Forum urges reflective thinking

The multifaceted Zimbabwe crisis took centre-stage yet again at the just-ended Southern Africa Social Forum, held in Lusaka, Zambia from October 13 to 15.

Participants in the Governance and Human Rights cluster, which discussed how transition could be managed in Zimbabwe, emphasized that the country was not yet ready for another election because it first needed to do some deep soul- searching.

In particular, there was a call for the review and analysis of the discourse on political and electoral violence in post-independent Zimbabwe. This, it was argued, could help the country confront human rights abuses such as the Gukurahundi massacres in Matebeleland in the early 1980s and more recently post-2000.

Pros and cons

However, if this pursuit is going to take place within the framework of the Global Political Agreement, now three years old, it was suggested that an objective critique of the agreement be made, citing all the pros and cons. The GPA is seen as providing the logical conclusion to the current inclusive government setup through a free and fair election that will result in the democratic transfer of power to the eventual winner. Talk is rife that Zimbabwe will go to the polls in 2012.

However, the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, together with several other pro- democracy forces, has unequivocally stated that 2012 must be a year of credible electoral reforms and not an election. A statement recently released by the Coalition reads: “The year 2012 must not be for elections but a year for fundamental electoral reforms”.

Zimbabwe has also recently rejected several key recommendations made at a United Nations Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, Switzerland this month.

The burden of such results by the government of Zimbabwe, the Lusaka meeting observed, falls on the shoulders of Civil Society Organisations which, as recommended by participants, continuously need to engage various governance and rights bodies such as the UN, Africa Union and the Southern African Development Community who are key stakeholders in the pursuit to find a lasting solution to the crises in Zimbabwe.

Key recommendations

Other key recommendations from the meeting included: the need to strengthen solidarity ties between the CSOs in the SADC region (experience sharing and exchange, capacity building in advocacy and lobbying); the need to continuously engage and draw other key demands when previous ones have been attained; the need to consider alternative but effective approaches to mechanisms of dealing with a post-GNU state and the urgent need for Zimbabwean CSOs to properly package key messages to the region and the rest of the world.

The Zambian participants attending this discussion shared recent experiences which have seen the copper-rich country hold not just a successful election, but one that guaranteed a democratic transfer of power. Several key factors were attributed to this result – the professionalism of the electoral commission, the working of Zambian CSOs with the grassroots and high turnout by new, younger voters.

“The Southern Africa Social Forum is a prelude to the African Social Forum and World Social Forum that take place annually. The Social Forum is not an organization, not a united front platform, but an open meeting place for reflective thinking.”

Participants at this year’s social forum came from Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Swaziland, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

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