Global Political Agreement in Zimbabwe: progress and impediments towards implementation - dialogue

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International Relations

07 November 2012
Chairperson: Mr T Magama (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee engaged with representatives from the key political parties in Zimbabwe save for ZANU-PF, a representative from the European Union and representatives from civil society organisations,  in a dialogue on the progress and impediments towards the implementation of the Global Political Agreement in Zimbabwe

The Committee was informed that the European Union (EU) was systematically removing sanctions placed on Zimbabwe to allow for development assistance. There was a concern that some of the assistance in terms of food aid was being used as a political tool but this was to be confirmed. There had been agreement at an All Stakeholders’ Conference on a Draft Constitution and this was to be sent to Zimbabwe's parliament for consideration for a referendum vote.

Following the Conference, ZANU-PF had turned around and made new demands concerning the Draft Constitution, something that was creating a problem. ZANU-PF wanted to wrest the Constitution making process from Zimbabwe's parliament, in violation of Article 6 of the Global Political Agreement and the principle of separation of powers, by advocating for negotiation of the Draft Constitution amongst the three parties.

Challenges like restrictions on media pluralism, statements by security forces, a lack of confidence in the judicial service delivery sector, a lack of independence of the Electoral Commission Secretariat, and human rights violations were still a challenge.

There was a call to have the Constitution making process finalised, to hold a referendum, for compliance with the roadmap as laid down in the Global Political Agreement, for removal of sanctions and the involvement of other international players in the process.

A DA Member called for the Committee to engage in discussion with representatives from SADC and the opinions of ZANU-PF would also be considered.

ANC Members asked whether there were any ‘sunset clauses’ to facilitate the progress of the process and what would allow for free and fair elections in Zimbabwe. A COPE Member expressed concern on the proposal to audit office bearers; this would cause tension; the AU would play a vital role in the process once involved. The Chairperson said that the South Africa supported the people of Zimbabwe and that its role was to see that the situation was resolved. The Zimbabwe people had suffered for so long and there could not be a postponement of what was rightfully theirs. There was need for a long term solution by the Zimbabwe people. The minimum was creation of an environment for free and fair elections and the conditions would have to be agreed. A credible Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC )was essential in this process.

Meeting report

The Chairperson said that the situation in Zimbabwe was of great significance not only to South Africa but also to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, and that it was in South Africa’s national interest to monitor what was going on in Zimbabwe, while at the same time recognising the work that had been done by the various stakeholders and, in particular, those participating in the Global Political Agreement (GPA). 

The Chairperson, on behalf of the Committee, congratulated President Barack Obama on his decisive victory in the US elections. For the benefit of the Committee's guests, he said that the dialogue was meant to allow the Committee to make recommendations to the National Assembly on how it could assist in having the situation resolved.

The Chairperson acknowledged the presence of representatives from; Movement for Democratic Change – Tsvangirai (MDC–T), Movement for Democratic Change –  Ncube (MDC-N), the European Union (EU), the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, the Solidarity Peace Trust, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. He added that the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU–PF) had declined to send a representative when the Embassy was contacted. 

European Union Representative
Mr Igor Driesmans, EU Second Secretary: European Union Delegation, said that the objective of the EU in Zimbabwe, since the Government of National Unity had been created in 2009, was to achieve a full normalisation of EU relations with Zimbabwe. High level meetings had been organised between the EU and Zimbabwe, the latest meeting of which had been held in May 2012 in Brussels.

Despite some of the restrictive and appropriate measures on Zimbabwe, the EU had not reduced development assistance which was being channelled through non-governmental organisations. Since 2009, the EU Commission and Member States had provided approximately €1 billion in development assistance and this included humanitarian funding, provision of vital medicine, text books (education transition fund), fertiliser needs for communal farmers and support for small scale farmers. 

The EU was Zimbabwe’s second largest trading partner next to South Africa and that this trade had doubled with 2011 seeing it amount to €675 million. He added that there was a positive trade balance in favour of Zimbabwe and that trade was likely to continue growing following the signing of the interim GPA earlier on this year.

