Posted by: africanpressorganization | 3 March 2010

Zimbabwe / Political and Security Challenges to the Transition





Zimbabwe / Political and Security Challenges to the Transition


HARARE, Zimbabwe, March 3, 2010/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Despite initial scepticism, Zimbabwe’s year-old unity government has achievements to its credit, but the democratic transition remains at risk, especially from hard-line security officials – President Robert Mugabe’s last reliable supporters.

Zimbabwe: Political and Security Challenges to the Transition,* the latest briefing from the International Crisis Group, analyses the situation resulting from the Global Political Agreement (GPA) that broke the stalemate following failed 2008 presidential elections and led to formation of the unity government in February 2009. It concludes that all domestic signatories of the GPA, as well as the South African mediation, must embrace democratic transformation as the vital objective of the transition.

A wide range of problems could return Zimbabwe to where it was a year ago – on the edge of collapse – if the long-ruling Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU-PF) party and the military leadership maintain an intransigent stance on the reforms for economic and political stability.

“As Zimbabwe enters its second year under a unity government, the challenges to democratic transformation are in sharp focus”, says Africa Program Director François Grignon. “The military leadership and other Mugabe loyalists in ZANU-PF are using their symbiotic relationship with the state apparatus to exercise veto power over the transition. A mature political system must develop, so ZANU-PF and the MDC engage as both competitors in politics and partners in government”.

Against the odds, the government that brought together President Mugabe and the leaders of the divided wings of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, started well. Schools and hospitals re-opened; civil servants were paid and returned to work; Hyperinflation was halted; goods returned to store shelves; a cholera epidemic was controlled; human rights activists reported a significant drop in abuses.

Nevertheless, major threats can still derail the reform process. In particular, the resistance of powerful security sector leaders and fractious in-fighting between and within ZANU-PF and the MDC must be addressed now. South African President Jacob Zuma and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) need to press the parties, and especially Mugabe, to see the transition to a successful conclusion. Western donors should back their efforts, including by expanding assistance, keeping targeted sanctions on spoilers but also by ending sanctions on firms important for economic growth.

A relatively small number of “securocrats” oppose reforms, motivated by the fear of losing power, wealth and impunity. Zimbabweans across the political spectrum are quietly considering how to ease them into retirement, while simultaneously professionalising security forces respectful of human rights and a democratically elected government.

“Inter-party cooperation and the full engagement of civil society are essential for a successful democratic transition”, says Donald Steinberg, Crisis Group’s Deputy President for Policy. “Above all, Zimbabweans themselves must put the legacy of ‘divide-and-rule’ politics behind them”.



International Crisis Group


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