This paper assesses the evolution of Zimbabwe’s crisis and the challenges of normalisation in the short term. It first assesses the broad nature of the crisis and the strategies used to address it. Next it discusses the key issues and challenges facing Zimbabwe, including the international dimension of the Zimbabwe problem. The paper then briefly discusses trends
towards normalisation and offers conclusions.
Zimbabwe’s crisis discourse and conflict generating strategies
The Zimbabwe crisis has tended to be oversimplified, given its complex domestic, political and economic dimensions and the external influence dimension. Imbalanced representation of the genesis, scope and intensity of the crisis and the tendency to over-emphasise its explanation on the basis of a contested biographic approach (focusing on President Mugabe), has had the effect of limiting the capacity of the key ‘actors’ to resolve substantive differences and adopt constructive strategies to resolve it. Critical actors now fail to give up their preferred ‘excessive’ confrontational mode, although their current assessments of the
reality on the ground - which indicate critical political and economic problems - increasingly differ from the extremist populist discourses found in polarised media and advocacy representations. The focus on confrontational strategies domestically and on punitive external ‘interventions’ to resolve the crisis, is gradually losing credibility at home and abroad, given its conflict generating effects.
The discourse and advocacy on the Zimbabwean crisis, which in the mainstream discourse has become focused on selected governance and human rights questions, needs to be re-examined in terms of the political (the moral and philosophical) basis, and the material incentives it provides to key actors in the Zimbabwean conflict situation. The question to ask is to what extent is existing domestic practice in advocating governance reforms, and state responses to this, as well as external interventions, grounded in the consistent application of principle and policy? Related to this, is the question of to what extent all the actors have contributed to generating both a reality and a perception of crisis, and in so doing escalated the conflict in general. The importance of balancing perceptions with reality cannot be overstated. Efforts to avoid the ‘Chalabi factor’ in a misinforming analysis of the conflict and the ‘reform’ agenda, and the influences of the ‘CNN factor’1 on clouding the Zimbabwean reality, need to be based on rigorous and systematic analysis of the crisis and the way in which political positions have become entrenched.
African Commission Report. ‘Our common interest: Report of the Commission for Africa.’ March 2005.