SADC must be firm – or risk conflict in Zim

Powerful factions have emerged to position themselves to take over from President Robert Mugabe, some with access to significant financial resources including eye-watering Marange diamond riches.

Last week Finance Minister Tendai Biti announced that some ministers were buying private jets with cash from diamonds. Such amounts of money in wrong hands could easily be used to sponsor anarchy and mayhem.

The manner in which Zanu (PF), now 49 years old, deals with leadership renewal could plunge Zimbabwe into civil war. Related to the succession conundrum and with massive destabilizing potential is the involvement of the military and the state intelligence in politics.

With different factions of the army aligning themselves with different factions within Zanu (PF) the stage is set for potential open conflict. Senior military officials have repeatedly vowed to disregard elections if they choose is of a leader ‘without liberation war credentials’.

Zanu (PF) is clamouring for soldiers to be given constitutional rights to participate in party politics. To avert a clear and present danger flowing from the military factor in Zanu (PF) succession politics, it is advisable for Mugabe to urgently and directly focus on the issue of succession so that he can lend his support to a successor and defuse tensions that could trigger instability.

Instead of burying its head in the sand and wishing the problem away, Zanu (PF) must do the right thing in order to ensure stability for the country.

Perhaps an even greater danger for instability and chaos comes from outside the party. Until now, elections and other political processes have been characterized by state-sponsored violence accompanied by Zanu (PF) violence with little or no action from the police to maintain law and order.

However, as we go forward, there is a real danger that ordinary Zimbabweans will refuse to be submissive recipients of violence. Zimbabwe has reached that tipping point where citizens will begin to take measures to defend themselves. Once Zanu (PF)’s monopoly over violence is broken, the situation in the country could rapidly degenerate into a state of civil war.

The only way to avert this real risk of chaos is to ensure that Zimbabwe does not go to elections under the 2008 conditions of violence, intimidation and a lopsided political field tilted in favour of Zanu (PF). SADC has so far done well in insisting on a clear elections roadmap that includes a new constitution affirmed through a referendum, an independent and well-resourced Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, a cleaned up and accurate voters roll and close elections monitoring by SADC, the AU and the UN to prevent violence and intimidation.

We expect SADC, in its extra-ordinary meeting this coming weekend in Angola, to stick to its guns and insist Zimbabwe cannot go to elections unless all pre-conditions have been met and unless the environment is conducive. – Dewa Mavhinga, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Regional Coordinator

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