Successive steps had been taken by the EU towards easing  the restrictive and appropriate measures against Zimbabwe over the last two years. In January 2012, the EU decided to remove 51 named individuals and 20 entities from its visa ban which corresponded to one third of the total of individuals and two thirds of the total of entities. This reflected a significant easing of the EU’s measures. In July this year, the EU had taken another step by suspending Article 96 restrictions on development and cooperation. This would enable the EU to work directly with the Government of National Unity in elaborating development assistance strategy and this would also be relevant in terms of the EU’s preparation for the next cycle of development assistance for 2014, with prospects for significant funding to Zimbabwe.

The EU fully supported SADC in the facilitation it was undertaking in Zimbabwe and the role of President Zuma. The EU supported the implementation of the reforms in the roadmap towards elections and the building of an environment for credible and peaceful elections. 

MDC-T perspective
Mr Douglas Mwonzora, Member of Parliament (MDC-T) said that the current political arrangement in Zimbabwe was a product of the intervention of SADC and it had been agreed that the arrangement should lead to free and fair elections through an established roadmap. Free and fair elections were those which guaranteed secrecy and security of the vote, and the security of the voter. The features of the election roadmap were: a completion of the Constitution making process, elimination of all State sponsored violence, media reform, return of the rule of law and legislative reform.

There were outstanding issues such as security sector reform which included ridding the security forces of bias, partisanship and unprofessionalism. Some members of the security forces had continued to state that they were not prepared to accept any other winner of a presidential election even though carried out through a vote by the people of Zimbabwe.

The Secretariat of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), which was appointed by ZANU-PF before 2008, contained people in the army and central intelligence. He recommended that ZEC should have its own Secretariat.

Violence had not been eliminated completely, with acts such as murder of activists and confiscation of material still going on. Although the roadmap spelled media reforms, there was still a media monopoly in Zimbabwe with other players not being allowed to come on board. This was a cause for worry.

In terms of the security of the Constitution, the Zimbabwe Constitution was written in terms of Article 6 of the Global Political Agreement, which provided for the Constitution making process up to promulgation. The Article designated Parliament to take charge of the process with a Parliamentary Committee attending to the drafting of the Constitution, which drafting had been completed. The Draft Constitution was presented to an All Stakeholders’ Conference, accepted and was to be sent to Parliament en route to a referendum. Following a referendum, the Draft Constitution would be returned to Parliament for formal promulgation.

The worry was that President Mugabe wanted the Draft Constitution to be negotiated by the principals (ZANU-PF, MDC-T and MDC-N). This was a clear interference by the executive with the legislative functions of Parliament, an action that was unacceptable. The international community should play a role in putting pressure on the government to ensure that the Draft Constitution was taken to a referendum.

MDC-N perspective
Mr Qhubani Moyo, MDC-N Director: Policy and Research, said that one of the key deliverables for the Government of National Unity was the production of a Constitution which was to ensure reconstruction of institutions that would allow for free and fair elections considering that most of the problems in Zimbabwe had been as a result of a fragile Constitution. It was expected that the decision of the people of Zimbabwe would be key in attaining a Constitution that was ideal for Zimbabwe.

The Draft Constitution which was signed on 18 May 2012 was achieved through much consultation by the relevant parties and their leaders and, although all parties had agreed to it, ZANU-PF made a somersault and came up with new demands. This created problems as it meant re-opening the whole process. The Draft Constitution at the All Stakeholders’ Conference was deemed the most friendly compromise document and there was no need to send it to the principals for negotiation. A referendum at which the people of Zimbabwe would decide was the next best thing.

The security sector had been making statements of not accepting any president other that President Mugabe and this was intimidating and creating fear among the people of Zimbabwe. Security should sign a commitment undertaking not interfere with election results. Bad elements should be taken out of the ZEC for purposes of promoting transparency and media space should be opened up to allow for other players to come on board.

Food aid in Zimbabwe was being used as a political tool – one had to belong to ZANU-PF to get aid and this was not made easier in drought affected areas. Oversight institutions had to be strengthened, such as the Human Rights Commission and the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Commission.

There was need to create a roadmap for free and fair elections and that meant allowing for time before elections would be declared to allow for the set-up of the relevant institutions to oversee the election following the referendum. The life span of Parliament would expire on the day that the President would be sworn in and reforms in law had to be made before the life span of the current Parliament expired in preparation for elections that would follow.

