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Zimbabwe: The End of "Quiet Diplomacy"?
Mar 26, 2007 (070326)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
"Southern Africa is 'finally' assuming leadership in trying to
resolve the burning Zimbabwean crisis on their doorstep, but it has
been a long time coming, said analysts ... The Southern African
Development Community (SADC), which has pushed for an approach of
'quiet diplomacy' to the Zimbabwean crisis, has increasingly come
under fire for failing to wield any influence." - IRIN, March 23,
Attacks on protesters and opposition leaders in Zimbabwe have
provoked a new level of criticism, particularly in the Southern
Africa region. But it is still unclear what Zimbabwe's neighbors
and the international community more generally can do to help check
the country's crisis.
This AfricaFocus Bulletin includes a recent report from IRIN, a
background analysis from Pambazuka News, and an on-line petition
for action on Zimbabwe gathering wide support in Southern Africa
For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Zimbabwe, visit
For regular updates on protests and other developments in Zimbabwe,
see http://www.kubatana.net, http://www.crisiszimbabwe.org,
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++
Zimbabwe: Regional Intervention "Long Time Coming"
Zimbabwean pro-democracy activists have become more vocal
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United
Harare, 23 March 2007 (IRIN) - Southern Africa is "finally"
assuming leadership in trying to resolve the burning Zimbabwean
crisis on their doorstep, but it has been a long time coming, said
analysts, as three members from a regional powerhouse met in
Lesotho to chalk a way forward. The Southern African Development
Community (SADC), which has pushed for an approach of "quiet
diplomacy" to the Zimbabwean crisis, has increasingly come under
fire for failing to wield any influence.
"But the brutal public attack on civic and leaders of the
opposition leaders [last week] has forced the private rumblings of
discontent over Zimbabwe to become public and break away from their
traditional solidarity response," said Brian Raftopoulos, a
Zimbabwean academic and African affairs specialist at the South
African-based Institute for Justice and Reconciliation.
A Zimbabwean opposition supporter was killed last week, and Morgan
Tsvangirai, who leads a faction of the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC), was among the pro-democracy leaders
arrested and beaten by the police, allegedly for inciting violence.
This week, Zambia's President Levy Mwanawasa, currently deputy
chair of the SADC, broke ranks with the regional body to admit that
"quiet diplomacy has failed to help solve the political chaos and
economic meltdown in Zimbabwe," and even likened the country to "a
sinking Titanic whose passengers are jumping out in a bid to save
Acknowledging the gravity of the recent outbreak of violence in
Zimbabwe, he said Zambia had been forced to re-think its position
after "the twist of events in the troubled country", which
"necessitates the adoption of a new approach".
Mwanawasa's comments came ahead of a meeting under the auspices of
SADC in the Lesotho capital, Maseru, on Thursday and Friday, at
which Zambia, Lesotho and Tanzania discussed "how best" the
regional organisation could respond, "with a view to helping
Zimbabwe in its current difficulties", said Vernon Mwaanga,
Zambia's acting foreign minister. Zambia will assume leadership of
the SADC in August.
"The meeting, attended by Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, who
heads the regional security arm, and Lesotho's Prime Minister
Pakalitha Mosisili, who is currently the chair of SADC, and Zambia,
looked at several options," added Mwaanga.
These will be put forward at an SADC meeting in Tanzania next week.
Kikwete, whose country is one of an SADC 'troika' on Zimbabwe,
along with Namibia and Angola, met Mugabe a few days ago.
SADC has been in existence since 1980, when it was formed as a
loose alliance of nine majority-ruled states in Southern Africa,
known as the Southern African Development Coordination Conference
(SADCC) to coordinate development projects to lessen its economic
dependence on then apartheid South Africa. Since then the
organisation's objectives have evolved into maintaining common
political values and promoting peace and security, with a view to
Raftopoulos said the SADC should have stamped the "human rights
debate" on Zimbabwe as "African" at least seven years ago, when the
2000 general elections had been marred by violence but were
endorsed by the SADC as "free and fair".
