Zim must consider SA option seriously

© ZIMBABWEAN people deserve better than this political deadlock and sclerosis. 

The country is in the grip of a spiralling political, economic and humanitarian crisis. Thousands have taken to the streets since January. 

Millions of citizens have fled: Almost 90 percent of those who remain live in abject poverty. 
The economy is shrinking fast, while the country has returned to hyperinflation in a sad reminder of the horrible period of 2007-9. 
With prices of food, fuel and medicine skyrocketing, there has been a surge in levels of malnutrition and the re-emergence of diseases such as typhoid and cholera, owing to local authorities’ failure to consistently provide residents with potable water.  The murder rate is sky-high.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his allies have overseen this collapse, yet maintained a tight grip on power. When the opposition fought in the last polls amid concern he won a dodgy presidential vote, the sulking opposition leaders resolved to say tongai tione (let’s see if you will govern). 
An unpopular president relies on control of the judiciary and military support.

These desperate times have united the splintered opposition, for now at least, around Nelson Chamisa, the youthful and charismatic pastor and lawyer who has declared himself president. 

Neighbouring South Africa has taken an uncharacteristic stand to propose names of mediators to resolve this impasse. 
For South Africa, an unstable Zimbabwe is not good for them as the influx of immigrants — including undocumented ones — into that country inadvertently increases, spawning a multiplicity of problems, including crime in the country. 

Zimbabwe is unravelling, and the inability to find another way forward, as well as the rightward shift is disappointing. Both political gladiators have been cagey as the country plunges into penury.

This is risky as well as cynical. 
The question is what comes next. Clearly, the concomitant risk is of more protests. The prospect of military intervention to break unrest is terrifying, and could make the current catastrophe far worse.

Research has suggested most Zimbabweans want a negotiated settlement and fresh elections. Previous attempts at talks between political players failed due largely to bad faith on both sides. International engagement must take the form of considered action to support Zimbabweans, not crude and dangerous interventions.

It’s time to consider the South African option, but this time there has to be every element of sincerity in all involvements so that at least the country can emerge from resultant deliberations with a solution.

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