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Zimbabwe: An end to the stalemate?
International Crisis Group (ICG)
Africa Report N°122
March 05, 2007

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Executive Summary
After years of political deadlock and continued economic and humanitarian decline, a realistic chance has at last begun to appear in the past few months to resolve the Zimbabwe crisis, by retirement of President Robert Mugabe, a power-sharing transitional government, a new constitution and elections. Both factions of the divided Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) opposition and powerful elements of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party support the concept in outline. Although many of his party's leaders are pressing him to retire in twelve months, when his term expires, Mugabe seeks to extend his tenure to 2010 by a constitutional amendment to harmonise presidential and legislative elections in that year. Increased pressure and intervention including from the regional organisation, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and the West, in the run-up to the mid-year parliamentary session, could lead to a new political order, but concessions to ZANU-PF should only be made in exchange for true restoration of democracy.

The economic meltdown, as well as the bite of European Union (EU) and U.S. targeted sanctions, is pushing ZANU-PF towards change, since business interests of key officials are suffering. The party is split over the succession issue but Mugabe's long successful divide-and-rule tactics have started to backfire as the two main factions are coming together to try to prevent him from staying beyond the expiration of his present term in March 2008. They showed their strength by blocking his proposed constitutional amendment at the party's annual conference in December 2006 and will seek to do so again at the central committee in March so they can explore a deal resulting in his retirement to make way for moderate leaders who could negotiate with the MDC and civil society on transitional mechanisms, seek SADC endorsement and reengage with the West and foreign investors.

A deal that merely removed Mugabe while in effect maintaining the political status quo by keeping ZANU-PF in power would be no change at all. The situation is reminiscent of the last stages of Mobutu's reign in the Congo. The IMF predicts that inflation - already the world's highest - could pass 4,000 per cent by year's end, while foreign exchange is being wasted or stolen and smuggled abroad. Peaceful protests are repressed, and a new round of home and business demolitions similar to Operation Murambatsvina that displaced 700,000 in 2005 is being planned. Salaries of the security services and civil servants alike are mostly below the poverty line. Economic issues, discontent among underpaid police and troops and the increasing willingness of opposition parties and civil society to protest in the streets all increase the risk of sudden major violence.

The desire to remove Mugabe within the year provides a rare rallying point that cuts across partisan affiliations, and ethnic and regional identities. Opposition party leaders are keeping lines of communication open with the ZANU-PF dissidents while preparing for a non-violent campaign to demand immediate constitutional reform. The MDC's credibility and effectiveness, however, will be severely compromised unless efforts underway to reconcile its competing factions led by Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara succeed.

SADC (including South Africa) and the wider international community can make a vital contribution to resolving the crisis. SADC governments, who for long have been extremely reluctant to press Mugabe, now privately acknowledge they want him out to pave the way for a moderate ZANU-PF government. Without applying public pressure, the SADC troika is quietly beginning to explore ways to negotiate a retirement package for the president while persuading the West to relax its pressures. Mugabe's exit, however, should be only the starting point. Zimbabwe needs a more radical change to get back on its feet.

The West should both maintain pressure at this crucial point and increase support for democratic forces but also be more precise about the conditions for lifting sanctions and ending isolation. SADC, the EU and the U.S. should adopt a joint strategy with a clear sequence of benchmarks leading to a genuinely democratic process for which removal of sanctions and resumption of international aid to government institutions could be used at the appropriate time as incentives. Consultations are needed now to get such a strategy in place by July when the parliament will be expected to take crucial decisions either on Mugabe's harmonisation scheme or on plans for transition.


To the Government of Zimbabwe and ZANU-PF:

1. Abandon plans to extend President Mugabe's term beyond its expiration in March 2008 and support SADC-led negotiations to implement an exit strategy for him no later than that date.
2. Negotiate with the MDC on a constitutional framework, power-sharing agreement, detailed agenda and benchmarks for a two-year political transition, beginning in March 2008, including:

(a) adoption of a constitutional amendment in the July 2007 parliamentary session providing for nomination in March 2008, by two-thirds majority, of a non-executive president, an executive prime minister and de-linking of government and ZANU-PF party positions;

(b) a power-sharing agreement leading in early 2008 to a transitional government, including ZANU-PF and the MDC, tasked with producing a new draft constitution, repealing repressive laws, drawing up a new voters roll and demilitarising and depoliticising state institutions in accordance with agreed timelines and benchmarks, and leading to internationally supervised elections in 2010; and

(c) implementation of an emergency economic recovery plan to curb inflation, restore donor and foreign investor confidence and boost mining and agricultural production, including establishment of a Land Commission with a strong technocratic base and wide representation of Zimbabwean stakeholders to recommend policies aimed at ending the land crisis.

