues that threaten to undermine meaningful reform. This briefing assesses SADC’s post-March repositioning, as well as political and institutional developments related to the evolving security situation.
Johannesburg/Brussels, 16 November 2011