Business As Usual in Zimbabwe

Women and children are disproportionally affected by collapse of social services in Zimbabwe.

Women and children are disproportionally affected by collapse of social services in Zimbabwe.

Everything and nothing has happened in Zimbabwe over the past month. Prime Minister Tsvangirai briefly boycotted the unity government. His goal: force the hand of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to step up in its role as guarantors of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) that forms the basis of the unity government. It worked; SADC held emergency meetings and appointed President Zuma of South Africa as the new negotiator, but the people in Zimbabwe who need to be talking are only grudgingly doing so.

Tsvangirai’s boycott led to an emergency meeting in Mozambique with Tsvangirai, Mugabe, the SADC Troika (Organ on Defense and Security comprised of Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia), SADC Chair Joseph Kabila, Zuma and former South Africa President Mbeki; where it was decided that Tsvangirai’s MDC-T party and President Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party had 15 days to iron out their differences or South Africa would step back in, with all issues to be resolved within 30 days. (Who was not at the party was Zimbabwe’s civil society, excluded thus far from every step of the process in negotiating a conclusion to the political stalemate and violence.)

The major sticking points are the appointment of the Attorney General, the appointment of the Reserve Bank governor, the appointment of ambassadors and regional governors and the harassment of MDC supporters by police.  ZANU-PF also insists on the lifting of targeted sanctions imposed by the European Union, United States and other nations against key members of the ZANU-PF party. An excellent assessment of the situation can be found here.


Haiku Anniversary Zimbabwe's GPA

Prime Minister Tsvangirai (left) and President Mugabe

Last week Zimbabwe’s Global Political Agreement (GPA) turned one year old. The GPA was negotiated as a political compromise following the violence and contested elections of March-June 2008. And how did the proud parents (the Southern African Development Community, or SADC, which brokered and now guarantees the agreement) and family members (President Mugabe of ZANU-PF, Prime Minister Tsvangirai of MDC-T and Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara of MDC-M) celebrate this milestone? Well, they didn’t. But since every birthday should be commemorated, here’s my retrospective on the year. In haiku.

Mugabe no sign
Gono, Tomana stay on
No rule of law yet

Abuse rise, fall, rise
WOZA beat, arrest
NGOs out, in, threatened

Cholera kills quick
Doctors, teachers strike two times
Still not enough food

Mugabe birthday
turns 10, remain in GNU?
Press opens slightly

Bank, “yes, stole money
Bank pays money back in poo
Zim struggles for aid

Inflation down, good
Can’t get dollars for food, bad
Unemployment same

Tribunal withdraw
Diamonds, companies stolen
Parliament new vote

Constitution 2010?
Zim turns 30 in 2010, big party?
Growing pains to come

Zuma Zooms to Zim

First off, apologies for the title. I couldn’t stop myself. That being said, South African President Jacob Zuma traveled to Zimbabwe last week for either one of two reasons, depending on who you were asking. According to South Africa and the current majority political party MDC, Zuma was there in his role as Chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), guarantors of Zimbabwe’s unity government, to encourage resolution on outstanding issues of contention between MDC and the former ruling party ZANU-PF regarding the political agreement structuring the unity government. However, according to President Robert Mugabe of ZANU-PF, Zuma was only in town to open an agricultural show.

Zuma met privately with the three signatories to Zimbabwe’s Global Political Agreement (GPA)-President Mugabe, Prime Minister Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara-and offered absolutely nothing productive to break the on going stalemate, which is pretty much as expected. Despite prior assurances that he would speak strongly against any “deviant behavior,” he failed to hold any of the signatories accountable for the continuing human rights violations in Zimbabwe or demand an immediate resolution to the political difficulties hampering the State. In the meantime, Mutambara of MDC-M is facing increasing difficulties as he is challenged within his own party and heckled by the official State paper.

SADC meets this week in Kinshasa, DRC where the Chair will transitition to President Kabila, who has failed dismally in managing catastrophic human rights violations within his own borders. But you can do you part to let SADC and President Kabila know you are watching what happens in Zimbabwe by sending a message to the SADC leadership urging them to protect women in Zimbabwe.

Amnesty Secretary General Dedicates Classic Police Song to Zimbabwe

Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Khan meets Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, London, 22 June 2009 © Amnesty International

AI's Khan meets Tsvangirai June 2009

Amnesty International’s Secretary General Irene Khan met with Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai this week as he was wrapping up his world tour and she had just returned from a high level mission to Zimbabwe. As far as I can tell from the picture, there wasn’t actually a karaoke machine in the room, but Khan told Tsvangirai that Amnesty will be watching Zimbabwe closely over the next 100 days, looking for improvements in human rights. Only not in a stalker, creepy way as in the song, but more in line with the on going efforts of Amnesty International to bring to light the conditions that have occurred on the ground in Zimbabwe in recent years.

The severity of the degradation in human rights was on dramatic display during Khan’s visit last week, when civil activist group Women of Zimbabwe Arise staged two protests, one in Bulawayo and one in Harare. Both protests were violently broken up by riot police, resulting in serious injuries. The Harare protest occurred near where Khan was holding a press conference. Not smart to try to convince the world you are making progress on human rights issues and then beat up mothers with their babies and grandmothers in front of the head of one of the world’s largest human rights organization.

While Tsvangirai was in the US, he secured a commitment from Obama for “humanitarian plus” aid. This means increased aid to help the people in Zimbabwe with things like education and healthcare by giving the money to organizations in Zimbabwe as opposed to the government itself. All total, Tsvangirai secured pledges from donor governments amounting to around $180 million to provide some relief in Zimbabwe. This is no where near the amounts needed to begin to rebuild the country, but donor governments remain leery of the ability of the Zimbabwe government to handle direct developmental funding in a tranparent manner. Especially when the same week the new aid commitments are being announced, legislation is introduced in Zimbabwe’s Parliament to provide $30,000 loans to all Parliamentarians to buy brand new cars.

Amnesty International USA endorses the decision of the US government to increase funds that will improve the lives of the citizens of Zimbabwe. The US and international community have an obligation to protect and promote economic, social and cultural rights around the world. But Zimbabwe, we’ll be watching you.