SADC’s recent initiative to intervene in Zimbabwe through the agency of South Africa, ZANU-PF’s decision to combine parliamentary and presidential elections in March 2008, and its endorsement of President Mugabe as its presidential candidate in the elections introduce new dynamics to the evolving situation in Zimbabwe. They open a window of opportunity for establishing the conditions for free and fair elections in eleven months, ushering in the possibility for a new political direction to help resolve the present crisis and re-launch the country on the path to recovery. However, they could also allow President Mugabe more room for manoeuvre to strengthen his hand and prolong his rule, leading to a drastic deterioration of an already disastrous situation.
ZANU-PF’s endorsement of President Mugabe’s candidacy for the 2008 elections pre-empts his retirement at the end of his current term in March 2008 and the formation of a Transitional Government of National Unity for the period 2008-10, although time will tell whether this is apparent or real. Under the circumstances, it would be essential to create the conditions for free and fair legislative and presidential elections in 2008 for Zimbabwe to overcome its present political stalemate, economic meltdown and international isolation by implementing a political, security and economic reform programme in tandem with the lifting of sanctions and the extension of an economic recovery assistance package calibrated to progress in the reform agenda. The fundamental aim should be to bring about radical change in the internal political and economic management of the country so as to ensure democratic governance, rule of law, respect for human rights, and free press.
This brief note seeks to signal the Way Forward in view of the evolution of the situation during a first round of consultations in Harare, Gaborone, Pretoria, London and Brussels. It is intended to provide an update on the positions of the principal actors, a synopsis of the reform agenda, an appraisal of the risk attached to the current situation and recommendations on the way forward.