SW Radio Africa (London)

11 July 2013

Zimbabwe: SADC Under Pressure to Intervene in 'Illegal' Poll

Photo: Trevor Magwagwa
MDC-T and Zanu PF supporters together.

The regional SADC bloc has come under fresh pressure to rein in Robert Mugabe's ZANU PF party and prevent an 'illegal' election from taking place in three weeks time.

The MDC-T has written to SADC ahead of the July 31st poll, urging it to meet and review the situation in Zimbabwe and whether it will result in a credible poll.

MDC-T Secretary General Tendai Biti said during a press conference on Wednesday that his party has had no choice but to return to SADC, because of ZANU PF's ongoing refusal to implement the key changes that would ensure the July 31st poll is credible.

He went on to detail how ZANU PF has "blatantly disregarded" SADC which, as the guarantor of the unity government, directed that Zimbabwe implement key reforms. These include media, security sector and legislative reforms that ZANU PF has steadfastly resisted. Biti also explained other major problems, warning that "violations and violence are on the increase in our country."

"Zimbabwe is actually being forced to go into an illegal election... This rogue state has completely ignored the rulings of international law, the rulings of SADC, and we think it important for SADC to meet and review the situation in Zimbabwe and make a pronouncement on whether or not it is still possible to have a legal, legitimate, credible, sustainable election," Biti said.

But there has been doubt expressed by some observers about SADC's ability to influence ZANU PF in anyway, saying that SADC has repeatedly failed in its efforts to force ZANU PF to undertake the necessary reform. SADC has had repeated meetings about Zimbabwe in the past four years and has always fallen short of openly criticising ZANU PF for its failures. Questions are now being asked about what SADC can do, especially after it recently said it would abide by whatever Zimbabwe's Constitutional Court stated, in terms of the election date.

Political analyst Charles Mangongera said there was some reason to be hopeful, mainly because SADC cannot afford another disputed election to happen in Zimbabwe.

"SADC is tired of the Zimbabwean situation. It is a constant drawback on the region's quest to ensure regional integration, a common market. But Zimbabwe, because of the problems, it has been difficult for SADC to move. It wants to solve this problem once and for all and the last thing they need is a disputed election outcome," Mangongera.

He said this could be why Mugabe recently threatened to withdraw from the regional body, who he accused of meddling in Zimbabwe's affairs.

"I think it is a preemptive effort to delegitimise SADC because he knows SADC will be playing an important role post election. He (Mugabe) knows conditions on the ground are such that the outcome will be another disputed one. So in order to preempt SADC and make sure they adhere to his demands, he is trying to give them this lack of legitimacy and question their mediation," Mangongera said.

He agreed that SADC has failed to "put its foot down in terms of ensuring that Mugabe adheres to the rules," and that Zimbabweans are concerned about whether SADC "can come to rescue of the people."

He added however, that this time around, there is a sense of urgency for change among Zimbabweans that could make a real difference come election time.

"I think Zimbabweans themselves, because of the mood of change, they must determine if they are going to sit back and watch this moment go away or whether they are going to make a demand to say 'we have voted for change and we want to see that change happening'," Mangongera said.

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