In 2005 more than 700,000 people were internally displaced by
Operation Murambatsvina (Drive Out Trash), a three-month campaign
to rid the country of slums and illegal informal businesses. Again,
the SADC maintained its silence. "Instead, it [SADC] allowed itself
to be corned by the Zimbabwean regime into branding the human
rights debate as 'Western'," said Raftopoulos.
Chris Maroleng, an analyst with the think-tank, Institute for
Security Studies, commented, "SADC has been hamstrung on Zimbabwe,
as it has failed to adopt a common position. SADC, as a
multilateral forum, failed to engage with Zimbabwe, as members
found themselves polarised. Except for smaller countries in the
region, such as Botswana and Lesotho, regional powers like South
Africa have failed to criticise Zimbabwe. But the gap between the
countries has begun to narrow."
Africa's efforts to mediate between Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF and
opposition parties have been fruitless: in 2005, the African Union
appointed former Mozambique President Joaquim Chissano to help
solve Zimbabwe's problems; last year the SADC appointed former
Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa to mediate in the strained
relations between Harare and Britain.
Maroleng said the region should now try to create "an enabling
environment" in Zimbabwe to create the "political space" for
dialogue between the ruling party and civil society.
Zimbabweans Take Initiative
Meanwhile, Zimbabwean pro-democracy activists have become more
vocal. Tension has been mounting in Zimbabwe for the past two
months, marked by protests and running battles with the police over
a worsening economic crisis compounded by shortages of foreign
currency, food, fuel, electricity and medicines. Last month,
political meetings were banned in the capital, Harare.
On Thursday, Pius Ncube, the Archbishop of Zimbabwe's second city,
Bulawayo, called for mass street protests to force Mugabe to "step
down" from power.
Zimbabwean nongovernmental organisations and a coalition of
churches have condemned the political violence that has erupted in
Zimbabwe in recent weeks, and urged dialogue to restore peace.
The National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (NANGO),
representing more than 1,000 civil groups throughout the country,
said it was concerned by police heavy-handedness when dealing with
NANGO warned that the current political tension could lead to civil
unrest, adding that recent violent incidents "have occurred against
the backdrop of a politically, socially and economically volatile
situation, characterised by high levels of poverty and inequality,
militarisation of state functions and de-legitimisation of civil
The association called for the establishment of a national human
rights commission, which has been on the cards, in addition to
lifting the ban on political gatherings, constitutional reform and
the "repeal of repressive legislation", while the Zimbabwe Council
of Churches (ZCC) attributed the outbreak of violence on the ban on
In a statement on Wednesday the ZCC said, "This orgy of violence,
which is attributed to the ban on political gatherings in Harare
for three months, is provoking the opposition, especially at this
strategic moment when political parties are preparing for the 2008
Zimbabwe: Is this the Year?
Pambazuka News 295, March 15, 2007
Contributing editor, Pambazuka News
This week, police in Zimbabwe used tear gas, water cannon and live
ammunition to crush Sunday's gathering by the Save Zimbabwe
Campaign, a coalition of opposition, church and civic groups, in
Harare's western township of Highfield. Police shot and killed one
opposition activist, Gift Tandare. Lawyers and fellow opposition
activists said Tsvangirai had suffered a suspected skull fracture
after being beaten by police. Patrick Burnett summarises voices
from the ground and highlights some key messages from articles
published in Pambazuka News in the recent past. Is it a year of
hope or will it all simply collapse into a quagmire?
'In pairs we were being led to the cells where there were five
people dressed in police uniforms holding baton sticks who were
beating the hell out of us," relates an unnamed woman opposition
activist. "They would beat each pair for between 15 and 20 minutes
after which they would order the pair out to fetch the next pair
from the van." The woman describes how her head was banged against
a wall causing her to fall down to the ground. "It took a long time
according to what I was seeing and I was only praying if they could
stop," she tells the camera in this video as her testimony is
interspersed with shots of police brutally beating arrested
protesters with batons in order to force them into a police van.
