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Zimbabwe in Crisis: Finding a Way Forward

 PDF version of Zimbabwe in Crisis: Finding a Way Forward Click here to view the full report as a PDF file in A4 format.
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Zimbabwe is in a state of free fall. It is embroiled in the worst political and economic crisis of its twenty-year history as an independent state. The crisis has negatively affected virtually every aspect of the country and every segment of the population. It has exacerbated racial and ethnic tensions, severely torn the country�s social fabric, caused fundamental damage to its once-strong economy, dramatically increased the suffering of Zimbabwe�s people, accelerated a damaging brain drain, and increased the use of state-sponsored violence, the perpetrators of which operate with impunity. An HIV/AIDS epidemic only adds to the catastrophe. Significant post-independence achievements in racial reconciliation, economic growth, and development of state institutions have already been severely eroded. Zimbabwe, which after independence was one of Africa�s best hopes for establishing a healthy democracy and prosperous economy, is now descending into a cycle of poverty and repression.

The crisis has not only been an unmitigated disaster for Zimbabwe. Erosion in the value of the South African currency and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange is blamed on events in Zimbabwe. Neighbouring Mozambique, Zambia and Malawi have also been hurt economically by the drop in investor interest. Zimbabwe�s involvement in the Congo war in August 1998, driven by Mugabe's ambition both to assert his leadership in the region and to gain access to the Congo�s resources, has externalised the country's internal problems. As Zimbabwe�s troubles intensify, they increasingly will destabilise the entire southern African region. And the high profile nature of the assault on what has been an internationally linked private sector is having negative repercussions on perceptions of the investment potential for the entire continent.

Responsibility lies with President Robert Mugabe�s government, which has mismanaged the economy, institutionalised state violence, and moved further toward autocratic rule. When the people of Zimbabwe began organising to change the government through democratic means, the ruling party, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) responded with widespread and systematic violence and intimidation.

In a remarkable irony, the actions taken by the government are based on the very same laws � still on the books � Ian Smith�s white minority regime used to repress opposition in the 1970s. The law now being used to prosecute opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai is the same law under which Mugabe and his comrades were imprisoned during their liberation struggle.

Confronted with plummeting popularity and a diverse coalition seeking fundamental reforms, the ZANU-PF leadership appears willing to do anything to stay in power. Using war veterans, police, army, and other ZANU-PF supporters to suppress violently all opponents, the party�s only objective is to maintain its hold on power. Robert Mugabe has institutionalised an authoritarian system in Zimbabwe that is aimed at ensuring ZANU-PF controls the keys to the doors of power even if it means the entire house may burn to the ground. Since the end of the 90s, a political opposition, based on the transformation of the trade union movement, has been growing in response to the mismanagement of the economy and the country. Civil society groups, a new political opposition party, and a well educated, entrepreneurial population have combined to form a significant coalition to challenge the government�s authoritarian rule directly. The southern African region and the broader international community must refocus their efforts in support of positive change in Zimbabwe

After analysing the causes of the crisis, this report sketches a strategy for change not unlike that undertaken by the international community in Yugoslavia. Regional states, the Commonwealth, the EU and the U.S. should seek to persuade Mugabe to allow the scheduled presidential election in 2002 to be conducted freely and fairly, set clear conditions as to what a free and fair election means, and offer assistance to civil society and pro-change groups to help level the political playing field. The international community should also work to resolve and help finance the solution for the land issue proposed by the UNDP, to neutralise its potential for misuse as an election issue. If Mugabe will not permit free and fair elections, the international community should apply sanctions that impact on the political leadership � a freeze on personal funds and travel restrictions � but not on the general population, and the Commonwealth should suspend Zimbabwe. RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE GOVERNMENT OF ZIMBABWE

1. Permit free and fair elections in 2002 in which the Zimbabwean people will have the opportunity to express their will.

2. As indispensable preconditions for such free and fair elections:

a) permit the opposition to have access to such open and transparent assistance as the international community wishes to provide and it wants to accept; b) license private, independent electronic media; c) permit electronic and print media to operate unhindered; d) establish an independent electoral commission; e) reorganise voter registration rolls; and f) accept international monitoring both before and during the elections.


3. Appoint a special envoy to assist the Zimbabwean government conduct free and fair elections and to keep the Security Council informed.


4. Emphasise publicly and privately to President Mugabe that regional stability, as well as the protection of his reputation before history as a great leader of African independence, requires the holding of free and fair elections in Zimbabwe in 2002.


5. Immediately resume negotiations with the Zimbabwean government on land reform. If agreement is reached on the basis of the consensus at the 1998 donors conference, establish a Trust Fund � as recommended by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in October 2000 � in order to finance fast track land reform before the 2002 elections.

6. Establish a Trust Fund for job creation and reconstruction of the Zimbabwean economy, the proceeds of which will be disbursed only after determination that the elections have been free and fair.

7. Maintain and fully monitor the present moratorium on balance of payments support to Zimbabwe and on any aid not directly related to basic human needs, until free and fair elections have been held.


8. Focus on the 2002 elections as the decisive opportunity for Zimbabwe to obtain an accurate reflection of the will of its people and return to the rule of law.

9. Communicate to President Mugabe, in public and private, support for the conditions required for the conduct of free and fair elections (as in recommendation 2 above) and be prepared to bear a share of the costs involved (e.g., by providing technical assistance on the conduct and implementation of elections).

10. Make it known that there will be no international objection if domestic arrangements are reached that include provision for an honourable retirement with immunity from prosecution for President Mugabe.

11. Assist moderate opposition forces so they can compete with ZANU-PF on a level playing field in free and fair elections by providing training and related support for parties, media and civil society.

12. Provide, to the extent desired by recipients, increased development and possibly financial and technical assistance through local civil society organisations in areas where moderate opposition forces have elected MPs or control local government.

13. Provide to moderate opposition parties and civil society organisations, to the extent they desire, limited institutional support such as office and transport and communications equipment.

14. If the conditions for free and fair elections are not met, governments where ZANU-PF officials and their families have important holdings should:

(a) freeze those assets; (b) impose travel restrictions on the most senior and responsible Zimbabwean government officials and their families; and (c) request endorsement of these measures by the UN Security Council.

15. If the conditions for free and fair elections are not met, the Commonwealth should move to suspend Zimbabwe�s membership

Harare/Brussels, 13 July 2001

 PDF version of Zimbabwe in Crisis: Finding a Way Forward Click here to view the full report as a PDF file in A4 format.
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