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Zimbabwe's Reform Process

6 June 2012: Piers Pigou, Project Director for Southern Africa, talks about the recent decision of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to block elections without reforms in Zimbabwe and about concerns around Robert Mugabe’s candidacy. 4:30


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Hello and welcome to this podcast by the International Crisis Group. I’m Gabriela Keseberg Dávalos, Senior Communications Officer, and with me in the studio today is Piers Pigou, Project Director for Southern Africa. We’re going to be talking about Zimbabwe.

Piers, last week there was a summit of the Southern African Development Community, It was actually an extraordinary heads of state meeting where they talked about Zimbabwe. Can you tell us what happened on everything that has to do with the elections in Zimbabwe?

One of the reasons for the summit was called by ZANU-PF for the acceleration of the election process, saying that the global political agreement had now failed, the government was dysfunctional, and they needed to have elections. The MDC are saying, yes, we need elections, but we need reforms first. What the summit has found in its communiques is that, yes, there indeed needs to be reforms, in relation to an election road map that was drawn up last year. They’ve called for timeframes and an implementation mechanism to be put in place for that. They’ve endorsed the facilitation of the South African president, Jacob Zuma, and they’ve said that the constitution-making process and a referendum must also be completed.

And would you say that this reform process is feasible?

Given the slow pace of reform in the last three years, it’s questionable as to what can actually be achieved in this timeframe. What the summit has done is narrow down the reform agenda, but there are still a number of contentious issues which relate to, primarily, electoral reform and security related considerations.

Let’s talk about Robert Mugabe. He’s going to be a candidate in the next elections, but he’s already 88 years old. So there is a concern that he might actually die before the elections. What would happen?

If he became incapacitated in some way before an election process, there is procedures within ZANU-PF for the second in command, one of their vice presidents, to take over. Also, procedures inside the Global Political Agreement allow the party that is the incumbent presidency to make that nomination. However, it is not clear whether those official processes would take place within ZANU-PF and there would be a smooth succession. There’s a great deal of concern that there is jockeying for position within ZANU-PF, which may be violent, which relates to elements of the security establishment as well and their political interests. And we’re hearing from a number of quarters that there’s a great deal of nervousness, including from within the MDC and civil society, of what happens if Mugabe is incapacitated.  

Do you think there will be elections this year?

No, I think it is highly unlikely simply from a logistical point of view. To actually make these kinds of arrangements takes a lot of time and it requires resources. And we know that resources have not been budgeted by the finance minister for elections in 2012.

What about the EU sanctions? They are up for review in August.

The decision that was taken in February was that they would review the appropriate measures, which are the government development measures, and see whether they would reintroduce that. So those will be discussed during July leading into a decision in August. At the same time, they can also review the restrictive measures, which are the travel bans and the asset freezes and so forth that were introduced. And of course there is the other sanction of the arms embargo, which is unlikely to be dealt with at all.

These are critical issues in terms of the symbolic political value that they hold at this particular moment. In terms of the appropriate measures, if there is a decision to lift those measures, this could be an important opportunity to try and push forward and try and get some indication of what reform might be on the table before an election. Likewise, the restrictive measures also have an element of symbolism in terms of their lifting. The appropriate measures could be reintroduced if certain things were not put back on the table or were not followed through with in terms of a reform process, or if there was a violent and problematic election process. So, this is all under discussion at the moment, and there are a lot of dynamics. And it is critically important that communication in this, both between the parties inside the European Union, but also with SADC and inside Zimbabwe, is very smooth and continuous during this period.

Edited for print.

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