9 August 2012

Zimbabwe: Civic Groups Lobby Tanzania to Act on Zim Crisis

A coalition of five civil society groups travelled to Dar es Salaam last week to brief diplomats, political parties and media organizations about the situation on the ground in Zimbabwe. They were also there to lobby for free and fair elections, ahead of the SADC summit to be held in Mozambique next week.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is on a regional diplomatic mission around the same issues and was in Tanzania Thursday. He held a one-hour meeting with President Jakaya Kikwete in Dar-es-Salaam. Last week he also held a 30 minute private session with President Joyce Banda of Malawi, on the sidelines of a book launch in Johannesburg.

Tanzania takes over the chairmanship of SADC's Troika on Security and Defense next week, when heads of state meet in Maputo. The Troika was appointed to oversee the political negotiations in Zimbabwe and report to regional leaders on any progress.

But many critics and observers are now beginning to question the importance of SADC's intervention in Zimbabwe. The SADC appointed mediator, President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, has not been very evident in the political negotiations that have been taking place.

A SADC team that was appointed to assist JOMIC to fully implement the Global Political Agreement has still not started their work, several months after regional leaders decided progress was too slow and JOMIC needed help.

McDonald Lewanika, Director of the Crisis Coalition, said the lack of resolve on the part of SADC leaders is one of the reasons the civic groups travelled to Dar es Salaam last week. With Tanzania taking over the chairmanship of the Troika, the groups wanted to ensure Zimbabwe remained on the SADC agenda.

"We wanted to brief them and lobby for a more robust position and for SADC to enforce its agreement and decisions on Zimbabwe, in order to prepare for credible, non-violent and free and fair elections," Lewanika explained.

He said SADC needs to move beyond issues of sovereignty and find ways to pressure for change in Zimbabwe. "We got a clear commitment that Zimbabwe will be brought up within their own parliament and remain on the SADC agenda," Lewanika added.

But highlighting the problems of expecting SADC to initiate change, including media reform in Zimbabwe, was the fact that during the civic leaders visit to Tanzania a local newspaper was banned on allegations that it was threatening the peace and unity of the country. Lewanika said this reflects the broader challenges within SADC, with some countries being "allergic to democratic change".

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