Another activist states in the same video: "We wanted the
government to see and show the world at large that the Zimbabweans
are suffering. The money they are getting is peanuts, it does not
take them anywhere. It is the government that regulates the prices.
You can hardly pay for a child at school. You have to feed the
family and sometimes you have only one meal a day. We wanted to
show the leadership of Zimbabwe that what they are doing is not
Even video sharing site http://www.youtube.com knows what's
happening in Zimbabwe. This video was not testimony from Sunday's
protest, though, but of a peaceful labour union demonstration in
September 2006 in which 23 people were beaten and tortured. No
doubt, videos of Sunday's march will find their way onto youtube,
providing a valuable window into the situation the above video
already has over 12 000 views - but in the meantime compare
testimonies from the video quoted above with that of MDC leader
Morgan Tsvangirai, as told to the BBC:
"It was almost as if they were waiting for me Before I could even
settle down I was subjected to a lot of beatings, in fact it was
random beatings but I think the intention was to inflict as much
harm as they could. I suffered injuries on the head, six stitches,
body blows, a broken arm. I also suffered injuries on the knees and
on my back several body blows, but I think the most serious injury
was the head injury because I lost a lot of blood. They have just
administered almost two pints of blood."
Police used tear gas, water cannon and live ammunition to crush
Sunday's gathering by the Save Zimbabwe Campaign, a coalition of
opposition, church and civic groups, in Harare's western township
of Highfield. Police shot and killed one opposition activist, Gift
Tandare. Lawyers and fellow opposition activists said Tsvangirai
had suffered a suspected skull fracture after being beaten by
World outrage followed news of the crackdown, with calls for more
stringent sanctions and renewed engagement with Zimbabwe. African
leadership, long muted on the issue of Zimbabwe, was also more
strident. Ghanaian President John Kufuor, also the African Union
chair, said: "I know personally that presidents like (South
Africa's Thabo) Mbeki tried desperately to exercise some influence
for the better," as reported by numerous media. "Please don't think
that Africa is not concerned. Africa is very much concerned. What
can Mbeki as a man do? Are you proposing that Africa compose an
expedition team to march on Zimbabwe and oppose? It does not happen
like that. We are in our various ways trying very hard."
As demonstrated by the youtube video and numerous human rights
reports in the past months and years, Tsvangirai's beatings are the
result of long term repression to which numerous Zimbabweans have
been subject over the past years.
At this stage its worth trolling through a few of the articles
published by Pambazuka News about Zimbabwe over the last five
years, not because they are the only record of the Zimbabwean
crisis or because they comprehensively cover all the issues faced
by the country, but because they show the progression of events in
the country, and provide useful analysis and insight into the
complex Zimbabwean situation. At times like this its important to
remember that short-term political outrage shouldn't mask the
long-term nature of the situation in Zimbabwe nor the long-term
nature of political inaction.
Perhaps the most useful insight into Zimbabwe's path is provided in
a series of articles written in March of each year since 2002 by
Mary Ndlovu, a human rights activist from Zimbabwe. Her articles
take readers into the heart of life in Zimbabwe, documenting the
politics and effect of the land reform crisis, the controversial
elections and the downward economic spiral and its effect on the
In March 2004, Ndlovu writes: "On our side of the looking glass,
the mounting catastrophe has political, economic, social and
cultural components. Most objective observers would trace the
economic problems back at least to the late 1980's. Certainly the
introduction of structural adjustment at the beginning of the 90's
can be seen as the process which eroded the living standards of
Zimbabweans, and spawned the first broad-based opposition party. It
also generated pressure from interest groups such as war veterans
and ambitious black businessmen who felt they had waited too long
to share in the country's wealth. The government's response to
these developments sent the country into the downward spiral which
today ensnares us. Instead of taking the criticism and the pressure
and sitting back to plan a coherent strategy of how to deal with
the inter-related issues, ZANU PF panicked, saw their ruling
position threatened, and from 1997 on have responded piecemeal,
reactively and irrationally, bringing us to the tragedy which
unfolds before our eyes."
