Candid Comment: What will Sadc do if all Else Fails?

SOUTHERN African Development Community (Sadc) leaders are expected to review six months of Zimbabwe’s inclusive government when they meet in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Monday and Tuesday.


The assessment will be critical in so far as it will indicate the position of the region — which is likely to give a ringing endorsement to the coalition arrangement in Harare — on issues and hopefully press on the local political leadership to resolve disputes diverting government’s attention from delivery.

 

While a vote of confidence in the inclusive government and claims of progress are to be expected from Sadc, the reality on the ground paints a gloomy picture of the situation. Hard facts show that not many steps forward have been taken since February. There appears to have been a false dawn after all.

More than six months after the formation of the supposedly transitional and power-sharing government, there has been little progress in instituting envisaged political and economic reforms.

A semblance of normalcy has been restored on the macro-economic environment, but the fact is that the economy has not bottomed out in any significant way.

Industry has slightly increased capacity utilisation, closed companies have been one by one reopening, some companies are weighing expansion plans, investors are exploring new opportunities and the international community is beginning to talk to Harare.

There has also been an increase in government revenues and financial aid, mainly humanitarian assistance, and there are promises of economic aid on the horizon. Workers, especially civil servants, are returning to their jobs.

Via a multi-currency regime, the dragon of inflation has been tamed and macro-economic dislocations and structural problems are being addressed.

Schools, hospitals, clinics and other critical public utilities have re-opened. Some degree of peace and stability has been restored as repression and violence have relatively diminished in intensity.

This is certainly an improvement on the hopeless situation of last year. If the inclusive government had not come in to rescue the situation the country would be engulfed in violence and chaos. That was almost guaranteed. There are precedents in history all over the world. What is not clear is what would have been the course of events and history in the process.

However, apart from a number of these token and symbolic movements since February, not much has changed. The economic situation remains bleak. There is no funding for recovery. Without substantial financial aid, the economy will not recover.

Government and economic experts say up to US$45 billion is required for  Zimbabwe’s economy to recover to the GDP levels of 1997. This shows  the economy had been ruined beyond what is usually appreciated.

In the short term, Zimbabwe — which is saddled with a debt profile of early  US$5 billion — is looking for US$8,3 billion (Sadc rounded off the figure to US$10 billion in Swaziland), but only a drop in the ocean has been secured because donor countries are sceptical about the Harare coalition.

In rural areas people have returned to barter trade, showing regression and lack of improvement.
Western countries have set benchmarks relating to democratic reforms for funding. However, Zimbabwe has been procrastinating on measuring up to the reforms index.

There is mounting evidence that the new government is failing or unwilling to change course.

The inclusive government is failing to end serious human rights violations, restore the rule of law, institute fundamental reforms, and chart a new political direction for the country.

Despite GPA commitments made by all parties, the new power-sharing coalition has not taken any significant steps to ensure justice for victims of human rights violations or hold perpetrators of those abuses to account. Government has only paid lip service to national healing and reconciliation.

Repression remains entrenched. Political activists, mainly from the MDC, civil society advocates, human rights campaigners, judicial officers, lawyers and journalists, among others, are still being harassed and intimidated.

Even MPs — lawmakers themselves — are being politically persecuted.

Zanu PF is stubbornly refusing to embrace change. Lacking real political power to effect reforms, the MDC and its leaders are unable to push for change and appear to be accommodating Zanu PF and President Robert Mugabe in order to ensure the survival of the power-sharing government at the risk of co-option.

Given these circumstances, what will the MDC do if all else fails? How about Zanu PF? And what about Zimbabweans in their collectivity?

The GPA promises to “build a society free of violence, fear, intimidation, hatred, patronage, corruption and founded on justice, fairness, openness, transparency, dignity and equality.”

None of these issues have been seriously implemented. There have been no reforms on the legislative framework, electoral rules, judiciary, state security services and state institutions. The culture of brutality and impunity remains. It is imperative to overhaul the security system to root this out. Sanctions can only easily go if Zanu PF accepts reforms.

However, Zanu PF has shown hostility to far-reaching reforms.

This is why it is rigidly determined to resist constitutional reform because a new dispensation would necessarily lead to its liquidation. Thus failure by Sadc to resolve the conflicts within the inclusive government and ensure substantive change would result in the coalition falling apart at the seams.

If the transition is botched, Zimbabwe risks sliding back into violence and chaos. What will Sadc do if everything fails?

Dumisani Muleya

Top