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  Zimbabwe: Everyone Wants Change. Bush visit to South Africa a ‘unique opportunity’

Nairobi/Brussels, 8 July 2003: Zimbabwe’s citizens no longer talk about whether change will come but when. All acknowledge, however, that the road will be dangerous, possibly violent. The ruling ZANU-PF party is split, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has been able to demonstrate considerable popular support in recent months, and even President Robert Mugabe has hinted he is prepared to step down. South Africa is the country in the best position to help pull Zimbabwe back from the brink but it needs strong international support. So the visit of U.S. President George W. Bush there today is a unique opportunity to help chart action that could lead to a negotiated solution.

A new briefing paper, Decision Time in Zimbabwe* published today by the International Crisis Group ahead of President Bush’s meeting with South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki, sets out steps for a negotiation process. First, ICG argues, South Africa needs to engage with sufficient determination to persuade ZANU-PF and the MDC to begin serious negotiations. Then it should be prepared to facilitate and mediate negotiations for a transitional government and new elections.

John Prendergast, ICG’s Special Adviser on Africa, said: “Getting ZANU-PF and the MDC to the table for unconditional talks should be at the top of the agenda when Presidents Bush and Mbeki meet. It is not just Zimbabweans who are suffering. South Africa and its African partners fear the repercussions of state collapse. They have already seen the credibility of NEPAD crumble – largely as a result of unwillingness to confront Mugabe’s policies – while two million Zimbabwean refugees are now in South Africa. It’s estimated that Zimbabwe’s economic collapse has cost South Africa alone U.S.$ 1.9 billion over the past three years”.

ICG sets out objectives and a framework for such a negotiation, recognising that there are a number of issues that will cause the most difficulty. These are: when elections should be held, who in ZANU-PF and the security sector besides President Mugabe should receive immunity from prosecution or extradition, how land reform will be handled, how power will be shared and what the Mugabe retirement package might look like.

“There is a way forward for Zimbabwe, if the international community – especially and most directly the U.S. – works with South Africa”, said John Prendergast. “Acting separately and at variance ensures the crisis will continue indefinitely, with increasingly grave repercussions in the country and the region”.

A range of international players as well as the U.S. would need to play supporting roles in a negotiation process including the EU, the Southern Africa Development Commission (SADC), the African Union (AU) and the Commonwealth.

Katy Cronin (London) +44 20 7981 0330 [email protected]
Francesca Lawe-Davies (Brussels) +32-(0)2-536 00 65
Jennifer Leonard (Washington) +1-202-785 1601
Read the full Briefing Paper on our website: http://www.crisisweb.org/

The International Crisis Group (ICG) is an independent, non-profit, multinational organisation, with over 90 staff members on five continents, working through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly conflict.


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