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SOUTHERN AFRICA: Reforms First, Elections Later

JOHANNESBURG, Jun 13 2011 (IPS) - A new constitution, voters’ roll and electoral law, among other things, have to be in place before elections in Zimbabwe can be held but observers doubt if this can be implemented.

The special Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit held from Jun. 10 to 12 in Johannesburg concluded that an agreement signed by the country’s three political parties, which agreed to a number of democratic measures among them the drafting of a new constitution for the country, democratising laws and reconstituting the country’s electoral body needed to be implemented. So far only the electoral body partially set up.

The Global Political Agreement (GPA) was signed by the country’s three political parties, Zanu PF, the Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai (MDC-T), and the Movement for Democratic Change- Mutambara (MDC-M) in 2008. President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF has refused to implement some of the GPA reforms until sanctions imposed on its officials by European and western countries are lifted.

But SADC insists that these reforms need to be implemented by August and that there should be “a conducive environment to holding of elections that will be free and fair under conditions of a level political field.”

The SADC summit comes on the back of serious moves by Mugabe to push for early elections despite objections from his political partners in the coalition government. Many feel that if Mugabe succeeds and holds early elections they will be held in an atmosphere of fear and intimidation.

Civic groups are also opposed to a hasty election and want it deferred until all the necessary political reforms are fulfilled. Even South African mediators have publicly stated that it will be impossible to hold elections this year.


But some observers have questioned whether SADC has the willpower to decisively deal with the long- drawn political crisis in Zimbabwe.

“SADC has persistently been reluctant to resolve the critical issues resulting from Mugabe and Zanu PF’s reluctance to share power equally with the MDC and there is nothing on the ground to indicate that this will change,” University of Zimbabwe political analyst John Makumbe told IPS.

A report released in April by Zimbabwe’s conflict mechanism body, the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC) accuses all the country’s political parties of having a hand in inter- party violence incidents in the country.

The regional appointed facilitator, South African President Jacob Zuma, expressed concern on the continuing violence in Zimbabwe. In his report to the SADC Organ Troika meeting held in Livingstone, Zambia in March, he warned that if not dealt with, the continuing violence had the potential to plunge the region into a crisis similar to the political uprisings in North Africa and the Arab world.

However, SADC, in a significant move proposed to follow through its directives with the appointment of its own representatives to monitor violence in Zimbabwe. The three representatives will work closely with the JOMIC.

The JOMIC functions have been heavily affected by lack of funds but will now receive financial support from SADC. This will allow it to carry out independent investigations into reports of violence in the country as opposed to receiving reports from political parties.

Reacting to the outcome of the summit, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC), a Zimbabwe pressure group working to promote democracy, told IPS that while it welcomes the summit decisions it remains doubtful whether they will be implemented.

“While they have said the right things, the challenge remains that of implementation. The communiqué did not address time-lines in concrete terms. It did not address measures to be taken by SADC in the event of non-compliance,” Dewa Mavhinga CiZC regional coordinator said.

“The team to work with JOMIC is a significant development, depending on their specific terms of reference. We would have wanted a clear indication that progress should be reviewed at the August Summit in Angola. From this communiqué it is inconceivable that elections will be held in 2011.”

Amnesty International Zimbabwe researcher, Simeon Mawanza said SADC must ensure that the agreed reforms are allowed time to take root.

“To hold an election 2011, as Zanu PF is arguing, will be intimidating (to) people. We need to allow the reforms that will be agreed on in the roadmap to take effect to cool down tensions in the country and to assure the people, particularly those in the rural areas, that they will not be exposed to the high levels of violence that they were exposed to in 2008,” said Mawanza.

 
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