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Think-tank calls for new strategies to resolve crisis
JOHANNESBURG, 20 Apr
2004 (IRIN) - An international political think-tank has called for a "new"
strategy to address Zimbabwe's deepening political crisis, arguing that
previous diplomatic attempts have largely failed.
In a new report, "Zimbabwe: In Search of a New Strategy", the International
Crisis Group (ICG) recommended a shift in policy focus from an interparty
settlement, which it claimed appeared unachievable, to "the promotion
of a free and fair process for the March 2005 parliamentary election".
The Brussels-based organisation noted previous attempts to kick-start
stalled talks between the ruling ZANU-PF party and the main opposition
Movement Democratic Change (MDC), but said these interventions had either
failed or were on "life support".
The Zimbabwean government walked out of political talks with the MDC in
April 2002 after the opposition went to court to challenge the presidential
The only effort that had retained some potential was an independent move
by church leaders based in Manicaland province. While the clergy had yet
to obtain any clear commitment from either party, they had managed to
maintain a dialogue with the MDC's top leadership and had met with President
According to the report, the church-led initiative had also received support
from civil society, the opposition and sections of ZANU-PF, but the confidence
expressed by the clergy was not supported by developments on the ground,
mainly due to ZANU-PF's determination to stall talks.
"It [ZANU-PF] does not have a coherent agenda to bring to the table, is
opposed to a rerun of the 2002 presidential election, and recognises that
serious talks would eventually have to bring up the difficult issue of
succession to Mugabe, which ZANU-PF has not resolved even to its own satisfaction,"
the ICG said.
The MDC, on the other hand, had on several occasions indicated a commitment
to talks and had reaffirmed its position that resolution of the crisis
should start with negotiations at the party's annual conference in December
But so far negotiations between the parties had remained at the "talks
about talks" level, which the ICG contended was unlikely to produce a
Given the current inaction on resolving the political imbroglio through
dialogue, the report suggested that the international community now turn
its attention to pressuring the authorities in Harare to create conditions
that would ensure free parliamentary elections in 2005.
It recommended that the US and the European Union (EU) appoint envoys
to travel and work together with key political players within the country
and in the region.
A fundamental aspect of this cooperation would be the forging of a broad
international consensus on benchmarks, including minimum conditions and
timelines for the electoral process, based on the Norms and Standards
for Elections of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
This would mean repealing recent legislation, which rights groups in Zimbabwe
have claimed restricts civil liberties, and an audit of the voters' roll,
with a new registration of voters under UN supervision if required.
The ICG report called on ZANU-PF to work with the UN and other bodies
to meet the minimum guidelines established in the SADC norms and standards
for a free and fair parliamentary elections process.
It also urged the ruling party to enter into immediate negotiations with
the MDC, at least to establish conditions for credible parliamentary elections.
The MDC and civil society should develop strategies to promote a non-violent
democratic transition, including more relevant and effective civil disobedience
to address state policies it felt were illegal.
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