There was more to be done in terms of the easing of EU sanctions to ensure that these were removed completely to help the economy recover. ZANU-PF was in a way benefiting from the sanctions and measures and some diamond companies could not contribute to the budget due to the restrictions.

Both MDC-T and MDC-N representatives called for the removal of sanctions and restrictive measures, but also added that it was not a one-sided affair and that there was need for a quid pro quo on the part of the Zimbabwe government, and, in particular, ZANU-PF.   
Mr B Elof (DA) asked if it was indeed true that food aid was being used a political tool and whether the EU was satisfied with the removal of the sanctions.

The Chairperson, adding to this, asked what needed to be done to have these measures removed.

Mr Driesmans replied that food aid was in form of humanitarian assistance and was normally given to international organisations. He said that he needed to confirm if it was indeed being used as a political tool and then get back with an answer. Responding to the issue of sanctions, he said that there had been a systematic removal of measures based on the progress on the ground and that the SADC roadmap was one of the reasons for the easing and removal of the sanctions. The EU was ready to go further than it had so far and a new Constitution would see this materialise.

Mr I Davidson (DA) asked how realistic the full implementation of the key points of the roadmap was before the time of the referendum, and what measures, in terms of the statements made by the security generals, had been devised to ensure that, should they make a public commitment, they did not renege on it.

Mr Mwonzora (MDC-T) in response said that the answer lay in the Draft Constitution which had comprehensive provisions on the role of the security forces in relation to elections. An example of the provisions was the prohibition on members of the security forces from campaigning for a political party.  If given a go-ahead by the referendum and promulgated, there would be change in the way that the security forces conducted themselves. He said that this would address some of the key points in the roadmap, but he also added that the Zimbabwe government required pressure, which the South African facilitation team had tried to achieve.

Mr Qhubani (MDC-N) addressing the issue of the security generals said that there was a need restore confidence in the electoral system by ensuring that there was a public commitment from the security cluster on respect for election results and the generals acted in accordance with the Zimbabwe Defence Act.  President Mugabe, as Commander-in-Chief in not reproving security generals who made pronouncements on the outcomes of the elections, was being insincere. He added that the road to a free and fair referendum depended on continued dialogue, engagement and commitment of the three parties, and that a common ground would be achieved through the continued intervention by SADC.

Mr E Sulliman (ANC) asked if the Committee could get a copy of the Draft Constitution. With President Mugabe being the Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe armed forces and the possibility of a coup d'état if another person other than he were to win the elections, Mr Sulliman proposed referring the matter to SADC.

Mr Mwonzora replied that soft copies would be made available. He added in terms of the security forces that the people of Zimbabwe should be allowed to vote for leaders of their own choice and that SADC should make a stand against military statements by military generals.

Mr S Ngonyama (COPE) asked if there was possibility of an agreement between the parties if there was continued dialogue in terms of Article 96 and dealing with the Government for National Unity.

Mr Driesmans replied that the EU had direct relations with the Government for National Unity and that there had been a dialogue in Brussels in May 2012 with a multi-party team from Zimbabwe. Referring to Article 96, he said that this was contained in the Cotonou Agreement concluded with the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP). The Article was invoked in cases of severe human rights violations or other essential elements of the Agreement. As of July 2012, the EU had suspended Article 96 restrictions to allow for development assistance directly with the government.

The Chairperson asked if, by suspending Article 96 restrictions, the EU would not be inadvertently prolonging the life of President Mugabe in power?

Mr Driesman said that the suspension of Article 96 restrictions was meant to give a push to the process of development assistance.  

Mr Ngonyama wanted to know what the fear was in Mugabe's insisting on the leaders of the parties meeting before referring the Constitution to a referendum and said that perhaps the other parties could look at it as an ego trip since discussions at that meeting would not be binding.

Mr Mwonzora replied that Article 6 of the Constitution made the Constitution making process the role of Parliament and the fear was that President Mugabe wanted to take this process to the Executive to determine the contents of the Constitution. He said that there was precedent in Zimbabwe of such an occurrence in 2000 when President Mugabe made changes in the Constitution and this would be a repeat.

