Saving Zimbabwe: an agenda for democratic peace

OUTPUT TYPE: Research report- client
TITLE AUTHOR(S): P.Kagwanja, K.Kondlo
DEPARTMENT: Developmental, Capable and Ethical State (DCES)
Intranet: HSRC Library: shelf number 5322
HANDLE: 20.500.11910/5358

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Zimbabwe teeters on the precipice in the aftermath of the 2008 elections, which saw the incumbent, President Robert Mugabe, return to power for another five-year term in an electoral process judged by all African observers as not free and fair. Far from resolving Zimbabwe's eight-year political and economic crisis as earlier anticipated, the election, earlier conceived as a conflict resolution mechanism, has deepened political paralysis, insecurity and economic uncertainty. Although Mugabe lost the first round of the harmonized elections on 29 March, his challenger, Morgan Tsvangirai, the Presidential standard bearer for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) secured 47.9%, three points shy of the mandatory 51% required to clinch an outright victory, necessitating a run-off to break the tie. Zimbabwe's legislature, now a new frontier in the inter-party conflict, is ill-disposed to break the country's impasse after Mugabe's Party, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), lost control of the House of Assembly elections to the MDC, which secured half of the senate seats. Regional and international calls for the presidential run-off on 27 June to be put on hold failed to grapple with the perils of an imminent power vacuum in fragile state or to suggest a viable stop-gap option. However, Mugabe's decision to go on with the re-run and Tsvangirai's last minute withdrawal, citing intimidation, repression and retributive violence against his supporters poised the country on a slippery slop. And the unanimous rejection of the run-off results by observers from the Southern Africa Development Community, the Pan-African Parliament and the African Union has failed to restore legitimacy to the Mugabe government, which is now facing a low-intensity civil war from retaliatory violence from MDC supporters at home and calls for tougher sanctions abroad. Abiding by the decision of the African Union's summit calling for inter-party dialogue leading to a Unity Government is the last hope for the Mugabe regime. But the AU's failure to openly condemn Mugabe has drawn criticism from some African states, and further widened the long-standing disarray over Zimbabwe between Africa and the West, where calls for sanctions and intervention are growing even bolder. In contrast to Kenya in early 2008, Western powers opted not to put pressure on the opposition to come to the negotiating table, encouraging its intransigence now undermining the AU-SADC mediation lead by South African President, Thabo Mbeki. A time-bound power-sharing arrangement with specific milestones leading to the consolidation of democratic peace offers the best chance of pulling Zimbabwe from the cliff-edge.