Back to Index
This article participates on the following special index pages:
SADC mediated talks between ZANU (PF) and MDC - Index of articles
demand say in SADC mediation
Zakeus Chibaya, Institute for War and Peace Reporting
May 18, 2007
The Southern Africa Development
Community, SADC, initiative to solve the socio-economic and political
crisis in Zimbabwe is coming under pressure from representatives
of the estimated four million Zimbabwe exiles lobbying to have their
say in the mediation process.
Zimbabwe civic organisations
based in South Africa are busy preparing position papers for the
exiles. Although the groups are sceptical about the likely success
of the mediation efforts led by South African president Thabo Mbeki,
they are nevertheless pushing for involvement in the talks and are
keen to see pre-election constitutional reforms.
Mbeki has thus far been
involved in several mediation processes to solve the Zimbabwean
crisis without yet managing to get President Robert Mugabe to the
Plans are underway
for a series of demonstrations and petitions at the Union Buildings,
Mbeki's offices in the capital Pretoria, to demand his attention.
Activists in the diaspora have started a mobilising mission to confront
Mbeki on their proposed participation in the talks. National
Constitutional Assembly, NCA, a volatile pressure group calling
for a new constitution in Zimbabwe, has made it clear that any process
that excludes exiles would be invalid.
Position papers from
exile groups have already been sent to Mbeki demanding a new constitution
as part of the road map to end a seven-year-old impasse between
the ruling ZANU-PF party and opposition groups.
Tapera Kapuya, the co-ordinator
for NCA-South Africa, said that unless the mediation process facilitated
an inclusive "national process of building sustainable democratic
systems, based on respect of fundamental rights and dignity of all
Zimbabweans, negotiations or mediation efforts serve nothing. [Instead
they] buy time for those strangling the nation and its people".
At an urgent SADC summit
held in Tanzania in March, Mbeki was appointed as mediator in the
Zimbabwean crisis. The constitutional question is central to this
mediation: the ZANU-PF push to have legislative, administrative
and executive elections in 2008 necessitates an amendment to the
constitution. ZANU-PF wants the latter to simply harmonise parliamentary
and presidential elections in 2008, but the opposition wants a complete
overhaul of the constitution to safeguard democracy and human rights
and curb the powers of the ruling party and president.
the mediation efforts being led by South Africa, the NCA believes
that without [ensuring that] all Zimbabweans establish a people-driven
and democratic constitution as a basis for . . . democracy the
culture of anti-democratic practice will persist at extreme human
cost to Zimbabwe and the region. The exiles are part of Zimbabwe
and their concerns must be addressed during the mediation process,"
Zimbabweans have fled the country to neighbouring countries, particularly
South Africa, because of political persecution and economic turmoil.
The number of exiles swelled after the population displacements
in the wake of the government's Operation
Murambatsvina (Drive Out the Rubbish) in 2005.
The exiles have for the
past seven years been sidelined from taking part in national issues.
They make substantial contributions to the country's ailing economy
by sending foreign currency back home to relatives - although most
of the money ends up on the black market. The Mugabe-led government
has not hid its hatred of the exiles who have been called saboteurs
and terrorists bent on destroying the country. In the 2002 presidential
election, the exiles were denied their right to cast votes outside
The People Policy Committee,
a network of Zimbabweans in exile, has already submitted a position
paper to Mbeki on the way forward to solve the crisis. The committee
is urging Mbeki to broaden his scope to include the exiled community
in his mediation process.
"The position of
the PPC is that the genealogy of the current problems in Zimbabwe
is traceable to the national constitution. Any diagnosis and prescription
of the crisis which precludes the constitution is flawed and therefore
irrelevant," the PPC said in a statement.
Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum,
a network of South African organisations supporting the struggle
for democracy in Zimbabwe, are providing Zimbabweans exiles with
a platform to come up with strategies to fight against the regime
and are working on a project to unite all Zimbabwe exiles and get
them to speak with one voice.
Muchaneta Kucheka, now
based in Durban, South Africa, who fled a Zanu-PF orgy of violence
in 2002, believes that exiles should be given more clout, "We
are the ones who escaped Mugabe's persecution and we should be included
in the talks to air our views. Any negotiated settlements in the
mediation talks should take into account the millions of Zimbabweans
who have left the country because of the crisis.
"They should look
at how the exiles are going to resettle in the country and participate
in the elections.
"We are going to
gate-crash the talks because the exiles have been watching from
the sidelines for too long. The constitution should cater for all
Zimbabweans whether you are in the country or outside."
But the exile community
may hit a brick wall as Mbeki is focused on ZANU-PF and the MDC.
He has already set the mediation process rolling by initiating contact
with the two parties. Since the start of the Zimbabwe crisis seven
years ago, Mbeki's office has not given an ear to the millions of
Zimbabweans in exile, despite the fact that they have flooded into
the country, says Kucheka.
Mbeki's conduct over
Zimbabwe has been criticised by many local and international organisations
who perceive him to be siding with Mugabe.
The secretary general
of the Zimbabwe Political Victims Association, Oliver Kubikwa, said,
"We are going to push for Mbeki to lay down the groundwork
for constitutional discourse. The past has taught us there is nothing
Mbeki can do against Mugabe repression.
"In fact Mbeki is
supposed to draft a programme on how the Zimbabwe political players
can come up with a new constitution before the election. A new and
well-drafted constitution will definitely solve the whole conflict
facing the country. It will provide a platform for fair and free
elections and there will an independent judiciary to arbitrate on
issues of conflict arising from elections," said Kubikwa.
The exiles are calling
on Mbeki to expedite the process as the Zimbabwe crisis continues
to cause untold suffering of Zimbabweans, both inside and outside
the country. Thousands of Zimbabweans are still flooding to South
Africa, putting their lives at risk by crossing the crocodile-infested
Limpopo River. Some Zimbabweans have lost their lives to lions in
South Africa's Kruger National Park in their bid to escape their
Once in South Africa,
most Zimbabwean exiles face difficult circumstances. They live in
poverty and are exploited by employees who pay them paltry wages.
Professionals such as nurses, teachers, engineers and journalists
have had to abandon their careers to do menial jobs. Those who are
activists also face the long arm of Zimbabwe's Central Intelligence
Organisation, CIO, according to MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
Speaking from a safe
house in Johannesburg during a short visit to the country last week,
Tsvangirai said agents from the CIO were targeting activists in
exile and were responsible for at least one kidnapping.
is a regular IWPR contributor.
Please credit www.kubatana.net if you make use of material from this website.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.