Tsvangirai looks to SADC

If President Jacob Zuma’s plan had been to win the confidence of all sides in Zimbabwe’s coalition during his visit to Harare last week, he succeeded. But he achieved little else in terms of wringing reform from Robert Mugabe and his party.

Ahead of next week’s SADC summit Zuma was anxious to soothe tempers and avoid potential conflict at the summit, at which he will hand over the chairmanship to Joseph Kabila, president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

According to South African officials Zuma received assurances from all parties that they would speed up the implementation of the remainder of Zimbabwe’s settlement agreement.

While Mugabe told Zuma he was prepared to move the agreement forward, he also said any further movement would have to be matched by Morgan Tsvangirai actively and publicly campaigning for the removal of Western sanctions against Mugabe and his party.

Zanu-PF spokesperson Ephraim Masawi has said Mugabe will continue to resist any pressure to “prejudice the party” by making further concessions before the MDC calls for the dropping of sanctions.

To placate Mugabe Zuma used his speech at an agriculture fair to call for an end to Western measures against the president, while still urging all parties involved to conclude the outstanding issues quickly.

Tsvangirai, on the other hand, said this week he wants SADC to put Zimbabwe high on the agenda next week. He has resisted pressure to criticise Mugabe in public, but he moved a press conference from his official government office to his party headquarters to express his frustration over the failure to push through reforms.
The agreement came at the insistence of SADC in January, he said, so regional leaders must insist on its full implementation. He said he would remind regional leaders at the summit that SADC had pledged to review the implementation of the agreement after six months.

“While the exact timing, form and content of such a review has not yet been finalised, we urge SADC to place the issue of Zimbabwe for specific consideration during the forthcoming summit in Kinshasa.”

Tsvangirai’s list of grievances includes:

  • Mugabe’s refusal to reverse his unilateral appointment of allies as the central bank governor and the attorney general, which Tsvangirai says “SADC accepted were genuine issues”;

  • Mugabe’s refusal to swear in provincial governors from the MDC, or to swear in Roy Bennett, Tsvangirai’s nominee to the position of deputy agriculture minister;

  • The “hatred and acrimony” from state media, which pose “a real and credible threat to this inclusive government”;

  • The arrest of MDC MPs.

He will remind the summit that pledges for reform were made “with the support and backing of SADC and the African Union, who stand as guarantors of the agreement”.

A report suggested this week that the unity government has failed to deliver the change it promised. Human Rights Watch’s report, “False Dawn: The Zimbabwe Power-Sharing Government’s Failure to Deliver Human Rights Improvements”, gives a gloomy assessment of the state of governance, urging the SADC summit to press Mugabe to allow real reform.

Regional leaders should set strict performance benchmarks and timelines for reforms to press Zanu-PF, the rights watchdog recommends, while the West should withhold development aid until Mugabe meets “specific human rights and good governance benchmarks and until it becomes clear that such changes are irreversible”.

The MDC, says the report, holds no real power within the coalition, whereas Mugabe “wields significantly more power — and is unwilling to institute human rights and governance reforms”.

Some economic stability has been achieved, but “these gains, however, are built on foundations of sand” as long as the “institutionalised political repression” is not uprooted.

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