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Transcript of 'Hot Seat' with Sydney Masamvu a senior analyst from the ICG
Violet Gonda, SW Radio Africa
March 05, 2007

According to an International Crisis Group report, powerful factions within the ruling Zanu PF are agreed that Robert Mugabe should go in 2008. In the programme, Hot Seat, Violet talks to Sydney Masamvu a senior analyst from the ICG about the report and the struggle at the heart of government.

Violet Gonda: My guest on the programme 'Hot Seat' is Sydney Masamvu a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group. The respected political Think Tank released a comprehensive report on Monday, which examines the deadlock in the Zimbabwe and sees a chance to resolve the situation through the retirement of Robert Mugabe when his term ends in 2008. The ICG recommends a power-sharing deal to create a transitional government that will prepare a new constitution and democratic elections in 2010. The various suggestions in the report all make sense but some critics have said it relies upon a large number of theoretical transitions - such as whether Mugabe could realistically be persuaded to retire. I started by asking Sydney how do you begin the process suggested by the report.

Sydney Masamvu: Well, from the onset I need to point out that the report, which we have just released in the International Crisis Group, is based on firm and ground research in Zimbabwe, in the region and with all the political actors across the political divide. And, what we are seeing and what we are pushing is we are looking at the economic and political stalemate in Zimbabwe and we are looking at the prospects of President Mugabe's retirement and the chances or the opportunity which can be seized by all actors to resolve the Zimbabwe crisis. And, as such, we are spelling out a roadmap and recommendations for every actor to seize this opportunity and to try to bring a resolution to the seven year old crisis. So, in a way, as you might say Violet, that it all sounds good on paper and it's theoretical. But, I want to add on to say if there is political will by all actors involved in the Zimbabwe situation, this is the best opportunity for every regional leaders, the Zimbabwean population, politicians in Zimbabwe across the MDC and ZANU PF and the rest of the International Community to structure an exit for President Robert Mugabe and allow Zimbabwe to move forward and to return to democracy and to implement sound economic reforms. So we are looking at an opportunity where Zimbabwe can be tugged, can go on a course correction. So really the starting point and we have to emphasise this, it's not the end but the starting point is to get President Robert Mugabe off the political radar.

Violet: Some have said it's very easy for international observers to say these things but on the ground the situation is completely different.

Sydney Masamvu: But you see, Mugabe no longer has the hold on power, yaanga ainayo (that he used to have) for the past seven years. You see, there are divisions in ZANU and there is consensus between Morgan, anaMujuru, anaMnangagwathat Mugabe has to go it's only the figure ya Mugabe yaita loom large but now the economy, it's really hit him on the belly.

Violet: Are you saying that the main stakeholders, that is - the two MDC factions and some people in ZANU PF actually support this report by the ICG?

Sydney Masamvu: Indeed! Indeed, this is based on interviews across factions.

Violet: Can you give us some of the key groups that you spoke with even from ZANU PF?

Sydney Masamvu: I can tell you that I spoke to all factions within ZANU PF. It's up to you to define because there's also an element of confidentiality Violet. We spoke through all the factions in ZANU PF. You can, even when you read our report, you can see when we are quoting that a leader allied to Mujuru faction or someone allied to Munangagwa, it's so clear in our report that we spoke to everyone. We spoke to the Tsvangirai side, we spoke to the Welshman side and we distilled the way forward, what's the way forward. We've also been liaising with the region, regional leaders, and political actors.

Violet: So Sydney what needs to happen for Zimbabwe to begin to recover first of all?

Sydney Masamvu: President Mugabe holds Zimbabwe to ransom. He has actually stifled any form of succession within his own party, I mean as an exit strategy. He has never sort of encouraged the issue of succession and passing on the baton. In a way Violet, when you look at the events in ZANU PF, the bitter fight on the issue of succession, and when you look at the economic collapse and you look at the repression of pro-democracy and the opposition parties, there's a common factor there that President Mugabe's rule sees us in the crisis which we find ourselves in. For starters, for Zimbabwe to begin to move forward, President Robert Mugabe has to exit the political radar. That's the first, but that's not the B and end all, but that's the beginning. So, Mugabe is the stumbling block to any reform, even within ZANU PF, even within his own party and let alone the country at large and as a way of moving the political process forward. So, for starters in the beginning, our starting point, even what we are recommending in our report, is that beyond March 2008 President Robert Mugabe should not be allowed to be a political factor beyond March 2008.

