19 December 2012

Zimbabwe: The Return of Zuma

ZANU-PF is stuck with South African President Jacob Zuma as mediator to the Zimbabwe crisis after he was re-elected president of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) this week.

The ANC re-elected Zuma as leader of the party, teeing him up for another seven years as head of state with the country's second richest businessman Cyril Ramaphosa as his deputy. Ramaphosa is seen as broadly favourable to business and investment.

After the announcement of Zuma's re-election, the rand edged higher against the dollar, reflecting relief among investors in Africa's biggest economy at the likelihood of policies remaining largely unchanged under Zuma, who came to power in 2009.

General elections will be held in 2014 with the ANC expected to win with a landslide as it has consistently received around two thirds of the vote in previous elections since the end of apartheid. The win opens the door for Zuma staying in power until 2019.

Zuma has been instrumental in pushing ZANU-PF back to the negotiating table several times this year and last year as President Robert Mugabe's party tried to wiggle out of the inclusive government through immediate elections "with or without a new constitution".

But Zuma and his Southern African Development Community (SADC) mediation team stood their ground resulting in President Mugabe backtracking several times. Notably, the call for elections had been made in 2010, 2011 and this year while the drafting of a new constitution nearly collapsed when ZANU-PF threatened to pull out if their 266 amendments to the draft were not adopted. Each time, SADC mediation came in handy.

Also, Welshman Ncube, leader of the smaller faction of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) who has been complaining that President Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai were sidelining him as a principal, got his wish after launching complaints with the facilitation team; he is now meeting the other two leaders as a "political party principal".

So, Zuma's re-election is set to unsettle ZANU-PF since he has also insisted on the full implementation of the country's election roadmap, which entails a cocktail of reforms the MDC formations say are crucial to the holding of free and fair elections. They include security sector, media and electoral reforms.

ZANU-PF's dislike of Zuma is well documented. Last year, an official newspaper aligned to ZANU-PF attacked Zuma, calling him an erratic liability after he called on Harare to end a crackdown on the opposition, comments seen as reflecting President Mugabe's displeasure at Zuma, who had earlier condemned events in the country in unusually strong language during a SADC summit.

Calling Zuma a dishonest broker, the paper declared in a comment: "President Jacob Zuma's erratic behaviour is the stuff of legends ... The problem with Zuma now is that his disconcerting behaviour has become a huge liability, not only to South Africa but also to the rest of the continent."

Also, ZANU-PF politburo member Jonathan Moyo wrote that "President Zuma is now tainted beyond recovery by the Libyan situation and his commitment to the African cause has become questionable."

ZANU-PF had been seen aligning with ANC outcast, Julius Malema who also called for the replacement of Zuma as mediator to Zimbabwe since he "is incapable of being neutral". Malema praised President Mugabe as an "exemplary" African leader because of his willingness to "say no to imperialists." But Zuma's international relations advisor, Lindiwe Zulu, is on record saying her boss and SADC, the guarantor of the Global Political Agree-ment together with the African Union, were insisting that the election roadmap be followed.

"The facilitator has said that there is a roadmap that was signed off by the principals and this should be followed. Condi-tions for free and fair elections must be met first before any election," Zulu told The Financial Gazette in an earlier interview.

The election road-map defines milestones and signposts that must be executed and implemented bef-ore the next election. These milestones and signposts include the lifting of sanctions, the constitutional proce-ss, media reform, electoral reform, rule of law, freedom of association and assembly, the legislative agenda and the actual election.

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