3 October 2012

Zimbabwe: SADC Troika Meeting in Limbo

THE Southern African Development Community (SADC) Troika meeting that had been scheduled for next Monday to discuss Zimbabwe's debilitating problems is now in limbo following ZANU-PF's climb-down on the draft constitution, which cleared the way for the Second All-Stakeholders' Conference.

SADC's organ on Politics, Defence and Security, otherwise known as Troika, chaired by Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, had proposed a meeting for October 7 to specifically deal with the crisis around Zimbabwe's constitution-making process, which has taken more than three years of painstaking negotiations.

But The Financial Gazette can reveal that the meeting is no longer on the cards as the regional body waits for the results of the Second All-Stakeholders' Conference expected at the end of this month.

It also emerged on Tuesday that President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Arthur Mutambara agreed on a host of issues on Monday to clear the way for the staging of a peaceful constitution indaba.

ZANU-PF had insisted on a raft of changes to the draft charter before its presentation to delegates invited for the Second All-Stakeholders' Conference but later climbed down on its demands.

Local and regional sources indicated to this newspaper that the SADC Troika had fallen away, although there was no immediate confirmation of this from SADC.

Questions sent to the SADC secretariat in Gaborone, Botswana had not been answered by the time of going to press.

But Jameson Timba, who is in charge of international relations in the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) said there was no need for the meeting since there was agreement now in the inclusive government.

"That meeting was premised on a deadlock on the Constitution Parliamentary Select Committee (COPAC) draft which has now been resolved so I don't think it will take place," said Timba.

Lindiwe Zulu, spokesperson for South African President Jacob Zuma who is the SADC appointed facilitator to Zimbabwe concurred; "That meeting is not there anymore. The parties to the Global Political Agreement (GPA) are now in agreement on the constitution and so we wait for that process to take place."

Zulu said while the SADC Troika meeting was no longer possible due to the positive developments in the country, Zuma's team was yet to get the fuller details on the nitty-gritties of the stakeholders' conference.

"We will engage with them (GPA partners) to find out what it is they have really agreed on," she said.

While the MDC formations have embraced the fact that the stakeholders' conference will now be going ahead, they have raised the red flag on other outstanding issues on the election roadmap saying SADC must push President Mugabe to expedite reforms which will make it possible to hold free and fair elections.

Parliament is now expected to fast-track relevant legislation to ensure the implementation of the agreed election roadmap, including sweeping media and electoral reforms.

Douglas Mwonzora, the MDC-T national spokesperson told The Financial Gazette on Tuesday that while the SADC Troika meeting was uncertain, his party expected the regional body to push for the full implementation of the GPA.

The MDC-T has also called on SADC and the African Union, the guarantors of the power-sharing pact, to supervise the constitution indaba.

"There are issues of violence, soldiers' behaviour, equal access to the media, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission secretariat, the elections roadmap and the National Security Council, which President Mugabe is frustrating," said Mwonzora, adding that SADC should insist on a full cocktail of agreed reforms before elections.

Political violence erupted again at the weekend as ZANU-PF supporters clashed with MDC-T supporters in Shangani who were on their way to the party's 13th anniversary celebrations. Reports in the past week also say soldiers beat up supporters of the Welshman Ncube-led MDC at a rally in Mutoko while some have been scouring the rural areas asking to meet traditional leaders allegedly to "drum up support" for ZANU-PF.

Military chefs are on record saying they will not salute a President without liberation war credentials, in apparent reference to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Security sector reform is one of the outstanding issues the two MDCs view as essential for the holding of a free and fair election in the country. The issue had been discussed in several SADC meetings and was set to crop up again next Monday.

In resolutions at its 13th anniversary celebrations in Bulawayo last Saturday, the MDC-T reiterated that "elections should be held in Zimbabwe after the implementation of the agreed roadmap, when all requisite reforms necessary have been attended to to create a legitimate credible and sustainable election".

The MDC-T meeting also reaffirmed the decision to endorse the COPAC draft constitution as a "panacea to the socio-economic and political crisis confronting Zimbabwe" and called for a peaceful second all-stakeholders conference that would respect the progress and efforts made by Zimbabweans to date.

Another outstanding issue is that of Ncube being appointed as a principal, replacing DPM Mutambara. Ncube has won at the High Court and was supported by the regional body at its last summit in Maputo, Mozambique, but President Mug-abe has refused to recognise him as a principal, preferring Mutam-bara.

News of the SADC Troika meeting spread last month after the two MDC formations dismissed ZANU-PF's many changes to the COPAC draft as an exercise in futility while President Mugabe's party insisted that it would not entertain any other draft that does not conform to theirs.

The impasse saw Zuma's facilitation team jetting into the country and meeting with the three political parties' negotiators in an effort to resolve the dispute. But in the absence of the principals at the meetings, not much headway was achieved.

The MDCs were then advised to formally write to President Mugabe declaring a deadlock in the negotiations. Previously, ZANU-PF has said that a deadlock would mean the dissolution of the inclusive government followed by immediate elections.

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