'We'll keep knocking on Sadc's door'

HARARE - As Zimbabwe hurtles towards watershed elections whose date continues to be contested despite a court ruling and a Sadc summit which gave recommendations for an extension on the date, the Daily News Senior Assistant Editor Guthrie Munyuki, sought the views of Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition regional coordinator, Joy Mabenge, on their advocacy and lobbying in southern Africa as well as the reading of the Sadc summit outcome.

Below are excerpts of the interview conducted in Johannesburg.

Q: How significant is the outcome of the Sadc summit held in Maputo to your calls for the holding of free and fair elections?

A: The outcome of the Maputo summit was very clear, with the writing bold on the wall for President Mugabe: No elections without the necessary reforms!

One would be tempted to think that the resolution was crafted from the civil society’s well-documented position calling for crucial reforms before the harmonised election to ensure the elections are credible, free and fair.

We took this position to all corners where we thought recipients would influence our GPA guarantors ahead of the extra-ordinary summit and finally we were in Maputo with the same message.

No amount of spinning from anywhere in this world will change the meaning of the resolutions of the Maputo Summit and the significance is that Sadc as guarantors of the GPA are still lively engaged on the Zimbabwean question and will not allow gains of the past five years towards democratic reforms to be reversed at the last minute through unilateralism on the part of President Mugabe and his party.

Q: What other options are there for both the civil society and the three political parties in the inclusive government other than an extension of poll dates as recommended by Sadc?

A:  Reading of the Sadc resolutions 8.4, 8.5 and 8.6, read together with the facilitator’s report, particularly the recommendations, lays out what is expected of the government of Zimbabwe on three things: implementation of a raft of imperative reforms, creating conditions for the conduct of free, fair and credible elections as well as negotiating the counterbalance between a purely political process represented by the letter and spirit of the GPA as it still subsists and legal process represented by rulings of the courts, the Con-Court ruling in question in particular.

We are not looking for partial satisfaction of any of these but a holistic approach as these imperatives are mutually reinforcing and don’t act and impact independent of one another.
As civil society, our role is to monitor implementation and apply the necessary pressure to ensure compliance with the above at home.

We will not tire to knock on the doors of the GPA guarantors: Sadc and AU, the facilitation team and any other relevant stakeholders.

We have made friends with a lot of powerful like-minded solidarity groups in Sadc and beyond, and these have always stood ready to push our cause through exerting pressure to their authorities to stand by the people of Zimbabwe in our times of need.    
Q: What are your views on the immediate deployment of Sadc observers and what role is the civic society playing in making sure that this is done?

A: The Sadc observers are in fact late. If you follow through earlier positions by a good number of civil society organisations on joint platforms, we have often requested that the Sadc adopts and implements a Long Term Observer strategy with their team of observers or monitors being deployed into the country at least six months before the holding of our watershed election.

Of course funding may be a challenge on the part of Sadc, but in hot spots such as ours, this is necessary so that Sadc does not use a layman’s observation to validate or invalidate the election in Zimbabwe.

I understand the AU has issued a statement that their Long Term Observer Mission to the Zimbabwe election is now in the country for a period of 2 months from 15 June until 14 August 2013.

That is a fair compromise, if they were working on the earlier announcement of 31 July as the election date.

If Sadc could work with at least three months observation to cover the critical moments: before, during and after voting, they may have a fair judgment as a lot happens in between these electoral processes.

They must have a deliberate bias towards remote and rural areas and must be able to observe not only voting but voter registration, inspection of the voters roll, nomination court processes, electioneering or campaigns, among others. Election rigging can happen at any of these intervals.

Q: As Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition regional coordinator, how do you describe your interface and interactions with the South African government on the political and rights situation in Zimbabwe?

A: Since the time of other regional coordinators who have come before me, the SA government has seemingly often been a good friend, especially in executing their role as facilitators to the Zimbabwean political dialogue.

However, on a number of occasions on this journey, they have also shown signs of tiredness as they have often been faced with their own domestic challenges as a fairly young democracy.

We as the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition regional office have a cordial working relationship with the different arms of the SA government which is why we can at any point interact with their National parliament, the executive and the judiciary occasionally.

 Q: How do you describe your advocacy work in southern Africa in terms of success?

A: Since March 11 2007, after the assault of the then opposition leaders together with civil society and church leaders, Zimbabwe got on the radar of regional and international politics.

Our work as the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition has been to keep on knocking on the doors of the centres and levers of power in the region and beyond in trying to ensure that the Zimbabwean issue is not overshadowed by other emerging crisis points, at least until the Zimbabwean question is finally resolved.

Success can only be measured through the various interventions we have had on the journey towards a democratic and free Zimbabwe.

Ours has been to make sure Sadc and the AU at least remain interested in the Zimbabwean issue and continue to be on the side of ordinary Zimbabweans in our quest for a better Zimbabwe.

We wait with eagerness and great hope for the day Zimbabwe will be off the agenda of the numerous Sadc summits and on that day I am sure many will pronounce success on our behalf.

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