On 20-21 February, 2009, Hannah Forster of the Gambia, Paul Graham of South Africa, and Francesca Bomkoko of the Democratic Republic of Congo, members of the ADF Management Committee, visited Harare, Zimbabwe, to convey the ADF's solidarity to Zimbabwean civil society and assess the current situation in the country as the transitional government is in place.
Having met with over a dozen civil society organizations, representing international humanitarian organizations, human rights organizations, media groups, religious groups, labor unions, youth and student movements, and a group of concerned residents, the ADF delegation noted that since the establishment of the Government of National Unity on 11 February 2009, there had been a more open, but still very limited, space for civil society to engage in their activities and more opportunities for a dialogue with the Government. However, the ADF delegation also found that while welcoming the new Government, many civil society groups were
anxious about the future of the Government and the full implementation of the Global
Political Agreement (GPA), which was signed by ZANU-PF and two factions of the Movement for Democratic Change on 15 September 2008.
During ADF's visit, Zimbabwean civil society groups expressed their concerns over lack of full implementation of the GPA. In addition to the establishment of an inclusive government, the GPA was to end all forms of political violence, restore rule of law, safe-guard the freedom of the media, restore economic stability, allow access to humanitarian aid for those in need, and work towards the writing of a people-driven democratic constitution. Civil society groups argue that the Government still has much more to ensure a successful transition under the GPA, and
they are committed to monitor the implementation of the GPA. As this statement is being issued, 22 civil society organizations have jointly established a civil society monitoring mechanism. Please find the Communiqu attached.
Civil society groups call the Government to respect the GPA by ending political violence immediately. Numerous abducted and arrested political and human rights activists, such as Ms. Jestina Mokoko and Mr. Roy Bennet, are still in custody. The intimidation of civil society activists reportedly continues. Some civil society representatives also pointed that Zimbabwe needed to start discussing issues of transitional justice and healing and retribution processes.
Many groups expressed that the recent dollarization of the country's economy was not
a sustainable solution to the economic crisis. It is extremely difficult for ordinary citizens to access US dollars. The Government does not even have sufficient US dollars to distribute to its civil servants. The formation of the unnecessarily large Cabinet only deepens concerns about the financial stability of the Government. The education and health system is also dollarized, and this is making more difficult for people to continue their education and access to health
A representative of an international humanitarian group's local office pointed out that many donors were still unwilling to provide support for humanitarian and development projects, and taking a wait and see approach to the new unity Government. Even though foreign donors might be interested in supporting humanitarian and development projects, their support cannot go directly to the ministries that handle those projects. All foreign aid is required to go through
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, whose minister is a member of ZANU-PF, a party of
President Robert Mugabe. This causes lack of enthusiastic support from foreign
While monitoring the implementation of the GPA is important, some groups believe that the GPA is not necessarily meant to enhance democratic space in society. For example, the GPA was a result of a series of secret negotiations among political parties; therefore, the will of people was not reflected in the GPA. Also, the GPA allows only exiting media groups to operate, but does not provide media freedom. Moreover, the GPA does not ensure gender balance in the Government of National Unity. Women are not sufficiently represented in the newly formed Cabinet.
One of the most important issues that civil society groups focus today is the constitution-writing process, followed by a constitutional referendum, as indicated in the GPA. Civil society seeks to ensure that the constitution-writing process be people-driven and that the new constitution help create an open society in the country leading to democratic elections. The current process is heavily controlled by the Government/Parliament. For example, Chairperson of the parliamentary constitution-writing committee, which authorizes the process and an outcome, must be a member of the Parliament. Given that the negotiation for the Global Political
Agreement and to form a unity government did not involve civil society and citizens, and because there is no longer an opposition party in the parliament, many civil society members are deeply concerned that ruling political parties would dominate the process of reconstructing the country and that citizens would be excluded from the constitution-writing process. For the successful people-driven process, Zimbabwean groups are eager to learn from experiences of other countries in Africa, such as South Africa and Kenya.
The ADF pays tribute to Zimbabwean civil society groups, working tirelessly to build and maintain democracy in their country, and urges the international community to provide its maxim support for those courageous groups. The ADF calls on the Government of National Unity to implement the Global Political Agreement fully and to make every effort to ensure that this transitional period will result in the enhancement of Zimbabwe's democracy. Finally, the ADF demands the immediate release of Ms. Mukoko and other democracy and human rights activists, who remain in custody.
ChairpersonPost published in: Politics