SADC Still Hesitant to Take a Tougher Stance On Zimbabwe?

June 18, 2011 at 8:33 am Leave a comment

Judy Smith-Hoehn

15 June 2011

Following the deferral of Zimbabwe from the agenda at an extraordinary
regional meeting in Windhoek, Namibia in May 2011, SADC members tackled
Zimbabwe on the margins of the Second Tripartite Summit of the Common Market
for East and Southern Africa (COMESA), East African Community (EAC) and the
Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) held in Johannesburg this past
weekend.

The discussion, which was initially scheduled to take place on Saturday, was
postponed to early evening on Sunday as many dignitaries attended the
funeral of the late South African struggle icon Albertina Sisulu on 11 June
2011.

In the run-up to the meeting, ZANU-PF and the MDC-T lobbied intensively
around the extent to which the outcomes of the Livingstone Summit, in April
2011 would be endorsed by the SADC member states. The meeting of the SADC
Troika of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security in Livingstone was the
last time Zimbabwe was discussed. The communiqué of the Livingstone Summit
made explicit mention of the “polarization of the political environment”,
calling, among others, for an end to the violence and harassment and the
development of a roadmap for elections. Many perceived this as the strongest
rebuke to Zimbabwe’s main political principals by the regional body.

Expectations were high that SADC would endorse the Troika’s decisions at the
Johannesburg meeting.

From remarks made by one of the SADC-appointed facilitators, Ambassador
Lindiwe Zulu, at a meeting of the Southern African Liaison Office held a few
weeks ago in Pretoria, it appears that the South African team were pushing
for a resolution of the now well-known outstanding issues. At the time,
Ambassador Zulu had noted that all parties at the negotiating table were in
agreement that elections would not be held in 2011. However, one also
recalls the almost immediate reaction by ZANU-PF spokesperson refuting such
statements. There thus continues to be disagreement both between and within
parties.

The latest communiqué reveals an unwillingness by SADC member states to take
a firmer position on the Livingstone communiqué as the Troika’s decisions
were merely “noted”, and not “endorsed” as some had hoped. This position
could very well be construed as yet another victory for Robert Mugabe’s
ZANU-PF, which had lobbied extensively for Livingstone decisions not to be
adopted. While MDC-T representatives might also claim that the latest
meeting had ended in their favour, it is a difficult argument to make given
that the communiqué nowhere calls for an end to violence, arrests and
intimidation, nor does it mention explicit timelines for the implementation
of the GPA, but essentially repeats the sentiments of previous communiqués.

A three-member team of representatives from the SADC Troika have yet to be
appointed to assist the twelve-member Joint Monitoring and Implementation
Committee (JOMIC), which was up to ensure “full and proper implementation of
the letter and spirit” of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) signed on 15
September 2008. Their activities are expected to feed into a report on
progress made at the next annual SADC Summit that will be hosted in August
in Luanda by the incoming Chair of the Organ, Angola.

It remains difficult to forecast what the outcome of that report will be and
whether they will indeed present a road map outlining the conditions
necessary to hold the next free and fair election, but what can be said at
this point is that if such a document or any other negotiated agreement
between the parties continues to include issues that are not within the
control of its signatories, then one can hardly expect any significant
progress in terms of fully implementing the GPA. The issue of sanctions
comes to mind here.

The road map might prove to be a litmus test for a break from the past.
ZANU-PF has on numerous occasions argued for an election in 2011, and there
are concerns that if one were to be unilaterally declared there is little
SADC could do to veto such a decision. An early election is arguably sought
amidst growing concerns over President Robert Mugabe’s health and the lack
of an obvious successor. However, nothwithstanding these challenges, there
also remains the ever-present question as to whether SADC has any leverage
to enforce decisions that are made by the Organ. While it may have
enforcement mechanisms – such as sanctioning, and even expelling a member –
it is unlikely to take such an approach, particularly if one recalls the
lack of such measures being put in place to ensure compliance with past
decisions issued by the Organ.

Regardless of the outcomes of this weekend’s meeting, there is little doubt
that any transition in Zimbabwe is likely to be lengthy, and there can be no
quick-fix solution given the continued fragmentation and lack of consensus
that continues to characterise the relationship between the partners in the
Interim Government.

Judy Smith-Hoehn is senior researcher of the ISS’s African Conflict
Prevention Programme

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