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African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA)
May 12, 2005
Summary of the individual interventions and discussion during the
On 12 May 2005, the South African Institute
of International Affairs convened a half-day conference on Zimbabwe
with the objective of providing a constructive platform for the
exchange of viewpoints and to develop ideas about the prospects
for the country in the years preceding the presidential election
scheduled for 2008.
SAIIA invited a range of actors to participate
in the event – ZANU-PF, the MDC, an independent MP, a Zimbabwean
civil society organization, as well as South African parliamentarians
from across the political spectrum who had participated as observers
during the 2005 parliamentary election in Zimbabwe. Despite their
acceptance to participate, no representative from ZANU-PF or the
South African government attended.
A number of key observations and constructive
recommendations emerged from the conference:
Role and responsibilities of observer
There is a lack of agreement on the role, duties and responsibilities
of electoral observers. Furthermore, the training and briefings
observers undergo in preparation for the missions do not necessarily
conform to any agreed standard. It is also unclear what qualifies
a particular body to conduct briefings and training for observers.
This may to some degree account for some of the anomalous findings
of respective observers and their missions. There is thus a need
for agreed upon training and mission definition from credible electoral
institutes as well as that of a regional body such as the SADC Parliamentary
Forum or that of the Commonwealth. This proposal should be incorporated
into the SADC and AU Guidelines.
However, it is important to stress that
although there are very good guidelines in place on the continent,
the element of political will is lacking to ensure not only adoption,
but also implementation and enforcement – that guidelines and commitments
to democracy and good elections are adhered to both in the letter
and the spirit.
Definition of sovereignty
Internationally there is a growing trend in thinking that sovereignty
cannot be used to justify non-interference by other states when
there are violations of human rights. This shift in thinking is
characterised by the establishment of the International Criminal
Court. It is a reflection of the greater weight being placed on
the necessity of states and leaders becoming accountable to their
electorates for their actions and inactions. In this regard the
decision by the OAU to disallow unconstitutional changes of power
was a step in that direction.
Legal systems versus legitimate systems
This distinction is a useful guide in determining whether criticism
is justified and valid. There are many pieces of legislation in
Zimbabwe that, whilst technically legal or constitutional, are palpably
unjust, such as the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), the Access
to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), the Broadcasting
Amendment Act, and the pending NGO Bill. Although the latter has
not yet been, it has created a climate of uncertainty among NGOs,
thus starving them of donor funds.1
Democracy is a process – and a way of
life and operation on an ongoing basis rather than every four to
five years. Elections are simply one institutional mechanism for
the achievement and maintenance of democracy. The texture of democracy
relates to many of the rights that the Zimbabwe government has curtailed
over the last few years. Zimbabwe is suffering from a democratic
deficit and observers must take this into account when observing,
monitoring and declaring the conduct of elections.
What should happen internally?
- An all-inclusive constitutional debate
is required that is NOT restricted to the level of parliament.
It is critical that all Zimbabweans have an input into what should
constitute the fundamental principles governing their society.
This process should also look to restoring the separation of powers
between the executive, the judiciary, and the legislature, and
between party and state.
- The repeal of legislation such AIPPA
and POSA, so as to level the playing field.
- The resuscitation and emergence of
a free and independent media.
- The commencement of a process of national
What should the regional community
- Strengthen institutions such as the
SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security in the region to
be both firm and assertive in encouraging states to ensure compliance
on commitments made by the Heads of State themselves.
- Identify credible mediators that are
seen as objective by both main roleplayers in Zimbabwe. Ultimately
the solutions must come from Zimbabweans themselves, but as with
South Africa, the region must play an important role in encouraging
the political protagonists. This can happen through both ‘sticks’
and ‘carrots’. The region (and indeed the international community)
should seek a calibrated response and rewards for the return to
democracy and political normalisation.
- Pressurise the Zimbabwean government
to debate the constitution and any amendments more broadly in
society and not only within parliament.
this be achieved?
- The Zimbabwe
crisis has to be taken up by the African Union and a mandate granted
by members for mediation in the crisis.
- SADC has
to elevate the Zimbabwe crisis to the top of its agenda at the
next Heads of State Summit and a decision taken to act collectively
to ease the political impasse in the country.
- An all-party
summit to address the Zimbabwe crisis has to be mandated by
- the AU and
hosted by SADC.
- A number
of international, continental and regional special envoys need
to be appointed and mandated by the United Nations to act as credible
interlocutors between the contending parties in Zimbabwe.
a timetable for constitutional and political reform has to emerge
from all-party discussions.
- A reconstruction
package from the international community and financial institutions
needs to be drawn up and implemented in accordance with the achievement
of constitutional and political reform.
sanctions on the Zimbabwe government need to be broadened and
intensified until progress is achieved.
1. The Business
Day reported on 20 May 2005 that Robert Mugabe has fused to
sign the bill, probably as a result of mounting international pressure.
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