A workable strategy for Zimbabwe

President Jacob Zuma's double strategy in Zimbabwe of renewed pressure to comply with existing commitments together with fast-tracking regional and international reintegration needs to be given a chance.

2010 National Budget pg 1-72
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2010 National Budget pg 73-106
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2010 National Budget pg 107-142
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2010 National Budget pg 143-167
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2010 National Budget pg 168-172
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The more success that the new mediation team can show in the former, the far stronger argument it will have for the latter.

Since the signing of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) between the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and Zanu-PF in Harare on September 15, the relationship between these parties has been decidedly tenuous.

It is no surprise therefore that Zimbabwe has failed to attract the levels of investment or international co-operation needed to effectively stimulate economic reconstruction. Failure to implement provisions in the agreement have also increasingly cast doubt on its future and the achievement of national reconciliation.

Earlier this year, at an MDC celebration rally in Gweru, Morgan Tsvangirai, called for "national healing", saying: "The nation has endured so much violence. Let’s forgive those who have transgressed against us." The question, given its chequered record so far, is whether the unity government has the political will, capacity and resources to pursue genuine political reconciliation within its own ranks as an essential basis for broader national reconciliation.

The agenda of national reconciliation has officially been entrusted to three ministers in the unity government, one each from the three main political parties; John Nkomo from Zanu-PF, Sekai Holland from the MDC under Tsvangirai and Gibson Sibanda representing Arthur Mutambara’s faction of the MDC. This three-headed department is called the Organ of National Healing and Reconciliation and is situated in the President’s Office.

It has yet to receive clear terms of reference and is not at present supported by policy, adequate resources or sufficient legislation.

While the humanitarian crisis remains the country’s most immediate priority, a matter of particular urgency for the national reconciliation agenda is the need to address the scourge of violence that scarred the country over the past eight years. Violence has not abated since the signing of the GPA, and there are fresh indications that state intimidation, which purportedly lies at the root of most violence, is continuing.

Sporadic detentions of political opponents, whether they are members of Parliament or civil society, have continued. Most prominent has been the arrest of Roy Bennet, the Deputy Minister Designate for Agriculture, on charges of treason and banditry. These events have further eroded Zimbabweans’ confidence in the police and the army.

It is also a clear sign that there are factions within the governing elite who continue to act with impunity. It further illustrates how a lack of good faith at the top bears a direct and deeply negative impact on prospects for national reconciliation and economic reconstruction.

As Zimbabwe grapples with finding ways to build accountability from the top down and bottom up, it has to guard against the agendas of some very powerful perpetrators of gross human rights violations, who are covering their tracks as they go.

Accountability, we have learnt in South Africa, is essential to reconciliation. One can only hope that national reconciliation, as it will take shape in the work of the "organ", will not amount to a call for impunity.

A whitewash can never be the basis for lasting peace. Zimbabwe may not be ready yet for transitional justice, but it is essential that it does not foreclose future options for accountability. Politicians on all sides have to accept that gross violations of human rights will not simply disappear with the calls, whether by Mugabe, Tsvangirai or Mutambara, for citizens to move on and reconcile. More immediately, the perception that "we may get away with it" may be a factor in sustaining violence.

At the same time, political settlements inevitably contain some measure of "getting away with it".

Yet, this can only be justified if there is clear progress towards a more prosperous and peaceful dispensation, which is presumably the ultimate form of justice for any society. Without such progress, political deals not only begin to lose momentum, but people in the street begin to see them as a pretext for impunity.

At the moment it seems as if Zimbabwe’s transition suffers the worst of both options – no promise of accountability, but no cessation of violence either.

Zimbabwe cannot afford to reconcile amidst a culture of ongoing violence – present in one form or another since the Matabeleland massacres in 1983. While one can understand calls for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to be established, Zimbabweans will have to do better than merely replicate the South African process.

They will need to be the authors of a process tailored to their own unique needs – but, for this, some measure of political co-operation and trust is essential. Can we expect this to emerge more clearly over the next months, or are we going to see more break-ups, more violence and further instability?

The efforts of SADC to demand accountability, led by President Zuma’s new mediation team, deserve support.

Another important and often overlooked point of leverage is the Zimbabwean Diaspora. Occupying key posts in prominent regional- and international agencies around the globe, the Zimbabwean Diaspora not only has sufficient clout to hold parties to their commitments, they could also act as effective conduits for the skills and investments needed in the recovery process of Zimbabwe. Leaders of goodwill within the unity government will do well to harness this untapped resource.

The December 6 deadline set by SADC for governing parties to meet and sort out their differences, is fast approaching. Zimbabweans wait with bated breath to see whether political leadership will summon the courage to act on the spirit of reconciliation they are both expounding. Yet, no deal, however magnanimous, would have a chance of survival without a stop to the violence ravaging communities and their civic representatives.

To this end, a combination of reconciliation and tough talk are required. For the latter, no one is better equipped than the SADC or the Zimbabwean Diaspora. With this in mind, the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, among others, is engaged in sustained efforts to facilitate more effective contact between the Zimbabwean Diaspora and the inclusive government in Harare.

  • Dr Fanie du Toit is executive director of the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, which will be hosting a public seminar, to be addressed by Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, at the Life Church and Conference Centre in Main Road, Sea Point this evening at 6pm.