HomePoliticsCrisis group calls for speedy action on Zim

Crisis group calls for speedy action on Zim

Dumisani Muleya

THE International Crisis Group (ICG)’s special adviser on Africa John Prendergast says the international community must act now to resolve the Zimbabwe crisis.

face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>Prendergast, who works for the Brussels-based conflict monitoring and resolution group that comprises international statesmen, said African leaders have to act before the deteriorating situation spins out of control.

“African leaders have taken up that challenge and could reach a settlement in Zimbabwe at a much lower cost,” Prendergast said in report on Zimbabwe. “The time to act is now.”

Prendergast, who once worked at the United States National Security Council and at the State Department, said the grounds for action and a negotiated settlement are becoming increasingly compelling.

“Reasons to act now are many,” he said. “There is agitation from within the ruling and opposition parties as well as from Zimbabwean civil society for a negotiated solution, and widespread consensus that such a deal is the only viable means for resolving Zimbabwe’s ills.”

Prendergast said the objective conditions on the ground were now ideal for talks between Zanu PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

“Without settlement, waves of mass action and civil disobedience will continue, provoking more draconian state responses and increasing the potential for state collapse,” he said.

“The dire humanitarian emergency will worsen as incomes deteriorate, unemployment and inflation soar and crime and food insecurity increase. There is an urgent need to stop the suffering of Zimbabwe’s people.”

Any further dilly-dallying, Prendergast observed, could be disastrous.

“Although the state is in the process of slow-motion failure it has not yet collapsed like Liberia or Somalia,” he said. “If it does collapse, mediation will be much more difficult as will post-crisis reconstruction. All the more reason to act swiftly.”

He noted that even Zanu PF, which has been trying to pretend that it could survive in isolation, now appreciated the futility of continuing to insulate itself against dialogue.

“Zanu PF leaders know they must turn the economy around. Important party figures are speaking of the need to rebuild bridges with the International Monetary Fund and investors,” he said.

“Assets they stole or bought at rock-bottom prices are largely worthless without investment and trade opportunities. The incentives have shifted, from organised chaos in which assets could be stolen, to normalisation so they can profit from the booty.”

Prendergast said he wondered whether current developments around the issue of talks signify a real shift towards a negotiated settlement or just yet another political dummy.

“Are winds of change beginning to blow in Zimbabwe, or is it just a lull in the political hurricane?” he asked. “An unexpected moment of civility between President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party and the MDC might be a rare chance to restore some calm to Zimbabwe.”

Despite this mood the MDC is still under assault from the state, and if its leader Morgan Tsvangirai is convicted of treason in a legally specious case, he said, the opposition might be pushed beyond the possibility of compromise.

“Recent MDC gestures such as attending Mugabe’s speech opening parliament and indicating that a swift conclusion to negotiations would be ideal, rendering unnecessary its court challenge to the results of last year’s presidential election, are signs of the opposition’s willingness to negotiate,” said Prendergast.

“But success will depend on a negotiation process in which South Africa’s role will be crucial. Further delay will almost certainly mean even greater turbulence in Zimbabwe’s future.”

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