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US institute urges sustained pressure

Dumisani Muleya

A NEGOTIATED political settlement between Zanu PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) offers Zimbabwe the most credible chance for a resolution of the

current crisis, a United States research institute has said.

But it urged the international community to maintain pressure on Harare.

In a report titled Zimbabwe and the Prospects for Non-violent Political Change, the United States Institute for Peace said there was need for local political parties to intensify the search for a solution to the country’s problems through dialogue.

“A negotiated or mediated strategy holds the strongest prospects for breaking the deadlock between the two parties and for charting nonviolent political change in Zimbabwe,” the report said.

“It is unclear, however, who might have sufficient confidence of both parties to carry through the negotiations. Both local actors and international ones will have to overcome doubts about their neutrality if they are to be accepted as reliable mediators by the opposition and civil society.”

But the report said the settlement would be accepted as legitimate by the broader society only if it incorporated ideas of other stakeholders.

It said the balance of political forces at the moment made the environment for crisis talks ideal. Although Zanu PF is still in control through the use of force, it is not able to rescue the country from the crisis on its own. As for the MDC, it has widespread support of the people but has no capacity to impose itself on power.

“While the balance of power in Zimbabwe appears to be shifting away from the ruling party, it has not shifted sufficiently yet for change to occur,” the report said.

“Zanu PF’s incumbency, its ability to capitalise on historic grievances, and its liberation credentials make many Zimbabweans feel that its continued involvement in any government is inevitable.”

It said there was need for a transitional arrangement in Zimbabwe to restore democratic legitimacy through free and fair elections.

“The best means of ensuring the peaceful establishment of a transitional authority is a combination of increased international and domestic pressure on the sitting government,” it said.

“Mediation by international or domestic third-party actors, particularly the African leaders, is probably a necessary but not sufficient condition for peaceful change.”

The report noted that President Robert Mugabe was a hindrance to change.

“There is a growing consensus that Mugabe is the stumbling block to constructive dialogue, although increased calls for his resignation may have the unintended effect of strengthening his resolve to stay in power,” it said.

“Though there is a danger that mass action could turn violent, a prolonged domestic campaign may be necessary to loosen Mugabe’s hold on power and to increase the MDC’s position at the negotiating table.”

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