Zimbabwe: An End to the Stalemate
After years of political deadlock and continued economic and humanitarian decline, a realistic chance has at last begun to appear in the past few months to resolve the Zimbabwe crisis, by retirement of President Robert Mugabe, a power-sharing transitional government, a new constitution and elections. Both factions of the divided Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) opposition and powerful elements of the Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party support the concept in outline. Although many of his party’s leaders are pressing him to retire in twelve months, when his term expires, Mugabe seeks to extend his tenure to 2010 by a constitutional amendment to harmonise presidential and legislative elections in that year. Increased pressure and intervention including from the regional organisation, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and the West, in the run-up to the mid-year parliamentary session, could lead to a new political order, but concessions to ZANU-PF should only be made in exchange for true restoration of democracy. The economic meltdown, as well as the bite of European Union (EU) and U.S. targeted sanctions, is pushing ZANU-PF towards change, since business interests of key officials are suffering. The party is split over the succession issue but Mugabe’s long successful divide-and-rule tactics have started to backfire as the two main factions are coming together to try to prevent him from staying beyond the expiration of his present term in March 2008. They showed their strength by blocking his proposed constitutional amendment at the party’s annual conference in December 2006 and will seek to do so again at the central committee in March so they can explore a deal resulting in his retirement to make way for moderate leaders who could negotiate with the MDC and civil society on transitional mechanisms, seek SADC endorsement and reengage with the West and foreign investors.