John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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South Africa: Zuma Tries to Mediate Zimbabwe Constitution Impasse

by John Campbell
August 16, 2012

South African President Jacob Zuma (2nd L) poses for a photograph with Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe (2nd R), Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (L), and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara (R) in the capital Harare, March 18, 2010. (Hilimon Bulawayo/Courtesy Reuters)


South African president Jacob Zuma went to Harare on August 15 in his capacity as the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) “facilitator” for the implementation of Zimbabwe’s Global Political Accords (GPA), which ended the post-2008 elections violence. Zuma is expected to report on GPA progress at a SADC ministerial this weekend in Mozambique.

SADC’s position has been that Zimbabwe should draft a constitution that would be ratified by the public. That process would be followed by the drawing-up of a new voters’ register, along with other reforms to enhance the credibility of elections. Only then would national elections take place, with foreign observers present. But, President Mugabe wants elections sooner rather than later. His opponents charge him with delaying the SADC-mandated political process so that elections take place without the necessary reforms being in place, thereby benefitting his ruling ZANU-PF.

The parties had agreed July 18 on a draft constitution. Since then, however, Mugabe’s ZANU-PF has reneged, and is seeking revisions to the draft. It is likely that the purpose of Zuma’s visit is to try to break that impasse.

The day Zuma arrived in Harare, South Africa media was reporting that “senior” South African diplomats stationed in Harare were saying that ZANU-PF “individuals” were “deliberately and systematically” obstructing Zuma’s GPA facilitation work.

It is unlikely that these South African diplomats were talking to the media on their own, especially in conjunction with a visit by the South African president. What they were saying is almost certainly accurate, but President Zuma could not say so if he is to keep his channels open to Mugabe and ZANU-PF. Thus far, in public President Zuma has said only that there are “hitches” to be ironed out for full implementation of the GPA.

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  • Posted by Brennan Kraxberger

    The contemporary political scene in Zimbabwe reminds me of the title of an incisive study of democratic transition in Nigeria during the 1980s and 1990s. That book, edited by Larry Diamond and others, is entitled “Transition without End.” Proponents of true democracy in Zimbabwe can be forgiven for being cynical about SADC’s mediation role in Harare. Revolutionary era leaders have simply not come to terms with the fact that Robert Mugabe lost his way (a long time ago). What a pity, too, that South Africa has been so reluctant to proactively encourage change in Zimbabwe.

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