In another article, she writes: "In February 2000, ZANU PF
discovered, in a rare moment of truth, that they were unpopular
enough to be defeated at the polls, in spite of all the advantages
they had in controlling most of the media, the electoral machinery
and all the state security apparatus. They immediately began the
process of ensuring that no matter what the people wanted, never
again would ZANU PF lose a vote. The electoral process would be
turned into a stage-managed spectacle."
Following on from this and assessing the 2005 Parliamentary
elections, Ndlovu warns of economic collapse and "dire
consequences" for the region should ZANU PF take power against the
wishes of Zimbabweans. She makes three points on the back of this:
- SADC unwillingness to insist that regional electoral standards be
upheld appears to signal that they are not prepared to implement
them for their own countries either.
- Democrats should be aware that governments cannot be trusted with
the task of defending democracy, in their own countries or anywhere
- There is a long road ahead for the building of democracy in
Southern Africa, "from the bottom up, with much struggle to claim
rights against the autocratic tendencies of all the governments and
ruling parties of the region".
The startling lack of progress on the Zimbabwean front is evident
in Ndlovu's articles. In March last year, Ndlovu wrote that:
"Certainly we know that the multiple crises which embody Zimbabwe's
millennium experience are intensifying, making life barely livable
for the majority of the population. The crises have engulfed the
working world, the learning world, the consumer world, the world of
the supermarket and even of sport. The economy limps along,
agriculture crawling, tourism virtually defunct, manufacturing
crippled, and mining, the one still flickering light of the
economy, under recent assault from government policies. Electricity
comes and goes at will, water likewise in many places; fuel
supplies (black market only) are erratic and prices exploitative.
Schools are places of confusion, teachers demoralized, pupils
unable to afford textbooks if they manage to pay fees, and only
finding bus fare for half the school days. Courts barely function,
police cells are filthy putrid hell holes, prisons even worse."
Writing in 2004, Steve Kibble points out the long-term nature of
Zimbabwe's problems. "The inheritance of violent colonial
dispossession and dehumanisation with the response of (in Brian
Kagoro's words) a 'violent and hegemonic struggle for
decolonisation' culminated in a largely symbolic independence
devoid of material gain for the majority black population.' This
meant an authoritarian elite unable/unwilling to transform the
repressive state colonial structures into democratic institutions,
and the emergence of neo- patrimonialism and clientilist structures
along with long lasting cultures of intolerance and impunity."
In pointing to why regional responses to the Zimbabwean situation
have been muted, Kibble writes in another article that: "The
'national security' strategy of the ZANU PF elite has led to
economic collapse, severe repression, flight and severe economic
consequences for the region, but as yet there has been no concerted
regional reaction to this in terms of security. This in turn
relates to national elites being unable to formulate a path
directed to human security, and largely because of their lack of
engagement with and mistrust of new social forces (which of course
are not themselves necessarily united or coherent)."
Kibble questions how to shift the security focus from military to
human security to focus on those without power and those affected
by poverty, environmental degradation and human rights abuses.
Values would include peace and the promotion of human rights. "It
may not seem obvious when there seem more immediate concerns, but
the fight against repression in Zimbabwe illustrates much of this,
and involves what values postcolonial states and regions should
have, their road to development, democracy and overcoming of
colonial and apartheid structures, all of which pose human security
Patrick Bond and David Moore, in April 2006 ask what can be done to
offer solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe: "... the real
solidarity action ahead may revolve around COSATU and broader civil
society forces. They must shake free of Mbeki's influence and
establish a strategy for longer-term support. This would more
forcefully and surgically target Mugabe and his cronies, and
nurture the unpredictable resurgence of Zimbabwean protests, which
certainly still lie ahead." More broadly, one could add to this the
need for pressure on the African Union and other regional and
international human rights bodies.