Violet: You say if Mugabe is out of the way it will create the way for a transitional mechanism leading to elections. How do you get rid of this stumbling block then?

Sydney Masamvu: Indeed, we are looking at right now, if President Robert Mugabe were to go according to his pledge, he had said he wanted to retire, there was an issue of harmonisation which was being floated, now we are asking all figures to rally around the idea of stopping Mugabe in his tracks. What we are saying, President Robert Mugabe, once he sees his term out, we are now looking at people within ZANU PF, people within MDC and all the negotiating partners to provide an exit strategy for President Robert Mugabe after the expiration of his term.

This may be done through the election of a non-executive President and a Prime Minister that is dealing in all those positions from ZANU PF, who is not Mugabe, the non executive President, who can be elected by a two-thirds majority in Parliament and head a Transitional Government which should prepare for elections under a new constitution and which will set bench marks and which are mandated by de-militarising and de-politicising state institutions and preparing elections possibly by 2008 or by 2009 or any time agreed by the Transitional Government. We are not putting a magical sort of time line to 2008, but we are saying a Transitional Government which is set after Mugabe's retirement in March 2008 should be mandated with creating an environment which should lead to an election and a democratically elected government in Zimbabwe, which is ready to re-engage with the International Community and begin to move on a path towards economic recovery.

Violet: Now let's say if Mugabe does agree with this, some may say this is an easy way out for him. Is this the right way to go because bad guys are not held accountable, or to account?

Sydney Masamvu: Violet, the best way for Zimbabwe is to create an environment where the people of Zimbabwe are allowed or are given an opportunity to elect a government which they want which has not been the case in the past seven years, an issue which has prolonged the crisis. So, really, what we are saying, the best way for everybody, we are not saying the MDC should come to power, neither are we saying ZANU PF should stay in power for as long as it wants. We are saying, we need a roadmap which creates conducive conditions under a new constitution which produces a legitimate outcome.

Any election, if it brings back ZANU PF leadership or an Opposition leadership, any election, carried out under a new constitution and under conducive circumstances should eventually yield a legitimate government which is ready and which will be embraced by the rest of the International Community.

Violet: Sorry to go back to the same issue, but what kind of pressure, because many people know what ZANU PF, especially Robert Mugabe is like, so what kind of pressure is going to be big enough to get Mugabe to negotiate?

Sydney Masamvu: Violet you can see the way Zimbabwe has been isolated, that the economy is caving in, you are having a Zimbabwe dollar which is crashing by the day, you are having a country right now, I can tell you Zimbabwe is importing maize from Zambia, from Malawi, there's no food in the country and business empires of senior ZANU PF stalwarts are crumbling because of isolation and because of lack of direct foreign investment. And, the pressure on the economic front is the one which is going to force President Robert Mugabe to yield and to some form of compromise and negotiation. If you look at the decline in the economy, you are looking at something like 1, 600% inflation for a country which is not at war. You are looking at a country where even the dollar on the official, the so-called official, now the parallel market, where the dollar is trading at 1 is to US$10, 500 or 1 is to 1, 200 to the Rand. You can see the economy is crumbling by the day, prices are increasing by the day and the wages of workers across civil and private sector are being eroded by the day. Zimbabwe cannot move forward unless it is brought back within the family of the International Community and whereby it begins to access financial assistance from multilateral institutions. So, the pressure on the economy is the one which is going to bring Mugabe to the negotiating table.

Violet: You also say in the Report that SADC leaders have an opportunity to talk to Mugabe about a retirement package to be implemented not later than 2008. So what are your recommendations on this issue in particular?

Sydney Masamvu: Indeed, you know, I will go back to the issue that, Violet, this report took about four, five months of thorough research in Zimbabwe, in the region and internationally. And, I can tell you privately that all the majority of the SADC leaders they want a change of guard in Zimbabwe and they are now willing even to persuade and they are now even talking to some leaders within ZANU PF to persuade President Robert Mugabe to exit the political radar. And, they are willing to help by way of negotiations, by way of supporting a transitional arrangement and even the issue of a smooth and a dignified Mugabe exit, they are willing to go that extra mile because they have seen the economic meltdown in Zimbabwe and the impact which it is having in their countries and in the region in terms of economic growth. So really, all the leaders within SADC, they agree that there has to be a roadmap which gives everyone faith and allows for a legitimate political outcome and bring Zimbabwe back into the international fold. They still believe that Zimbabwe is key within the region, and as such, a resolution to the political crisis is the first before everything else falls into place, including economic reform.

