Zim facing flawed transition

HARARE - Zimbabwe enters an election year with implementation of outstanding reforms and a new constitution lagging way behind schedule.

Civil rights activists warn that given the marked interest of the security sector in politics and elections, there is a high potential for increased state-sponsored violence and intimidation ahead of the election this year; and the credibility of the election itself is marredby threats of military involvement should eventual results not fall in favour of President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF.

The 49-year-old ruling party remains at crossroads because of the health and age problems facing Mugabe, the charismatic leftist leader who has dominated Zimbabwean politics for 32 years.

Currently away on holiday in Asia, the 88-year-old leader’s absence — coming after numerous medical trips to the Far East for an undisclosed ailment and a festering impasse over the constitution — has raised fresh speculation that he had rushed for urgent medical check-ups.

The former guerrilla leader, turning 89 next month, is no longer the formidable candidate he used to be. This opens a huge hole for his political opposition.

But Zanu PF’s opposition has failed to stay united, and have used Mugabe’s illness and advanced age as campaign fodder, while sledging the sparse accomplishments by the Zanu PF revolution.

The past year  witnessed bare-knuckle political brawls, ebbs and flows of sporadic violence, and backroom manoeuvring among power brokers.

Analysts say the coming months will bring more of the same, but Zimbabwe is likely to keep moving forward — albeit imperceptibly at times — to implement a new constitution and an election roadmap.

The bargaining will continue to be fierce, because the stakes are high as the southern African nation hurtles towards a make-or-break poll, civil rights activists warn.

Over the past two months, there has been some minor movement in implementation of some of the agreed issues in the power sharing Global Political Agreement (GPA).

Political analyst Phillan Zamchiya, regional coordinator for Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, said the enactment of the Electoral Amendment Bill has injected some hope in carving out a credible electoral framework.

“If implemented fully and without any political interference; the new law has potential to limit some of the deviant cases in the June 2008 election while improving the electoral environment,” he said.

Further, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has made strides in partnering with the reputable regional electoral institute, the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (Eisa), which is assisting Zec with capacity building and running a free and fair poll.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill has also been enacted paving the way for the operationalisation of the commission. However, the constitutional commission is reeling after its chairperson Reginald Austin, a law professor and former Commonwealth secretariat’s head of legal and constitutional affairs division, resigned in protest on December 13 against the commission’s lack of independence and financial resourcing.

“As much as the enactment of the bill provides a trajectory towards democratisation; the limited extend of its scope precludes other components of our society from accessing full redress of historical deprivations; which in itself is a denial of democratic rights,” Zamchiya said.

“Political will remains key to the full operationalisation and committed application of the Act and this must be demanded.”

There has been a marked progress in easing of restrictive measures or sanctions on Zimbabwe. The 27-nation European Union bloc in May last year removed dozens of officials from the “sanctions list” and is to restore support to the Zimbabwean government under the European Development Fund in the 2014 funding calendar.

The IMF has also restored Zimbabwe’s voting rights and the government’s interaction with the Bretton Woods institution has markedly increased over the last four years.

Only the US remains recalcitrant on maintaining sanctions it set under the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (Zidera) of 2001.

The US sanctions regime has also extended to the State firm Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC); which is highlighted as government’s top most diamond revenue channel.

The US has incessantly questioned the lack of transparency in the diamond industry.

Zamchiya said: “Although the remaining ‘sanctions’ and measures have potential to inhibit further political reforms in Zimbabwe; their inducement for such reforms is also unclear.”

Sadc’s point man in the Zimbabwe dialogue, South African president Jacob Zuma has stepped up calls to push Zimbabwean principals to move faster on the constitutional reform process.

But overt pressure will not produce a better result and may prolong the process by adding to its inherent complexity, analysts warn.

Although the Second All-Stakeholders’ Conference was staged peacefully in October; it is the post-meeting processes that have caused concern.

Cabinet has unilaterally established a sub-committee to address the constitutional impasse over Zanu PF objections to the July 18 draft after Mugabe indicated that the GPA principals will have to take-over the process and agree on how to tackle the impasse; which again is an abrogation of the stipulated GPA process.

“The tension and gridlock in the constitution process has a high likelihood of sustaining process stagnancy; which can lead to the total collapse of the writing and adoption of a new constitution,”
Zamchiya warned.

“Completion of the constitution process must be prioritised and the citizenry must be allowed an opportunity to put to test the draft through a democratic referendum.”

He warned Zimbabwe was heading toward a “flawed transition”, a situation where Mugabe allows reforms to take place and in the process occasionally loses control resulting in “accidental positive democratic outcomes”.

He warned that if the MDC formations do not show “proper leadership” this year, the country could be on the verge of a failed transition.

With Mugabe on the ropes, he could still spring to life and dash all hopes of a change of government if the MDC fails to manage the transition.

“In this process Zanu PF is still determined to control and manipulate the laws and reforms so that Zimbabwe can have an artificial election that retains it into power,” Zamchiya said.

He said Zimbabwe was going through a transition called “trans-placement” as happened in Czechoslovakia and Nicaragua, where democratisation occurred from joint action by government and opposition groups. - Gift Phiri, Political Editor

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