- Last Updated on 15 August 2012
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South African President Jacob Zuma, who is also the SADC appointed Facilitator on Zimbabwe arrives in Zimbabwe today for meetings with the GPA principals. The meetings will focus on gauging the extent of implementation of the GPA as guided by the 1st of June 2012 SADC Troika CommuniquÃ© which emphasised on the completion of the constitution making process and the holding of credible elections within twelve months. The visit by President Jacob Zuma comes barely a week before the watershed SADC summit which runs from August 17 to 18 in Maputo, Mozambique. The South African leader will update his regional counterparts on Zimbabwe's progress towards political reforms, the highlight of which is the new draft constitution which is already causing fissures in the within the coalition government, with President Robert Mugabe's Zanu PF party stalling progress by deliberately refusing to approve the document which is a product of an extensive consultative process between COPAC and the people, and a negotiation process among the three main political parties in the inclusive government.
As President Zuma jets in, surely it cannot be business as usual, especially given the hullabaloo around the constitution making process, stalling of the census process by the military and the snail pace in the implementation of the other reform pin pointers as dictated by the agreed Electoral roadmap by the three main political parties. Zimbabwe's cliff hanging political situation is likely to be discussed at the SADC summit in Maputo as the regional grouping engages on a decisive push for a strategic resolution to the Zimbabwe crisis ahead of the much anticipated referendum and harmonised elections.
The Coalition would like to bring the following to the attention of the Mediator and SADC:
The constitution making process is beset with a 'hardliner problem'. There are intra-party conflicts being fuelled by hardliner politicians who seek to force the parties in the inclusive government into a deadlock over the constitution. Beneath the hard-line is a very specific motive to force Zimbabwe into a national election under the old order of facade democracy that resulted in the June 2008 stalemate. The 'hardliner problem' threatens to stagnate or even reverse the transition back to an electoral authoritarian regime.
We therefore appeal to SADC to urge the inclusive government to bring finality and closure to the constitution making process in light of the draft constitution agreed to and assented to by all three political parties. The political parties have been arguing over the process for the past three years and it is high time they must let go the process. Hence the government in consultation with civil society must:
· Convene a second all-stakeholders conference and table the draft constitution before Parliament as formality for gazetting
· Gazette the draft constitution emerging from Parliament without any changes from arms of the executive. This is meant to avoid a recurrence of the 2000 scenario and the 2008 GPA scenario where the President unilaterally amended the draft constitution and the GPA.
· Hold a 'referendum with a choice' within reasonable time of the conclusion of the process
An interrelated process is for SADC to emphasize to their peers the need to inculcate a new democratic political culture so that politicians can respect the values and aspirations of the constitution and other reforms vis-Ã -vis practice. It is our belief that the constitution is the hardware of the democratic transition and the political culture is the software and as ever, both are important for functionality.
2. Referendum and by-elections: measuring the 'democraticness'
Zimbabwe faces a possible referendum and by-elections in the next three months. The two events provide a useful barometer to gather evidence and make informed judgments as to whether or not democratic transition is taking root, or whether there are real threats for reversal or relapse into electoral authoritarianism. This is more opportune given that violent conflicts tend to soar during and around elections time and there is no better time than election time that SADC can measure the democraticness of Zimbabwe.
We therefore recommend that SADC send observers and monitors to superintend the referendum and the by-elections, in the event that they are held as per the Supreme Court ruling on 16 July 2012.
3. The Transition election
Zimbabwe still dithers on the implementation of the agreed Electoral roadmap. Consequently, the country still lacks fundamental electoral framework, principles and preparations which are crucial for anchoring the country's transition.
We therefore urge SADC to intensify efforts toward four key issues that constitute the main fulcrum toward a transition election with a choice. These include facilitating:
· An election free from both physical and psychological violence
· An election with procedural certainty. This entails the independence, non-partisanship and professionalism of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) personnel. The President must also expedite the signing of the Zimbabwe Electoral Amendment Bill.
· An election with substantive uncertainty
· An election that allows peaceful transfer of state power to the winner
4. The security establishment
It is our firm position that the 'praetorian problem' persists, that is the militarisation of both the state and society. This poses a real risk toward the stagnation or reversal of all transitional and democratisation efforts made by SADC. We therefore urge SADC leaders to insist on:
· The democratization and professionalization of the security establishment so that it can prioritize the security of the person rather than of the regime.
· The state removing the military out of society and confine them to the barracks
· Security Chiefs renouncing and denouncing their partisan statements which emphasized that they will not respect a leader elected by Zimbabweans in a free and fair election.
In short, Zimbabwe's politicians must work toward re-orienting our politics from the politics of bullets toward the politics of ballots.
5. Legislative reform agenda & media reform
There is little movement in regard to repealing archaic and colonial type legislation. Freedom of association, movement and assembly remains curtailed.
We thus recommend that;
· The Public Order and Security Act (POSA), the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), the Broadcasting Services Act, the Presidential Powers Temporary Measures Act and the Criminal Codification and Reform Act, among other repressive laws, be expeditiously repealed or amended.
As Civil society, we are also concerned that efforts to free the airwaves have been compromised by the illegally constituted Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) which awarded commercial Talk Radio licences on blatantly partisan line. Hate speech also continues unabated. Hence,
· The BAZ must be reconstituted urgently and commence to open up airwaves
· The Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) should fully execute its mandate to ensure professionalism in the media and reign in those violating the basic tenets of journalism that currently manifests in hate messages, abusive language and half-truths.
6. Socio-economic transformation
The coffers of the government are running dry and recently the Minister of Finance was forced to reduce the budget with devastating effects on the poor. One of the major problems is that financial proceeds from diamond fields are not reaching the national fiscus. We believe democracy is inconceivable without sustainable economic development that impacts on the livelihoods of ordinary people. We therefore urge for sound, transparent and accountable corporate governance so that the natural resources can benefit the ordinary people. Consequently, SADC should ensure that the democratic transition is in tandem with socio-economic transformation for it to be sustainable.