Violet: And you know Mugabe always uses his political rallies to attack the West and the Opposition, now, when we're talking about the International Community in particular, how can it really influence things without it becoming or being seen as interfering in a domestic issue?

Sydney Masamvu: Our Report is quite clear and sets out a strategy whereby we are saying we agree with the issue of African solutions to African problems. We are actually advising even the West that they should begin to talk through with the SADC leaders. You know most of the leaders in the West, Britain, the US, the EU, they have various forums where they interact with the African Union, and they interact with the SADC leaders. So we are now saying, even if the West has something to offer as a resolution to the Zimbabwean crisis, they should come through the African Institutions and as such, no wonder why in our Report we are signposting that SADC should take a lead and all the other supporting actors should come through SADC. We are not going, in this Report, we are not working at pleasing any aspect, we are looking at practical sort of recommendations which are grounded on the situation on the ground and we are saying that once SADC takes a lead in trying to push for a resolution to the crisis, all the other actors, including the Commonwealth, including the EU, should come through and support an initiative which is lead by SADC, and no wonder why even in our recommendations we are saying SADC should take the lead because we believe SADC is key in talking to Mugabe through its institutions.

Violet: Still on the issue of the retirement package, is it not a shame though, this is what others will ask, that in situations like this we tend to forget or you forget about justice for the interest of peace?

Sydney Masamvu: Violet these are processes. We look at what is the immediate short-term. The immediate short-term is to stop the Dictatorship from prolonging its constitutional term in Zimbabwe and allow the country to move on a recovery path. Zimbabweans are suffering. Let's put in our recommendations or in our solutions what we are trying to say is we are opting for a political solution thinking of or with the idea of putting Zimbabweans first; we are ensuring that the meltdown in Zimbabwe, the economic meltdown is put to a stop and as such, we are looking to resolve the political stalemate and every other process will follow later. Let's not jump the gun but lets start with the key issue which is to find a political solution to the Zimbabwean crisis and to proffer recommendations which will yield a legitimate outcome and which will allow Zimbabweans to chose a government which they want.

Violet: And what happens if ZANU PF refuses to co-operate with these efforts to begin a transition and restore democracy?

Sydney Masamvu: Indeed, as we outline in the recommendations; they are very clear; that pressure should be increased if at all ZANU PF is becoming intransigent and refuses to embark on any transitional arrangement to bring Zimbabwe back to democracy. We are saying there should be increased pressure, increased isolation. Those on the targeted sanctions we have even gone on to say they should include their business partners; some of them who are in the West who are bankrolling some of the senior ZANU PF politicians; we are saying some of their business partners should be put on the targeted sanctions list and even some of their family members should even be included. We are saying if the ZANU PF government does not sort of engage in any transitional mechanism, there should be all out pressure from all ends, including SADC, including even the AU where even Mugabe is beginning to be shunned. That all pressures should be applied and all the targeted measures already in place should be tightened and expanded.

Violet: And what about the Opposition, what do they need to do for Zimbabwe to recover?

Sydney Masamvu: We have said actually the Opposition should actually begin to push, should first of all begin to get its act together by sort of agreeing on a joint strategy to engage ZANU PF on the transitional mechanism and on the agenda with safe bench marks. We have also called on their unity, that it is key, as we reach the next five, six months, which are key in defining whether Mugabe is going to go or whether he is going to extend his term, that the unity of opposition forces is key as people look at creating a platform for negotiations between the MDC, ZANU PF, regional forces and the international actors. So, the unity of the opposition becomes also paramount in strategy and as well as an entity.

Violet: And you know there is also general unrest in Zimbabwe right now and we have seen in recent weeks, people beginning to retaliate. Could this be the emergence of a new force like the work force, and what are the ICG's recommendations regarding this other group of disgruntled workers?

