Sadc tightens reins on Zanu PF’s options

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    In effect, however, the Livingstone resolutions brought into effect the major strength of the Sadc mediation, which has been to lock the Mugabe regime into structures of accountability. Whatever the weaknesses of the GPA, and there are many, it has forced Zanu PF into closer accountability for its behaviour at different levels including cabinet, parliament, Jomic, the constitutional reform process, Sadc, the AU and its relations with the West.

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    For authoritarian parties like Zanu PF having to answer to various fora is anathema, as they provide varying means of eroding the monopoly of power that the regime has become completely accustomed to.

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    The accumulation of small reforms and the slow dispersal of power provide a major challenge for such structures of authoritarian power, as they provide the possibility of a cumulative momentum of dissent that can be very difficult to control.

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    When combined to the major challenge of the succession problem in Zanu PF, now an urgent issue in light of Mugabe’s waning health, these factors have pushed Zanu PF into emergency election mode.

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    The challenge for Zanu PF since the signing of the GPA, and more urgently following the Livingstone meeting, has been to decide on what strategies to deploy in the next election campaign. The party’s recidivist impulse to return to violence is clearly very strong, particularly given the increasing control of the party and the state by the securocrats.

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    Moreover, the reports of various human rights organisations have shown growing evidence of low level pre-election intimidation emerging in the country, designed to pre-empt any forms of opposition activity in the public sphere, with the spectre of North Africa clearly haunting the calculations of the military-political elite.

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    The Zanu PF election campaign message has concentrated on the dual issue of the indigenisation and anti-sanctions campaigns, with the connection being that both are designed, in the party’s view, to confront the continuing threats to national sovereignty.

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    However, whereas in the period between 2000-2008 the message around land reform had some purchase both in the country and in the region, the recent attempt to reload the message in a different form has proved much more hollow both nationally and regionally.

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    The stern rebuke of Sadc at the Livingstone meeting placed the issue of Zanu PF violence and coercion at the forefront of its resolutions. Moreover, the resolution to appoint a team of officials to work with Jomic to ensure the monitoring, evaluation and implementation of the GPA was a direct challenge to the Mugabe regime’s persistent rhetoric on national sovereignty.

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    The frantic, angry and strategically stupid attacks by Zanu PF spokespersons on the Livingstone position, Sadc, and South African President Jacob Zuma, indicate the very real threat that the Sadc position holds for Mugabe’s party. The once taken-for- granted regional solidarity against the West is no longer so easily available, and at a stroke a key part of the Zanu PF strategy over the last decade has been placed under threat. The vehement lobbying by Zanu PF representatives ahead of the full Sadc summit in Sandton on 11-12 June was another indication of the panic that the recent Sadc position has caused in Zanu PF.

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    Moreover, the resolutions of the Sandton meeting notwithstanding, the claims of the state media in Zimbabwe largely confirmed the resolutions of the Livingstone summit, even if the language of the communiqué was calibrated in more moderate terms.

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    More particularly, the Sadc summit in South Africa confirmed the Livingstone resolutions through the facilitator’s situation report, confirmation of the decision to appoint Sadc representatives to join the Jomic team, and through its commitment to the election roadmap. Both the Livingstone and Sandton meetings thus confirmed the central purpose of the mediation and the Global Political Agreement, namely the establishment of conditions for generally acceptable elections in order to settle the central problem of state legitimacy in Zimbabwe.

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    Notwithstanding the continuities in the objectives of the mediation from the (Thabo) Mbeki to the Zuma administrations, the one major difference between the two, as South African analyst Siphamandla Zondi has noted, has been that while Mbeki’s emphasis was placed on building consensus among the primary actors in Zimbabwe, Zuma has complemented this by his concentration on building a stronger regional consensus against the obstructive behaviour of the Mugabe regime.

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    In particular, Zuma has developed closer relations with the Angolan president, who always felt slighted and marginalised by former President Mbeki. Zuma’s strategy was also determined by Zanu PF’s attempts to undermine the ANC in the region in order to ensure the solidarity of the region. There has now been a shift in this regional balance that has also been affected by the more effective lobbying in Sadc by both MDCs, and the greater respect they have earned in the region since 2008.

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    The fact that the West was largely marginalised in the Sadc mediation also allowed Zuma to build a more effective African consensus to take a stronger stand against the abuses of Zanu PF. This factor is one of the key differences with the current situation in North Africa, the Middle East and particularly Libya, where Western intervention, both diplomatic and military, has clouded the issues much more for the opposition.

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    Western intervention in the Middle East is of course dictated by the major issue of oil reserves, its strategic military positions in the region, and the position of Israel, all of which dwarf the West’s interests in democratisation in the region. The Mugabe message peddlers have not been slow to point out the duplicity of the West on the democratic agenda, but Zanu PF’s depravity on this issue has removed the sting from any critique it once offered in this area. Progressive anti-imperialism abroad cannot long outlast vicious repressive practices at home.

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    Sadc and the democratic forces in Zimbabwe must now move to ensure a broad consensus with the West in implementing all key aspects of the GPA, with the regional body leading the construction of such a consensus.

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    Zanu PF must be left with little doubt that any further attempts to forestall the GPA through violence and repression will be met with a more unified condemnation that will leave little room for continued unilateral actions. Such pressure may also lead to more realistic political discussions between the parties that will deal not only with elections processes but the possibility of transfer of power, in which area both the mediation and the GPA was always very weak.

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    Thus the role of the military security sector has to be dealt with by Sadc, even if it is unrealistic to expect major security sector reform in the pre-election period. Such reforms are a long-term process, but at the minimum the role of the security sector in the elections process and pre-election violence must be placed under close enough scrutiny to make it a non-viable election strategy for Zanu PF.

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    • Brian Raftopoulos is the Director of Research and Advocacy, Solidarity Peace Trust and this article was first published in the Zimbabwe Independent.
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