Zuma urged to push a hard line against Mugabe

JOHANNESBURG – Zimbabwean pressure groups have called on President Jacob Zuma to adopt a hard-line stance against Robert Mugabe ahead of the second tripartite summit in Johannesburg at the weekend.

A throng of lobby groups based in South Africa, including Zimbabwean academics and exiles living in South Africa, are planning to stage a massive protest outside the Sandton Convention Centre where Mugabe and other heads of state will meet on Saturday.

The groups want to put pressure on African leaders to resolve the impasse by the Zimbabwe government before the completion of amendments to the country’s constitution which will open the way for fresh elections.

But the groups argue that without security cluster reforms to protect the opposition, activists and citizens, new elections will not result in democratic transition in Zimbabwe.

The summit will be attended by presidents, ministers and senior government officials to explore a possible merger between countries belonging to the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (Comesa), the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Some of Zimbabwe’s academics, freedom fighters and lobbyists met in Sandton yesterday to discuss the bottlenecks to the SADC’s Global Political Agreement (GPA) struck between Mugabe’s Zanu-PF, Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and Arthur Mutambara’s MDC faction.

Dewa Mavhinga a coordinator for the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition said the most crucial step for Zuma, as the SADC-appointed mediator in Zimbabwe, would be to urgently put pressure on Mugabe to restructure the Zimbabwe’s security cluster which, he said, had been “extremely partisan and politicised”.

“The security cluster in Zimbabwe, which includes police, military and intelligence units, are all contributing to blocking a democratic transition in Zimbabwe. The way only to improve the situation is for SADC to agitate for security cluster reforms within the GPA.

“SADC should find a better roadmap towards a democratic transition so that any election can be free and fair. Without security cluster reforms, the situation will get worse,” said Mavhinga.

He said although Zimbabweans conceded that the problems besetting Zimbabwe could only be resolved by Zimbabweans themselves, Zuma should use his economic power to put pressure on Zimbabwe to agree to reforms.

“Zuma has an arsenal at his disposal. He has the generals’ report from his own military about the electoral violence in Zimbabwe and he should make it public to force Zimbabwe to accept changes to the current security cluster,” said Mavhinga.

He lambasted Tsvangirai and Mutambara for not “pulling their weight” in government to protect the police and military which were highly involved in farm invasions and the unlawful arrests and harassment of the opposition and activists.

“The military and the police have become the pillar of instability in Zimbabwe and the security cluster is largely to blame for the failure of the GPA.

“If we get the security cluster reformed, Zimbabwe can be on its way to better elections. But even the opposition has failed the people. They are in government but the perception out there is that Mugabe and Zanu-PF have unfettered powers,” said Mavhinga.

Another Zimbabwean activist, Wilfred Mhanda, a co-founder of the Zimbabwean Liberators Platform, said Zuma’s mediation efforts in Zimbabwe had not been in vain and said that a democratic solution for Zimbabwe would have positive economic and social implications for South Africa.

“It is in the interest of South Africa, which has many Zimbabwean refugees, to restore social justice, peace and stability in Zimbabwe. Having Zimbabweans in South Africa is difficult for the South African economy and puts pressure on the country’s heatlh and education resources.

“We need a combination of efforts in Zimbabwe, a clear road map to the elections and security reforms,” said Mhanda.

Zimbabwe’s GPA has been fraught with problems since it was signed in 2009 with Mugabe’s Zanu-PF refusing to yield on certain senior government posts that were meant to have gone to the opposition. These include the governor of the Reserve Bank, governors in various provinces and the appointment of the country’s attorney-general.

It will be the first time that thousands of demonstrators gather for a protest on Zimbabwe during a meeting of African heads of state.

Mavhinga said they had been given the go-ahead for their march by the police and would demonstrate outside the convention centre on Saturday.

The march procession will begin at the corners of Sandton Drive and Street.

Human rights groups, including the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum, members of the MDC and Global Zimbabwe Forum, will form part of the march.