Zimbabwe heading for flawed transition

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition issues warning

Richard Lee's picture

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Strategic communications for WWF

October 22nd, 2012

While all eyes in Zimbabwe are focussed on the last few steps of the constitution-drafting process and particularly the 2nd All Stakeholders constitutional conference in Harare, the reality is that the country is still heading for a flawed transition four years after the Global Political Agreement (GPA) was signed.

Writing in Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition’s first Zimbabwe Transition Barometer, the group’s Director, Mcdonald Lewanika, argues that – with elections looming in 2013 – the country is heading for a ‘transition that is hinged on window dressing reforms…and a fallacy of electoralism’. And he lays the blame largely at the feet of President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU PF party, which, he says, wants to ‘manipulate both the process and the content of the reforms to its advantage so that Zimbabwe can have a flawed election that keeps it in power’.

The barometer, which can be downloaded below, points to a rise in political violence and intimidation – mainly related to militia groups connected to ZANU-PF leaders – as well as growing violations of democratic tenets by the security sector and other political party members.

The report also highlights other concerns including continuing delays in the creation of a new and accurate voters’ roll; the lack of guidelines for the conduct of the security sector and political parties before, during and after elections; and the fact that SADC officials have still not begun to work on the ground with the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC), even though SADC agreed to deploy its officials way back in June 2011.

While there have been improvements in the country’s economic performance, the barometer highlights a number of key economic reforms that have not been implemented as well as other problems, including bickering in the IG over the composition and operationalisation of the National Economic Council and intra-government discord over the economic empowerment and indigenisation policy. Critically, Lewanika also refers to the murky flow of diamond revenues, very little of which seems to have ended up in the government’s coffers.

The barometer also highlights another major concern in relation to the transition process – the lack of genuine media pluralism, the controversial appointment of members of the board of the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe, the unreformed nature of the state media and the continued use by ZANU-PF of state media to carry partisan messages and demonise other political parties.

While the constitution-drafting process and subsequent referendum could provide a much-needed boost to the transition process, Lewanika’s overall view is pessimistic. “The overall rating of democratisation remains low, mainly due to the failure to implement key clauses of the GPA. This has been exacerbated by the lack of an independent GPA oversight body as well as SADC’s lack of capacity to enforce compliance to the agreement.”

But this is not a call to give up and start expecting – and planning – for the worst. Zimbabwe could still enjoy a peaceful transition to a more democratic and open society but only if all players interested in ensuring a successful transition act now.

Indeed, Lewanika concludes that the reason for this hard-hitting report is to act as ‘an early warning sign that provides an opportunity for civil society, the region and international actors to intensify efforts to leverage democratic transition in Zimbabwe’.

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