Mr Mwonzora said that negotiations had gone on for a long time. A week since 18 July 2012 when the negotiated draft had been agreed, ZANU-PF came back with a Draft Constitution containing 266 changes to the agreed draft, something, he said, was filibustering. Negotiation could be allowed to continue ad infinitum and that it was time for the people of Zimbabwe to decide. 

Mr Qhubani added that Constitution making process was the work of Parliament and that the principle of separation of powers should be allowed in Zimbabwe by letting Parliament complete the process.

Mr Ngonyama asked how the international community assistance in pushing the Constitution to the people would be achieved and which international body could be instrumental in this cause. He also asked as to what the role the civil society could play?
Mr Mwonzora said that the international community should insist on Zimbabwe's following Article 6 of the Global Political Agreement since this Agreement had been brokered by SADC and that it could not be used for the convenience of one party. He added that the Zimbabwe leaders were bound by Article 6 which was also incorporated into the Zimbabwe Constitution through Article 19.  The ZANU-PF leaders could influence their Members of Parliament but not assume the role of Parliament, something, he said, went against the separation of powers. The EU had been funding the process because of its transparency in terms of Article 6 and there was no agreement to fund a future variation of Article 6 in terms of a presidential Constitution making process. SADC and the African Union had also given the Constitution making process in Article 6 a thumbs-up.

Mr Mwonzora, responding on the role of the civil society, said that the Parliament of Zimbabwe had, through the Speaker, rejected the adulteration of Article 6 of the Constitution and that civil society had joined the cause, which was seen as allowing the executive to veto the Constitution making process.

In terms of the justice process, Mr Ngonyama asked whether courts would play a role.

Mr Mwonzora replied that the court option was good in a democracy but in the case of Zimbabwe, it would not work because there was selective application of the law and the independence of the judiciary was lacking.

The Chairperson asked as to how representative the All Stakeholders’ Conference was and whether it was possible to have put two Constitutions to a referendum?

Mr Mwonzora in response said that the All Stakeholders’ Conference was attended by 1 100 delegates and international observers, and Ambassador Lindiwe Zulu, Special Adviser to President Zuma on International Relations, was in attendance. To put the two Constitutions to a referendum would morally this would not be fair because the Draft Constitution had gone through a negotiation process while the other version of the Constitution contained exclusively the wants of ZANU-PF. Legally, the Global Political Agreement allowed for one Draft and the Draft Constitution presented at the All Stakeholders’ Conference passed that criterion.

Mr Qhubani added that compromises had been made in the Draft Constitution such as the limitation on a candidate aged 70 years from standing was left out. The Draft was therefore reflective of the view of all parties disqualifying the need for two Constitutions being put to a referendum. He said that there were internal insurrections in ZANU-PF that made it difficult to deal with. 

Perspective by Civil Society Organisations
Ms Rindai Chipfunde-Vava, Director: Zimbabwe Election Support Network, addressing the point of elections, said that the major focus of the Network was to promote democratic processes in general, free and fair elections and advocate for electoral reforms. There were a number of reforms in in the electoral laws such as timely dispute resolution mechanisms, including election related litigation, announcement of results within five days,  no police officers inside polling stations, assistance of disabled and illiterate voters in casting their votes, introduction of early voting for officers on duty and independence of the Electoral Commission.

Ms Chipfunde-Vava said that there were still some gaps to be filled such as the environment in terms of statements made by ZANU-PF Minister of Justice of not allowing an MDC win, the Electoral Commission Secretariat having partisan officials, some of who managed the 2008 elections, under-funding of the Electoral Commission in its preparation for elections in advance by cleaning the voters’ roll (an audit disclosed that there were duplicate names and names of deceased people), eligible Zimbabweans were not allowed to vote; and the issue of time between a referendum and election to allow for systems to be put in place and the revision of some laws to be in harmony with the new Constitution.

Ms Chipfunde-Vava, in making recommendations to SADC, had said that there was need to finalise the Constitution followed by a referendum, full implementation of the roadmap by the creation of a violence free environment, media pluralism, and that observers should not be cherry picked so as to favour one political party. She said that there was need for transparency in all election processes, especially bearing in the mind that it took about a month to declare the results of the previous election.