3. Abandon plans for a new urban displacement program and act to redress the damage done by Operation Murambatsvina by:

(a) providing shelter to its homeless victims; and
(b) implementing the recommendations of the Tibaijuka Report, including compensation for those whose property was destroyed, unhindered access for humanitarian workers and aid and creation of an environment for effective reconstruction and resettlement.

To the Movement for Democratic Change:
4. Proceed with internal efforts to establish minimum unity within the party and a common front for dealing with the government and ZANU-PF and contesting presidential and parliamentary elections, while retaining reunification as the ultimate goal.

5. Hold internal consultations between faction leaders to adopt a joint strategy aiming at:

(a) finalising negotiations with ZANU-PF over constitutional reforms, a power-sharing agreement and formation of a transitional government in March 2008; and
(b) preparing for a March 2008 presidential election if negotiations with ZANU-PF fail, and President Mugabe retains power.

To Zimbabwean and South African Civil Society Organisations:
6. Initiate legal proceedings in South African courts to attach any assets stolen from the Zimbabwean government and transferred to or invested in South Africa and to obtain the arrest and prosecution of egregious Zimbabwean human rights abusers visiting South Africa.

To SADC and South Africa:

7. Engage with the U.S. and the EU to adopt a joint strategy for resolving the crisis that includes:

(a) mediation by SADC of negotiations for an exit deal on expiration of President Mugabe's term in 2008 and of an agreement between ZANU-PF and the MDC on a power-sharing transitional government to oversee development of a new constitution, repeal repressive laws and hold internationally supervised presidential and parliamentary elections in 2010; and
(b) understandings on the use by the U.S. and EU of incentives and disincentives to support the strategy in regard to targeted sanctions, political relations with the transitional government and resumption of assistance.

8. Engage with the Zimbabwe government to facilitate talks between ZANU-PF and the MDC leading to the above steps.

9. Convene an urgent meeting of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation to consider the regional consequences of the economic meltdown in Zimbabwe and recommend action by the Heads of State summit to deal with the situation.

To the United States and the European Union:
10. Engage with SADC countries to adopt the above-mentioned joint strategy, including understandings on timelines and benchmarks to be met by the Zimbabwean authorities in restoring and implementing a democratic process.

11. Increase pressure on President Mugabe and other ZANU-PF leaders if they do not cooperate with efforts to begin a transition and restore democracy, including by taking the following measures to close loopholes in targeted personal sanctions:

(a) apply the sanctions also to family members and business associates of those on the lists;
(b) cancel visas and residence permits of those on the lists and their family members; and
(c) add Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono to the EU list.

12. Portugal, holding the EU Presidency in the second half of 2007, should not invite President Mugabe and other members of the Zimbabwe government or ZANU-PF on the EU targeted sanctions list to the EU-AU summit unless significant reforms have already been undertaken.

13. Increase funding for training and other capacity-building assistance to democratic forces in Zimbabwe.

To the United Nations Secretary-General:
14. Assign a senior official - a new Special Envoy to Zimbabwe, the Special Adviser to the Secretary General on Africa or a high-level member of the Department of Political Affairs - responsibility for the Zimbabwe portfolio including to support the SADC-led initiative, and monitor the situation for the Secretary General.

To the United Nations Security Council:
15. Begin discussions aimed at placing the situation in Zimbabwe on the agenda as a threat to international peace and security.

To the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights or in the alternative the Human Rights Council:
16. Initiate a follow-up investigation on the Tibaijuka Report, including plans for a new urban displacement campaign, arrests of informal miners and political repression, and recommend actions to the member states, the Security Council and the Secretariat.

To the Commonwealth Secretariat:
17. Encourage Commonwealth member countries in Southern Africa to help mediate a political settlement for a post-Mugabe Zimbabwe, setting benchmarks for a return of the country to the organisation.

18. Establish a group of Eminent Persons to engage with Zimbabwe, using the good offices of its regional members to facilitate access.

19. Work through Commonwealth civil society organisations to build up civil society capacity in Zimbabwe.

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