Perhaps the last word, before noting that based on the progression
of events in Zimbabwe the happenings of the last week are hardly
surprising and without concerted effort on behalf of all
stakeholders worse will surely follow, should go to Ndlovu, writing
in 2006: "The tension of expectation is building as the people's
misery becomes unsustainable. Will this be the year, and if it is,
will it hold hope for the future, or will we simply all fall down
Now Is the Time to Act, the Future of Zimbabwe Is at Stake
Zimbabweans fight while SADC watches in silence: A call to action
Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA)
March 15, 2007
We represent the many people within SADC who believe in lasting and
democratic solutions to the crisis in Zimbabwe. We issue this open
letter to all citizens of this region, and in particular to our
heads of state and government, members of parliament in the
respective countries and senior leaders within the SADC and African
Union Secretariats to take urgent action to end the crisis in
We learned with shock and dismay of the Zimbabwe state's attack on
its citizens on Sunday 11 March 2007 which resulted in the death of
Gift Tandare. We are horrified to learn of the arrest and detention
of dozens of civil society, church and opposition parties leaders
at a peaceful prayer meeting that took place the same day. Their
subsequent detention without access to legal counsel and
appropriate medical attention is cause for great concern.
We are outraged that not a single state within SADC and the AU has
issued a statement decrying the situation and calling for the
restoration of, and respect for, human rights in Zimbabwe.
For almost a decade the people of Zimbabwe have suffered under the
unjust regime of Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party. Freedom of
expression and assembly have been severely curtailed, virtually all
independent media outlets have been shut down, and thousands of
people have been dispossessed by an increasingly desperate party
and its ruler.
For many years Zimbabwean activists have mounted protest actions
and demonstrations, and have made it clear to the world that they
aspire to live under a democratic dispensation. Using non-violent
means, the people of Zimbabwe have used all legitimate structures
at their disposal: the courts, their parliament and the media, with
little or no effect.
Today, in solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe, we, the people of
this region, must say that enough is enough. Our governments cannot
continue to ignore this situation. Millions of Zimbabweans are
displaced and are no longer able to live in their once prosperous
nation. Millions more within Zimbabwe are hungry, sick and unable
to access basic services.
If action is not taken now at the highest levels, there will be
blood on the hands of all those states whose silence has aided and
abetted Mugabe s regime. The time for a softly-softly approach -
if there ever was one - is over.
Those who defend Mugabe imply that his opponents seek to overthrow
the Mugabe regime. This is simply untrue. We firmly believe that
the future of Zimbabwe lies in the hands of Zimbabweans themselves.
The future of Zimbabwe lies in national constitutional talks, in
free and fair elections and in a return to the respect of human
rights principles. The role of the regional and continental
community is to facilitate this process.
We therefore demand regional and continental intervention to
- Freedom of assembly, expression, opinion and association are
- The media are allowed to operate freely;
- That the looming humanitarian crisis that prevents Zimbabweans
from accessing basic social services including food security,
health care, water and sanitation, be averted.
We therefore urgently call upon all heads of state and government
in SADC to ensure the following:
- An independent investigation into the death of Gift Tandare on
11 March 2007 following the police shooting in Highfield;
- The release of all political detainees in custody since the
prayer meeting on 11 March 2007;
- Provision of quality medical attention to all those in custody;
- Access to legal counsel by all those in custody;
- Speedy resolution of this situation by the courts and compliance
with court orders by the police.
Furthermore, we insist that African governments use bilateral and
multilateral means such as the SADC, African Union and the United
Nations to urgently appoint and dispatch a high-level team of
eminent persons to:
- Assess the situation on the ground in order to prevent more
shootings and harm to the general public,
- Develop a sustainable and inclusive diplomatic solution to the
- The holding of all-party inclusive talks.
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