Sydney Masamvu: Violet, exactly, this ventilates or this further proves to us that the pressure points in Zimbabwe are coming out on multiple fronts. There is a disgruntled worker here, disgruntled civil servants, disgruntled workers who are protesting. We have seen Doctors, we have seen Teachers, whatever, all serving to underline the fact that the economy is in a freefall and is collapsing. So those are multiple platforms which are putting pressure on the Regime. No wonder why we are saying this creates actually the pressure which the workers are ventilating creates, the more it creates the urgency for a transition or for a negotiated political settlement to be obtained in Zimbabwe so that Zimbabwe can move forward and really go on a course correction to change the issue of governance and also to arrest the decline in the economy. So, what we are seeing is there are so many pressure points, the workers, the opposition parties are protesting, the civil society is protesting for a new constitution, the bread and butter issues; people are going on the streets on issues of bread and butter. All are underlining the fact that the political and economic situation in Zimbabwe is deteriorating. No wonder why we see an opportunity which should be seized that Mugabe should not be allowed to extend his term of office beyond 2008 and thereby allow all forces of good will in ZANU PF and the MDC to negotiate a political settlement which should yield a government which is elected by the people under conducive circumstances and bring Zimbabwe back to the international arena and on an economic recovery path.

Violet: And you know some have said ultimately change would come from the Army. How strong a hold on the Security Forces has Mugabe got?

Sydney Masamvu: When you look at this idea, indeed, yes, I agree with you that Mugabe has the support of the Securocrats. But, when you look at the top tier of the military, the military has now spread its allegiance across factions so Mugabe has no monopoly of the military, though I want to add on a rider to say that is now his last port of call. He has a stronger hand in terms of that his exit strategy is actually being crafted by the Securocrats but he has no monopoly. So the issue of the Army taking over is really, does not concern us because the allegiance of all the top tier within the Army is spread across the three factions, namely the Mujuru, the Mnangagwa and the Mugabe faction. The leadership of the military is also split along the same factions.

Violet: You know your report and what you've just been saying shows us or emphasises the need for the stakeholders to negotiate a political settlement. Is there any movement right now that will see all these different groups of people from ZANU PF, from the MDC Opposition, Civic Society - all the stakeholders to meet. What movement is there to see that this is actually starting to happen?

Sydney Masamvu: Yes, there's movement, one, in ZANU PF, because there are factions in ZANU PF, the two major factions in ZANU PF all agree that Mugabe should not proceed beyond 2008. That's movement number one. There's movement number two that across factions or across there's a cross-party dialogue where cross factions in ZANU PF are agreeing with some factions in the MDC that we need a negotiated political settlement, but they are also agreeing on the point that Mugabe should not go beyond 2008.

So we are seeing movement in ZANU PF for beginning to push where even the Mujuru faction has come outright to say that they wont allow Mugabe to go beyond 2008. The Mnangagwa faction has also said they won't allow Mugabe to go beyond 2008. We've seen all the provinces; the majority of the provinces; after the Goromonzi Conference that they failed to endorse that bid by Mugabe to extend his term beyond 2008. So we have seen movement in ZANU PF.

We have seen a joint strategy within the MDC where there's a pact between the two factions, a memorandum or a working arrangement whereby they are trying to have a common front. So, really we are beginning to see a common ground where across factions there is need that Mugabe is the stumbling block. And now, we will see it further if Mugabe tries to push it, the voting which will occur in parliament on the issue will further reveal that there has been movement and there is cross-party dialogue to get Mugabe off the radar and then maybe begin a process of negotiated political settlement discussions and the way forward.

Violet: And Sydney, you know since both factions within ZANU PF agree that Mugabe is the stumbling block, where is Mugabe getting his power from then? Even from within his Party people don't want him?

Sydney Masamvu: You should understand the power of incumbency and also that Mugabe has the control of the Securocrats. There is also the issue of power of incumbency. But, even when you ask within ZANU PF, there is even the feeling that even if Mugabe is to defy the Party, Violet, and stand for another re-election in 2008, I have, or, indications are that he will be beaten even in an unfair election. He will be beaten because ZANU PF factions are ready to withdraw that support from him.

Violet: And, a final word before you go?

Sydney Masamvu: The final word Violet is that the only way out of the Zimbabwe crisis is a negotiated political settlement which will go with the following: the exit of Mugabe, the drawing up of a new constitution, the drawing up of a new voters' roll and the holding of an election at an agreed time by the political actors. The only way out of the Zimbabwe crisis is a negotiated political settlement.

Violet Gonda: Sydney Masamvu, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group. He is based in Pretoria, South Africa.

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