The MDC urges the SADC Organ on Politics, Defense and Security to take note of the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe as a threat to peace and security in the region and take proactive steps to avert further deterioration and catastrophe. The resolution of the Zimbabwean crisis has become urgent in the context of an economic meltdown, rising citizen discontent and lack of elite cohesion within Zanu PF.
The Nature of the Zimbabwean Crisis
Zimbabwe remains trapped in a multi-layered structural crisis. The change of guard in November 2017 presented a window of opportunity for Zimbabwe to begin rebuilding following decades of economic meltdown, political instability and international isolation. Sadly, the opportunity has been squandered and Zimbabwe has further regressed politically, economically and socially. The military coup of November 2017 undoubtedly raised legitimacy questions that Zimbabweans and the international community had hoped would be cured by a free and fair election.
Nevertheless, the July 2018 elections further entrenched the legitimacy crisis through a fundamentally flawed electoral process that did not guarantee the will of the people. The 2018 plebiscite did not conform to the provisions of the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections and the African Union (AU) Declaration on the Principles Governing Democratic Elections. As concluded by the various international observer missions including the European Union Observer Mission, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) / International Republic Institute (IRI) Observer Mission, the Commonwealth Observer Mission among others, the elections failed the credibility test.
The electoral process was marred by irregularities including a highly partisan and captured Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, lack of transparency in the electoral process including on the printing and storage of ballot papers and poor stakeholder engagement by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, a party-State-military complex, partisan conduct of traditional leaders, partisan distribution of food aid, widespread Intimidation, abuse of state resources, biased State media, an Electoral Law that is not aligned to the Constitution of Zimbabwe including the disfranchisement of diasporans and post-election violence where seven unarmed protestors were shot dead by the military.
This flawed electoral process perpetuated the legitimacy crisis and is manifesting in the current socio-economic situation and a deteriorating human rights situation.
Zimbabweans are grappling with serious socio-economic problems including excessive power cuts of 18hrs a day, water rationing, shortages of basic commodities such as fuel and bread, collapse of social services including health and education, skyrocketing prices and high inflation that has doubled to 175% and poverty as evidenced by a staggering 83% of Zimbabweans living below the poverty datum line on less than US$ 0.35 per day. Corruption and patronage is rampant in state institutions as recently corroborated by the Auditor General’s report.
The knee-jerk outlaw of the multi-currency system though SI142 has further worsened the situation. The policy was prematurely pronounced in the absence of requisite macroeconomic fundamentals to support a sovereign currency including a trade surplus, at least 6 months import cover, a healthy capital account, productivity and high capacity utilization, single-digit inflation, the building of confidence and a realistic exchange rate. In the absence of these fundamentals, the policy has resulted in continued increases of prices and inflation, shortages and a high possibility that government will resort to the printing of money to cover its obligations, resulting in a debauched currency.
Human Rights and the Closing Democratic Space
The human rights situation in Zimbabwe is fast deteriorating and there is growing evidence of rising authoritarianism. A record-breaking 21 opposition and Civil Society leaders including Parliamentarians and labour leaders face trumped-up and serious charges of subversion. Such persecution by the state is an abrogation of constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom of assembly and to free political activity. A few days ago, the labour leaders received anonymous letters with bullets in a clear move meant to intimidate the labour movement against exercising their right to demonstrate and petition as codified in Section 59 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
The MDC is also worried by the high levels of Impunity where perpetrators of human rights abuses are not held to account. The perpetrators of August 1 killings, where a total of 7 unarmed civilians were shot dead by the military have not been brought to book despite recommendations of the Motlanthe Commission.
Similarly, the security forces responsible for the 17 extra-judiciary killings and several sexually related violations among other violations of the January 2019 clampdown were not held to account.
At the center of these human rights violations are security forces, especially the military. Section 210 of the Constitution provides for an Independent Complaints Mechanism where citizens can get recourse in the event of violations by security forces. This vital organ will go a long way in dealing with militarisation and unaccountable security service and yet it has not been set up.
Derailed Reform Agenda
The Constitution of 2013 provided the basis of a new social contract and the beginning of a comprehensive reform agenda to address the structural challenges Zimbabwe faces. Nevertheless, non-implementation of the Constitution is blocking Zimbabwe’s democratic and developmental advance. Despite framing itself as a ‘new dispensation’, the current regime has paid lip service to the reform agenda.
The recent appointment of Utoile Silaigwana as ZEC Chief Elections Officer indicates the consolidation of militarization, further compromising the credibility and independence of ZEC and an indictment on Zanu PF’s sincerity to reform. Silaigwana was at the center of previous sham elections, including the 2008 elections. Zanu PF further continues to abuse state resources during elections. A recent letter from the Minister of Health and Child Care (see attached letter) directing the Permanent Secretary to supply medicines to hospitals and clinics in the Lupane constituency ahead of a by-election is evidence of the Zanu PF’sintransigence.
Similarly, the appointment of Justice Matanda-Moyo, wife to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade as Chairperson of the Anti-Corruption Commission is a clear sign that Zanu PF is not ready to reform.
The MDC has also noted the disappointing moves by the regime in simply changing the names of restrictive laws such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), without changing the content, character and objective of these laws. The Constitution guarantees freedom of the media, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of association.
The gazetted Maintenance of Peace and Order Bill is a replica of POSA as it retains the vast majority of provisions in the latter including the continued ‘sanctioning’ of public gatherings by the police and the use of force to disperse crowds. Similarly, the recently gazetted Freedom of Information Bill as part of the four bills that will replace AIPPA fails to give effect to the letter and spirit of the right to information as enshrined in Section 62 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. The Bill has striking similarities with the repealed AIPPA including a host of limitations to the right to information such as the limitation on information pertaining to government borrowing. The Bill is also not in line with an international best practice including the African Union Model Law on Access to Information.
Defining a new course for Zimbabwe
The MDC recently launched its Road to Economic Recovery, Legitimacy and Democracy (RELOAD)
, a document that seeks to chart a way forward for Zimbabwe. Due to the political underpinnings of the crisis, the MDC equally proposes a political solution. The MDC Reload is anchored on the following five critical steps:
1. Pressure: Advocacy and mobilisation of all progressive and democratic forces to build national consensus
2. National Dialogue: The dialogue must be credible, bankable, legitimate and guaranteed by the international community with specific deliverables, benchmarks and timelines through a mutually agreed and acceptable facilitator
3. National Transitional Mechanism: Agreement on an implementation framework on agreed positions
4. Comprehensive Reform Agenda: The implementation and rolling out of a comprehensive agenda for reform anchored on the return to legitimacy, agreement on a comprehensive reform platform and agenda, resolution of the economic and humanitarian crisis, resolution on the agenda for nation-building, national healing and the resolution of the social contract and international re-engagement and ending Zimbabwe’s international isolation
5. Free and Fair Elections: Zimbabwe must hold free, fair, legitimate, credible and sound elections under international supervision, pursuant to the comprehensive reform agenda.
Secretary for International Relations
Movement for Democratic Change