Ms Irene Petras, Executive Director: Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, said that, in terms of the GPA, some milestones had been achieved such as the stabilisation of the economy, a Draft Constitution, some opening up in the area of print and electronic media, the implementation of the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC) and the operationalization of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission.

The challenges that remained were a lack of public confidence in the justice delivery system (abuse of bail, long trials), politically motivated violence with police failing to arrest those in violation, selective prosecution, and blocking of private members’ bills by the executive.

She commended the compliance by parties with Article 6 of the GPA, and strengthening of the conflict resolution mechanisms and Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission. She added that the Draft Constitution was lacking in terms of auditing the current office bearers, which was necessary to boost public confidence.

Mr Thabani Nyowi, Spokesperson: Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, expressed concerns about the areas of political space in Zimbabwe as there were only three political parties, about polarisation of the media, and paralysis of other structures of government (legislative reforms were being stalled by the executive). There was a feeling the Constitution making process was not people driven; the mediation process had played a role in delaying matters and the undermining of resolutions of the mediation report by the government.

As a way forward, there was a need to hold elections as soon as possible, for professionalism of state security agencies, and the use of the SADC roadmap as the benchmark for monitoring progress in Zimbabwe. The 18 July 2012 Draft Constitution should be the only document submitted to a referendum and the SADC and the AU should continue monitoring the process in Zimbabwe. 

Prof Brian Raftopoulos, Director of Research: Solidarity Peace Trust, said that the international community was meant to support rather than direct affairs in Zimbabwe and that, so far, SADC had kept the wagon on the road. GPA was also going to be contested and the reaction from ZANU-PF was not surprising as manifested by the violation of the spirit and letter of the GPA.

The tension between SADC, EU and the United States over sanctions had weakened the process in Zimbabwe and had allowed for space for manoeuvring issues of commitment in the GPA. There should be a consensus between the three blocks and anyone abrogating the process should be isolated both regionally and internationally.

Since the post-colonial era, security forces had always been a problem and this was also one of the weaker elements of the GPA in not being clear on how this was to be dealt with. There was a need for a clear stand from SADC and the international community that they would not tolerate a repetition of the violence that occurred following the 2008 elections.

Sanctions should have been lifted as soon as the GPA was signed but a failure to do this led only to the undermining of the GPA process and as such the GPA process had not achieved the intended objectives as it placed SADC, the US and the EU in different positions. This was exploited within the Zimbabwe political context, and so there was need for rethinking the sanctions.

Mr B Elof (DA) said that there was need for the Committee to engage in a discussion on the way forward with representatives from SADC and the opinions of ZANU-PF would also be considered.

Ms C September (ANC) asked whether there were any ‘sunset clauses’ to facilitate the progress of the process and what would allow for free and fair elections in Zimbabwe.

Prof Raftopoulos replied that there were some sunset clauses implicit in the GPA, such as the irreversibility of the land question. The Human Rights Commission also did not allow for retrospective prosecution. The minimum for free and fair elections would be keeping security forces out of the elections.
Ms Chipfunde-Vava added that there was need for a conducive environment in terms of media pluralism, keeping the security clusters out of elections, and the independence of the Electoral Commission.

Mr S Ngonyama (COPE) expressed concern at the proposal to audit office bearers, saying that this would cause tension and make it harder to pave a way forward, succeeding only in leading to a perpetual conflict. He added that the AU would play a vital role in the process once involved.

Prof Raftopoulos said that the AU had taken a back seat on the situation in Zimbabwe through delegation to SADC, but, should there be continued obstacles, then SADC, AU and other international players should join in by isolating the parties responsible for creating the stumbling blocks against the completion of the process.

Ms Petras, in response to the question on the audit of current office bearers, said that there was need for some kind of statement indicating that the judiciary, the attorney general and the national prosecutor were being watched in the way they handled their work, especially as the country was drawing closer to elections.

The Chairperson said that the South Africa supported the people of Zimbabwe and that its role was to see that the situation was resolved. The Zimbabwe people had suffered for so long and there could not be a postponement of what was rightfully theirs. There was need for a long term solution by the Zimbabwe people.

The minimum was creation of an environment for free and fair elections and the conditions would have to be agreed. A credible ZEC was essential in this process and anything short of that would simply muddy the waters.

The meeting was adjourned.


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