Zim democratic transition remains at risk –– ICG

ZIMBABWE is facing political and security risks which might scuttle the current transition, the International Crisis Group (ICG), a global organisation led by retired statesmen, has said.

In its latest report titled Zimbabwe: Political and Security Challenges to the Transition, the ICG said the country’s transition from dictatorship to democracy was bedevilled by serious “political and security risks”.

“Despite initial scepticism, Zimbabwe’s year-old unity government has achievements to its credit, but the democratic transition remains at risk, especially from hard-line security officials –– President Robert Mugabe’s last reliable supporters,” the report says.

ICG Africa Programme Director François Grignon said the military posed the greatest threat to transition.

“As Zimbabwe enters its second year under a unity government, the challenges to democratic transformation are in sharp focus,” Grignon said.

“The military leadership and other Mugabe loyalists in Zanu PF are using their symbiotic relationship with the state apparatus to exercise veto power over the transition. A mature political system must develop, so Zanu PF and the MDC engage as both competitors in politics and partners in government.”

The latest briefing from the ICG analyses the situation in Zimbabwe resulting from the Global Political Agreement (GPA) that broke the stalemate following failed 2008 presidential elections and led to the formation of the inclusive government in February 2009. It concludes that all domestic signatories of the GPA, as well as the South African mediation, must embrace democratic transformation as the vital objective of the transition.

“A wide range of problems could return Zimbabwe to where it was a year ago –– on the edge of collapse –– if the long-ruling Zanu PF and the military leadership maintain an intransigent stance on the reforms for economic and political stability,” the ICG report says.

“Against the odds, the government that brought together Mugabe and the leaders of the divided wings of the MDC, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, started well. Schools and hospitals re-opened; civil servants were paid and returned to work; hyperinflation was halted; goods returned to store shelves; a cholera epidemic was controlled; and human rights activists reported a significant drop in abuses.”

However, the ICG said “major threats can still derail the reform process” and plunge the country back to the dark era of political repression and economic meltdown. –– Staff Writer.

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