Do Zimbabweans deserve Jacob Zuma’s mediation style?

OPINION – Reports that Zimbabwe’s cabinet ministers in the shaky coalition government clashed in furious scenes on Tuesday over a series of political issues is very concerning. (Zimbabwe Independent, 03/03/11).

Indications are that the contentious issues such as targeted sanctions, the media, external radio stations, hate speech, the rule of law, land audit and so on are unlikely to be resolved at the next Cabinet meeting as planned.

As the country faces a bleak and terrifying political future amidst militarization and GPA stalemate, many questions come to mind, like: ‘Do Zimbabweans deserve Jacob Zuma’s style of mediation? Is Jacob Zuma the surrogate President of Zimbabwe? Why is there no progress in Zuma’s mediation? Why can’t the UN replace Zuma as the facilitator on the Zimbabwe crisis?

The reasons for losing hope in Jacob Zuma’s mediation efforts abound but for now, we shall focus on five key pressing ones. These include Zuma’s rather secretive facilitation style, a lackadaisical approach, probably an apparent conflict of interest, taking sides e.g. on targeted sanctions and withholding 2002 election violence report.

Over-secretive facilitation

The facilitation team was last in Harare two weeks ago but left tight-lipped at a time of increasing tension due to political violence and intimidation in the country. President Zuma was expected to visit Zimbabwe in the new year to discuss a road map and transfer of power, but that did not take place. Iin October 2010 the team also left Harare empty-handed after it failed to convene a meeting of the three principals (Zimbabwe Metro, 15/10/10).

While Zimbabweans may think they have been waiting for too long since 2008, they will have to wait until August when Pretoria assumes the SADC Troika chairmanship, which according to President Zuma’s State of the Nation address, ‘will give it more leverage to carry out its mediatory role in Zimbabwe, including pushing for a clear roadmap to new elections’ (Southafricahouseuk.com, 10/02/11).

A roadmap to free and fair elections

The SADC facilitator has since been reportedly presented with the minimum conditions for free and fair elections by the MDC led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and what remains to be seen is President’s Zuma’s own action plan. The conditions include:

 a new constitution;

 guaranteeing the security of people;

 an end to violence;

 the introduction of a biometric voters’ roll;

 a transparent and impartial delimitation process;

 full audit of electoral processes;

 Sadc monitors six months before and six months after the elections and

 security sector reforms and realignment to prevent political abuse by the military, intelligence agencies and youth militia (Zimbabwe Independent, 03/03/11).

Amazingly some analysts were quoted as despising the MDC-T’s conditions which actually constitute a credible roadmap to free and fair elections. Two additional conditions are worth mentioning here. There should be enfranchisement of all Zimbabweans including those in the Diaspora not only in South Africa as suggested recently by Zapu leader Dumiso Dabengwa.

In addition to a SADC force, there should be a UN peacekeeping contingent to ensure neutrality given the biased stance of SADC states in previous elections and as demonstrated by their calls for the lifting of targeted sanctions before the reasons for their imposition were addressed.

Lackadaisical approach

President Zuma was in Harare from 16th to 18th March 2010 as SADC facilitator and set a deadline of March 31, 2010 for the implementation of a package of measures (Kubatana.net, 22/03/10). However, the deadline was never met and nothing happened. In August 2010, parties to the coalition government insisted there was ‘little to no chance’ of meeting President Zuma’s 30-day deadline for the resolution of outstanding issues in the implementation of the GPA (New Zimbabwe, 22/08/10). That deadline was not met as well.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC ) Organ for Politics, Defence and Security otherwise known as the Troika aborted its meeting in Gaberone, Botswana in November 2010 due to lack of quorum. The Troika comprises Zambian President Rupiah Banda (chairman) Mozambican President Armando Guebuza (member) and Democratic Republic of the Congo President Joseph Kabila (member). With Banda and Guebuza absent, the meeting was aborted leading to analysts saying ‘SADC is in no hurry to solve Zimbabwe crisis’ (Financial Gazette, 26/11/10).

The SADC Troika meeting that was supposed to take place in Zambia in December 2010 failed to materialise. So was the one pencilled in for January then shifted to February. It is now over six months since the SADC tribunal was suspended pending a review leaving displaced Zimbabwean white commercial farmers disadvantaged due to Robert Mugabe’s reluctance to honour its rulings which were in favour of compensating the farmers.

Defying court orders

Despite the fact that two courts have ordered the South African Presidency to release a hitherto secret report into Zimbabwe’s 2002 elections, Zuma’s administration continues to withhold the information surrounding the controversial 2002 presidential poll widely believed to have been rigged in favour of Robert Mugabe of Zanu-pf (Mail and Guardian, 21/12/10). The Presidency has appealed and lost.

Sanctions bias

In all fairness before calling for the lifting of targeted sanctions on Robert Mugabe and his inner circle, Jacob Zuma is supposed to demand to see evidence of democracy and good political governance for example the prosecution of perpetrators of election violence in 2008 during which an estimated 200 MDC supporters were murdered by suspected Zanu-pf elements.

It is not clear how the SADC facilitator hopes his roadmap to work while the co-chairman of the constitution outreach programme Douglas Mwonzora and 22 villagers languish in a remote prison despite court bail orders (The Zimbabwe Mail, 21.02/11).

Arms sales

There are concerns that there could be a conflict of interest in the mediation process. Fears were expressed in 2009 that South Africa was planning to sell arms to Mugabe’s regime. Visiting Members of Parliament of the Democratic Alliance said: ‘We regret to report that our country South Africa is planning to export 7.62 and 9mm ammunition to Zimbabwe. Our colleague David Maynier MP recently revealed – on 2 August 2009 – that Parliament’s National Conventional Arms Committee is considering authorising more than a million rounds of both types of bullets for export’ (Zimbabwe Independent, 13/08/09).

The South African MPs were concerned that the Harare regime was funding ‘a war chest’ following talks with Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea ahead of the next election. Citing a report by a Belgian Research group, International Peace Information Service, they said: "On August 21 2008, the first of many arms shipments containing 32 tonnes of (ammunition) was flown from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Harare. On August 30 a second shipment of 20 tonnes of AK-47 (ammunition) arrived. This was flown in via Angola (and also) included mortar bombs and rockets" (Zimbabwe Independent, 13/08/09).

Armscor of South Africa allegedly broke the arms boycott when it reportedly sold spare parts for Alloutte helicopters to the value of more than R1m to the Zimbabwean government according to Fin24.com, accessed 05/03/11.

The SADC facilitator did not deplore the recent intimidating show of military and police force at Harare Gardens, in the city and suburbs by the Mugabe regime ahead of a supposedly peaceful demonstration dubbed ‘million citizens march’ prompting it to be called-off.

Conclusion

It is against this background that Zuma’s credibility as a mediator is in doubt. Although, Zimbabwe is not a member of NEPAD’s African Peer Review Mechanism, it is ironic that South Africa which is a member state seems to disregard democracy and good governance as important benchmarks for free and fair elections in Zimbabwe.

Clifford Chitupa Mashiri is a London based political analyst and regular columnist for The Zimbabwe Mai, he can be contatcted at zimanalysis2009@gmail.com