Optimists – there are still some – are assessing Zimbabwe against the background of the ‘Arab Spring’. On 11 January 2012, we had twenty eight months of the ‘Inclusive (or Unified) Government’ (IG/GNU) following the signing of the ’Global Political Agreement’ (GPA) between the two major and one minor party – ZANU-PF and the MDC formations. The eleven year plus crisis continues, but with the difference that after years of collusion with Harare, there is now wavering pressure on the regime from regional leaders in the southern Africa organisation, SADC. A roadmap to free and fair elections is being drafted, although without implementation benchmarks, or movement on the key promise to strengthen the Joint Monitoring Committee (JOMIC) set up to ensure GPA compliance. The areas of independent electoral commission, role of observers, free media and reform of the security sector are key.
The GPA has largely not fulfilled its promise, although there has been limited economic improvement. The budget for 2012 was $4 billion from $2.7 billion in 2011, although there was no sum set aside for elections. The humanitarian situation is precarious, food production is down after the land reform programme, epidemics such as typhoid or the re-emergence of cholera are possible. There are 3.5 million children in poverty in Zimbabwe.
The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) remains unable to overcome ZANU-PF’s political and military control. The form of control is both multi-sectoral and overlapping – through party presence, economic ownership – land, finances and minerals – and control over the security sector. Mugabe continues to divide the former opposition such as in his demands in February 2011 and at the December 2011 ZANU-PF conference for an end to the coalition and elections in 2012. With rumours that Mugabe’s constant trips to Malaysia are to treat pancreatic cancer, ZANU-PF wanted elections in 2011 (and now 2012) with the unreformed voters roll and its supporters in charge of the process. The downside for him is that ZANU-PF has no money and is riven by factions, some of whom do not want to see Mugabe as their candidate against Prime Minister Tsvangirai. Faction fighting to succeed Mugabe and ensure continued access to legal and illegal resources has increased especially since the suspicious death in August 2011 of General Solomon Mujuru, husband of the Vice President Joice and powerbroking head of one of ZANU-PF factions. Mujuru apparently told Mugabe it was time for him to step down. The party has made no preparations for elections – which practically all commentators believe will be violent.
Widespread state-sponsored violence means MDC politicians and ministers, journalists, human rights activists, independent newspaper distributors, lawyers, NGOs and church congregations, notably the Anglican Church, the Apostolic Sects, and Catholics are all under attack. Combined with partisan application of the law in terms of who is arrested (with government supporting perpetrators enjoying almost total immunity and others especially opposition supporters and civil society still being subject to arbitrary arrest), increased deployment of soldiers across the country openly intimidating citizens and campaigning for ZANU-PF this confirms that key state structures remain unreformed, partisan, politicised and militarised. The Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and other repressive legislation have not been repealed – indeed are used by security organs. There is little police protection for victims of political violence.
While levels of violence and intimidation initially reduced in 2009 and 2010, levels of fear and related mobilisation necessary to ensure ZANU-PF’s continuation in power are likely to be maintained with the expectation that collective punishment will be directed at those areas that abandoned ZANU-PF in 2008 elections. Mugabe is highly reliant on the Joint Operations Command (JOC) supposedly dismantled under the GPA but still controlling the repression. Brigadier General of the Defence Forces, Douglas Nyikayaramba said that JOC regarded Prime Minister Tsvangirai as a security threat so it was legitimate for the army to remain in politics to counter subversion. This follows numerous statements by military and security leaders on refusing to salute anyone without liberation credentials i.e. Tsvangirai.
Since the discovery of alluvial diamonds in Marange (Chiadzwa), in 2006, the area has seen violence, social instability, and environmental degradation with diamonds having allegedly become a source of income for corrupt individuals, a repressive ZANU PF regime and its military allies, and suspicions that illegally-controlled revenue will be used for ZANU-PF violence against opponents.
Zimbabwean civil society sees the following as crucial. SADC, as GPA guarantor, needs to ensure elections comply with SADC guidelines, but also deal with outstanding disagreements – staffing of the Zimbabwe Elections Commission to make it demilitarised, independent, and adequately-resourced, the role of the security forces in repression, repealing of legislation prohibiting freedom of expression and movement, plus the role of election monitors. A new constitution is crucial including electoral reforms like an accurate voters’ roll, guarantees for media freedom, promotion of gender equality and equal access by all political parties to state media. The roadmap must layout contingency plans of steps to be taken in the event that a constitutional referendum produces a No Vote. All soldiers should be returned to barracks.
EU special measures (‘sanctions’), US and Swiss sanctions against the ZANU-PF elite are due for renewal in February and March 2012 and many (quietly) think they should be maintained until such time as genuine progress has been made – despite Mugabe using the ‘sanctions’ to say the West is promoting regime change. More importantly, continued outside support for churches and civil society is vital.