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.


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.

Clinton Arrives in South Africa

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives in South Africa today for meetings with President Zuma and Foreign Minister Mashabane. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to answer the phone when Hills called to ask which issues she should be sure to broach in those discussions. Don’t laugh; it could totally happen in some alternate universe. But if she had asked my advice, this is what I would have said:

Secretary Clinton must encourage South Africa to meet the promises enshrined in its Constitution and acceptance of international human rights treaties by taking a stronger stand as a leader in promoting human rights in Africa. Recent violent protests over inadequate housing and social services in several South African provinces highlight the deep tension that remains regarding the promises made by the government following apartheid and the ability of the government to honor those commitments.

As host of the 2010 World Cup, South Africa is in a unique position to demonstrate its commitment to human rights on a global stage. As a way to exemplify this commitment, I would love to see Hills push South Africa to ratify the International Convenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, but that would probably be a little awkward since the US hasn’t ratified it either.

South Africa also must do more to protect its women and girls. A recent survey revealing one in four men admits to committing a rape showcases the epidemic nature of the crisis. Further, Amnesty International has reported that women in rural areas are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS, domestic and sexual violence, lack of access to health care and inadequate police protection. Secretary Clinton should raise these issues with the South African government and promote the need to protect women from all forms of violence and discrimination.

South Africa also must do more to protect those who cross its borders. Immigrants were the focus during xenophobic attacks that occurred last year on a large scale in South Africa and continue on a lesser scale today, as people already displaced from their homelands are forced into camps with minimal protections. With the special visa for Zimbabwean’s delayed in Parliament and reports of serious violence occurring near the Musina border crossing, South Africa must make greater efforts to ensure the safety and humane treatment of all persons residing there.

Finally, South Africa’s role as regional powerhouse means not only honoring its commitments to its own citizens, but also taking the lead as a regional authority in urging its neighbors to honor democratic processes and human rights within their borders. As lead negotiator and guarantor, along with the other Southern African Development Community (SADC) member States, of the Zimbabwe power sharing agreement, South Africa has a responsibility to ensure that all processes in the agreement are honored, including a new constitution, an end to impunity and respect for political parties and human rights defenders to operate without harassment by state security forces.