Crisis Group Board Calls for New Zimbabwe Compact
Crisis Group Board Calls for New Zimbabwe Compact
Statement / Africa 1 minutes

Crisis Group Board Calls for New Zimbabwe Compact

An urgent regional initiative to produce a settlement for the conflict in Zimbabwe is needed to save the country from its deepening crisis.

At a meeting of its Board of Trustees on the weekend, the International Crisis Group expressed its outrage at the state-sponsored violence against Zimbabwe’s political opposition. If more violence is to be averted, Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party and opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), together with the international community, must urgently agree on joint political strategy that will restore the country to democracy. South Africa and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) should play a leading role.

The government’s latest campaign of violence and repression is deplorable. But the regime is not succeeding in cowing the opposition into submission. Zimbabwe’s political opposition has emerged determined and re-energised – and now needs all the support it can get.

Over the last two weeks, the government has spearheaded a brutal crackdown on opposition groups. On 11 March, riot police disrupted a rally organised by a coalition of political, religious and civic groups in a Harare suburb, shooting dead one opposition activist, Mr Gift Tandare, and leaving dozens of others injured. Some 40 opposition leaders, among them MDC leaders Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, were detained and severely beaten in police custody.

The regime’s brutal tactics come against a backdrop of chronic food shortages, staggeringly high inflation and unemployment, and increasing government repression against all forms of dissent. All Zimbabweans are suffering as a result of this deteriorating economic and political situation.

Powerful elements within the ruling ZANU-PF party, recognising that the end-game for President Robert Mugabe is near and their own political survival is at stake, are exploring options for a post-Mugabe Zimbabwe. But a deal that in effect maintains the status quo minus Mugabe would not reverse the country’s dramatic downward slide.

Zimbabwe requires an inclusive transition process, resulting in a democratic leadership chosen in a free and fair election that will offer a real chance for economic revival. The ruling ZANU-PF, opposition and civil society groups must now come together to hammer out such a negotiated solution to the crisis.

The international community should actively support the process – including by facilitating Mugabe’s exit; mediating between the parties; and defining a clear sequence of benchmarks that would lead to genuine democratic reform.

Events of the last few weeks show that the situation in Zimbabwe is dangerously unstable. The international community – and regional actors, in particular – must step in to prevent the country imploding by supporting a negotiated settlement. It is high time to stop the suffering of the people of Zimbabwe.

Subscribe to Crisis Group’s Email Updates

Receive the best source of conflict analysis right in your inbox.