Business As Usual in Zimbabwe

December 2, 2009

Women and children are disproportionally affected by collapse of social services in Zimbabwe.
Women and children are disproportionally affected by collapse of social services in Zimbabwe.

Everything and nothing has happened in Zimbabwe over the past month. Prime Minister Tsvangirai briefly boycotted the unity government. His goal: force the hand of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to step up in its role as guarantors of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) that forms the basis of the unity government. It worked; SADC held emergency meetings and appointed President Zuma of South Africa as the new negotiator, but the people in Zimbabwe who need to be talking are only grudgingly doing so.

Tsvangirai’s boycott led to an emergency meeting in Mozambique with Tsvangirai, Mugabe, the SADC Troika (Organ on Defense and Security comprised of Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia), SADC Chair Joseph Kabila, Zuma and former South Africa President Mbeki; where it was decided that Tsvangirai’s MDC-T party and President Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party had 15 days to iron out their differences or South Africa would step back in, with all issues to be resolved within 30 days. (Who was not at the party was Zimbabwe’s civil society, excluded thus far from every step of the process in negotiating a conclusion to the political stalemate and violence.)

The major sticking points are the appointment of the Attorney General, the appointment of the Reserve Bank governor, the appointment of ambassadors and regional governors and the harassment of MDC supporters by police.  ZANU-PF also insists on the lifting of targeted sanctions imposed by the European Union, United States and other nations against key members of the ZANU-PF party. An excellent assessment of the situation can be found here.

Fifteen days came and went and the 30 day deadline (December 6th) is imminent. Talks have limped along with little information emerging regarding resolution of issues. Zuma’s advance party arrived in Harare this week to “inject urgency” into the discussions, and Tsvangirai assured party members that discussions will be completed by the deadline. However, most commentators feel that only smaller surface issues (ie matters of Cabinet protocol) will be decided to pacify SADC that progress is being made while larger issues (ie ministerial appointments) will remain unresolved.

In the meantime, Roy Bennett’s trial on terrorism charges began and was subsequently postponed until January. Zimbabwe dodged a ban of the sale of its diamonds by the Kimberely process despite stark evidence of severe human rights violations occurring in the diamond mines. The Commonwealth (coalition of predominantly former British colonies) met and invited Zimbabwe to return (it suspended Zimbabwe’s membership in 2002 and Zimbabwe withdrew formally in 2003) if Zimbabwe met political and economic benchmarks. Mugabe is apparently unimpressed by the offer. Senseless acts of violence continue, cholera begins its comeback with the resumption of the rainy season, and women and children are bearing the brunt of Zimbabwe’s collapsed social service system.