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  • New Constitution-making process - Index of articles

  • Zimbabwe Briefing - Issue 106
    Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
    April 04, 2013

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    Could spoilers torpedo Zimbabwe’s elite pact

    In the past weeks Zimbabwe has seen seemingly well-orchestrated incidents of intimidation targeting civil society institutions and actors. The targeting followed a month of harassment of civics at Zimbabwe Peace Project that culminated in the arrest of its director Jestina Mukoko.

    Since then these attacks have been intensified to target civil society members in Bulawayo and members of the MDC-T including officials in the Office of the Prime Minister together with their lawyer Beatrice Mthetwa. The Prime Minister, at the time, issued a statement to the media stating that among other things they were not clear of the motive and agenda of the swop on his office. What could possibly be happening here? What are the motives and possible implications to the reform process?

    Even as Zimbabweans are celebrating the successful referendum and subsequently the opportunity to have a new constitution that is likely to transform its culture of politics (at least to the extent that there will be new political rules and in some instances new institutions) political violence and intimidation is souring the mood of the people. It is plausible that there are fears in the authoritarian camp in the face of a sobering reality check brought about by the fact that their illicit affluence and patronage is fast coming to a halt. What is shocking though, is the fact that the conspirators and perpetrators of these attacks have taken their fight directly to the doorstep of the Prime Minister, the Head of Government business in the Inclusive Government.

    There is a high risk that a concerted manoeuvre to undermine the outcome of the referendum could take place given that there hard-line remnants within the ZANU PF regime also called the political “spoilers’’ are determined to fight their battles to the bitter end. Ultimately the success of the constitution making process thus far, even in its limited sense and scope, is a massive threat to their interests threatening the political protections that the corrupt enjoy and impunity in the event of a new regime emerging after national elections.

    With so much to lose for these political hardliners, we are likely to see more intimidation and political violence as we get into electioneering. Quite clearly some actors in the faction riddled former ruling party are totally not interested in any form of change and therefore they might resort to desperate acts to scupper any form of reform.

    The mediator and the mediation process should therefore closely seek to identify these pockets of spoilers and ensure that their anxieties are not allowed to derail the reform process that everyone so desperately wants achieved. Furthermore, there is need to ensure that President Mugabe’s Zanu PF party is firmly held accountable for any acts of violence associated directly or indirectly with his party, and as leader of his party, as President who in actual fact appointed the heads of the military, police and central intelligence. He should, indeed, be pressured to come clean on violations of the rule of law, intimidation and persecution of ordinary citizens.

    Political reformers and mediators should also be sure that Mugabe is still in control of his present and former allies in his party and that his guarantees that peace and stability will prevail can be trusted.

    More importantly, the only sure way to secure the will of the people, even at such a late stage, would be to continue to push for security sector reforms. Without trusting President Mugabe to rein in his partisan heads of the security service, and ensuring that Zanu PF does not benefit from political violence - whether intended as its political strategy or driven by spoilers - the mediator and pro-reform political parties will have to do more in terms of pushing for further reforms with SADC mediation on the negotiation table while conducting massive political mobilization on the ground. It looks like it might be too late to reverse or scuttle change.

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